Nutrition and Exercise for Seniors is Imperative to Healthy Aging

By: | Tags: | Comments: 0 | January 9th, 2017

The human body adjusts itself to accommodate many things such as age. Body fat is redistributed, lean muscle mass disappears due to cell loss with age, and weight is gained or lost due to age. We’ve all seen tall thin men and short round female elders. Not all are like that, but there’s a reason some are. Fat is redistributed around the organs at the same time bone loss is dictating height loss, at least in women. There’s a reason it’s called “middle-age spread”. Muscle strength is lost, oxygen intake into the lungs decreases along with a decrease in metabolic activity. In short, as the body ages, it loses. However, it doesn’t have to be like that. Here’s why nutrition and exercise for seniors is imperative to healthy aging.

The Body in Youth

Biological and physical functions are at their peak between the ages of 20 and 35 or what is called young adulthood. In youth, the body is working, playing, having a family, enduring stress, learning to deal with its own peaks and depressions, feeling joy and contentment. You know: life. The body’s strength is at its peak at around age 25. After the age of 30, the body begins to lose some of its lean tissue. This means the organs as well as the muscles. Oxygen intake begins to decline at the rate of five percent in each ten-year span. Metabolic processes decrease at the rate of ten percent each ten-year span. Heart rate decreases, too. Calcium loss begins in the bones around age 30. The metabolism slows and flexibility decreases.

The Middle-Aged Body

Early middle-age begins around 35 to 45 years of age. The body has raised its family, had its children teach it to roller blade, reached the peak of its career and is now prepared to slow down some. Hormones that once spurred the body on to vigorous activities, a healthy sex life and acute mental activity haven’t much to say anymore. Arthritis and other joint problems set in. Loss of muscle strength means the inability to carry six bags of groceries in from the car in one trip, the sudden capacity to remain outside a door the body can’t push open and the inability to stay the course at the mall without having to sit for a bit and rest. Hormones governing mental acuity, emotional balance and even how much the body is able to eat at one sitting suddenly take a vacation. Permanently, sometimes.

The Elderly Body

Of course the young don’t understand the vagaries of old age. The depression stemming from the knowledge that the body is failing, the absence of friends and loved ones along with the simple knowledge that time is not a friend surprises young people. The onset or the worsening of diseases, the falls and the inability to do simple things like button a shirt or tie a shoe are only a few of the problems of aging at which younger people haven’t arrived.

Falls terrify the elderly. Falls mean the end of independence along with pain and yet more medicine bottles on the kitchen window sill. Many elderly lie to their doctors or simply omit the occurrences. This is bad news, because falls put many elderly in the hospital. Some falls are fatal.

Where Exercise Comes In

It is a statistical fact that simple exercise prevents falls, helps arthritis and keeps the heart and mind healthy. Walking is probably the best thing the aging body can do for simple exercise. No special clothing or shoes are necessary. The walk can be to the end of the street or through the mall. Many seniors get up groups and hit the mall together for both company and support. Some seniors hit the YWCA or the city pool for water aerobics. In the warm water, joints are not bearing the load of the senior’s weight and so are gently exercised. The body is gently active and getting better control of its problems.

Many aging bodies are afraid of exercise. “I’ll have a heart attack”, they say, or “I’ll fall”, they cringe. The aging body doesn’t have to take up marathons or some of the extreme workouts on DVDs nowadays. Gentle is the keyword. Keeping fingers and wrists supple is a simple matter of squeezing a small rubber ball a few times a day while watching TV. Retaining the strength to carry in the groceries is as easy as pumping a big can of something you hate (so you won’t be tempted to eat it) a few times a day. Those cans are usually around one to two pounds apiece.

Flexibility in the shoulders, hips and knees is kept up through range of motion exercises. Simply rotate the arms as far back as possible without pain and then forward again. Out to the sides and across the chest is another way to maintain range of motion. The hips and knees benefit from gentle swinging from side to side as if playing with a hula hoop. While seated, raise each leg in turn, bending the knee but not touching the floor with the foot. If the aging body can’t do squats to keep the knees strong, doing them seated will help. Keep ankles strong by flexing them and rotating them while seated.

Nutrition is just as important as exercise to keep seniors aging gracefully and healthily. Senior hands often can’t hold water bottles, but they need to keep hydrated. Keep the body hydrated with foods containing water such as tomatoes, cucumbers, oranges, apples and peaches. Eating foods with fiber is important for so many reasons. Since the nutrition is in the skin of many foods, things like potatoes, cucumbers and fruits should be eaten skin-on. For elderly fingers unable to pare or dice, food processors to the rescue!

You must be logged in to post a comment.