By: Dr. Jim Collins, MD
We are all aging. That’s a fact. Despite this, there are many things that are in our control to slow down the aging process and help us age well. Among these – nutrition and exercise provide the greatest positive impact on how we age and stay healthy later in life. Nutrition and exercise are good for the brain and bones, mood and self-confidence, independence and management of disease and pain. Simply put, there are no down sides to eating an “age-defying” diet and maintaining an active lifestyle.
What we eats makes a big difference in how we feel and how we age. Our skin will stay more youthful and our heart can stay stronger throughout our lives. There is a plethora of advice on eating healthy foods as we age in books and magazines, on television and radio and on the Internet. So, where do we begin?
Foods to Put on Your Plate
Let’s get as practical as we possibly can. There are certain foods that should be on your breakfast, lunch and dinner plates every day. Why? These foods are well-known as anti-aging foods. They provide good sources of antioxidants, vitamins, beta-carotene, fiber, protein and Omega 3.
Medical studies show that risk for developing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease can be significantly reduced by maintaining a healthy diet as we age.
Exercise and Aging Well
As we age, exercise becomes more important than ever. It gives us energy, helps to maintain independence, and can benefit already-existing diseases and pain. Exercise is good for both the body and brain. It enhances memory and mood, maintains or helps with weight loss, and strengthens mobility, flexibility and balance. Regular exercise can also help with sleep, reduce the impact of illness, manage pain and build self-confidence. Regardless of your current health condition, there are exercises that can benefit everyone.
Tips to Get Started
Before beginning an exercise routine, consult your physician to see what exercises you should and shouldn’t do. Take into account your current health conditions – it’s better to be safe than sorry. Start low and go slow. This means build your exercise program little by little. Always warm up and listen to your body. Commit to an exercise schedule for around 3 to 4 weeks, so you create a new habit. Find exercises you enjoy and stick with them. If exercising ever makes you dizzy, weak, short of breath or you begin to experience chest pain or joint pain, stop and consult your physician. Become focused and mindful of your body, breathing and movements and make every session count!
Building Your Exercise Plan
A good exercise plan begins with cardio endurance exercises, including walking, swimming, climbing stairs, cycling, tennis and dancing. These exercises will get your heart pumping and prepare you for the next type of exercise – strength and power training.
Strength and power training can be done with the use of free weights, machines or elastic bands. These exercises build muscle, improve balance and help to prevent bone loss with aging. They can also increase your speed and help to avoid falls.
Next, add flexibility exercises, such as stretching and range of motion. Yoga is a good example. Flexibility exercises help keep your body limber, increase range of motion of your muscles and joints, and help with everyday activities, such as driving, showering and playing with your grandchildren.
The last group of exercises to add is those that help with balance, which include standing and stability, while stationary or moving around. Examples of this type of exercise include yoga, Tai Chi and other posture exercises. They improve your balance, posture and your quality of walking.
Aging involves many changes in our bodies and brains that may be outside of our control. Despite this, we can control how we care for ourselves as we age. In particular, diet and exercise are among the most important areas where we do have control. Putting more age-defying foods on your plate and remaining active can only produce positive results as you age, regardless of the condition you are currently in. It is never too late to start! Eat smart, exercise and have fun!