For most of us, it can be challenging to stay heathy and (hopefully) fit during the winter holidays. Cold weather throughout most of the U.S., family get-togethers where there is always too much food and the desire to nest due to less sunlight means we have to work even harder to stay physical and eat right.
January 1st of every year is a time when a lot of us make New Year’s resolutions and one of them is usually “to get in better shape”. Gym memberships go up and then abruptly fall off by February. But for seniors, life is different. We have different goals and need different strategies to manage (or improve) our health and weight. So what can seniors do to either maintain health and fitness or even improve it, especially during the holidays?
Strategies to Stay Heathy and Fit During the Holidays
What is your “Why”?
When we’re young or even during midlife, our goals and motivations for being healthy, losing weight or getting into good physical shape can often be motivated by how we look or how we want to look. There is social pressure to be a certain size or look a certain way and this can drive our health or fitness goals. We may even want to be healthy and fight off future disease when we’re young.
But as we age, we realize there are better long term goals than how we look. Everyone ages and we start to feel our aging also, perhaps developing health conditions along the way. Our motivation changes and can include:
- Improving health or maintaining good health
- Proactively managing medical conditions
- Feeling better
In fact, as we age, feeling better can become a strong motivation, even when activity may feel counter-intuitive. For example, the Mayo Clinic states, “Exercise is crucial for people with arthritis. It increases strength and flexibility, reduces joint pain, and helps combat fatigue. Of course, when stiff and painful joints are already bogging you down, the thought of walking around the block or swimming a few laps might seem overwhelming.
But you don’t need to run a marathon or swim as fast as an Olympic competitor to help reduce arthritis symptoms. Even moderate exercise can ease your pain and help you maintain a healthy weight. When arthritis threatens to immobilize you, exercise keeps you moving.”
Determining your “why”, your motivation for staying/getting fit is critical to developing a plan (no matter what age!)
Understand “Eating Healthy”
Eating healthy doesn’t mean eating like a rabbit, following some trendy diet and never having “treats”. And with all the “comfort foods” that we make, the holidays can be an especially tough time to eat properly. Eating healthy means understanding:
- What foods are good for you and not good for you. Click here to read Healthy Eating Tips for Seniors from the National Council on Aging website.
- What portion size is appropriate for meal time (even during the holidays)
- Understanding what role snacks should play in the diet (and what kinds of snacks)
- Understanding what role alcohol and refined sugar should play in your life (Hint – little to none)
- Knowing how to get and stay properly hydrated (In fact a new study by researchers indicates that we need more water to stay hydrated as we age. Click here to read why.)
The Importance of Balance
Balance is key in most of what we do in life. There is a balance that we need between rest and exercise that will help us not only to have optimum health, but to feel better in our day-to-day lives. While we may not be able to maintain this balance daily, it should be our goal as often as possible to get enough rest and exercise every day.
Getting enough rest is crucial to health. If you’re travelling, be sure to rest after. Shopping, family dinners and excursions can take it out of all of us. The holidays are full of small, yet exhausting activities. Be sure you’re getting enough rest and enough sleep at night in between your activities.
If walking (outside), swimming (inside) or taking a short exercise class at a gym isn’t possible, consider alternatives for getting daily exercise:
Starting an Exercise Routine When You’re Out of Shape
Exercise Tips for Those 50 & Older
5 Tai Chi Moves to Stay Fit at Any Age
To feel better and get the maximum health benefit, the goal is 30 minutes of daily exercise, even if you’re wheel chair, bed or house-bound. And yes, this means through the holidays!
By doing a little research and implementing these key strategies, you’ll not only be able to enjoy a more healthful holiday season, you’ll have better tools for staying healthy for the upcoming new year.
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Do you have questions about how you can better support your loved one while they age in place in South Florida or regarding homecare in general? Please contact CareGivers of America here: Contact or call us toll free: 800-342-4197
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