May is Older Americans Month and the YMCA of the Blue Water Area encourages all adults 50 years and older to get motivated and develop behaviors that are crucial to healthy aging, including healthy eating, increasing physical activity and social interaction.
Adults 50 years and older currently make up more than 30 percent of the U.S. population, and will soon represent 45 percent of all Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that adults 50 and older have a 70 percent chance of developing at least one chronic disease. While these numbers seem daunting, the good news is that making small lifestyle changes that include increasing physical activity, eating healthier and staying active socially can help older adults live better.
“The image of an older adult sitting on the porch in a rocking chair is long gone—today’s older adult is more active, engaged and in control of their health,” said Jenny McElwain, Healthy Living Specialist, YMCA of the Blue Water Area. “Community-based organizations like the Y provide the needed guidance to help them reach health goals, particularly when it comes to chronic disease prevention.”
The Y offers many ways for older adults to live healthier including Enhance®Fitness. Enhance®Fitness is an evidence-based physical activity program proven to increase the physical, mental and social functioning of older adults – particularly those with arthritis.
According to the CDC, 52 million Americans have arthritis, including about half of all adults over age 65. Almost 23 million Americans report that arthritis limits their physical activity. Research has shown that low-intensity physical activity performed on a regular basis can reduce pain, improve functioning, elevate mood and delay the onset of disability.
Participants in Enhance®Fitness attend three, one-hour classes per week taught by certified Y instructor. Classes feature proven aerobic, strength training, balance and flexibility exercises that are safe, effective and modifiable for a variety of fitness levels. After four months, fitness assessments are conducted to track participants’ progress. In addition to physical benefits, the program provides a fun, social atmosphere that fosters relationships between program participants.
Enhance®Fitness classes are offered free of charge to members and for $15 for a 3-day-per week six-week session through a partnership with Lake Huron Medical Center and the Michigan Health Endowment Fund.
Additionally, the Y offers the following tips on how to jump-start your healthy-living routine:
1. Have fun with your food. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring! Have fun with your fruits and vegetables by trying them fresh or frozen. Find a new recipe that uses a different source of protein or find a way to incorporate fish or beans into an old favorite. Remember as you age, it’s important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean meats to help your body get the necessary nutrients.
2. Fill up on fiber and potassium, hold the salt. As you age, your body needs more fiber rich foods to help it stay regular. Aim for a variety of colorful foods on your plate (i.e. fruits and veggies) to keep fiber rich foods a part of your diet. Additionally, increasing potassium along with reducing sodium or salt may lower your risk of high blood pressure. Fruits, vegetables and low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt are good sources of potassium.
3. Get Active. Physical activity is safe for almost everyone, and the health benefits of physical activity far outweigh the risks. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things older adults can do for their health. It can prevent many of the health problems that seem to come with age (such as osteoporosis and arthritis) and reduce the risk for developing, or help manage, depression, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain kinds of cancers. For older adults who have chronic conditions that hinder their ability to be active on a regular basis, some physical activity is better than none, and older adults who participant in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits.
4. Tweak your routine. To get the recommended 30 minutes of daily physical activity, change your routine to 10-minute sessions throughout the day. For example, stand on one foot while brushing your teeth to increase balance, and do squats while washing dishes to increase strength. Make sure you can grab hold of something to maintain balance—safety first! To increase your cardio, take the stairs instead of the elevator or park farther from the entrance to work. When sitting in front of the TV, march during commercials or do some light stretching to break up sitting for long periods.
5. Get social. Socialization is an important part of aging. As we get older, it’s important to be active socially to stay healthy. Take a walk with a friend or a neighbor, join a book club or volunteer at your local pet shelter or local Y. Social interaction provides meaningful engagement, builds relationships, enhances a sense of belonging and provides opportunities for involvement—all resulting in greater bonds and a stronger sense of community. Being connected to the community keeps you healthy!