We all slow down as we age, but what’s the best way to stay healthy and strong as you enter your later years?
Frailty is a common problem for older people and increases the chance of developing serious health problems.
It’s characterised by weight and muscle loss, physical weakness, fatigue, cognitive decline and a slow walking speed. The good news is that there are things you can do to prevent and even reverse frailty.
Here are our top 5 tips for preventing frailty:
1. Aerobic exercise
Aerobic exercise increases your heart rate and breathing rate and is good for you no matter how old you are. Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, gardening or water aerobics are fantastic as you get older because they’re easy on your body.
If you’re starting out, do a little bit each day, even if it’s just 10 minutes. Then as you get fitter, you can gradually build up how much you do.
2. Strength/balance training
Muscle strength and balance are important as you age and can affect your quality of life hugely if they’re lacking. For example, if you have poor balance, you’re more likely to fall and injure yourself.
There are exercises you can do daily to improve your strength and balance, such as using small weights and doing squats. Activities such as tai chi or dancing improve balance and strength as well.
3. Healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of nourishing foods is important for everyone, especially as you get older. Make sure you have 3 meals a day and eat plenty of vegetables, fruit and protein. Nutritious snacks are great especially if you are underweight or have a small appetite.
And remember to drink lots of water. As you age, your body forgets to tell you that you're thirsty, so you need to drink at regular intervals to combat this.
If it’s difficult for you to do a grocery shop, make sure you have a family member or friend who can help you with it. They can join you for a meal afterwards – social eating is good for your health.
4. Stay connected
Staying connected with friends, family and your community has a positive influence on your health and wellbeing. Getting out and about and taking part in activities or hobbies and meeting people is good for your mental and emotional health. Taking part in exercise groups can be a good motivator to get you moving and is great for meeting new people!
5. Keep mentally active
While there’s a lot of focus on the physical side of preventing frailty, you need to keep your brain active too. Puzzles such as crosswords are enjoyable and keep your brain working. And don’t be afraid to challenge yourself by learning a new skill or trying something you’ve never done before.
*Make sure you consult your GP or healthcare provider before embarking on an exercise regime or change of diet.
Physical activity for people aged 65 years and older Health Ed, NZ
Food and nutrition guidelines for healthy older people – includes section on frailty Ministry of Health, NZ, 2013