Living Columns & Blogs

Eat well, move well, move often: How to start an ‘upward spiral’ as you age

Personal trainer Callie Burke works with John Geisz on kettlebell exercises in December 2015 at. One on One Fitness in State College.
Personal trainer Callie Burke works with John Geisz on kettlebell exercises in December 2015 at. One on One Fitness in State College. Centre Daily Times, file

As we age, intelligent exercise and nutrition is more important than ever. However, we too often see 55-plus crowd succumbing to their aches and pains, leading to inactivity and poor health. This “downward spiral” can feel overwhelming. Perhaps you or a loved one is experiencing this in your life right now.

If you are experiencing this downward spiral, it is time to take action. The aches and pains, while real, are only being made worse by continued inactivity. What is more, this inactivity will invariably lead to other age-related diseases. The solution is not as insurmountable as it may feel. You simply must begin to take small steps to creating a new, healthy path for your life.

Begin by addressing your motivation. Perhaps you could start with the end in mind. What would life be like if you consistently exercised and maintained a healthy diet? For many of us, “freedom” becomes the motivation. Freedom to enjoy grandchildren, to travel, to have choices and not burden those we love. These are the kind of powerful motivators that can help us begin an “upward spiral.”

Here are three keys to success that can start you on the path toward better health and fitness: Eat well, move well, move often.

We must first address nutrition (eat well), improve mobility (move well) and then regularly engage in activity that improves our physical capabilities (move often).

Eat well: As we age, nutritional needs change. “As people move through the aging process, there are several dietary factors that should be taken into consideration,” said Haley Golich, RDN from One on One, Fitness Consultants. “Most specifically, it’s crucial to meet caloric needs, consume enough protein and ensure adequate micronutrient intake.”

A well-balanced diet consisting of a variety of fruits, vegetables and protein rich foods will boost energy, decrease the risk for disease, and help manage your weight.

Move well: Dysfunctional movement and limited mobility can lead to a number of lifestyle and orthopedic issues. It also makes many of the activities we enjoy participating in more difficult. With improvements in mobility, physical activity becomes easier and leads to more activity. Areas to emphasize should be ankles, hips and shoulders. Better mobility in these areas can improve movement quality and take pressure off other joints, specifically the lower back and knees.

Move often: Better movement quality enables you to move more, leading to improved fitness and reducing the risk of developing age-related diseases. In addition to many of the fun activities you may enjoy, such as walking, biking, swimming, etc., be sure to include intelligent resistance and cardiovascular training consistent with American College of Sports medicine guidelines.

While implementing these three keys, be sure to do so in a manageable way. An “all or nothing” approach can often lead to failure. Instead, make changes that are significant enough to improve your fitness, but manageable enough to ensure regular success. These small changes can make a big difference!

Ryan Burke is a partner at One on One Fitness in State College. OLLI at Penn State — open to adults who love to learn — will offer more than 130 courses in the spring semester. Ryan Burke will lead a class on Thriving as You Age in February.