Can we stay vibrant as we age?
Dr. Gaines says: Vibrant is defined as ‘having or giving a sense of life, vigor or activity’ and small acts can be incorporated into your daily life so you can age more vibrantly. Critical elements of healthy aging include exercise, mental stimulation, stress management and nutrition.
Exercise is the key to preserving mobility, and just ‘being active’ is not sufficient. Seniors should exercise 150 minutes per week, which breaks down to 30 minutes five times per week or 10 15-minute sessions per week. I recommend starting with the 10-minute interval approach. For example, do 10 minutes of exercise while your coffee is brewing or take a 10-minute walk after breakfast or lunch to incorporate exercise into your normal daily routine.
Receiving adequate mental stimulation provides another way to stay vibrant during the aging process. I suggest reading something new or challenging yourself to a puzzle or riddle every day. You can also research something that interests you or have lunch with a friend and engage in conversation. Studies show participating in lifelong learning imparts a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Though stress is unavoidable, studies repeatedly show it contributes to cognitive impairment and decline. Luckily, there are ways to manage stress, including prayer, breathing exercises, relaxation techniques and counseling. Even something as simple as laughing helps relieve stress.
Lastly, nutrition plays an important role in the aging process. I recommend following the Mediterranean Diet, which includes eating primarily plant-based foods – fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, peas, whole grains and nuts. This diet can improve your cognitive function and reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.
Aging vibrantly is a realistic goal, and making lifestyle changes really can make a difference. Talk to your doctor about creating a plan to help promote successful aging.
Anna K. Gaines, MD, is a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at Tri Rivers. She treats axial spine and peripheral joint pain; neuropathic pain and weakness of the extremities; myofascial pain syndrome; and functional deficits related to stroke, spinal cord injury, acquired brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders. She also performs electrodiagnostic testing and Botox® therapy for spasticity and provides amputee care management and chronic pain management.