13 Apr Health Tips for Seniors
When Jack LaLane, the Godfather of Fitness, was 70 years old, he towed 70 boats for 1.5 miles in Long Beach Harbor. He did it shackled and handcuffed. Into his 90s, he worked out two hours a day.
No one is saying every senior needs to live like LaLane. Even most professional athletes would not want to. But, with a few lifestyle changes, and some tips on senior health, every older adult can maintain vitality throughout their life.
Fitness for Senior Health: Incorporate Resistance Training
One of the biggest challenges for seniors looking to stay active and independent is age-related muscle loss, also known as sarcopenia. After age 30, our muscle mass tends to decrease.
If you are physically inactive, you can expect to lose about 3% to 5% of your muscle mass each decade. But, the rate of that decrease speeds up around age 65.
Decreased muscle mass results in lower strength and mobility. It is a serious risk factor for falls and fractures and is one of the leading causes of frailty in older adults.
Fortunately, there is an easy (and some would say enjoyable) solution. Incorporating resistance training into your daily routine can help you keep and build muscle (and, as an added bonus, perhaps lower your insurance premiums).
One of the most famous recent examples of the power of a good workout comes from the former Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg.
Before her recent death, Ginsberg worked out twice a week in the gym at the Supreme Court. Her workout mostly used resistance bands and helped her stay vital and active all throughout her life, even after recovering from cancer.
Wellness: Make Your Workout Social
There are plenty of exercises you can do alone around the house to improve your fitness, but one of the best ways to stay motivated to exercise is to find a workout buddy. They will help keep you accountable and make things more fun.
As an added bonus, finding a workout partner, taking a class, or joining a gym will help combat social isolation, which disproportionally affects seniors. Of course, it goes without saying that a socially-distanced class would be the best choice during the COVID-19 era.
Nutrition: Eat More Protein
To get the most of your new workout routine, you’ll also want to eat more protein. Your muscles use that protein to rebuild and get stronger. Seniors, on average, actually need more protein than younger adults, regardless of their activity level.
Up to one-third of seniors do not eat enough protein due to lower appetites, financial issues, or difficulty eating. On the other hand, seniors who eat enough protein have a better chance of maintaining function as they age.
Nutrition experts who have looked specifically at seniors suggest seniors consume 1 to 1.2 grams of protein for each kilogram of their body weight (a kilogram is about 2.2 pounds).
For seniors with acute or chronic disease, or who have been hospitalized, that recommendation is even higher: 1.2 to 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. At those moments, you need more protein to maintain muscle and strength.
Ideally, seniors should also spread that consumption out during the day. The ideal number seems to be about 25 to 30 grams per meal.
Health Is a Habit
The important thing for senior health is to make sustainable changes that you can incorporate into your daily routine. By finding sustainable ways to follow the above tips, you can stay healthy and active throughout your life.
For more tips on how to deal with life’s big changes, browse other posts on our Insights page.