A new year is just around the corner. Are you planning to make any resolutions? It's a time of year we often set big goals that don't last any longer than the decorations.
Instead of making ambitious plans you're not likely to keep, why not set some easier, smaller goals? Get your family or friends involved and build some better habits together. They're inexpensive, easy to do and will pay big dividends over time.
Both The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association (AHA) publish activity and exercise guidelines for healthy adults. Because additional factors need to be considered as we age, the ACSM and the AHA have two sets of guidelines — one for healthy adults under 65, and one for healthy adults over 65 that includes younger adults with chronic conditions such as arthritis.
Because of the increased risk of a fall and subsequent injury, the most important preventative activity the ACSM and AHA recommend for a person over 65 is balance exercise. "PT's (physical therapists) can perform a basic fall risk assessment. If there is a deficit found, we can establish a balance exercise program," says physical therapist Lynn Parrish. This type of program can help improve both general and functional health, meaning you can feel better and have the ability to do your everyday activities while reducing the risk of a fall.
Check with your health care provider to ask if a balance assessment is right for you.
Drink a glass of water. "Your body can't always tell the difference between hunger and thirst," says Lisa Wahl, nutritionist and manager of Healthy Inspirations in Medford. "So drink plenty of water." She also recommends starting your day with a glass of water. "It gets your metabolism going so you start burning calories right away."
Add dairy. "Dairy is a natural appetite suppressant," says Wahl and adding a glass of skim milk to your meal satisfies you more quickly. For the same reason, a low-fat or skim cheese also makes a great snack that will keep you from overindulging on other less healthy choices.
Eat less, more often. "Try to eat something every 3 to 4 hours so your blood sugar doesn't drop and you don't overeat," says Wahl. Healthier choices like berries, nuts or veggie sticks will keep you satisfied longer.
Add a veggie. "When I first went to a trainer, the first thing she said to me was, 'You need to eat more vegetables'", recalls Medford-based physical therapist Lynn Parrish. Not only do they provide important fiber, they also contain trace minerals that keep your body functioning smoothly. Try adding one or two extra servings of vegetables per week to start, or experiment and let your kids choose a "veggie of the week" in the produce section.
Go for the grill. "Grilled, of course, is always better," says Wahl when choosing entrees that offer a choice between grilled and fried or battered. She also recommends choosing fish or chicken over red meat, particularly when eating out since restaurants usually give large portions. Feel free to share that entrée, too, to keep portion size down.
Stretch. "It keeps your muscles flexible and prevents injury," says Parrish who reminds that the President's Council on Physical Fitness recommends slow stretching without a bouncing motion. Stretching can also help to equalize a muscle imbalance if done with proper medical supervision.
Add five minutes of exercise. "Activity is a huge factor," says Wahl. While most of us have heard "30 minutes three times a week" as a minimal exercise program, Wahl reminds that all activity is beneficial. "Exercise is progressive," says Wahl. "There are things people can do very easily five minutes at a time if they don't feel they have thirty minutes just to exercise." Activities like walking the stairs at work a few times or down the driveway to get the mail still increase our activity level. "They can break it up and it's still beneficial." Parrish adds, "Whatever form of exercise you choose to do, you have to like it."
Start slow. "People tend to overdo," says Parrish. "Start from where you can and work up. A person should check with their physician before starting an exercise program, especially if they have been inactive or are recovering from an illness or surgery."
Stay tuned. "Listen to your body and respect it," says Parrish. Prevention is always the best option but if an injury or condition hasn't improved within 10 to 14 days, seek medical attention.