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Let’s get physical, physical sings Olivia Newton-John, and though we aren’t ready to jump back into leg warmers and headbands, it does relate to the fact that we, as human beings, are incredibly motivated to improve our health and wellness. For older adults, this isn’t just a great way to stay in shape – it’s the best way to age well.
Jayne Sallerson, Chief Operating Officer of Charter Senior Living, says staying healthy as you age means reaping the benefits that exercise brings to mind, body and soul.
“Staying healthy and aging well truly is a state of mind,” she says. “While the physical things you do have very real, significant effects, there are many other benefits that exercise has to your mental and emotional health.”
“We all understand the benefits of staying physically healthy, such as a better metabolism, stronger bones and muscles and overall better quality of life,” Jayne explains. “On the other hand, not staying physically active can be detrimental to not just our physical bodies, but our mental and emotional states as well.”
Jayne says that 2020 showed us all the importance of staying physically active, even when it seems difficult to do so. “Seniors, especially, have to deal with a use-it-or-lose-it aspect of their overall wellness,” she says. “As we get older, we can develop things like sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle and strength due to aging. Unfortunately, that’s a vicious cycle, because as we lose strength, it’s harder to be active.”
When we do the recommended amount of exercise, our risk of various diseases go down, we sleep better, our metabolism is high – just to name a few benefits. “Staying physically active also helps us stay mentally healthy, which the COVID-19 crisis has shown us is incredibly important,” Jayne says. “Loneliness, depression and sadness is very common for older adults.”
Research has shown that when we don’t get enough physical activity – for example, if we reduce the amount of daily steps we take from 10,000 to 1,500 – we start seeing the physical issues almost instantly. Insulin sensitivity reduces almost immediately, as does muscle tone and other physical factors. Unfortunately, when muscle tone is lost, it’s a lot more difficult to get it back again.
But don’t despair. Even if you’ve never exercised in your life, it’s never too late to start. As the old saying goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now.” Now is the perfect time to take steps – literally and figuratively – to improve your health and get more physical activity.
Jayne says that moving beyond the challenges we face, physically, is the key to healthy aging. “There is so much research that shows how being optimistic and practicing positive thinking can improve our physical health,” she says. “When you approach anything in your life from a place of positivity, it’s easier to stay dedicated to maintaining your physical health – as well as your mental and emotional health.”
Healthy aging, according to Jayne, means finding ways to reinvent your approach to life as you move through your golden years. It means finding new passions, adapting to change and staying as active as possible: physically, socially and mentally. Staying positive translates into adaptability and flexibility – which is incredibly important as you get older. “Being flexible means you are more likely and willing to follow doctor’s orders and take steps to control your health,” Jayne says.
Here are some of the steps you can take to achieve health and wellness – physically, mentally and emotionally – during your retirement years:
Don’t think of “eating well” as a diet. Instead, think of it as a whole new approach to your nutrients. Reinvent the way you eat by eliminating or limiting processed and packaged foods, and instead load up your plate and your life with whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats. Research suggests that this way of eating can improve your physical health and protect you against chronic illnesses such as cancer, heart disease and even dementia.
Our bodies are not designed to simply sit around in a chair. We’re meant to get active, so take steps every day to be active – literally. Thirty minutes a day is the minimum recommended amount of exercise that experts suggest, but you don’t have to do it all at once or even that much at the beginning: even as little as five minutes a day can allow you to reap huge health benefits. Regular exercise helps you control your weight, improve your cardiovascular system, lessen your risk of many diseases, boosts your mood and basically has zero side effects.
Being lonely hurts our hearts, figuratively and literally. Lonely people often develop depression and dementia, and tend to have shorter lifespans than those who remain socially active. On the other hand, staying connected to friends and family reduces stress, boosts immunity and helps you live a better life. Any activity that has you connecting with others is a benefit – one of the reasons why many older adults choose to continue working or volunteering during their golden years.
Going to the grocery store? Park at the back of the lot so you have to walk that much further. Watching TV? Do jumping jacks during the commercial break. Practice balancing at the counter while you’re cooking, or do resistance exercises while you’re reading the news.
If you have the internet, the world is your oyster. There are countless exercise videos available for free or low-cost, and the majority of them don’t require you to purchase new, expensive equipment. This is the time to try out new exercises like yoga, tai chi or anything else that strikes your fancy.
Your Journey. Your Way.
Charter Senior Living is a caring and compassionate leader within the senior living industry. Charter manages 25 senior living communities throughout the U.S., offering Independent Living, Assisted Living and Memory Care services. A family-owned business with an executive team with more than 100 combined years in the senior housing industry, Charter Senior Living’s mission is to enhance the human spirit of our residents, families and employees while serving with heart, purpose and courage – and to have fun while serving.
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