Easy and Healthy Habits for the Elderly
Easy Ways to Stay Active and Start Healthier Habits All Year Round
Guide to Staying Active and Starting Healthy Habits
by Erica Garza
According to the CDC, only 35 – 44 percent of adults 75 years or older are physically active. While the reasons for inactivity vary amongst the elderly, ranging from fear of injury to a lack of interest, the World Health Organization is clear on the importance of staying active throughout one’s life. Physical inactivity is considered a leading cause of disease and disability, with sedentary lifestyles doubling the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, as well as increasing the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety.Seniors who follow a poor diet are even more at risk. Malnutrition affects up to 25 percent of elderly patients at home and more than 50 percent of those at rehabilitation institutions. Mayo Clinic reports that problems caused by poor diet and nutrition include a weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections, poor wound healing, muscle weakness, decreased bone mass and a higher risk of hospitalization, which can make physical activity even more of a challenge. However, learning how to be more active and instill healthy habits can be more complex for an elderly person. With more physical challenges than your average 20-year-old might have, older adults must find a fitness and nutrition routine that takes some common limitations into consideration. To get started, here are some easy ways for seniors to stay active and integrate healthier habits into their lives.
Exercise in Small Bursts
Physical activity doesn’t need to be strenuous. While the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends that all adults practice 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week, older adults are encouraged to break this exercise down into manageable bursts, like three sets of 10-minute sessions per day. Seniors should also be open to a variety of exercise, from walking and water exercises to tai chi and yoga. Housework and gardening also count, so seniors are encouraged to engage in physical activity they already find enjoyable. If joint stiffness or inflammation are preventing exercise, consider trying a topical CBD product like Papa & Barkley’s CBD Balm, which keeps aches and pains from getting in the way with a healing blend of hemp-derived CBD, coconut oil, beeswax and essential oils. CBD has been shown to relieve soreness and stiffness in muscles and joints by reducing inflammation, whether taken topically or orally.
Eat Nutrient-Dense Foods
Older adults tend to eat fewer calories than younger adults, making it a necessity to consume nutrient-dense foods to maintain a healthy weight. Begin healthy eating habits by eating more of these nutrient-dense foods:
● Fruits and vegetables (opt for a range of types with vibrant colors)
● Whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-wheat bread and brown rice
● Fat-free or low-fat milk and cheese, or soy or rice milk that has been fortified with vitamin D and calcium
● Seafood, lean meats, poultry and eggs
● Beans, nuts and seeds
Seniors are encouraged to eat a balanced breakfast every morning and stay away from sugary drinks and desserts and too much butter, white bread, white rice and pasta made from refined grains.
Seniors are at a greater risk for dehydration because of how body composition changes with age, reports the Cleveland Clinic. Water is necessary for almost all bodily functions, ranging from lubricating joints to regulating body temperature. Insufficient hydration may cause difficulty walking, confusion, rapid heart rate or other more serious symptoms that can lead to hospitalization. A good place to start is drinking the recommended eight glasses of water a day, although seniors don’t only have to stick to water. Milk and fruit-infused water can also increase liquid intake, though one should always be wary of juices, which are often loaded with too much sugar. As an easy reminder to drink fluids, keep a nice bottle, tumbler or mug within easy access and fill it regularly throughout the day to stay sufficiently hydrated.
Focus on Prevention
Maintaining good health isn’t just treating illness when it happens. By focusing on preventative health care, including health screenings for cholesterol levels, colon cancer and heart problems, seniors are more likely to tackle health challenges early or prevent them altogether. Older adults should also obtain vaccinations, which can help prevent the flu and pneumonia. Seniors can also take cannabis and CBD tinctures or capsules every day as a part of their daily wellness and prevention regimen. Not only can CBD and cannabis support improved sleep by helping reduce discomfort and stress, but it can also promote a healthier and more active sex life when creaky knees or low libido become an issue. Not to mention that taking cannabis and/or CBD daily works with your body’s endocannabinoid system to help the aches and discomfort before they even start. Proactive and preventative!
Maintain Social Contact
People who engage in meaningful and productive activities with others tend to live longer, feel a sense of purpose, and even have improved cognitive function. Yet, studies show that one in three seniors feels lonely. When older adults are lonely and/or live in isolation, their motivation for eating well and exercising suffers greatly. They may not enjoy eating meals as much because they’re eating alone, leading to a loss of interest in cooking and eating altogether. Similarly, social isolation and loneliness has been associated with less objective physical activity and more sedentary behavior in older adults. Elderly people who have lost a spouse, or lost touch with family members or friends, or have moved into a care facility are at greater risk for inactivity and poor dietary habits, but by maintaining social relationships, this risk lowers. Many communities offer free or low-cost exercise classes, where seniors can keep fit while engaging in socializing. Volunteering or taking a class (maybe even a cooking class) are other ways to meet others and keep mentally fit. While exercising and eating well may seem daunting for the senior who’s out of practice, having the company of friends makes these feats all the more possible. Erica Garza is an author and essayist. Her work has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Health, The Telegraph and VICE. She lives in Los Angeles.