Staying Fit After Retirement
We’ve all seen the stories of people in their 80s and 90s running marathons or climbing Mt. Everest. Yet, even if we don’t aspire to these heights, we would all like to be actively enjoying life in our older years. Don’t assume it’s all in the DNA. Get these three basics right and you’ll be on your way to healthier aging.
Study after study has shown the serious toll that long stretches of sitting takes on the body – decreased metabolism, spine and lower back issues, and decreased muscle functioning. As we age, we lose muscle mass naturally, so not just aerobic but weight-bearing exercise becomes more important. Exercise also happens to be the best thing you can do to maintain brain health, according to numerous studies.
Brisk walking is a simple and very effective way to remain fit. At Asbury Methodist Village, residents enjoy walks around our beautiful campus and Wildlife Preserve or on the indoor walking circuit mapped out by our Wellness Team. Each month, we offer more than 30 classes that include water aerobics, yoga, and Tai Chi. An important focus of our classes is improving strength and balance, which help us walk faster for longer, carry our groceries, get up out of chairs with ease, and prevent ourselves from falling. And residents have formed clubs focusing on specific sports such as bocce; for the past several years they’ve sent medal-winning teams to the Maryland State Senior Olympics.
When we are happy our brains are happy. When we are stressed or depressed the brain releases a chemical called cortisol. In small doses, cortisol is useful for alertness and concentration. But when it lingers it attacks the cells in our hippocampus, where memories are formed. Getting plenty of sleep is part of this equation also because sleep is the time when your body and brain reboots. Not getting enough of it affects metabolism, brain functioning and emotions, all of which link to energy.
Three years ago, an Asbury’s certified brain fitness facilitator Susan Grotenhuis created an award-winning brain fitness program called Brain Waves. The course focuses on all aspects of brain health, and provides the tools to make life-long changes that help you age better. See Susan’s Five Steps to a Happier, Healthier Brain.
Keeping our body at an optimal weight helps our joints and heart, and it just makes us feel better. The experts’ advice: favor vegetables, whole grains, and ‘healthy’ meats over fatty ones, and eat five smaller meals throughout the day rather than three large ones. Why? Digestion increases the body’s metabolic rate for an hour after eating. Your metabolic clearance time is how long it takes for your body to process a meal, typically three to four hours. If the total calories of a meal or snack is equal or less than the number of calories your body can process in this time (approx. 200-400 calories), then your body will burn most of them. If not, they head to storage – aka, fat. Hydration and activity levels are also important for optimal metabolic functioning.
Being part of a community with delicious recipes created with an aging person’s needs in mind helps. With multiple venues that allow you to customize your food choices and dining experience, Asbury makes it easy to eat well.
As simple as it sounds, the best fitness measures are the ones that you’ll do. Keep these three basics of senior fitness in mind, and you’ll be on your way. And remember that every bit counts! Give yourself a pat on the back when you take a few steps in the right direction. Before you know it, one new healthy habit will lead to another and you’ll be well on your way to more energy and better living!