Is your doctor telling you to exercise and start taking better care of yourself, but you hate exercising, and your joints are sore? Maybe you’ve put in a day at the office, you’re tired, and you’d rather relax in front of the TV instead?
We understand how difficult it can be to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle when you have never been a fan of exercising, but we also know how important staying active is to your health.
“31 million adults over the age of 50 are inactive, even though regular physical activity is vital for healthy aging. It can help delay, prevent, or manage many costly chronic diseases faced by adults 50 years or older. Physical activity can also reduce the risk of premature death.” – CDC
Staying active over 50 is essential for living a long and happy life with fewer health and mobility issues, as you can see from the above quote taken from the CDC’s website.
A word of caution: talk to your doctor about what exercises are safe for you to do before you start a new routine.
So, what do you do when you know you need to listen to your doctor to stay healthy? Keep reading for six healthy habits that you can try to keep you fit over 50.
1. Eat Right
I’m sure you dread the idea of making major changes to your regular eating habits. You’re busy, there are new diets that come out every day, and it’s exhausting to figure out what you’re supposed to eat for dinner when you used to have that on autopilot.
The trouble is, over time, you haven’t really thought about it and allowed things into your regular diet that just aren’t healthy.
Easy to prepare comfort foods, highly processed or fast foods may be quick and easy, but you pay a much heavier price than you realize if they make up a large portion of your diet. You need to cut down on foods that are high in refined carbohydrates (aka: white flour and sugar), high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or greasy fried foods if you want to live a longer and healthier life.
You don’t have to change everything all at once. You can adjust your diet in stages, a little at a time to start.
For example, do you usually have a cup of coffee every morning loaded down with sugar and creamer? Try to slowly decrease the amount of sugar you put in it until you don’t add any at all. You can switch out the creamer for milk, soy milk, or almond milk. I recommend trying the vanilla almond milk.
There are also some excellent sugar substitutes now that don’t have the down-sides earlier ones had. If you must have sweet coffee, as I do, take a look around and try some of these. Stevia is a very good one. I find that monk fruit sugar and Splenda is excellent in coffee as well.
Start adding more vegetables too. Add a handful of fresh kale or spinach to your scrambled eggs in the morning or some frozen mixed vegetables to ramen noodles. Ramen noodles aren’t healthy, but we’re taking baby steps here. Make soups with bone broth and substitute chicken for ground beef in spaghetti. Drink less sodas, lots of water, and try different types of tea. Add some fruit to tea, it is quite tasty.
Pick one thing at a time to focus on and keep making adjustments to your diet over time. As you try different things, you will find new combinations and flavors that you like. You’ll be surprised how much better you will feel when you start eating right too. With the right foods, you’ll see how much more energy you’ll have, and you’ll get sick less often.
Recommended Reading: Eat Right: Age-Defying Foods
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is incredibly important to your health, but getting a good night’s sleep can be complicated for older people. There may be any number of things that keep you from getting the rest you need, but for the sake of this article, I will touch on just a few things that you can do that will help improve your sleep.
You may be thinking…
“I never get a good night’s sleep. My muscles and joints are always too sore and stiff for me to get comfortable. I spend all night tossing and turning, and I’m always tired.”
Some of the reasons you may be feeling so stiff and sore might not be due to arthritis, degenerative disc disease, or other conditions that create mobility issues. You could be experiencing additional pain and stiffness due to a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet.
Make sure you have the right mattress. There’s a dizzying selection of mattresses out there, and you’ll need to do some looking around to find the right one for you, but in general, you need support. Firm enough to keep your spine aligned properly and your body from sinking into the middle of the mattress, but soft enough on top, so you don’t wake up feeling like you slept on a pile of bricks. Find the right pillow too.
Eating right and getting more active can go a long way in making your aches and pains more tolerable so you can sleep better at night.
As we age, we tend to gain weight and lose muscle mass. As we lose muscle, our joints lose support. All of a sudden, our joints are working much harder. As we go through our day, walking, bending over, getting up and down, etc., they experience more wear and tear and eventually become damaged. Then arthritis sets in, and they become very sore, and the pain starts to affect your mobility.
Exercise to rebuild those muscles will go a long way toward making you feel more comfortable and help you get a good night’s rest.
Other things you can try are herbal teas, such as sleepy time teas, reading or meditating, creating a nighttime routine to wind down, and going to bed at the same time every night. Taking a nice hot shower or bath as part of your routine helps relax your stiff muscles and could help make it easier for you to fall asleep.
Think about what makes you sleepy and work it into your nighttime routine to help you get a better night’s sleep.
Recommended Reading: Healthy Sleeping Habits: What’s Keeping You Up At Night?
3. Take Time Out to Destress
Stress comes in many forms, and it has a significant impact on your overall happiness and well-being. The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to have issues with mobility and your health.
“Chronic stress is widely believed to accelerate biologic aging and support comes from studies confirming its adverse effects on immune system function, as well as how we respond to hidden inflammation. Stress significantly reduces the immune response to influenza and pneumococcal vaccine in the elderly.”
– The American Institute of Stress
Reducing stress is essential to living a longer and healthier life. Think about what’s causing you unnecessary stress and ask yourself what you can do to remove it from your life.
Take time to participate in activities that you find relaxing. You could read a book, take the dog for a walk, or play with your grandkids. Focus more on doing the things you enjoy and focus less on the things that you can’t change. These things cause you undue stress that you have no way to resolve.
The Northeast Ohio senior living community group, Judson, published a more detailed article all about the steps older people can take to reduce stress in their lives. They recommend the following:
- Practice mindfulness
- Exercise on a regular basis
- Engage in subtler forms of body manipulation like Tai Chi and massage
- Become more active within your community and cultivate genuine warm relationships
- Eat nutritionally dense foods and avoid sugar
Whatever works best for you is the approach you need to take. It will be the one you will enjoy and be able to incorporate into your life as a habit.
Recommended Reading: Ask the Expert Q&A: Laughter as Medicine
4. Participate in Activities That Get You Moving
For someone whose favorite activities include binge-watching your favorite series (we’re all guilty of that), you’re probably wondering what activities I’m about to recommend that you would want to participate in.
Anything you do that gets your heart rate up and gets you moving is ideal, but any activity you would enjoy is good, so what you choose to do is really up to you. Is there anything you’ve been wanting to try or do that you’ve kept putting off?
Maybe you’ve wanted to start a garden or take the grandkids to play in the park. Both of those things would be an excellent way to get active while doing something you enjoy.
Do you like to play golf or go bowling? Maybe go for a hike on a trail or just take a walk in a beautiful park? Get out and enjoy some live music and do a little dancing. How long has it been since you did that? Ask a family member or friend to tag along with you and get out there and do it.
When you’re the type of person who hates exercising just for the sake of getting exercise, you have to find a way to get the exercise you need in a way that’s fun for you, if you’re going to stay active consistently.
Recommended Reading: 8 Tips for Staying Active with Parkinson’s Disease
5. Attend an Exercise Class
You’re probably assuming that I’m about to tell you to lift weights or jump on a treadmill, but if you’re not really into that, you’ll go maybe three times total and find some reason never to return, so I’m not even going to say it.
A class is more motivating because you are part of a group. It can be quite interesting and rewarding once you start going regularly.
When you aren’t a fan of traditional exercises, you can try something a little more unconventional, such as yoga or tai chi. These are particularly good for older people, because they are slow and calm, and they promote strength with flexibility.
If you’re really in the mood for something unconventional, you might even consider trying goat yoga. Because, why not?! Seriously, anything that gets you exercising and paying more attention to your health is great.
“Approximately 1 in every four women and 6% of men ages 65 or older have Osteoporosis, and studies consistently show that the weight-bearing activity of yoga helps slow bone thinning, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women.”
There are other low-impact classes too, like pilates and exercise classes based on ballet or other dances. Classes geared toward seniors are available as well. These are very gentle, and they lead you through a simple routine that can improve the quality of life for a more fragile or disabled individual.
You can check your local gyms or senior centers to see what types of exercise classes they offer. Commit to giving one of them a try, and don’t talk yourself out of going.
Recommended Reading: Brain Health: The Mental Benefits of Physical Exercise
6. Recruit a Workout Buddy or Hire a Fitness Coach
Do you want to commit to exercise and develop healthier habits, but you’re worried that you lack the motivation or the willpower to take action and make the change?
Recruit a friend or family member to exercise with you or at least check-in.
It’s hard to change habits when they’re ingrained in everything we do. Sometimes it’s essential to find someone to help motivate you and hold you accountable to your goals.
If you have someone to go with you or even someone that just checks in on you and asks you if you’ve been exercising and following through on the commitments you’ve made makes it more likely that you’ll stick to it. Accountability is a powerful motivator.
Hiring a personal fitness trainer that has experience with helping older adults is another option for you to consider. This is one of the most successful ways to improve your fitness and your health.
Personal trainers help people make lifestyle changes they can’t easily achieve by themselves. In a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that people who used a trainer showed measurably greater improvements than those who followed a self-directed training program.
Recommended Reading: Functional Fitness: Randall Sharpe Helps Clients Train For The Game Of Life
Summary: 6 Healthy Habits to Stay Fit Over 50
Maintaining healthy habits after 50 can be difficult, especially when you’re the type of person who would rather stay at home and relax on the couch instead of going to the gym and exercising. However, living a long and healthy life means that you have to get off that comfortable couch and find an active lifestyle that works for you.
Try these six healthy habits to help you stay fit over 50, even if you’re unaccustomed to exercising:
- Eat Right: getting the right nutrition and avoiding things that are bad for you, such as fried or greasy foods, is essential to living longer and avoiding unnecessary risks to your health. Start making changes to your diet slowly instead of all at once to help you stick with the changes so that you can experience the benefits.
- Get Enough Sleep: eating right and getting some exercise will go a long way to easing aches and pains that keep you tossing and turning at night. You can also try herbal teas that make you sleepy or develop a nighttime routine to help you wind down and get a better night’s sleep.
- Take Time Out to Destress: too much stress is detrimental to your health, so you need to take time out to participate in activities that help you destress, such as reading a book or taking a walk.
- Participate in Activities That Get You Moving: anything that gets you off the couch and gets your heart pumping is great for your overall health and fitness. Take the grandkids out to play at the park or go for a ride on your bike.
- Attend an Exercise Class: lifting weights or walking on a treadmill aren’t the only ways you can get exercise. Consider trying a yoga or tai chi class when traditional exercise routines are not for you.
- Recruit a Workout Buddy or Hire a Fitness Coach: Having someone to help you set goals and hold you accountable helps you stick to your new routines. Ask a friend to workout with you or to check in on your progress. You could even hire a personal fitness coach to motivate you and keep you active.
Living a long and healthy life can be a challenge when you’re not the type of person that enjoys physical activity or exercise, but if you want to live a long and happy life—it’s essential.
“Being fit over 50 is a fabulous and growing trend. Many studies show active older adults have fewer physical, mental and medical issues as they age. Many health care providers are starting to promote exercise as medicine and developing programs that support this as a part of the ongoing treatment plan.”
– Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA, and Care Manager
Request your free consultation with one of our Care Managers to find out how we can help you avoid some of the common pitfalls you may face living life after 50.
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Life over 50 is complicated. From illnesses to general aging-related difficulties, there's a lot to learn and a lot to cope with. We understand and we're here to help answer questions and provide guidance on your options.