How to Maintain Physical Fitness as You Age

By on February 23, 2018
How to Maintain Physical Fitness as You Age

By Matt Durkin—

Getting older is a fact of life. At the same time, however, there’s no need to give up on your current lifestyle. With just a few simple, proven steps you can maintain your physical fitness for years into the future. In doing so, you’ll enjoy all the benefits this brings to your health and your quality of life. You might even end up fitter and healthier than you have been in years! 

Stay Active

Everyone has heard the term “use it or lose it” and that is the best way to describe how to maintain your physical fitness with age. Sitting around at home simply isn’t as beneficial as getting out in the fresh air for some exercise – no matter how modest it may be.

Studies have shown that a mixture of aerobic exercise to keep your heart and lungs in good shape, and gentle resistance training that strengthens the muscles and bones, leads to the greatest impact.

To stay in the best shape, experts recommend 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and 2 sessions of resistance training (on non-consecutive days) every week. Whether you do 5 sessions of 30 minutes, or one long exercise session is up to you. Try varying the exercise that you do – walking, cycling, gardening, yoga – to keep things interesting and encourage your body to adapt.

While regular exercise has repeatedly been shown to help maintain muscle mass, retain skeletal strength and support cardiovascular health, it is also important to consider your joints. The bad is that for many of us, joint degeneration is simply a fact of life as we get older. On the other hand, numerous studies have demonstrated that low-impact exercise can relieve soreness, ease away inflammation and reduce joint pain. 

So don’t let joint stiffness control you. Treat regular exercise as a crucial therapy; just as important as any prescription medications you take. For those individuals seeking natural joint health, remember that a number of popular supplements may also help. Glucosamine sulfate is possibly the best known of all, and comes in a wide range of different strengths. It is believed to help reduce joint pain, has been scientifically shown to slow the rate of cartilage decline. Alongside this, fish oils and curcumin are also believed by many to help ease away inflammation and make exercise more pleasant.

Although exercise will provide the most benefit, general physical activity also plays a massive part in maintaining your fitness. Choosing the stairs over the elevator, walking instead of using other modes of transport and hand-washing the car instead of using a car-wash are all easy ways to increase physical activity levels for the betterment of your health. 

Maintain a Healthy Bodyweight

One of the best things we can do to maintain our health and fitness with advancing age is to avoid “middle-aged spread” – the fat that slowly accumulates as we get older. There is nothing that really ages us more than high levels of body fat, as your heart and other vital organs are under constant strain. Furthermore, it puts more pressure on your joints, which in turn can worsen joint problems like arthritis.

As we age, our metabolism gradually slows down. Although it is not by a massive amount, it still means we have to pay close attention to the quality and the quantity of food that is consumed.

There are a few simple ‘rules’ that when followed consistently, should ensure you stay lean and healthy…

A Protein Rich Diet

Protein is a very important macronutrient for those who value their physical condition. Protein is particularly important for older adults seeking to combat the decline in muscle associated with advancing age. Muscle is the tissue that allows us to move and stay active so it needs feeding with protein. A diet that contains lean meat, fish, eggs, dairy and legumes should ensure an adequate intake to preserve muscle, especially when paired with regular exercise. Protein is also very filling, helping to fight off body fat.

Fruit and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables not only nourish the body thanks to their vitamin and mineral content, they also help us stay full, again helping us to avoid overeating. Their high fiber content also helps maintain gut health and decreases the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Wholegrains

Refined grains such as white bread and white rice have had their nutrients and fiber removed, just leaving the carbohydrate content. They often spike blood sugar, providing short term energy but leaving us feeling lethargic soon after. So for a more nutritious and sustainable source of energy to help support your active lifestyle, choose wholegrains.

Limit Processed and Fast Foods

Processed and fast foods are for the most part high in calories, salt, sugar and saturated fat, which are counter-productive for health and fitness conscious individuals. Now is the perfect time to cut down or even eliminate these entirely from your diet, replacing them instead with wholesome, home-cooked meals.

Be Mindful of Alcohol Intake

Excessive alcohol intake over the long term not only makes us look older but also ages our organs, whilst providing a lot of “empty calories”. That being said, a modest amount of alcohol has been shown to actually be good for cardiovascular health, specifically from the natural nutrients found in red wine. So although there is no need to omit alcohol entirely, it is generally best to be mindful of your intake, and to avoid “overdoing things”.

Lifestyle

Aside from being physically active and taking control of your diet, lifestyle factors also have an influence on maintaining our fitness levels. If you smoke, quitting is widely accepted to be the best behavioral change you could make to improve your health and fitness. 

Ensuring you get enough sleep is also a big aspect of long-term health, and we should all being aiming for between 7-9 hours per night. That said, as we age the body tends to need less sleep, so you may find yourself waking up earlier than usual. This is perfectly natural; the key is to listen to your body and react accordingly. If you find yourself drifting off for a nap in the afternoon then it may be time to try spending more time in bed.

Finally, spending time and being active with friends and family will ensure that not only your body stays sharp but your mind does too. Don’t be afraid to try new things and aim to make the most of your health and fitness.

The recommendations in this article are pretty straightforward and there are no secrets to maintaining good health and fitness. The key is to be consistent with positive behaviors and have a good attitude towards life!

 

This article was written by Matt Durkin, qualified nutritionist, who works for supplement company Simply Supplements. You can learn more about the range of supplements available for maintaining your joint health here.

 

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How to Maintain Physical Fitness as You Age