Many of the common health conditions experienced by seniors, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, are highly preventable. Staying active and engaging in healthy lifestyle habits can help you prevent these issues from taking control of your life while supporting the resilience of your mental health. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to improve your quality of life without making overwhelming changes to your daily routine.
Bring Your Exercise Outdoors
Time and time again, exercise is declared a kind of wonder drug. Exercise can help seniors maintain muscle mass to avoid mobility issues and a loss of independence. Physical activity can also help the body heal more quickly, fight off infection, and alleviate symptoms of mood disorders like depression and anxiety. According to Medicare.org, physically active seniors spend 25 percent less time with an injury or disability than those who do not exercise.
Outdoor exercise can be particularly beneficial—being around greenery can boost our happiness and reduce our body’s stress response. Plus, there’s just something so revitalizing about being out in the fresh air! Golf is a great option for seniors looking for an enjoyable outdoor activity. Besides being a surprisingly good source of low-impact exercise, golf is mentally stimulating, requiring the player to focus, engage in problem-solving, and think strategically.
Take Preventive Action Against Cognitive Decline
Seniors can also support their mental health by engaging in cognitively stimulating activities. Unfortunately, Cambridge Brain Sciences reports that cognitive brain-training games may not be very effective at preventing cognitive decline. On the other hand, Sudoku and similar puzzles have been associated with better cognitive performance in people of any age.
Learning new things may be the best way to keep your mind sharp. Picking up a complex skill, like speaking another language or playing a musical instrument, requires reasoning and problem-solving. Participating in challenging mental activities like these has been shown to improve overall memory better than simple puzzles. Plus, an activity like playing music can be boosted if you invite a buddy or two over for a jam session. So pick up that Les Paul, saxophone or even keytar (be sure to consult buying guide—like this one for saxes, for example—before purchasing anything new!), call a few musically-inclined friends, and rock out together. Learning new skills is an extremely fulfilling way to spend your time, potentially boosting self-esteem and general happiness.
Support Your Bones and Muscles with Protein
As a senior, it’s important to get enough high-quality protein in your diet. According to Today’s Dietitian, older adults need more protein than is currently recommended—new research suggests that seniors should consume about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein for each kilogram of body weight every day. This is key to preventing muscle loss and bone degeneration. Just make sure you aim for high-quality protein, which are made up of essential amino acids and are easily digestible by the body. Though it’s easier to meet these demands with animal-based proteins, vegans and vegetarians can still get a healthy variety of amino acids by combining different plant-based protein sources.
Reduce Your Sugar Consumption
While you’re working more protein and other vital nutrients into your diet, try to cut back on the sugar. Research has linked elevated blood sugar levels with heart disease and Alzheimer’s. A diet high in sugars and carbs may even contribute to moments of forgetfulness. If you need a little sweetness in your life, use sugar-free sweeteners such as Stevia and Xylitol. Just watch out for hidden sugars in treats like juice, bread, “healthy” snack foods, salad dressings, and yogurt.
Take control of your health so you can enjoy a high quality of life in your senior years. Although there are nearly endless ways to improve your health, start by making simple changes, like going outside more often and eating less sugar. When it comes to our well-being, the smallest actions often have the greatest impact.
About the Author, Jason Lewis