Take Account of These Health, Wellness and Longevity Considerations After Age 55

(Stew Smith)

At some point in your life, you start to think more about longevity and solid performances on your annual checkups when designing your daily routine. At my age, some of my favorite personal record achievements are scoring well on annual physicals with body weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar and my other health numbers.

If you find yourself worrying about your health, physical fitness and even your mobility and balance, consider some form of physical activity each day.

As you get older, your body may require different types of activities and intensities. If you are over the age of 55, it's important to understand the changes your body goes through and how to adjust your exercise routine to accommodate these changes.

Consider following these helpful steps:

1. Medical Assessment

It is important to get an assessment from your doctor or physical therapist to understand any changes in your body's physiology. The health screening series of articles will give you some ideas with examples of blending medical screenings with age and needed activities.

Your doctor can also provide you with tips on how to modify your routine if you have any existing health conditions or are taking any medications.

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you should engage in 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five days a week. Another option is to try more low-impact exercises, especially if you are also overweight. Your joints will thank you for selecting exercises like walking, swimming, rowing, elliptical machines and biking. Low-impact exercises are ideal for those who are just starting out or have joint problems. But exercise can also be defined as dancing and doing yard work.

2. Start with the Basics

Walking and drinking more water are steps as basic as they come. Start there and slowly build up your endurance and strength. If you have not exercised in years, your body will not handle the same level of activity you could when you played sports or were serving in the military. Start small by taking a few 10- to 15-minute walks and gradually increase the length and intensity of your workouts. Several of those walk breaks can be spread throughout the day from first thing in the morning, to lunch breaks, to after the evening meal.

3. Flexibility and Balance

These exercises are truly the most important piece of the health and wellness puzzle. Maintain mobility and prevent injuries by including stretching, yoga and tai chi-type activities. These can help improve balance, coordination and posture, all of which can help you stay active and independent as you age. I personally prefer to mix in non-impact cardio activity like biking into my stretching and mobility workouts.

Try this one:

Repeat 3-4 times.

  • Bike or other cardio (row, swim, elliptical, etc.): 5 minutes
  • Stretch, massage, foam roller: 5 minutes

4. Strength and Balance

Adding balance to strength training is easy. Grab dumbbells and do basic arm exercises like the overhead press or biceps curls. Now do it on one leg. Balance is key for us as we develop a stable foundation as we go into our 70s and 80s.

As you age, your bones become more brittle and your muscle mass decreases. Avoid falling by building strong balance muscles and stronger bones. This will aid in preventing breaking major bones like hips and femurs. The strength training will also aid in maintaining muscle mass. Strength training can be done with machine weights, free weights, resistance bands or bodyweight exercises.

5. Recovery When Older

After strength training or hard workdays in the yard, make sure that you are also getting enough rest and recovery time between workouts. As you get older, your body needs more time to recover from physical activity, so it's important to get enough rest. This can include taking a day off between workouts, or just stretching and doing easy walking and breathing exercises to help you metabolize daily stress.

Exercise doesn't have to be intimidating at any age. By following these tips, you can stay healthy and fit throughout your life, successfully adding both years to your life and life to your years. By understanding the changes your body goes through and how to adjust your routine accordingly, you can ensure that you get the most out of your physical activity and maintain your health and fitness for decades to come.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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