Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Now that the leaves are down and the days are shorter, it is often hard to get motivated to think about exercise, let alone work on our food choices. We seem to want to hibernate and reach for comfort foods. Unfortunately, with our human makeup, this combination only leads towards gaining weight and becoming less flexible.
So what should you do?
First, realize that your body is always trying to accommodate your choices, regardless of whether they are choices that support it. Therefore, conscientious decisions to help your body function at its best will only serve you well. Our bodies want to be balanced (homeostasis) and seek to be well.
Take a moment and just think about the effort our bodies put forth:
hearts beat 100,000 times a day
7500 liters of blood travel through 96,000 vessels
every 3 months we replace our blood supply
every 10 years we rebuild our bones
brains process millions of messages every second
“Most of the best technology that exists on Earth is right here inside us. And everybody takes it almost completely for granted.” Dr. Ben Ollivere, The Body by Bill Bryson p. 160.
Second, there are some very basic things you can do, not expensive or too taxing:
Water - make sure that you are hydrated. Too often we mistake hunger for the need to hydrate. It is especially important in the cold months when our bodies tend to work on keeping our core supported - the extremities like hands and feet will often support the hydration need if not provided directly by us. We get 20% of our hydration needs met through food; so we need to provide the remaining 80% - which could equate to 8-11 4 oz cups of water a day.
Were you aware that our bodies are 60% water? Our heart and brain are 73% water; lungs - 83%, kidneys and muscles - 76%, bones - 31%. Overall, Americans are dehydrated and attribute the aches and pains to something other than the need for water.
Sleep - 7-8 hours - this length of time provides the body with much needed down time for rebuilding and repair. Best to be consistent with awake and sleep times - when you start to yawn and eyes get heavy, your body is signaling you that it is time to sleep. You can’t make up for lost sleep by sleeping longer another day and naps, although helpful, don’t provide the full amount of time to allow for repair and maintenance.
Make your bedroom a haven for sleep, a place that is comforting. This would include cooler temperatures (between 60 and 67 degrees F), dark, no technology (TVs and digital devices can emit a blue light which will delay your body’s production of melatonin – LED and florescent too). Let your active mind rest because our brains need to sort, file and eliminate information gathered during the day.
Move - cold weather makes it hard to get out for a walk; however, on those brisk, sunny days this is a great way to get some exercise. The combination of fresh air, sun and moving is good for you. You may see people power walking around a mall - also a great opportunity to move - no wind, warmer environment, and if done with friends, an opportunity to socialize afterwards. Another option is a short term gym membership - tread machines allow you to walk at your own pace and provide opportunities to “up your game.” When out and about, don’t park next to your destination (unless very cold), park on the outskirts and walk, take the stairs whenever possible, consider a yoga class - most have drop in opportunities for beginners or you can purchase a package of classes for a discounted rate.
Food - 80/20. Try to eat whole, clean foods 80% of the time and allow yourself to eat those special treats to 20% or less. Food made at home is generally healthier as it has less preservatives and chemicals. And, there are some great treats that you can make with healthy ingredients like peanut butter cups, banana bites, pumpkin muffins to help support your 20% choices.
Most importantly please know that fewer calories does not equate to a healthy option. Bodies need good fat, complex carbs and protein. Restricting intake of these macronutrients can result in the body being unable to come into balance.
Sally Handlon is a certified Integrative Nutrition Coach and a forever student of alternative health practices. She is a graduate of David Winston’s Center for Herbal Study (3 years) and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. More information is available at: bodyconstruction.me.