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Stay Active

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Stay Active

Exercise

Much of the physical decline that older people suffer comes not from age but from lack of exercise. Different activities bring different rewards:

  • Aerobic exercise – protects the heart, lungs and brain.
  • Strengthening exercises – preserve muscle tone and balance.
  • Stretching exercises – keep you limber and promote good posture.

It's never too late to reap the benefits of physical activity, so choose something you enjoy doing.

Here's more information on some simple ways to get started:

And don't forget to talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your level of activity.

Be social

Call an old friend just to say hello. Rather than eating alone, join a friend or family member for lunch. Hug someone close to you.

As ordinary as they might seem, connections like these have real power. They can improve your life – and protect your health. Research shows that a strong network of friends and family can help you:

  • Live longer. Men and women with close social ties are 50 percent less likely to die prematurely than isolated individuals, according to a review of 148 studies.
  • Feel happier. According to one study, having satisfying relationships was a key difference between very content people and less happy ones.
  • Be healthier. Lonely adults appear to be more prone to high blood pressure and other health conditions, such as depression and dementia, as well.

If you think you need to strengthen your social ties, begin with the relationships you already value. And, consider seeking out new friends, too. You might:

  • Set a date. Schedule some time – in the near future – to enjoy the company of someone who brightens your mood.
  • Make a list. Think about people you want to contact regularly. Then, follow through.
  • Volunteer. Working side by side for a cause may lead to a lasting bond.
  • Join a group. Find something that intrigues you – maybe that's a pottery class or a hiking club.
  • Connect online. Few things beat in-person contact. But, you might also give social networking a try. It can be a good way to reconnect with old friends – and find people with common interests. However, be cautious – and, think twice before sharing any personal information online.

If anxiety or shyness prevents you from making friends, reach out for help. Consider talking with a mental health professional about your feelings. He or she can offer strategies to help you connect with people.

Stay sharp

Though you can't prevent memory loss or the effects of aging, there are some simple ways to help improve your memory.

The Mayo Clinic has identified 10 steps to help keep your memory sharp:

  • Exercise your mind. By challenging yourself with new mental challenges, you keep your brain active. Here are a few ideas:
    • Learn to play a musical instrument
    • Play word games like Scrabble or do crossword puzzles
    • Interact and socialize with others
    • Learn a new hobby
    • Volunteer
    • Stay informed about current events
    • Read a wide variety of material
  • Be physically active. Physical activity increases blood flow, which increases oxygen to the brain. A good exercise program will incorporate aerobic activity, strength training and stretching. Before you begin an exercise program, be sure that you consult your doctor.
  • Eat a balanced diet and stay hydrated. A diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables provides your body with antioxidants, which are substances that protect and nourish brain cells. Dehydration can make you tired and will cause you to have problems concentrating.
  • Use reminders and cues. Because you have to retain and organize a lot information daily, use cues and other reminders. Here are some helpful tips:
    • Write lists
    • Establish a routine
    • Practice repetition
  • Give yourself time to remember things. It's a lot easier to memorize something when you are able to give it your full attention and focus.
  • Learn to relax. Because stress and anxiety can interfere with your concentration, it is important to learn how to relax. Common stress reduction and relaxation techniques include:
    • Regular exercise
    • Yoga
    • Meditation
  • Be optimistic. Research has shown that a positive attitude can have very beneficial effects on many medical conditions. Happiness may make you more alert, and being alert opens your senses to help store memory.
  • Talk with your doctor. Sometimes side effects of a medication or interactions between medications may cause problems with your memory. Talk with your doctor about your experiences.
  • Check your levels. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Sometimes a change in these may affect your alertness or your ability to concentrate. Check to see if your thyroid gland is functioning properly as well.
  • Keep your perspective. Some memory loss is normal, so don't panic if you can't remember where you placed your keys or can't think of that word you were looking for. You can't remember everything.