While previous generations have given into their aging bodies, baby boomers are not buying it. They are learning how to rewind the clock with simple, sensible lifestyle habits.
There is no magic pill and no one has found the fabled fountain of youth, but researchers are showing that the most dramatic causes of the body’s decline are preventable. Pre-mature aging is related to inactivity, poor nutrition and illness–much of which can be controlled. Regardless of age, anti-aging strategies can add to the quality of a person’s life and health.
Fitness is important at any age, but the benefits become more dramatic as our bodies age, according to Dr. Richard B. Couey, professor of heath, human performance and recreation at Baylor University.
For persons over 50 who are starting or redefining a fitness program, Couey recommends that the first step be a general physical evaluation by their physician.
“Make sure everything is working the way it should be,” Couey told EthicsDaily.com. “At this age you need to check all your joints, include your knees, your ankles and others to make sure they are operating correctly so you can start exercising daily.”
Following the physical exam, Couey said that exercising the heart muscle is the place to begin. He noted that exercise activities do not require a lot of equipment so that getting started does not require a large investment.
“Start by walking a mile everyday for three weeks. At the end of three weeks, add a mile and keep doing this until you can walk three miles in 45 minutes five days a week,” he said.
For people who are already conditioned, Couey said that they could jog. But research shows that walking is all that is needed for good cardiovascular health.
For people with joint problems or if they want to put some variety in their workout, Couey said they could set a goal of swimming 800 yards for five days a week.
“If they want to ride a bike, they need to ride 9 miles a day on flat surfaces and less if there are hills or they can pedal a stationary bike for 9 miles for 45 minutes five days a week,” said Couey.
Senior adults lose strength at abnormal rates, according to Couey. “We hear too many horror stories of senior adults who aren’t strong enough to open their medicine bottle.” To offset strength loss, he recommends resistance training, particularly weight training.
“Senior adults need to pump some iron,” he said. “I ‘m not talking about real heavy weights like athletes do but they need to look at every joint in their body and exercise it.”
A regular strength training routine can prevent and even reverse much of the loss of muscle that occurs with aging. It may also help prevent or slow osteoporosis.
Flexibility is one of the most often overlooked areas of exercise. A daily stretching routine can help reduce the risk of injury. “Seniors needs to stretch everyday,” Couey said. As humans age, tendons and muscles become less pliable and there is a tendency to develop diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis, which can limit motion. Couey said it is good to complete a thorough stretching routine before and after each workout.
The fourth element for senior adult health relates to their diets.
“Seniors need lots of fiber—much more than young people,” Couey said. “Young adults only need 25 grams of fiber a day but adults over age 50 need more than 35 grams a day.”
Fiber is obtained best through fruits and vegetables particularly raw ones. He recommends 5 or more servings per day. Persons with higher fiber intake have fewer incidences of colon cancer, lower cholesterol levels and fewer incidences of gastrointestinal disorders.
For higher energy levels, Couey recommends five servings of food from grains such as beans, peas, and plants that grow under ground like potatoes and carrots. “These foods are loaded with complex carbohydrates and that’s what gives you energy,” he said.
Couey said people over 50 are often dehydrated and need to drink at least eight to 10 glasses of bottled water daily.
And for supplements, Couey recommends seniors take calcium citrate for osteoporosis, 65 mg Ferrous Sulfate if they are anemic; and a Vitamin B-12 shot each year.
Ray Furr is a freelance writer and operates his own communications / marketing business in Poquoson, Va.