The picture we have in our heads of senior citizens sitting on front porch rocking chairs rocking away their days certainly is not true of the majority of today’s older Americans. Today’s seniors are living longer and enjoying every minute of their golden years. If you are looking for more ways to keep yourself physically and mentally fit as you age, our tips will help you stay active for years to come.
1. Improve Your Sleep
Focusing on quality sleep helps seniors avoid common age-related sleep problems such as insomnia, daytime drowsiness, and frequent waking at night. The first thing you can do to improve your physical and mental health is improve your sleep. Try developing bedtime rituals to help you become drowsy such as reading or listening to music while taking a bath before bed. Follow the same schedule each day and incorporate a consistent bedtime, wake time, exercise time, and eating times.
To help you prepare to sleep, stay away from the television, computer, or tablet and smartphone screens at least an hour before bed and be sure your bedroom is quiet and dark. Try keeping the temperature in your bedroom lower too, as a warm room can make it difficult to sleep.
If you still have trouble sleeping after making these adjustments and sticking to your schedule for a week or two, get more exercise. Regular exercise helps people sleep better and helps people who are not active enough feel sleepy at bedtime.
2. Do the Right Kinds of Exercise
Depending on your present physical fitness level, you may not be ready to lift heavy weights or run a 5K. But, there are certain types of exercise that are best for seniors looking to stay fit and feel better by becoming more flexible, stronger, and heart healthy.
Yoga or Pilates – Yoga and Pilates increase flexibility. Stretching and flexing give seniors a better range of motion and make it easier for them to move and do all of the activities they want to pursue. Stretching programs designed for seniors commonly are offered at senior centers, churches, and gyms, and seniors who are ready to begin yoga or Pilates will find classes at fitness centers. Stretching each day will make a big difference in a senior’s fitness level.
Weight training – Strength training and exercises are among the most important for senior citizens because stronger muscles allow them to do daily living tasks more easily. Strength training also positively impacts bone health. For most seniors, 30 minutes of strength training twice a week is a good place to start, with a focus on major muscle groups and taking care not to work the same muscles day after day. Begin with light weights and increase them as you gain strength.
Aerobics – 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise nearly every day should be a goal for seniors. Increasing heart rate benefits the whole body and makes it easier to walk and perform daily tasks. Walking is a good place to start, and other seniors enjoy dance classes and step aerobics to make exercise a social activity.
3. Improve Other Areas of Your Health
If you smoke, stop. If you abuse alcohol or other substances, get help. Taking good care of your body means avoiding tobacco products, alcohol, and drugs, and if you are over 50, you have a higher risk of becoming addicted to pain medication. Knowing your risks and discussing your concerns with your healthcare provider is a good step toward improving your overall health and well-being.
4. Become More Social
Boosting and maintaining mental health is just as important for seniors as boosting and maintaining physical health. While staying active and being physically fit help mental health by warding off loneliness and depression and increasing blood flow and oxygen, becoming more social is one of the best ways to ensure a senior’s mental health. Some seniors get more social by getting a part-time job that involves doing something they love. The work keeps their mind sharp, too.
Other seniors get social by joining senior centers or attending hobby groups or classes in the community. Studies show that hobbies reduce stress and depression and help boost mental health, so seniors should find hobbies to do with others, such as a quilting group, a hiking group, a fly-tying group, or an exercise group. If you have a green thumb, start a community garden or get involved with an existing one, or you can become a volunteer and help others while socializing.
Physical and mental fitness are key to seniors’ well-being and quality of life. There are so many options for activities that boost both, and we hope our four tips will inspire you to get active and involved and find other activities that you enjoy that will keep you healthy for many years.
Written by Jason Lewis
Image via Pixabay by Wokandapix