Everyone grows older, but that doesn’t mean the aging process can’t be improved. I’m almost 68 and overall I feel so much younger. For me, a lot of it is mindset, but there are some physical things that I’m doing as well to improve my overall aging.
Are you aging well? The World Health Organization (WHO) defines actively aging well as the process of increasing and improving opportunities for health, participation, and security to enhance a person’s quality of life. You can improve your aging process by focusing on your physical, mental, and emotional health.
According to a study in Clinical Interventions in Aging, grip strength is related to multiple health and happiness markers. When I first learned this, all I could think of were those hand grip/strength training things with the giant spring in them. But it turns out that improving your grip strength can also improve your:
- Upper Limb Function
- Overall Strength
- Fine Motor Skill
- Cognitive Ability
- Emotional State
Good grip strength allows you to age well and remain active and independent. To strengthen your grip strength, try this exercise:
- Squeeze a squish or tennis ball with your whole hand 5 to 10 times
- Repeat using only your thumb and index finger.
- Repeat using your thumb and each other finger.
How did I not know that before?
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Most of us understand that being overweight or underweight puts you at risk for chronic diseases, health conditions, and potentials falls and fractures. Doctors determine weight based on your Body Mass Index (BMI). Your BMI is a calculation of your body fat based on your height and weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), your weight status is determined by your BMI. The levels of weight status are:
BMI Weight Status
- Below 18.5 – Underweight
- 18.5—24.9 – Normal
- 25.0—29.9 – Overweight
- 30.0 and Above – Obese
Researchers have determined that a BMI of 25 or more is a risk for chronic disease and poor health. To maintain a healthy weight, the CDC recommends that your diet contains:
- Whole Grains
- Lean Protein Sources
- Low Fat
- Low Sodium
- Little Added Sugars
It’s actually so much simpler than all of the programs they sell or diet books that adorn the shelves promote. Lean protein sources include fish, poultry, eggs, legumes, and soy products, along with low-fat foods that are low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol are the key to healthier eating. Talk with your doctor about how many calories you need every day and plan your diet within that allowance.
After the year we’ve all had, I can’t say this enough. Gyms were closed and so many of us took to sitting and working, watching TV, and other inactivity (maybe you haven’t….but that’s EXACTLY what happened to me). Your activity level helps you maintain good muscle mass, strength, and bone density. According to a study in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, adults age 52 and older tend to have a decreased activity level, leading to poorer health outcomes. The CDC recommends older adults engage in:
- 150 Minutes a Week of Moderate Intensity Aerobic Activity
- 2 Days of Strength Training a Week
- Activity as Tolerated
If you have health problems, talk with your doctor about what activities are safe for you. Be as active as possible and increase your activity level as you grow stronger. Even if it means a walk to the corner and back. Staying active helps you age well by improving your:
Exercise Your Brain
According to a study in Scientific Reports, cognitive training improves brain function. The more you use your brain, the better your overall health and quality of life. Studies in the journals Nature and PLoS Medical show that good cognitive function may reduce the risk for dementia. Try exercising your brain with these activities:
- Jigsaw Puzzles
- Learn a New Language
- Art Classes or Crafts
- Nature Walks
Take some of that downtime and pick up a good book and learn something new. There are also some great courses online that are geared specifically to aging adults like us.
As people age, the opportunities for social contact may decrease. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine found that one in four adults age 65 and older are socially isolated. The report also found that social isolation increases the risk for:
- Hearth Disease
- Premature Death
You can improve your aging process by staying socially connected and active. You may find social connections through:
- Joining a Book Club or Other Hobby Group
- Writing Letters to Family and Friends
- Email or Social Media
Improving your aging process helps you be more independent, increases your cognitive ability, and builds social connections. There are many simple ways to improve your aging process and quality of life. What are you doing? I’d love to know, because I know how much all of these things help.