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How to Stay Fit in the Golden Years

Catherine believes that core strength and positive energy flow are keys to good health and longevity. Basic stretching is a daily practice.

The human body is complex and amazing. It can be pushed to the verge of exhaustion yet be ready to go again after just a few hours of sleep. Our expectations for its performance have a tendency to exceed the care we are willing to put into it, and we don't notice until it falters.

After a strenuous workout, playtime with our kids, or a long day in the yard, our muscles may complain. We'll reach for the pain relievers, put our feet up, and forget about it. Eventually, bouncing back will become more difficult.

Our tech-driven sedentary lifestyles contribute to obesity, poor circulation, and a lack of flexibility. Convenience in our fast-paced days leads us to unhealthy eating habits and increased caffeine consumption which both contribute to poor sleep. All of these put us in a vicious cycle of low motivation and flabbiness.

Many of us will develop osteoarthritis. The cartilage that cushions our joints thins, we lose the lubrication from synovial fluids, and bone rubs against bone. Our bodies defensively produce thickened growths called osteophytes. These bone spurs cause sharp pain with movement and often sideline us for a few days or send us to the doctor's office.

Even with all these challenges of ageing, there is still a practical approach to wellness through building good habits.

Tai Chi teaches balance, concentration, and relaxation through continuous movement.

Tai Chi teaches balance, concentration, and relaxation through continuous movement.

Eat Sensibly

  • Eat for better vitality. Add more fruits, vegetables, and soluble fiber.
  • Consume smaller portions throughout the day instead of 3 large meals. Healthy snacks sustain energy and optimum 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.
  • Aim for 8 glasses of water daily. Needs will vary with activity, weather, and health conditions. Good hydration helps the lymphatic system flush out the toxins which accumulate in our joints and tissues.
  • Reduce processed foods. They typically contain high amounts of sodium and sugar. When we prepare our own foods, we are more mindful of what we eat.

Recommendations for the average diet are 1600- 2000 calories per day for women and 2000-2500 for men. This includes a good balance of protein and carbohydrates with both soluble and insoluble fiber and Omega-3 fats. If consuming alcohol, include those calories in the daily count. Sensible eating over time will result in practical weight loss, healthy blood pressure, lower cholesterol and glucose levels, and better sleep.

A nutritious diet promotes good cellular structure, healthy weight, and increased energy.

A nutritious diet promotes good cellular structure, healthy weight, and increased energy.

Stay Flexible

Stretch daily. Regular stretching helps to prevent injury by improving blood flow to muscles. Exercises can easily be done in a chair or from the side of a bed. 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, then dance your way to the kitchen for breakfast.

Movement is important in maintaining muscle and joint function. Adding music boosts mood.

Warm-up when waking up.

Warm-up when waking up.

Consider Reasonable Fitness Options

Good options for low impact exercise are Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Pilates, water aerobics, casual walking, and yoga. They all go a long way in improving flexibility, strength, coordination, alignment, and balance. The pool offers both excellent cardio and flexibility workouts and is recommended as a good start for physical therapy.

Maintain a strong core to take the stress off of the back, hips, and knees. Good core strength helps balance and stability, preventing falls and contributing to a more even gait.

Since water makes us buoyant, pool exercise is by far the best program for those with osteoarthritis and other conditions that make full weightbearing difficult. A good workout should include both cardio and weightbearing exercises. A combination will promote good heart health and tone muscles..

There are many low cost community options available to seniors, the disabled, and those on fixed incomes. Many Medicare plans include Silver Sneakers which offers both gym attendance and online programs.

Check with your local YMCA and community senior centers. Social interaction is an added health bonus.

There are therapist guided rehabilitation programs for all levels of ability including those with severe spinal injury and nerve damage. A good doctor will prescribe treatment. Exercise is an integral part of wellness from both a physical and mental standpoint.

Keep the Mind and Body Active

  • Make exercise part of your daily routine. Gardening, dog walking, taking stairs, watching grandkids, and doing general household chores are everyday activities that help bone strength and mood. Getting out in the fresh air is good for mental well-being. 20 minutes of sunshine is enough for our absorption of vitamin D. Noticeable benefits of exercise are more energy and stamina.
  • Keep your mind engaged. Mental exercise promotes longevity and wards off depression. Reading, genealogy, puzzles, crafting, and technical hobbies are all good.
  • Find Purpose. Postpone retirement, work part-time, or volunteer in the community. These activities keep us current, give us satisfaction and confidence, teach new skills, and encourage social interaction.
  • Maintain friendships. Having people near who share our thoughts and experiences keeps us connected. Getting together often is good for our well-being. Our friends give us validation and support. Laughter heals. We are apt to get out and enjoy a happier and healthier life with a companion.
Laughter and companionship are keys to well-being and longevity.

Laughter and companionship are keys to well-being and longevity.

Gardening is a great way to maintain flexibility and strength while getting fresh air.

Gardening is a great way to maintain flexibility and strength while getting fresh air.

Manage Wellness

  • Wear sensible shoes with good support.
  • Use a cane or hiking stick to help with stability and relieve joint stress.
  • Take a balanced multi-vitamin.
  • Stop pain before it worsens. Self-help methods for pain relief include ice packs, 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 treatments, and massage sessions are excellent ways to ensure proper alignment, improved blood flow, and good nerve function.
  • Keep sexually active. The release of endorphins and dopamine naturally relieve pain. Sexual intimacy can be adapted for physical limitations rather than eliminated. It is another key to overall wellbeing.
  • Aim for 7–8 hours of sleep per night. Enjoy a cup of relaxing herbal tea and practice calming routines. Devotional prayer and meditation are good examples. Turn off the blue screens and opt for a book or podcast.
  • Ensure that your mattress and pillows promote good sleeping posture.
  • Consider medical procedures and joint replacement instead of suffering needlessly. Modern medicine can be rejuvenating and end chronic pain.

Good health is one of our greatest assets, and taking the proper steps to ensure the wellness of our bodies is a no nonsense investment.

A calming cup of herbal tea before bed promotes good sleep.

A calming cup of herbal tea before bed promotes good sleep.


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


Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on March 22, 2015:

Hi peachy.

Thank you! You 're right about that. The benefit is there for anyone as long as one starts out slowly.

All the best!


peachy from Home Sweet Home on March 11, 2015:

true, you can exercise at any age, any time, good for health

Catherine Tally (author) from Los Angeles on April 18, 2014:

Hi Audrey,

You're welcome! Thank YOU for being the first to comment. I am happy to hear that you do yoga. It's amazing how it keeps one so fit while fine- tuning the very important mind/body connection. Take care!


Audrey Howitt from California on April 15, 2014:

I love yoga--and it helps me feel centered and relaxed and keeps my joints feeling generally well--Thank you for this hub!