Health and Fitness for Senior Citizens
Health and fitness is a consideration everyone should be taking, not just the young and agile, but also the more mature and experienced as well. Maintaining general health and fitness is just as important for senior citizens, if not more so because it is at this stage in life that muscle mass and general health is known to deteriorate.
As we reach our 40’s our muscle mass begins to decrease, in fact we start to lose about 3-5% every decade. The only way we can counteract this natural aging process is by ensuring that we are working hard to keep our bodies fit and healthy, through regular exercise and good nutrition.
Through healthy eating and an active lifestyle we are not only able to maintain a better quality of life by ensuring higher energy levels and increased recovery times after illness or injury, we are also able to help prevent illness and better manage pre-existing chronic health conditions.
Keeping the body active as we move into our twilight years will not only help us remain strong, active and independent, but also ensure the continued production of endorphins (happy hormones) which are essential to living a happy and fulfilling life. Regular exercise also helps us remain sharper, more alert, more focused and encourages us to interact with others and get out of the house.
There are four main types of exercise that should be incorporated into a balanced health and fitness workout regime.
- Strength: These are exercises and activities that increase strength of muscles and usually involve weight or resistance training. Lifting weights or using resistance bands are fantastic examples of strength building exercises.
- Aerobic/Endurance: This includes any activities that increase your heart rate and your breathing. They work to strengthen your cardiovascular system and tone your respiratory system. Swimming, jogging, bike riding, dancing and brisk walking are all great examples of aerobic exercises.
- Flexibility: This includes all exercises and activities that stretch out your muscles, keeping them supple and limber. Maintaining flexibility is also important in preventing injury from accidents or falls. Activities such as Pilates and yoga utilise many stretching techniques that work on the entire body.
- Balance: These include exercises and practices that require the body to balance itself, which is important in helping prevent falls. Activities that require balance include skating, dancing, single leg exercises and exercises that involve balance equipment.
There are 5 main food groups that are a part of every balanced diet and should be incorporated into every meal plan.
- Grains: Low or non processed grains such as brown rice, wholegrain breads and cereals are the best. Avoid eating foods made from highly processed or refined grains such as pastries, white bread, and pastas.
- Vegetables: Incorporating a range of vegetables into your diet is a great way of ensuring that you are receiving all the vitamins and nutrients that you need. A combination of green leafy vegetables, root vegetables, and vegetables ranging in colours should be a part of every balanced diet.
- Fruits: Fruits are also high in vitamins and nutrients and are important in any balanced diet, however it is important not to eat them in excess as they are also high in sugar. Be careful when drinking fruit juices because they are exceptionally high in sugar and contain less fibre than eating the fruits individually. Fibre is especially important for senior citizens as it helps keep their digestive track active.
- Protein: Protein is integral for cell growth and regeneration so having a diet rich in protein means that the body has the basic building material it needs to grow and repair muscle and tissue. Protein is best found in lean meats, eggs and soy based products.
- Dairy: Dairy is the most readily available source of calcium in our diet and calcium is the main mineral in bones. As we age our bone mass begins to deteriorate faster than it is created, which means our bones become more brittle and more prone to breaks. Having a balanced diet that has healthy amounts of calcium will assist in keeping your bones strong and help prevent osteoporosis.
Having a healthy and balanced diet is an integral part of longevity and resisting disease in the body. Avoiding foods that contain empty calories (high in calories yet low in nutrients) and are high in sodium, cholesterol and added sugar, is an important way to prevent weight gain and prevent/manage health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
Finding a healthy balance between keeping fit and active, as well as eating nutritious and delicious meals is a sure way to improve and maintain your lifestyle and increase your quality of life.