I am in my mid fifties and I consider myself in the best shape of my life now even though I have been active in sports and in great shape my whole life. At age 51 I completed my first half Ironman triathlon and did my first double century. Here are my 10 tips for staying healthy, fit, and happy in your 50's and beyond. 50's and 60's does not mean "senior"! Strike that word from your vocabulary. If you think of yourself as old then you will act old. 50's and 60's means midlife to me - the prime of your life. I believe in a holistic approach to fitness. There is a mind body connection and in my opinion to be in top shape and in top health requires not just physical but mental well being also. Its all about attitude, think and act young and you are young. The placebo effect is real and you can let it work for you by having a positive, excited outlook on life and believe in your heart and soul that you can improve yourself thru exercise or you can let the placebo effect work against you by being a pessimistic victim. Without further ado, here are my 10 tips for staying fit and healthy after age 50:
1. Cultivate your passion, retirement is around the corner
Don't be one of those people who goes home from their retirement party feeling like someone died. Long before you retire you need to find your passion and make it a part of your life so that when you retire you can totally immerse yourself in it. When you start following your passion, magical things happen. You will find your energy increases. You will find that as soon as you awaken you JUMP out of bed excited to start the day. Your mood improves too, you sleep better, and you are generally fired up about life. If your passion is collecting baseball trading cards then get started NOW. Read everything you can about trading cards, work on becoming the worlds #1 expert, join clubs, make a website. Who knows, your passion might end up making money so that you can retire early and get paid doing what you love.
2. Volunteer - Do something for others
Be selfish, volunteer! If you ever catch yourself feeling sorry for yourself you need to drop whatever you are doing and volunteer ASAP. 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 the proper perspective. The volunteers often seem to get just as much or more out of the charity than the people being helped. Think outside the box and find something that takes advantage of your unique talents. It would be awesome if you could couple it to #1, your passion, and kill two birds with one stone. If as in the above example you are becoming an expert at baseball trading cards, consider make a website to help others learn the joy of collecting. Or perhaps couple it with your work. If you are a plumber, consider volunteering for Habitat for Humanity. Whatever knowledge you have, think of a unique way to share it. Cant think of anything? Try volunteering at the local animal shelter.
3. Read one book a month - keep your brain engaged
Reading is a 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 young. It can be an excellent component of a stress reduction plan. Read whatever you want, it can be "brain-candy" or serious - whatever floats your boat. Don't read what you think will be good for you because then its a dreaded chore, read what you *want* to read so its fun! If reading really isn't your thing, come up with something cerebral that works for you: crossword puzzles, sudoku, or whatever but you gotta have some activity you do that causes your brain to go into overdrive.
4. Find your retirement sport
Hopefully you have a sport you love by now but if not you need to find one asap! It doesn't matter what it is as long as you love it: shuffleboard, hiking, cricket, golf, horseshoes. If you already have a sport you love, it might be time to think of a more age appropriate one. Skateboarding is fun in your 30s and 40s but its probably not advisable for 70 year olds so think about cultivating another sport.
5. Diet - Eat as unprocessed as you can
- drink water like a fish
- eat vegetables like a rabbit - full color spectrum
- eat fibrous whole grains like a horse
- lean cuts of meat third
- full color spectrum of fruits fourth
- 5g EFAs.
- minimize fast food and junk food
6. Make weight training part of your daily life
Bodybuilding style weight training is excellent for older folks as are all bodyweight workouts, and many DVD workouts - find a style that you like. Workouts like 5x5, Crossfit and SS are only advisable if you have already been doing them for decades as its too late to start this kinds of workouts after age 50 in my opinion. Being strong helps you have a higher quality of life, for longer. What good is living to age 90 if you cant do the things you enjoy doing? Strength training not only makes you look and feel better but it keeps you doing the things you find fun longer, be it gardening, golf, or marathon running.
7. Make cardio part of your daily life - get a dog!
Over age 50, cardiovascular health is most peoples #1 problem - make daily cardio part of your daily activity. If you have never done daily cardio then you need to get a dog, TODAY, and you need to walk it twice a day. Having a dog is a great way to force you to do your daily cardio and if you haven't established a solid habit of daily cardio by age 50 then you NEED to be forced and a dog is a perfect way. Not only that but pet owners live longer, happier lives. Please don't buy a puppy, adopt a dog from the local shelter! Rescue dogs are the most loving dogs on the planet.
8. Throw away your alarm clock
Yep, in my opinion alarm clocks only serve one purpose and that is to wake you up before you have had enough sleep, in other words, alarm clocks only purpose is to insure you are sleep deprived! Sleep deprivation has many, many problems associated with it. Reduced reaction times, increased stress levels, decreased ability to concentrate, increased bodyfat. So, what to do? Throw out that alarm clock! "I cant possibly do that, I wouldn't make it to work". Malarky. Alarms are a poor solution to a time management problem. Which leads us to #9.
9. Do the important things first and forget about the rest.
Sleep is important, do it first. How do you do this practically? Easy! Go to bed about 12 hours before you have to be to work and don't set an alarm. When you wake up naturally and then begin your days tasks with the most important first. You have precious little time left in this world, make the time count. Do a time audit to see if you are truly spending your time on the important things. Just for one day, keep a 'timecard' and 'charge' every activity down to the 0.1 hour. Is spending an hour on facebook every day really that important? Will the earth stop rotating if you don't clean your house weekly? Is spending an hour watching the news a priority when you can read it in 5 minutes? How important is watching those three sitcoms you love? Please read one of my favorite books, the seven habits of highly effective people. Its a $7 book that will help you insure you are spending time on the things that are most important to YOU.
10. Take control of health and be minimally invasive
Take control of your health
YOU are the only one who can make and keep yourself healthy, not your doctor. Your doctor can assist you, but its 95% you. Even when surgery is involved, the outcome is as much more dependent on YOU than it is your surgeon. The surgeon makes the healing possible but if you don't follow thru with your share of the work, the surgery will fail. If you get knee surgery but don't do any rehab other than what they force you do to in those six post-op sessions, then your knee will never be 100% and its YOUR fault, not your surgeons.
Don't blindly do what the doctor says, weigh the pros and cons and make your own decision. Remember that doctors need to CYA. If they don't order all possible tests, they could be sued but that doesn't mean that its always in your best health interest. Take catscans for example, these expose you to hundreds of times the radiation of an x-ray and increase your risk of cancer. If your doctor recommends a catscan, ask them why, what they expect to learn, and how their treatment of you will vary depending on the outcome of the test. Its your body and you need to decide if the benefit of the test or procedure is worth the risks. If your doctor cant explain the risks and benefits clearly, find another doctor and get a second opinion. If your doctor tries to bully or intimidate you into doing something you are uncomfortable doing with the "If you don't do this you have to sign a wavier because I cant be responsible for your death" then find a new doctor. A great example of how to do this is what my 95 year old friend Helen did 10 years ago after she had a cancerous polyp removed from her colon. The doctor said there was a 95% chance that he got it all so she needed to do chemotherapy and to that Helen replied "no way!". She explained that she was 85 years old and that the decreased quality of life from the chemotherapy wasn't worth it considering there was a 95% chance she was fine. Her doctor respected her decision and she is now a healthy 95 years old - who knows what problems might have happened had she done chemo.
Be minimally invasive
- Stress: Try exercise, yoga, and meditation before medication
- Sleep: Try exercise, yoga, and meditation before medication
- Joint and back pain: Try PT and Yoga before surgery
- High Cholesterol: Try exercise and diet before medication
Thats it. I have a nagging feeling I left out something important but I hope not because "11 tips" sounds wrong and I'm not sure what I would cut out of my list! :)