How to Stay Fit Into the Golden Years
Our bodies perform for us in amazing ways, most of which we take for granted. It isn't until we hit a serious bump in the road that we realize just how important it is to keep in shape.
Aches and pains which limit full range of motion can lead to muscle atrophy. Our muscles may begin to complain after a strenuous workout or a long day in the garden, and we will reach for the pain relievers, put our feet up, and forget about it. Eventually though, bouncing back will be more of a challenge.
Our hands often get stiff from repetitive motions, and normal joint wear and tear can bring about bursitis, tendonitis, and damaged ligaments. Pain further limits movement, locks joints, and damages connective tissue. A sedentary lifestyle wastes muscles. Poor eating habits cause our stomachs to bulge and sag leading to back weakness. A lack of deep sleep, which frequently accompanies stress and aging, affects our muscles' ability to properly recover.
Many of us will develop osteoarthritis. The rubbery cartilage that cushions our joints begins to wear thin. We also lose the lubrication from synovial fluids. As bone rubs against bone, our bodies in defense produce thickened growths called osteophytes. These "bone spurs" cause sharp pain with movement and soon have us heading for the doctor's office. Regardless of condition, there is still a practical approach to wellness and keeping fit both before and after any surgery.
- Eat for better health.
- Consume smaller portions throughout the day instead of 3 large meals for sustained energy and healthy blood sugar levels.
- Start the day with a good breakfast. It has been shown to help the metabolism work at peak performance and reduce weight gain.
- Drink ample water. It helps the lymphatic system flush out the toxins which accumulate in our joints and tissues and aids kidney function.
- Reduce processed foods. They typically contain high amounts of sodium and sugar.
Recommendations for the average diet is 2000 calories per day, and this includes a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with both soluble and insoluble fiber and antioxidants. When consuming alcohol, consider those calories in the daily count. Are they worth it? Sensible eating over time will result in practical weight-loss, healthy blood pressure, and more vigor.
Warm Up When Waking Up
Stretch daily. Regular stretching helps to prevent injury by improving blood flow to muscles. Exercises can be done in a chair or from the side of a bed if necessary. There is truth in the adage "use it or lose it." It is important to keep muscles flexible and strong. Even short-term confinement to a bed or wheelchair following surgery or injury can lead to some muscle atrophy. Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning, try easing into it with a wonderful all-over body stretch.
Keep the Mind and Body Active
- Make movement part of your daily routine. Activities like gardening, dog walking , taking stairs instead of the elevator, and doing general household chores are weight-bearing and necessary for maintaining bone strength. Getting out in the fresh air and sunshine is good for mental well-being, lung function, and the absorption of vitamin D. Stay active, both in mind and body. It helps to promote longevity and ward off depression.
- Consider postponing retirement, working part-time, or volunteering in the community. They keep the mind sharp, give us purpose and confidence, teach new skills, and encourage interaction with others.
- Maintain friendships. Having people to share our thoughts and experiences gives us something to look forward to. Getting together often to share activities, play games, and chat is good for our well-being. Our friends give us validation and support. Laughter is good medicine. We are apt to get out and enjoy a happier and healthier life with a companion.
Consider Reasonable Fitness Options
Whenever possible, aim for both cardio and weight-bearing exercise. This will promote good heart health and strong muscle tone. Good options for low impact exercise are: Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Pilates, pool aerobics, casual walking, and Yoga. They all go a long way in improving flexibility, strength, coordination, alignment, and balance.
Maintain a strong core to take the stress off of the back, hips, and knees. Good balance helps to prevent falls and contributes to a more even gait.
Since water makes us buoyant. pool exercise is by far the best program for those with osteo-arthritis and other limiting conditions that make full weight.-bearing difficult. The pool offers both excellent cardio and flexibility workouts and is recommended as a good start for physical therapy.
There are many low-cost community options available to seniors, the disabled, and others on fixed incomes. Many medicare plans include Silver Sneakers programs. Check with your local YMCA and community senior centers. The social interaction is an added health bonus. There are workouts for all levels of ability including those with severe spinal injury and nerve damage. Exercise is an integral part of wellness from both a physical and mental standpoint.
- Keep physically active.If a stiff hip or knee interferes with everyday enjoyment, a cane or hiking stick will help with stability and allow for longer walks w/ reduced pain.
- Take vitamins. Daily supplements of magnesium and calcium work to help muscles, joints and bones. Make sure Vitamin D levels are not low.
- Stop pain before it starts.After exercise, self-help methods for pain relief include ice packs, OTC anti- inflammatory medications, and topical muscle pain relief products. When used right after strenuous activity or injury, they go far in preventing pain and crippling flare-ups.
- Have a relaxing soak in Epsom salts to prepare the body for sleep.
- Visit wellness practitioners. Periodic chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, acupressure, and light massage are also excellent ways to insure proper alignment, improved blood flow, and good nerve function.
- Remain sexually active.The release of endorphins and dopamine naturally relieve pain and bring much needed pleasure in our harried world. Sexual intimacy can be adapted for physical limitations rather than eliminated. It is another key to overall well-being and longevity.
- Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Enjoy a cup of herbal tea and practice ways to calm the mind and reduce stress before falling asleep. Devotional prayer and meditation are good examples.
Good health is one of our greatest assets, and taking the proper steps to insure the wellness of our bodies is a no-nonsense investment.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2011 Catherine Tally