A Beginner’s Guide to Exercise and Healthy Diet for Seniors
June 1, 2022
June 1, 2022
Ageing is a physiological process that causes many dysfunctional changes in the human body. As a result, older adults are more prone to chronic disorders, decreasing their quality of life. Exercise and diet are fool-proof ways to manage age-related conditions and changes. However, diet and exercise-related information on the digital space caters chiefly to adolescents and younger individuals and is not customised to meet the needs of older adults. Here, we try to explore older adults’ dietary and exercise needs.
With advancing age, structural and functional deterioration occurs in most physiological systems, even in the absence of discernable disease. These age-related physiological changes affect organs and functions that affect daily activities and quality of life. For example, physical independence reduces, and skeletal tissue performance goes down. Change in body composition is another factor seen during the process of ageing. According to a study, there is a gradual accumulation of visceral body fat and wasting of muscles. In addition, research indicates an increasing risk of chronic diseases such as Cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and certain kinds of cancer with increasing age. There is also a reduction in the overall metabolism. Therefore, the diet and exercise changes should accommodate these factors.
Diet is one of the modifiable factors that can help in combating age-related disorders. Changes in diet can improve your heart health, decrease the chances of bone diseases and reduce the wasting of muscles. According to a study, Blue zones are the regions where individuals live much longer without disabilities. Despite the cultural and ethnic differences between individuals living in these blue zones, their diets have characteristic similarities. These diets are mainly plant-based, notably vegetables, lentils and low in meat.
Vitamin D plays a vital role in human health. Low vitamin D levels can drastically impact a person’s physical and mental well-being. Traditionally doctors believed that the role of vitamin D was only in the maintenance of skeletal health. However, in recent years, following the discovery of vitamin D receptors throughout the body, its role in preventing and treating chronic diseases has become more significantly known. According to a study, Vitamin D deficiency can lead to various health problems, including cognitive decline, depression, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cancer.
Vitamin D deficiency is more common in older adults. According to the Institute of Medicine guidelines, the current recommended intake of vitamin D is 15 μg (600 IU) from age 1 to 70 years and 800 IU (20 μg/d) for those over age 70 years. Older adults are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency. It is mainly due to decreased nutritional intake due to loss of appetite, reduced sun exposure and increasing adiposity.
According to a study, salmon, tuna, cod, egg, and herring are excellent sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D rich foods are also known to have a protective effect on the skin, according to data. They prevent cell death and carcinogenic effects caused by UVB rays. Hence it is essential to include Vitamin D in the diet of older individuals.
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient throughout the life cycle; however, its importance is increased in older adults to battle age-related neurological defects. According to research, Vitamin B12 absorption is highly complicated and inefficient in older adults. As a result, it leads to Vitamin B12 deficiencies which most commonly manifest in pernicious anaemia, neuropathies, motor disturbances, cognitive impairment and memory loss. These symptoms are exclusively present in older individuals. Therefore, it calls for higher consumption of Vitamin B12 rich foods.
According to data, Animal food products, including meat, poultry, shellfish, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, contain Vitamin B12. However, Vitamin B12 is not in plant products, and vegans must choose Vitamin B12 fortified foods.
Body composition tends to change with growing age. As a result, waste of muscle and loss of skin elasticity increase. The recommended dietary allowance for younger adults is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. However, the whole body protein turn-over rate decreases in older individuals by 20% or less. As a result, older individuals require more protein content, that is, 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. According to a study, one cannot underestimate the importance of dietary protein in the diets of older adults. Inadequate protein intake contributes to decreased reserve capacity, increased skin fragility, decreased immune function, poorer healing, and longer recovery from illness.
According to research, high sodium intake leads to various health conditions like high blood pressure. It also increases the risk of stroke, ventricular hypertrophy and proteinuria. Decreasing sodium content is beneficial for all individuals suffering from high blood pressure. However, this effect is particularly noteworthy in older adults. The dietary recommendation for individuals between 51-69 is 1300 mg per day, while it is 1200 mg per day in individuals aged 70 and above.
These are high in sodium, and one should avoid them as much as possible. However, switch to low sodium alternatives if you like them a lot.
Mediterranean dietary patterns contain
Studies have concluded that the Mediterranean diet helps in decreasing chronic health conditions like diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndrome and inflammation. In addition, data indicated that Greater adherence to Mediterranean Diet relates to improved mental depression, age-related cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. The Mediterranean diet was also associated with decreased mortality and morbidity in older adults.
Consuming healthy meals and snacks may be easier when you plan. When planning meals, look for recipes that sound delicious to you. It can be an excellent place to start.
The number of calories people need each day varies by individual. Consult a health care provider to discuss your weight goals.
(low-sodium or no-salt-added)
(If canned, go for salt-free variants)
Older populations tend to be less active than their younger counterparts. Older individuals also prefer physical activities of lesser intensity like walking, golf and lower impact aerobic exercises. With advancing age, there is a higher chance of degenerative diseases such as osteoporosis, arthritis, and sarcopenia( loss of muscle). Although physical activity and exercise cannot stop the biological ageing process, there is evidence that regular exercise can minimise the physiological effects of an otherwise sedentary lifestyle. Also, a physically active lifestyle can increase active life expectancy as it limits the development and progression of chronic disease and disabling conditions. Emerging evidence also shows a significant psychological and cognitive benefit from regular exercise participation by older adults. Ideally, the exercise mix for older adults should include aerobic exercise, muscle strengthening exercises, and flexibility exercises.
According to research, aerobic exercises provide a more favourable body composition profile in older adults than their sedentary counterparts. These individuals tend to have less visceral fat, greater muscle mass, and higher bone mineral density. They also have younger pattern hearts that indicate better cardiovascular health. As a result, they have significantly lower blood pressure and decreased risk of coronary heart disease. They also tend to have faster nerve conduction velocity and lesser disabilities.
Aerobic exercises recommended are
Resistance training or strength training is a workout that improves strength and endurance. It includes a wide range of training techniques like callisthenics and isometric exercises. According to data, resistance-trained older adults tend to have higher muscle mass and are much stronger than their sedentary counterparts. They have greater bone density and also increased functional independence. In addition, they can combine them with aerobic exercises for a more significant impact. Data also indicates that resistance training increases the Basal Metabolic Rate and boosts the metabolism.
Balance training is essential for groups with a higher risk of falling. These groups mainly include frail older adults and osteoporotic women. According to a meta-analysis, balance training in older adults increases coordination and strength. It also enhances stability, mobility, and flexibility, making it easier to perform your daily tasks. These exercises help you prevent falls and injuries and improve your athletic performance. Focusing on your balance also allows you to focus and clear your mind.
Recommended balance training exercises for older adults are:
It is important to remember that balance training alone is insufficient. You must combine it with aerobic exercise or resistance training.
As age advances, there is a decrease in the joint range of motion which causes poor flexibility, mobility and physical independence. However, a study reported significant improvements in the lower back, hamstring flexibility and spinal extension after a 10-week stretching programme. Yoga and Tai-chi have also increased flexibility in older individuals.
Ageing is a physiological process that increases the rate of mortality and morbidity. Older individuals are also more prone to chronic conditions and disabilities. They tend to lose their physical independence with age. Diet and exercise are crucial in preventing these chronic conditions and decreasing disabilities. The dietary requirement for protein and other micronutrients is more in seniors. Various diets like the Mediterranean diet increase life expectancy while decreasing age-related disabilities.
Physical activity is a great way to reduce visceral fat and lower muscle wasting with increasing age. Aerobic exercises and resistance training can help with bone and cardiovascular health. Resistant training also increases the muscle strength of seniors significantly. Balance training is essential to reduce the risk of falls and injury, and one should add to the exercise regimen. By following the said changes, one can age healthily and live longer.
A. Best way to lose weight wouldn’t be different for seniors. If you plan to lose weight, changes in lifestyle, including diet and exercise, can go a long way. It is essential to be on a calorie deficit diet, so watch your calories. Aerobic and Resistance-training can help burn calories. However, be careful not to over-exert.
A. There is no way to hack weight. Losing weight takes time and effort. Even if you can lose weight fast, it will be extremely unhealthy. Therefore, starving yourself and fad diets are not the way to go. Instead, it would help if you watched your calories and consistently exercised regularly to lose weight.
A. A diet that is majorly plant-based with lower meat content helps increase longevity and decreases disabilities. It is also essential to reduce your salt content and increase your protein and vitamin content.
A. You can start with baby steps. Start with your diet, make a shopping list, and include fruits and vegetables while avoiding red meats. It is also important to avoid refined carbs as they are the primary cause of various health conditions. Next, you can add exercise to your day. Start with low-intensity activities like walking and then build it up. Do not force yourself as it might lead to injury.
A. Avoid refined carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent option for your breakfast. Eggs are also incredibly versatile, and you can eat them in many ways. They are a great source of protein. Adding probiotics is also a great way to take care of your gut health.
Sample breakfast plan
A. According to a study, fat is redistributed centrally from the limbs to the body’s trunk during ageing. As a result, physical manifestations of ageing lead to a progressive increase in body fat and promote sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass combined with low muscle function.
A. According to the CDC, the mean average weight of a 70-year-old woman is 166.5 pounds or 75 kgs to be approximate. The ideal BMI range is also higher for older adults than their younger counterparts and lies between 25 and 27.
A. Target fat loss is a myth, and it is not feasible to lose fat in a specified area. You can lose fat by being in a calorie deficit. However, the area of fat loss is affected by genetics and, to some level, hormones.
A. Seniors must avoid red meat, refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta etc.; fast foods like burgers, pizza etc.; high Sodium foods like pickles and canned fish.
A. If you are in a rush, a couple of nuts or fruit can be a good option. Also, whole wheat toast with scrambled eggs is relatively easy to make and can be helpful to keep you full till your next meal.
A. Try having smaller meals more often and with nutritious snacks in between. It’s important to eat regularly, at least three times a day.