Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ten Tips for Those Over 50

Being in your 50s or even 60s does not mean the end of your life.  It's the beginning of your 2nd half. For those who are healthy, it can be the best half.  There is a mind-body connection to good health.  It’s about attitude as much as any thing else.  To think and act young helps you stay young.  The placebo effect is real and it can work for you by having a positive outlook on life and improving yourself, or it can work against you by becoming a pessimistic victim.

I’m in my mid fifties, in good health, and decent shape.  And I’m learning a few things along the way.  Here are 10 tips for staying fit after 50:

1.  Cultivate new interests – retirement is just around the corner.  Don’t be one of those people who go home from their retirement party feeling like someone just died.  Long before you retire you need to find an area of interest, hobby, or new venture, and make it a part of your life so that (when you do retire) you can totally immerse yourself in it.

When you follow your desires, magical things happen.  You will find your energy increases.  You will jump out of bed in the morning and be excited to start your day.  You mood improves too.  You sleep better, and are generally fired up about life.

2.  Volunteer – do something for others.  If you ever catch yourself feeling sorry for yourself, you need to drop what you are doing and volunteer.  You think you have problems?  Find a way to volunteer at a VA hospital or a children’s hospital and it will put your problems in proper perspective.  If you are a plumber, consider volunteering at Habitat for Humanity.  Volunteer at your church.  Try volunteering at a local animal shelter.  Do something to serve others.

3.  Read.  Read.  And read some more.  Keep your brain engaged.  Reading is great for many reasons but mainly because it makes you think.  It exposes you to wonderful and strange ideas you have never thought of.  It keeps your brain younger and your memory sharp.

4.  Find your retirement sport.  Hopefully you have a sport you love by now, but if not you need to find one.  It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you love it:  shuffleboard (not for me), hiking, walking, running, golf, bicycling, horseshoes, whatever.  Any sport you love is invigorating. However, I wouldn’t recommend skateboarding – that’s good for someone in their 20s, but not their 50s.

5.  Eat better.  Eat as much unprocessed food as you can.  Drink lots of water – mostly water – and stop drinking poisoned beverages that come in a can or bottle.  Eat vegetables like crazy – the full color spectrum.  Eat more fiber.  Eat lean cuts of meat.  Stop eating junk food, fast-food, and calorie-dense food.  Stop eating empty calories – like cookies, etc.  It’s loaded with calories and fat but offers no nutrition.  Stop eating food that comes in a package, box, or bottle.  Fresh food is better.

6.  Exercise and make weight training a part of the routine.  Being strong helps you have a higher quality of life for longer.  What good is living to an old age if you can’t do the things you enjoy doing?  Strength training not only makes you look and feel better, but it enables you to continue doing the things you enjoy.  Another benefit:  weight training can actually reverse osteoporosis (bone thinning).

7.  Make cardio a part of your exercise routine too.  Over age 50, cardiovascular health (heart, lungs, blood vessels, etc), is most peoples number one problem.  Beginning today, you need to start walking.  If you have to, get a dog and let your pet take you for a walk.

8.  THROW AWAY YOUR ALARM CLOCK.  Yes, throw it away.  In my opinion alarm clocks serve only one purpose:  to wake you up before you have had enough sleep, which keeps you sleep deprived and exhausted!  Sleep deprivation has many problems associated with it, such as reduced reaction times, increased stress levels, decreased ability to concentrate, and increased body fat.  Instead, go to bed ten-to-twelve hours before you have to be at work and don’t set an alarm.  When you wake up naturally, you will not only be fully rested but will have time to take care of important tasks around the home before you go to work.

9.  Do the important things first and forget about the rest.  You have precious little time left in this world, so make it count.  Do a time audit of yourself to see if you are really spending your time on important things.  Is the amount of time you spend on Facebook really that important?  Will the earth stop rotating if you miss the evening news?  Prioritize and do the things that are most important to YOU, and forget the rest. 

10.  Take control of your health.  You are the only one who can make and keep yourself healthy, not your doctor.  Your doctor can assist and advise you, but 95% is up to you.  Even when surgery is involved, the outcome is much more dependent on you than it is the surgeon.  The surgeon does his part, but if you don’t follow through with your share of the work, the surgery will fail.  If you get knee surgery but don’t do any rehabilitation exercises (other than the six post-op sessions) then your knee will never be 100% and it will be your fault, not the surgeons.

Don’t blindly do what the doctor says either.  Weigh the pros and cons and make your own informed decision. 

·        For stress:  try exercise, yoga, and meditation before you try medication.
·        For sleep disorders:  try exercise, yoga, and mediation before you try medication.
·        For joint and back pain:  try exercise and yoga before surgery.
·        For high cholesterol:  try exercise and diet changes before medication.

There you have it -  my ten tips for a better life for those over 50.  I'm sure I have left something out, but 11 tips sounds weird so I'll leave it at 10.

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