12 Healthy Habits You Can Carry Into Your 80s and 90s
While we all want to live a long, healthy, and productive life, there are a variety of beneficial habits that can help increase our chances of enjoying life for many decades to come. From staying active and eating right to developing strong relationships and helping others, here are 12 healthy habits that you can carry into your 80s and 90s.
Exercising regularly is important at any age, but it's especially important as we get older. Moderate physical activity, preferably daily, can help maintain healthy muscles, bones, and joints; reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure; improve your sense of well-being and fight depression; and can help you maintain your independence while reducing the risk of falling. While we may not be able to maintain the same rigorous routines into our 80s and 90s, there are still plenty of safe and healthy activities for seniors, including walking, swimming, and aerobics. And if you need some inspiration, just look to centenarian Fred Winter who continues to win gold medals at the Michigan Senior Olympics.
Yoga is another excellent healthy habit that can be maintained into our later decades, especially when more strenuous exercises may no longer be an option. Practicing yoga offers a wide range of benefits as we age, such as improving balance and stability, increasing flexibility and joint health, and reducing anxiety and high blood pressure. Just ask 99-year-old Tao Porchon Lynch, the oldest yoga teacher in the world. You can likely find a yoga class or retreat near you that caters specifically to older participants, and there are plenty of low-impact poses that you can even do at home.
One of the most important healthy habits that can carry seniors into their later decades are strong personal bonds, not just with family members, but also with friends. Maintaining those relationships and developing new ones, while also participating in meaningful social activities, can help strengthen cognitive abilities and memory. Those quality connections can also help you cope with stress, improve your mental and physical health, reduce the risk of loneliness and depression, and ultimately help you live longer. Experts recommend connecting with friends and family on a daily basis, participating in social activities such as volunteering or classes, challenging yourself with new activities, and interacting with people of different ages.
Most of us know that getting enough sleep is important, but the benefits of a solid night's rest are especially important as we get older -- and the amount of sleep we need can change as we age. Getting enough quality sleep can help improve memory and fight dementia; allow the immune system to fight disease and repair damage; and keep us sharp during the day to avoid accidents. A recent study from the National Sleep Foundation suggests that adults 65 years and older should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep a night -- compared to seven to nine hours for younger adults. But just as too little sleep can be problematic, some studies indicate that getting more than eight hours can increase the risk of early death due to increased inflammation and depression.
After retirement, many seniors struggle with finding their purpose in life once they no longer have the career that once helped define much of their life. Discovering a new sense of purpose post-retirement, however, is not only a great motivation to get out of bed in the morning, but studies suggest having goals and a purpose can help extend our life expectancy and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, stroke, and arthritis. Experts recommend writing down all the activities that bring you a sense of well-being to help you find activities that give you purpose, which could include a new hobby, taking care of an animal, volunteering, and cultivating new relationships.
Volunteering is a great way to find a renewed purpose in life as we age, and is a habit that can also offer mental and physical benefits for seniors. Research shows that volunteering can help reduce the risk of depression and anxiety, minimize social isolation and loneliness, and increase physical activity. Whether it's tutoring students, helping out at an animal shelter, assisting at a cultural institution or park service, or even helping fellow seniors, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities depending on your interests. Senior Corps helps connect adults 55 and older with volunteer opportunities.
We're told all our lives that eating more vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are great for our health, but making a habit to do so becomes even more important as we age. Full of fiber and protein, and low in fat, beans (part of the pulses family that also includes lentils, peas and chickpeas) are regarded as key to longevity and commonly eaten in the world's Blue Zones -- areas with the highest concentrations of longest-living people. A diet rich in vegetables can also help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart disease and premature death. Here are some healthy recipes to get you started.
Staying healthy into your 80s and 90s doesn't have to mean enduring a puritanical existence. In fact, numerous studies have suggested that light to moderate drinkers actually live longer than those that abstain. Enjoying a glass of wine in moderation not only can help you unwind at the end of the day, but may help reduce the risk of heart disease, dementia, cancer, while also increasing your intake of healthy antioxidants. The key, of course, is avoiding heavy drinking, which can have an adverse impact on your health.
Studies show that seniors who own a dog benefit from a myriad of health benefits, both physical and mental, helping them to age well into their 80s and 90s. Taking a pup for regular walks not only helps to easily reach the recommended amount of daily activity, but dog owners often walk even more than those without a pet. The consistent activity can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, help control weight and minimize the risk of some cancers. Owning a dog can also increase cognition; reduce stress, depression and loneliness; provide structure to the day; and improve your overall sense of well-being. If you're not able to own a dog where you live, consider volunteering to walk someone else's pet.
Another helpful habit that's healthy for all ages -- but especially as we get older -- is maintaining a positive outlook on life. Studies show that thinking positively can help you live longer, improve your health -- especially for those healing from an illness or disability -- and allow you to live more independently later in life. Maintaining a positive attitude about aging has also been shown to help seniors better cope with stress, which in turn can help improve quality of life and reduce associated health risks such as cardiovascular disease.
While going to the doctor may not seem like the most fun habit to keep up, regular checkups can help ensure that you stay healthy into your 80s and 90s. Routine exams and tests can prevent health issues down the road, offer early warning signs to increase chances of successful treatment, and limit complications by closely monitoring existing conditions. One recent study even suggests that being neurotic about your health can help you live longer. Tests that become particularly important as you age include blood pressure checks, diabetes testing, mammograms, pap smears, prostate cancer screenings, and bone density scans.
Having a hobby is not just a good way to pass the time after retirement, it can also help you maintain your physical, mental, and emotional health. Stay active, maintain your mental acuity, reduce stress, and develop strong relationships by picking up a new hobby (or a few). Healthy hobbies can include classes for arts and crafts, learning a new language, gardening, golfing or other low-impact sports, and any other activity that you enjoy doing or have always wanted to try.
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