Aging is inevitable. Unfortunately, aging well is not.
What does it mean to age well? Generally, it involves maintaining your quality of life as you get older, especially into your later years. Maintaining strength, balance, and mobility are key components of independent living. In fact, the speed at which you walk (gait speed) and the strength in your hands (grip strength) can be predictors of longevity and health as you age. Other factors that affect healthy aging, according to the Chicago Healthy Aging Study, are nutrition and weight.
The Chicago Healthy Aging Study, a study of more than 1,300 men and women examined in 1967 to 1973 and 2007 to 2010, looked at weight and its impact on physical health later in life. The results show that older individuals who have always been overweight or obese or who gained a significant amount of weight between their 30s and 70s had a slower gait speed and less grip strength in old age than do their peers who are the same age but have maintained a normal weight.
Clearly, good health in your midlife is important to aging well. Start improving your health by eating more vegetables at meals and cutting back on higher-calorie foods. Swap that candy bar for an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter or veggies and a single-serve packet of hummus or guacamole. Also, sit less. Take breaks to stand up and stretch. When possible, add in a 10-minute walk. As you get stronger, see if you can handle walking at a faster speed for short intervals.
Don't put off eating right and exercise. What you do now can impact your quality of life for years to come.
March 24, 2017
- Vu THT, et al. Obesity status in younger age, 39-year weight change and physical performance in older age: The Chicago Healthy Aging Study (CHAS). https://professional.heart.org/professional/Communities/NutritionScience/UCM_475311_Nutrition-Science.jsp. Accessed March 21, 2017.
- Heflin MT. Geriatric health maintenance. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed March 21, 2017.