Designing a Quality Life to Help You Age Well

We all come from different backgrounds and have different health histories.  The key to living the life you want is accepting where your body is at right now.  Some of us have worked hard and exercised (maybe to an extreme) most of our lives.  Others have been too sedentary for too long and desire to get back to a pain-free and in shape lifestyle.

For many, arthritis and excess weight make exercise seem daunting.  Others are afraid of injury because they’re caretakers for others.  For many, it’s a lack of understanding where to start as well as a failure to understand that we all can make changes toward a quality life and healthy aging.

Where we are now in our physical lives is the sum total of choices we have made and a few random events all sprinkled with the genetics we inherited.  We need to accept ourselves for where we are presently, and acknowledge that our fitness and our health is not a destination but a journey.  Each person’s journey is different.  We need to be realistic with our goals and give ourselves time to undo what we have done to ourselves for years.  Let’s get started!

10 Tips to Designing a Quality Life to Help You Age Well

(1)  Put away the scale.
Health is not a number.  It’s a feeling.  How do you feel?  Are you feeling more energetic?  Experiencing less pain?  Motivated to continue your new lifestyle?  If so, you’re on the right track.  Never weigh yourself more than once per week (unless a medical condition requires you to check it daily).

(2)  Aim for 1-2 pounds loss per week.
If weight loss is part of your journey to a healthier you, then the slow and steady approach is a more realistic and healthier approach to weight loss.

(3)  Walk daily after dinner.
Walking after meals not only has a greater benefit on your metabolism, but it can reduce the risk of diabetes.  It’s also a great opportunity to commune with others.  The quality of your friendships will have a direct impact on the quality of your life and how you age.  Eat together, and then walk together.  If you can only walk in the morning, walk before your morning meal.

(4)  Perform High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Apart from your walking program, perform your cardio in short bursts ranging from 30-60 seconds at a time followed by a one to two minute recovery.  The 30-60 seconds should be at a high intensity. This means your rate of perceived exertion (RPE) is high.  You should be breathing heavy.

If you are overweight or have arthritis, this may be performed while using a stationary bicycle or in the pool.  You can also walk uphill at a quick pace then stop and rest.  This is performed in intervals.

This type of training will produce the best results for weight loss and fitness.  HIIT is a superior way to increase cardiovascular fitness, improve hormonal regulation, increase insulin sensitivity, and burn more calories and fat in a shorter amount of time.  The biggest drawback is that it’s not easy.

(5)  Don’t fear heavy weights.
The key to increasing your metabolism is lifting weights.  This is critical for muscle development and proper hormonal regulation.  You must lift heavy things and concentrate on the large muscle groups.  For example, start with chair squats or weighted squats.  Women in particular tend to fear lifting weights for fear of bulking up.  (Don’t worry–you won’t.)

If you are a novice, seek reputable advice by consulting a trainer or a physical therapist.  Look for the following certifications:  National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), and physical therapists with strength training backgrounds.

I also encourage getting personal recommendations.  There are many qualified trainers–just be careful of novices.  If their recommendations don’t make sense to you, they probably wouldn’t to me either.  You don’t need fancy–just consistency.  Remember “heavy” is a relative term.  The goal is to lift or push against a resistance that is difficult.  Then repeat, but slightly heavier.  Over time, the improvement made can be astounding.

(6)  Test for food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities can affect your pain, your energy level, and your hormonal regulation.  Request a food sensitivity blood test run from a functional medicine practitioner.

Taking control of your hormones is the only way to decrease body fat and improve strength and energy.  Find a medical practitioner that will help you improve your health span, not just your life span.

(7)  Do not diet.
Dieting is rarely the right answer.  You must find the right eating habits for your particular genetic profile.  Depending on your unique make up, there is an eating plan that will work best for your body type.  For some, this may be a Keto diet. Others may choose Paleo or a Mediterranean diet.  They all have efficacy.

The key is learning to understand how your body will respond.  This may take some trial and error or assistance from a medical practitioner.  When you eat for your body type, you will see an increase in energy and a reduction in weight as well as feeling better overall.

(8)  Do not eat anything that comes in a package.
Eating more real food and less processed food is an important component to aging well.  Most of your food should be from low sugar fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats (primarily from plant sources such as avocados, coconut, and olive oil).  Any animal fat should be from organic and grass-fed animals.

(9)  Move more!
Research suggests that it’s not just about the amount of time spent exercising; it’s also about the time spent not moving.  The longer you sit, the higher your risk of death.  In this study, those sitting more than eleven hours a day have a 40% higher risk of death.  Move more frequently!

(10) Start slow, but be consistent.
Work to progress regularly, and don’t do this work alone!  Find a group, friend or a trainer, but don’t give up! A healthier lifestyle is always more fun with a friend.

Healthy living and aging well is something to strive for.  To be healthy, we need to address all aspects of our bodies.  This can be accomplished by weight training; good sleep of seven to nine hours on average; plenty of water intake; and healthy eating.  We need to work on cardiovascular health which is best done by performing HIIT followed by regular movement and activity.  Our physical bodies are only part of the equation.  Let’s not forget the social, psychological, and the spiritual aspects that must also be in balance.

Injury is always a concern when we start something new, but it’s a strategic risk that we must take.  We either risk orthopaedic injury from an active lifestyle or we can guarantee an unhealthy life full of heart disease, cancer, depression, and diabetes.  However, we must be smart about our activities and slowly taper to a level that is appropriate for each of us.  As a physical therapist, I see as much arthritis and debility in people who didn’t move much in life as those who over-did.  Our bodies must move to be healthy.  Lack of movement and activity doesn’t prevent orthopaedic breakdown.

There are many ways to design a quality life to help you age well.  Try implementing these tips and be encouraged to continue making daily positive changes that will help you live your best life.

Written by: Ben Shatto

Editor’s Note:  This article was written by Ben Shatto, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS. Ben is a physical therapist and Administrator for Signature Healthcare – home of House Calls, Home Health, Palliative and Hospice Care as well as the founder and editor of the website www.thePhysicalTherapyAdvisor.com. His website is dedicated to help proactive adults of all ages to understand how to safely self-treat and manage common musculoskeletal, neurological, and mobility related conditions in a timely manner so they can reach their optimal health.

On behalf of Smart Strategies for Successful Living, our sincerest appreciation goes to Ben Shatto for his contribution to our community website and commitment to the success of older adults.