- / Source: Kaiser Health News
It takes moxie to flip an unhealthy lifestyle to a healthy one — particularly for folks over 60.
Most baby boomers approach retirement age unwilling to follow basic healthy lifestyle goals established by the American Heart Association, said Dr. Dana King, professor and chairman of the department of family medicine at West Virginia University, referencing his university’s 2017 study comparing the healthy lifestyle rates of retired late-middle-aged adults with rates among those still working.
Kaiser Health News interviewed three other prominent experts on aging and health about how seniors can find the will to adopt healthier habits.
Motivated seniors can begin by following KHN’s 10-step program:
1. Buy great sneakers. Purchase a pair of top-quality sneakers specifically designed for walking, said Carolyn Rosenblatt, founder of AgingParents.com, who started participating in triathlons at age 63 and continues to do them at age 70. Start by walking around the block. Expand that to 30-minute walks at least three times weekly — or set a goal to increase your walking distance 10 percent each week. And leave your sneakers by the front door.
2. Practice your balance. The best way to avoid falls is to retain a good sense of balance, said Rosenblatt. Practice standing on one leg with your eyes closed for at least 30 seconds.
3. Improve your breakfast. Stop eating the sweet roll with coffee. Consider substituting a home-blended smoothie with a banana, seasonal fruits, almond milk and protein powder or a protein patty without sugar. And cut out excess sugar in all your meals, said Rosenblatt. Replace soda with seltzer water.
4. De-stress wisely. Find ways to manage your stress that don’t involve food, alcohol or smoking. There are lots of meditation programs you can download on your phone and listen to for even 10 minutes, said Rosenblatt.
6. Hit the floor. Aging adults need to regularly practice getting down on the floor and standing back up again. “If you don’t get down on the floor and back up, you won’t be able to do it after a while,” said Van Norman.
7. Challenge your speed. While it might not seem as if folks over 60 need to worry about exercise that involves speed and intensity, they do, said Van Norman. “Most people don’t even think about speed in order to stay healthy. But tennis players are doing that all the time. You need to do something to challenge your speed, not just your power.” That’s why sports like tennis can be terrific as you age, she said.
8. Believe in yourself. Faced with self-doubt and depression after several tragic, challenging events, Sharon Sultan Cutler, 71, turned to therapy to help her feel better about herself. “The first person you have to believe in is yourself,” said Sultan Cutler, an author. “People like to be around other people who believe in themselves.”
10. Embrace self-improvement. Some call this lifelong learning. Living a healthier lifestyle requires constant learning and self-improvement, said Sultan Cutler. Seek out local learning resources like community colleges, where classes are often steeply discounted for seniors, she said. “Self-improvement isn’t just physical. It’s mental, too.”
Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.