At age 60, even if you’ve put on a few pounds and spent too many hours sitting in front of a computer, it’s not too late to begin getting back in shape with a few lifestyle changes. However, changes in body composition, loss of bone density and prescribed medications may require slight modifications to a standard nutrition and fitness plan.
Consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or diet plan. Many health plans provide free informational materials and classes specific to your health concerns, such as aging, arthritis, diabetes, dietary needs, heart problems, osteoporosis, osteopenia, weight loss goals and exercise programs for adults age 60 and older.
Start a daily fitness diary. A simple spiral-bound notebook is key to following your fitness goals. By writing down your medications, diet and activities each day, you can document your successes as your journey toward a healthy lifestyle progresses.
Incorporate a cardiovascular exercise program into your daily routine. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity that you can break up into large chunks — 50 minutes on three separate days — or small chunks of 15 minutes. This includes walking, biking and jogging but can also include activities like vacuuming, mowing the lawn or simply climbing stairs. As a 60-year-old, you should consider lower impact exercise, like walking as opposed to jogging or jumping rope, to avoid joint injury.
Engage in strength training at least twice per week. As you approach age 60, muscle mass decreases, and your fat ratio increases. The Mayo Clinic recommends regular strength training to lose fat, increase muscle mass, strengthen your bones and boost your metabolism. Heavy weights and expensive fitness machines aren’t necessary. Gradually adding a simple routine of crunches, pullups, pushups, stability ball squats and repetitions with small 5- to 10-pound weights makes a good start. Never train the same muscles on two consecutive days. Muscles require a day to recuperate.
Sign up for a water aerobics class at the local YMCA or health club. According to Dr. David Cosca of the University of California Davis Health System, water aerobics are particularly helpful if you suffer from arthritis, a heart condition or high blood pressure. Aquatic exercises are also recommended for patients rehabilitating after knee, hip and shoulder injuries, surgeries or replacements.
Follow a healthy eating plan. Adding fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and grains as well as reducing fat in your diet builds up your digestive and immune systems, enhances your brain functions, reduces your risk factors for chronic health conditions and increases your energy levels. Improving your diet also may reduce your calorie intake, which is often necessary as activity levels decrease with age. Consult with a physician or dietitian if you have an illness that could affect your diet, such as diabetes.
Read labels to reduce your sodium and sugar intake. While salt and sugar have a place in the body’s functions, processed foods and beverages may excessively increase the sodium and sugar in your diet, which may lead to water retention, high blood pressure, weight gain and diabetes.
Consult your physician about taking a multi-vitamin formulated for older adults. As you age, your body is less able to process some vitamins, including the B-complex vitamins and folic acid. Calcium with vitamin D supplements are also recommended to strengthen your bones and reduce the chance of a hip and wrist fractures, especially after reaching your 50s and 60s.
Make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking. Smoking not only reduces your lung capacity, it may lead to lung diseases such as emphysema and cancer. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, if you quit after 40 years of smoking, it won’t reverse already existing damage, however, your lung function loss will drop to the same rate as a non-smoker.
Consider reducing or eliminating alcohol from your life. More than one beer or a drink made with more than 1 ounce of alcohol, daily, can affect many of your body’s functions. Alcohol can interfere with your liver’s ability to filter toxins, inhibit your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, cause stomach ulcers and react with your medications. It also disrupts your sleep patterns, especially after you reach age 60, when many adults begin to suffer from sleep disorders due to pain, medical conditions and medications.
See your health provider regularly for routine exams and tests, such as blood pressure checks, fasting blood sugar, bone density tests, cholesterol levels, colonoscopy, pap smears, mammograms, dental and eye examinations. These tests give you and your doctor an early warning of more serious health conditions that may be kept under control or prevented with prescription medications or by changing your diet and losing weight.
- Adjust your exercise routine to accommodate any physical limitations. For example, if your knees can’t tolerate jogging, then walk. If you get dizzy when standing, then sit and do chair exercises.
- If you hate exercising, try a line-dancing video, a square dancing club or a yoga or tai chi class.
- Never try to work through pain. Pain is your body’s warning system. You risk blowing out a knee or hurting your back if you continue that activity.
- If you have chest pains or pain in your arms during or after physical activities, call 911 immediately. It’s better to have a false alarm than a fatal heart attack.
With degrees in fine and commercial art and Spanish, Ruth de Jauregui is an old-school graphic artist, book designer and published author. De Jauregui authored 50 Fabulous Tomatoes for Your Garden, available as an ebook. She enthusiastically pursues creative and community interests, including gardening, home improvement and social issues.
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