Movement strategies for healthy aging

It is so important to stay healthy and active as we age. In addition to consuming healthy whole food plant based nutrition, there’s no doubt or shortage of research on the benefits of movement and exercise to encourage strong bones & muscles, improve cardiovascular health and even cognitive function. Exercise can also reduce the risk of falls and injuries as we get older. But even if you’re not in perfect shape, you need to just START (after consulting your healthcare provider, of course and under the supervision of a certified trainer to be sure you have great form and are doing appropriate exercises). You’ll be surprised how quickly you can adapt to a new healthier lifestyle once you figure out what type of activities work best for you!

It’s never too late to start; however, there is an advantage to starting early to encourage healthy aging. What you do now determines how you’ll live a decade from now.

exercises for healthy aging

  • Low impact activities (Swimming, yoga, Pilates, walking, recumbent bike)
  • Group activities that incorporate the social aspect may increase your likelihood to participate & not skip. A few possibilities: pickle ball, tennis, golf, walking group – just make sure you don’t allow yourself to feel pressured to push harder than you should.
  • Resistance training: It’s so important to stay STRONG and avoid sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss)
  • Look for opportunities to increase general activity: studies have shown that staying more active throughout the day, providing our bodies the opportunity to increase the heart rate which improves cardiovascular health. Consider taking the stairs or the longer route to the bathroom at work, parking far away at the grocery, walking to chat with someone instead of sending an email.
  • Brain/body training: Activities that require some level of balance, agility, hand-eye coordination are great as well – again ask your healthcare provider for suggestions that are appropriate to your current ability & progress from there.

Inactivity and mortality risk

When looking at risk for cardiovascular disease as well as all-cause mortality, inactivity is a greater risk for both than any other single habit or practice. 

The evidence is clear: “when inactive individuals are compared with active individuals, the inactive individuals increase their risk of cardiovascular disease by between 150% and 240%, and  individuals who choose to be inactive accept the same increased risk of heart disease as individuals who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day! Unfortunately, 15% of the adult population in the United States still smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, and 60% to 80% are either not adequately active or completely inactive. Thus, inactivity carries the same risk as cigarette smoking a pack of cigarettes per day and is between 4 and 5 times more prevalent!   source

So how much exercise do you need? 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, plus 2 days/week of strength training exercise is the general recommendation released by the CDC recently. Always check with your healthcare provider for specific recommendations tailored to your individual needs, and check out the CDC’s general guidelines here.

Reduced risk of premature death with plant protein

A study released today by the Journal of the American Heart Association found that “Older women who ate more plant protein had lower risk of premature, dementia related death.” The main takeaway is that “Substituting red meat, eggs or dairy products with nuts was associated with a significantly lower risk of death from all causes”.

  • Compared to postmenopausal women who had the least amount of plant protein intake, those with the highest amount of plant protein intake had a 9% lower risk of death from all causes, a 12% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 21% lower risk of dementia-related death.
  • Higher consumption of processed red meat was associated with a 20% higher risk of dying from dementia.
  • Higher consumption of unprocessed meat, eggs and dairy products was associated with a 12%, 24% and 11% higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, respectively.
  • Higher consumption of eggs was associated with a 10% higher risk of death due to cancer.
  • However, higher consumption of eggs was associated with a 14% lower risk of dying from dementia, while higher poultry consumption was associated with a 15% lower risk.

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Source

Exercise to reduce risk of chronic disease

The World Health Organization just updated their recommendations related to exercise.

In adults, physical activity confers benefits for the following health outcomes: improved
all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease mortality, incident hypertension, incident sitespecific cancers, incident type-2 diabetes, mental health (reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression); cognitive health, and sleep; measures of adiposity may also improve.
Source

For those 65+, regular physical activity is recommended. “As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do varied multicomponent physical activity that emphasizes functional balance and strength training at moderate or greater intensity, on 3 or more days a week to enhance functional capacity and to prevent falls.”

The guidelines stress that some activity is better than none – start small with something that you’re comfortable with and build on that…over time you can increase the frequency, intensity and duration of your workouts.

***This isn’t medical advice, always check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program and consider working with a trainer to make sure you’re using proper form***