Coping with change is not always an easy process – in fact, it can often feel overwhelming, and at times, even downright scary.
And there is arguably no bigger change than those that come with age.
As we get older our body goes through a myriad of alterations that present on both a physiological and musculoskeletal level. These can come with associated declines in cardiovascular and metabolic health, reduced muscle strength and flexibility, and even declines in functional capacity – hence the reason they can be so damn scary.
Interestingly, many people actually believe that these age related declines in health and function are completely unavoidable – a normal part of life, if you will.
And in all honesty, they could not be any further from the truth.
You see, many of these unwanted changes actually occur in response to two key things. A general decline in activity levels combined with an associated change in dietary eating patterns – both of which tend to occur with the changes in work and lifestyle that we see when we get older.
Now the positive of this is that both of these things are entirely within your own control, and as a result, there are certain steps you can take to maximize your health and function well into your golden years.
1. Start Weight Training
This first point can often be the most difficult to implement – but it also happens to be one of the most important.
As we age we tend to see declines in muscle strength and power. This typically comes with an associated reduction in muscle tissue, combined with some alterations in joint strength and durability.
Now this actually has huge repercussions for both health and function, because these declines in strength and power have been shown to cause significant increases in your risk of falls, in conjunction with associated declines in your ability to perform tasks of daily living. Additionally, these declines in muscle mass have been linked to an increased risk of diabetes and declines in metabolic health.
In short, they’re not good.
But, fortunately for us, weight training has the ability to stave off every single one of these declines, keeping you functioning at a high level well into your old age. With this in mind, we strongly recommend you take the time to join a gym and start implementing weight training into your schedule 2-3 times per week – you will thanks us for it in the long run, trust me!
2. Eat More Protein
This relates very closely to the point above, and as such slides quite nicely into second place on our key health tips.
Protein is arguably our most important macro-nutrient (with other two being fats and carbohydrates). It is the building block of our cells, where it is also used in the production of muscle and connective tissue throughout the body.
Interestingly, protein intake has been shown to have a tendency to decline with age – which can actually accelerate the loss of muscle tissue, muscle strength, and muscle power, while also making it increasingly difficult to build new muscle tissue through weight training.
Which is why trying to eat more protein is essential to maximizing health and function across the lifespan.
This simplest way to do this is to try and eat a fist sized portion of protein with every meal. It doesn’t matter if this protein comes in the form of poultry, red meat, eggs, or fish – the key is to make sure you are getting some form of protein with every meal.
3. Get Your Walk On
There’s a very good reason that the World Health Organization recommends we get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity into our schedule every single week – because it has huge implications for health.
You see, this small amount of physical activity can protect your veins and arteries from the buildup of plaque, it can cause reductions in resting blood pressure, and it can lower levels of both blood cholesterol and blood sugar.
In short, it can keep you healthy and disease free for the duration of your lifespan.
Taking this into consideration we strongly recommend you try and implement regular walks (or hikes) into your week. This could be something as simple as 20 minutes each morning, or a couple of long walks on the weekend – however you choose to implement it doesn’t really matter, the important thing is just implementing it.
4. Limit Your Intake of Refined Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates can either be described as whole carbohydrates, or refined carbohydrates.
Whole carbohydrates effectively describe those that come from whole food sources, such as vegetables, fruit, potatoes and sweet potatoes, legumes, and whole grains. These foods contain mostly starchy carbohydrates, often with some fiber sprinkled in for good measure.
Alternatively, refined carbohydrates consist mostly of sugars, and are found in practically anything that was made in a factory (such as soft drinks, muesli bars, bread, pasta, fruit juices, and pastries).
Now a high consumption of refined carbohydrates has been shown to have strong associations with a number of health issues, including an increased rate of obesity, an increased incidence of diabetes, and an increased risk of heart disease – whereas whole carbohydrates have essentially shown the opposite.
With this in mind, you should try and make sure that the bulk of your carbohydrates come from whole sources. This is a simple and effective way to maximize health easily and efficiently.
5. Get Social
Our final tip has a little bit more more to do with practical and enjoyable side of health, rather than the more specific tips outlined above.
Maintaining consistent social interactions with friends is an excellent way to keep your mood elevated and stave off age related declines in cognitive function. Not to mention they can also provide an environment where you can actually get fit in a social setting – which can be accomplished by something as simple as joining a local walking group or exercise class.
So make sure you take some time out of your week to meet with friends and do something social – you won’t regret it!
Getting older doesn’t mean seeing declines in health and function – in fact, by implementing the tips outlined in this article you can almost avoid it completely.
By maintaining your health and fitness through regular exercise, and implementing some small changes into your diet, you can reap some absolutely huge rewards, staving off any unnecessary age related decline in health, function, and cognition.
So what are you waiting for?