Some say we peak physically at around 40 years old, while others say 50. Which is right? Is there even a right answer?
Well, luckily, both of those guesses are incorrect. In fact, the question is impossible to answer. If we look at just a person’s physical health, the aging process changes us physiologically (we get grey hair, our skin becomes looser, and we tend to lose muscle mass), but it doesn’t mean that we are less healthy. In reality, if you take care of yourself properly you may actually be healthier at an older age than some people in their 20s and 30s, who are less attentive to their health.
By engaging in a consistent exercise routine and incorporating healthy eating practices on a daily basis, you can slow the aging process down significantly and stay…Forever Young!
The first element of aging gracefully is a good diet. There is a misconception surrounding aging and metabolism, with the general thought that our metabolism slows down as we age. The reason we think this way is that our eating and exercise habits tend to change as we get older. We eat less food, less often, and we move less. Doing this at any age will result in a slower metabolism. You can boost your metabolism at any age by implementing the following habits into your diet:
- Breakfast – Aim to have a well-balanced breakfast within an hour of waking up. This will give your metabolism the boost it needs first thing in the morning. Include lots of fresh fruit or vegetables, whole grains, low-fat milk or milk alternatives, and lean meats or meat alternatives. An example of a well-balanced breakfast would be low-fat Greek yogurt with fresh berries and granola mixed in.
- Small, frequent meals – Once you have provided your metabolism with that initial boost, it is all about maintaining it throughout the day. You can do this by consuming small meals and snacks every 3 to 4 hours. A typical day should look like this: Breakfast – Snack – Lunch – Snack – Supper – Snack. Instead of three large meals, spread your food throughout the day, and include small, healthy snack options in-between your meals. This may look like you will be eating a lot of food over the course of the day, but it is actually about spacing your intake more evenly throughout the day.
- Variety – They say that variety is the spice of life. Well, it’s also the key to aging gracefully and staying healthy. As we age, our taste buds start to diminish and we tend to consume foods that are higher in salt, sugar, and fat. The variety of foods we consume becomes more and more limited, and we end up eating the same things on a daily basis. Adding variety to your diet means including different foods from each of the food groups. There are hundreds of different types of fruits & vegetables available, and a wide array of grain products, each providing different nutrients. The same goes for milk and meat products, and their alternatives. Aim to have a different meal every day, and experiment with different kinds of snacks.
- Protein – Of all the nutrients that our bodies require to stay healthy and youthful, protein is the most important. Proteins are the building blocks of every cell, tissue and organ. They are essential for life. It is especially important to include high-quality sources of protein in our diets as we age. This will help maintain strong bones, muscles, skin and a strong immune system. Choose foods such as chicken, fish, lean meats, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese.
- Hydration – One of the most neglected nutrients as we age is water. Many of us just don’t drink enough. Just like protein, however, water is essential for maintaining good health and that youthfulness that everyone seeks. Water is incorporated in some of the food products we eat, but drinking it is still a necessity. Aim to have a glass of water with every meal and snack. You may also include tea or coffee as long as you limit the cream and sugar. A general amount to aim for is over 1.5 liters per day.
The second element to staying Forever Young is exercise. If healthy eating is the fuel that feeds our metabolism, exercise is the spark that gets the process started and keeps it going throughout the day. Most people tend to slow down and do less as they get older, fearing the possibility of getting injured. While we may be more susceptible to injury as we age, there are a number of enjoyable activities that we can engage in that are low-impact but still provide great health benefits. Walking, hiking, cycling and swimming are all great aerobic exercises that keep your heart and bones strong and healthy. Add in some light strength training (ideally 2-3 times per week) to keep your muscles strong and you have the perfect exercise combination. Being active every day will help maintain a healthy, youthful body. Remember, a little goes a long way, and even a few minutes of exercise is better than sitting all day. Do these on a daily basis to maintain a healthy body.
If you can maintain a healthy diet and engage in physical activity on a regular basis, your body will respond in a positive way. You will be healthier, have more energy, and feel better than ever before!
Contributor: Luke Corey, BA(H), BScAHN, Registered Dietitian