September is the national observance month to draw attention to healthy lifestyles for older adults and celebrate positive aging. Aging does not necessarily mean slowing down. In fact, the CDC’s “Still Going Strong” campaign empowers older adults to take simple steps that will help them age without injury while continuing activities they enjoy. To improve yourself physically, socially, and mentally, here are 10 tips to inspire you:
1. Move more, sit less. Why? Physical activity is your weapon to help control blood pressure, help prevent heart disease and stroke and lower your risk for depression, anxiety, and conditions like certain cancers and type 2 diabetes. What to do? Choose something fun so you can keep at it, like cycling, walking, dancing, swimming, or aerobics.
2. How much do you need to do? Current national recommendations are 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week and two days of muscle-strengthening training. That’s only 20 minutes a day, seven days a week, or around an hour a day if you do three days a week.
3. Get motivated with free websites and apps like All Trails to find parks and trails around the world; American Heart Association with ideas on how to join a walking club, or the CDC with ideas for individuals with a disability.
4. Try to cut back on salt. A diet rich in sodium has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack — all good reasons to try not to overly salt your food. Adding more fiber to your diet can help lower cholesterol, control your blood sugar, as well as helping maintain good digestive health.
5. Volunteer. Being of service is an excellent way to bring happiness into your life and not focus on yourself. Refocus on others and volunteer your time and expertise. Local and regional organizations need you and your experience — like our schools and other groups! United Way, the American Red Cross, VolunteerMatch, and AmeriCorps are all helpful resources.
6. Beat back loneliness. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. Be proactive and call someone for a lunch date. Set up a calendar of lunch dates and challenge yourself to have at least two lunch dates per month (once a week is even better!) It does not have to be expensive … pack a picnic, and head to a park. Try to mix up your get-togethers with old friends and new acquaintances. Make a visit to your senior center for activities.
7. Rekindle or follow a new passion. Take a hard look at what you like to do rather than what other people tell you to do to meet new people. Pick some activities where you might meet new friends.
8. Get a dog. If you do not have one, get one and walk. You will be amazed how many people you will meet through your dog. Check your local humane society to see if they need dog walkers.
9. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Learn to say no … do not overwhelm yourself with a to-do list. The non-profit Mental Health America offers more tips for reducing or controlling stress.
10. Plan for your next passage. Capitalize on your career experience and start a new one. Yes, enjoy a brief “retirement.” Travel, and spend more time with family and friends. Develop new hobbies. Redefining your purpose to maintain a sense of identity and purpose is essential to a healthy lifestyle.
Remember, it is never too late to strive for a healthier lifestyle, and September is the perfect time to make a plan. Recapture that “back to school” feeling with a personal commitment to renew yourself!