3 Ways Healthy Eating and Exercise Benefit You Physically and Mentally
What does a healthy lifestyle look like? For the most part, it is the same at 60 as it is at 20. You should eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and lean meats and seafood. Meals should be spaced throughout the day to provide a consistent supply of energy (which means no skipping breakfast!), and water should be consumed consistently to stay hydrated. You should lay down for seven to nine hours of sleep each night, get active throughout the week, and always wear sunscreen and long clothing when going outdoors. Plexus has the full checklist here.
While there are more similarities than differences, older adults do have certain health needs to be aware of. To start, seniors require fewer calories to maintain a healthy weight. Because nutritional needs are high, the calories you consume must be nutritionally dense. Sense of thirst diminishes with age, so water intake should be monitored to ensure adequate hydration. As the National Institute on Alcohol and Alcoholism explains, seniors metabolize alcohol differently than younger adults, which means they can’t drink as much or as often as their younger counterparts. And many seniors report trouble falling and staying asleep, despite sleep requirements staying the same. That makes it more important than ever to practice good sleep hygiene.
Physical activity is another area where older adults must take care. Like younger adults, seniors need a mix of cardiovascular exercise and strength training to stay physically fit. While cardio strengthens the heart and lungs, strength training improves functional ability and protects against injury. Older adults should also incorporate balance training into their fitness regimen to protect against falls. Rather than leaping into a new workout, sedentary seniors and those with health issues should follow Harvard’s health advice and talk with their doctor about safe exercise.
Now that you understand what healthy living after 60 looks like, let’s talk about why it matters:
1. It Reduces the Risk of Disease
Search “lifestyle diseases” online and you’ll be met with a dizzying array of results. From heart disease to Type 2 diabetes, dementia to depression, there is a long list of physical and mental health conditions that lifestyle contributes to. Many of those diseases not only increase your risk of premature death, but they seriously diminish your wellbeing while you are alive. Maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, and maintaining a social life are central to preventing lifestyle diseases, and diet and exercise are some of the best ways to do so.
2. It Improves Everyday Functioning
When you are physically fit, you’re more confident and capable as you move through daily life. You can cook healthy meals without getting fatigued, play with your grandchildren without losing your breath, and run errands around town without worrying about losing your balance. A healthy diet, too, improves your energy levels by stabilizing blood sugar and giving your body the nutrients it needs to thrive.
3. It Prevents Falls and Related Injuries
When you’re older, a simple fall can change your entire life. Falling and breaking a bone could leave you with a permanent disability or land you in the hospital where you pick up a secondary infection. However, staying inside isn’t a healthy strategy for fall prevention. Instead, seniors should aim to live an active lifestyle so they can maintain their balance and physical strength into the later years.
It would be wonderful if the reward for old age was being able to indulge without consequences. But the truth is, a healthy lifestyle is as important as ever in old age. However, staying active and eating a healthy diet has its own reward: a longer, healthier life.