Vail Daily column: Integrate some physical activity into your day
Not everyone has a desire to live to or beyond their 80s. One such person is Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel. Emanuel was a professor at the Harvard Medical School and is now an acclaimed oncologist at the University of Pennsylvania. He raised quite a ruckus a couple years ago with an article written for The Atlantic. One statement from the article caught my attention:
“Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: Living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived.”
In my experience as owner of a Visiting Angels franchise, I can’t dispute his statement. There is no denying that the natural progression of aging comes with diminishing capabilities. However, I don’t believe that becoming old needs to equate to a lack of quality living. I am friends with numerous people who are living healthy and productive lives well into the 80s, 90s, and even 100s. I mountain and road bike with a number of seniors that are 70 and older. Guess what? They frequently school me on bike rides. (I’m in OK shape and they have 20-plus years on me!)
A GOOD DIET CAN HELP AS YOU AGE
Age is not an out-and-out barometer of life quality. A good diet and frequent exercise can significantly make a difference in how well you age. While there is plenty of research that shows the benefits of a healthy diet and exercise for those who are young, there is not a substantial amount of research on diets for seniors. The Weight Watchers and South Beach diets of the world don’t pander to the elderly.
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Eating healthier is an ongoing commitment, but it can be easier than you might think
Weekly, I speak with many doctors in different types of practices. Often, I hear them commend us in our educating our clients on eating well and participating in physical therapy. Perhaps much of our success in getting our clients to try moderating their diet and considering an exercise regimen stems from the fact that we are not family or a doctor telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. Rather, we simply acknowledge the fact that as people age, their tastes and smells change, they encounter dental issues and as their metabolism and intestines change, their meal choices become limited. We do not view these as barriers, rather we see them as opportunities to educate and solicit change.
Since aging often brings with it a diminished sense of tastes and smells, many people benefit from flavor heightened foods. Merely adding herbs and spices to home prepared meals can help increase people’s appetite and aids in regaining interest in nourishment and maintaining good health.
When we find that dental issues may be influencing what seniors eat, we simply suggest and/or prepare different foods that make chewing and swallowing easier. This also presents an opportunity to introduce people to making nutritious shakes for a morning meal. Blending a fruit shake with a bit of protein powder and fresh vegetables like spinach, kale and avocado can greatly aid in increasing nutrition.
EXERCISE AND HYDRATION
Hydration is also an area we consult our clients with, because a lack of hydration is known to cause confusion, fatigue, muscle cramping, headache and dry mouth, we try to have our clients drink a liter or more of water each day.
Exercise is needed, too. Nutrition alone does not change wellbeing.
Keeping fit as you age does not mean you have to go to the gym or change your life drastically. However, acknowledging that many age issues like muscle loss, deteriorating bone density, problems with balance, and declined strength are attributed to a lack of exercise and nutrition may be a good start to motivating change.
Our bodies are much better at repairing and maintaining itself when kept well-conditioned via a program of regular physical activity. If it’s been a while since you’ve done regular physical activity, it’s important to start with a good evaluation of where you are right now. This will be your foundation for putting together an effective exercise and activity plan.
Integrating a bit of physical activity into your day can be as simple as doing some stretching exercises while watching TV or parking your car at the far side of the market and walking to the store as opposed to hunting for the closest parking space. A short walk around the block every day is far better that not walking at all. Small steps can make a big difference in your health.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. For more information, go to http://www.visiting angels.com/comtns or call 970-328-5526.