This year, May 31st marks the 24th annual observance of National Senior Health and Fitness Day across the U.S. On this day, both large and small organizations host events to spread awareness of senior health concerns and achieve the common goal of helping more older adults stay healthy and fit long into their golden years.
To celebrate this focus, here are some of the unique health and fitness concerns senior face and how they can be conquered, both inside and outside the fitness gym.
How Aging Affects Seniors’ Eating Habits and Nutritional Needs
It’s important to eat a nutrition-dense diet regardless of your age, but seniors face unique challenges to getting all the nutrients their bodies need to stay healthy. As we age, we may not be able to enjoy the taste or smell of foods as well; with dentures, sticky or hard foods may even be off limits. Along with these changes, our bodies become less efficient at digestion and absorbing nutrients. Many seniors also lack access to fresh, healthy food sources due to mobility and other lifestyle changes.
Sadly, this means that malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies are very common in the elderly. To ensure you’re getting the nutrition you need as your body ages, follow these two dietary guidelines after the age of 50:
- The USDA recommendations for adequate intake of each food group
- The DASH eating plan for those who have, or are at risk for, high blood pressure
- Supplements for nutritional needs that can’t be met by diet alone
How Aging Affects the Body’s Movement
As we age, we lose muscle mass, bone density, and nerve response. The natural tendency is to become less active, which accelerates these changes. For this reason, it’s important for seniors to continue to get cardiovascular exercise, resistance workouts, and flexibility training, even if they need to change their past routine to accommodate physical conditions. For instance, someone who can no longer run or walk outside because of the safety risk can still use the treadmill or elliptical at a fitness center.
Most fitness center equipment also has built-in safety features and can be modified to seniors’ abilities and needs. As well-lit, safe environments seniors can access on a regular basis, health clubs are a great option for seniors to stay healthy and in community with others. The staff at fitness centers can also help seniors modify movements and equipment to meet their needs.
How Aging Changes Workout Intensity and Recovery
It’s important for seniors to stay as active as possible for their physical and health condition, but it’s equally important to exercise safely. With that in mind, here are a few recommendations for seniors:
- Modify the intensity or duration of workouts to avoid over-taxing the heart and lungs
- Entirely avoid exercises or machines that could compromise balance, especially for those who are at-risk for falls
- Allow for longer recovery periods and extra rest days
Aging is inevitable, but the aging process doesn’t have to get you down. By planning more nutritionally-dense meals, getting regular exercise that’s modified to their abilities and needs, and focusing on staying safe and healthy, seniors can age gracefully and stay fit for years to come.