Emily Dickinson once wrote, “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.” That simple statement sums up the opportunities that each new day holds – opportunities to meet new people, see new places, brighten someone’s day or begin making positive changes. Those positive changes have the potential to add years to an individual’s life. Who wouldn’t want the chance to spend more time with their loved ones? Simple nutrition, exercise and lifestyle choices may help you do just that.
Food is how you fuel your body – good nutrition can give you more energy and help protect against health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. While the specific number of suggested daily calories varies per individual, the need for a balanced diet does not. We still need fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
In 2005, the government released My Pyramid, a revamped version of the classic food pyramid. The goal of the new pyramid and complementary program is to show Americans that healthy eating offers many options. My Pyramid focuses on six key areas of nutrition: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk, meat and beans, and oils. Listing serving sizes, ounce equivalents and healthy options, My Pyramid breaks down the amount different ages need in each key area.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Improving the diet of older adults could extend the productive lifespan of Americans and reduce the occurrence of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke, some types of cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.”
The basis for good nutrition is moderation. Spread your calorie intake out more throughout the day, eating five to six small meals instead of three large ones. You may be less likely to overeat because you will never become too hungry. Other small changes are surprisingly easy. Pick up whole grain bread instead of white, or select low-fat milk instead of whole. Toss some extra, colored veggies on your salad or buy a leaner cut of meat. You could even recruit your friends and family and make a fun day of finding healthy food – locate a local farm where you can pick fresh fruit, or visit a farmers’ market for locally grown produce.
This one word describes a multitude of activities – from walking to ballroom dancing to mountain climbing. The secret to incorporating exercise into your life is simple: find something you enjoy.
Exercise is often broken down into two key areas, aerobic exercise and strength training. Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate. Strength training targets specific muscle groups. Neither of these is more important than the other, and they both have proven health benefits and work best together.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “Aerobic/endurance training can help to maintain and improve various aspects of heart and lung function and cardiac output, and such exercise can enhance endurance. Strength/resistance training will help offset the loss in muscle mass and strength typically associated with aging, thereby improving functional capacity.”
For adults over the age of 65, ACSM recommends at least 30 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise five days a week, or 20 minutes of intense aerobic exercise three days a week, and 8 – 10 strength-training exercises, including 10 – 15 repetitions two to three times per week.
According to the CDC, regular exercise helps “control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints; helps to relieve the pain of arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depressions; and can decrease the need for hospitalizations, physician visits and medications.”
In our busy society, it is often hard to fit in an exercise routine. So, think about making it a fun part of your daily schedule. Join an exercise class; most exercise is more enjoyable when you have people around you working hard too. Instead of catching up with a friend over ice cream – take a walk. (You could even take the ice cream with you – just get moving!) When nothing else is working, make it a competition. Compete with your coworkers, friends or family members to see who can take the most steps in a day or lose the most weight in a month.
Nutrition and exercise are small, daily choices we all make. It is also important to remember other lifestyle choices – such as routine health screenings and putting an end to tobacco usage – that can help maintain a healthy lifestyle as you age.
Regular health care such as annual exams, dental care, and vision and hearing tests can help medical professionals catch problems early. Speak with your primary care physician to discuss what screenings you need and when you need them.
Tobacco usage is a topic that has been discussed for years, and it can negatively impact your health and that of your loved ones. According to the CDC, “Tobacco use is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the United States.”
A healthy lifestyle is something we can all choose. Will you choose to go for a jog or watch TV? Should you order the leafy, green salad or the hamburger and French fries? These choices may seem minute, but they add up. Little, everyday things add up to impact your entire life. They ultimately determine if you have an overall healthy lifestyle and the ability to enjoy life’s moments to the fullest.