EXERCISE PLANS--TIPS FOR SENIORS
Healthy eating and regular physical activity are
keys to good health at any age. They may lower your risk for
obesity, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, cancer, and
other chronic diseases. They may even help ward off depression
and keep your mind sharp as you age. This brochure offers tips
and tools to help people aged 65 and over eat healthfully and
be physically active. Talk to your health care provider for
more specific advice if you have health problems or concerns.
Remember, it is never too late to make healthy changes in your
|What is healthy eating?
|A healthy eating plan for older
adults includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods. In January
2005, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the
U.S. Department of Agriculture jointly released the 2005 Dietary
Guidelines for Americans. These new guidelines outline
recommendations to promote health and reduce the risk of chronic
disease through nutritious eating and physical activity. The
recommendations include some of the nutritional needs of older
adults. For more information about food groups and nutrition
values, visit www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.
|Tips for Healthy Eating
To help you stay on track with your healthy
eating plan, follow these tips:
- Do not skip meals. Skipping meals may cause your metabolism
to slow down or lead you to eat more high-calorie, high-fat
foods at your next meal or snack.
- Select high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads and cereals,
beans, vegetables, and fruits. They may help keep you regular
and lower your risk for chronic diseases, such as coronary
heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
- Choose lean beef, turkey breast, fish, or chicken with
the skin removed to lower the amount of fat and calories
in your meals. As you age, your body needs fewer calories,
especially if you are not very active.
- Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat/fat-free
milk, yogurt, or cheese every day. Milk products are high
in calcium and vitamin D and help keep your bones strong
as you age. If you have trouble digesting or do not like
milk products, try reduced-lactose milk products, or soy-based
beverages, or tofu. You can also talk to your health care
provider about taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
- Choose foods fortified with vitamin B12. Many adults over
the age of 50 have difficulty absorbing adequate amounts
of this vitamin. Therefore, they should get this nutrient
through fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, or from
a dietary supplement. Talk with your health care provider
to ensure that you are consuming enough vitamin B12.
- Keep nutrient-rich snacks like dried apricots, whole-wheat
crackers, peanut butter, low-fat cheese, and low-sodium
soup on hand. Eat only small amounts of such foods as dried
apricots and peanut butter because they are high in calories.
Limit how often you have high-fat and high-sugar snacks
like cake, candy, chips, and soda.
- Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids. You may notice
that you feel less thirsty as you get older, but your body
still needs water to stay healthy. Examples of water-based
fluids are caffeine-free tea and coffee, soup, and low-fat
or skim milk.
|Planning and Preparing Your Meals
It is easier to eat well when you plan for your
meals and make them enjoyable. Try these tips:
- Grocery shop with a friend. It is pleasant and can save
money if you share items that you can only use half of, such
as a bag of potatoes or head of cabbage.
- Cook ahead and freeze portions to have healthy and easy
meals on hand for days when you do not feel like cooking.
- Keep frozen or canned vegetables, beans, and fruits on hand
for quick and healthy additions to meals. Rinse canned vegetables
and beans under cold running water to lower their salt content.
If fruit is canned in 100-percent fruit juice, drain
the juice to avoid added calories.
- Try new recipes or different herbs and spices to spark your
interest in food. Set the table with a nice cloth and even
a flower in a vase to make mealtime special.
- Eat regularly with someone whose company you enjoy.
- If you are unable to cook for yourself, find out about a
community program in your area that serves meals or delivers
Meals on Wheels. Call the Eldercare Locator at 18006771116
for information on the program nearest you.
with your health care provider.
If you have a problem eating well, such as difficulty
chewing or not wanting to eat, talk to your health care provider
or a registered dietitian. They can give you specific advice
on following a healthy eating plan that addresses these barriers
to healthful eating. Check with your dentist about caring for
your teeth or dentures and your gums.
The death of a loved one or moving from your home of many years
may affect your desire to eat. Talk to your health care provider
if events in your life are keeping you from eating well. Sometimes
talking to a friend or family member can help. You can also
check with your church or local Department of Social Services
to see if there are support services available in your area.
Many medications may alter the taste of food. If you have difficulty
eating because many foods taste bad, speak with your health
care provider about other options and medications.
Ask your health care provider if you should take a daily multi-vitamin/mineral
supplement. No pills have been proven to stop aging or improve
your memory. Taking a one-a-day type, however, may help you
meet the nutrient needs of your body every day.
|What is a healthy weight?
Maintaining a healthy weight may
reduce the risk of many chronic diseases. It may also help you
move better and stay mentally sharp. If you are underweight,
overweight, or obese, you are at risk for certain health problems.
Ask your health care provider about a healthy weight for you.
If you start to gain or lose weight and do not know why, your
health care provider can tell you if this change is healthy
Health Risks of Being Underweight
- poor memory
- decreased immunity
- osteoporosis (bone loss)
- decreased muscle strength
- hypothermia (lowered body temperature)
If you are underweight, you may not be getting
enough nutrients. Talk to your health care provider about the
best way to gain weight and meet your nutritional needs.
Health Risks of Being Overweight
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- high blood cholesterol
- coronary heart disease
- some types of cancer
- gallbladder disease
If you already have one or more of these conditions,
ask your health care provider if a modest weight loss (5 to
10 percent of your body weight) could help you feel better or
need less medicine.
If you need to lose weight, make sure that you
reduce your total calories, but do not reduce your nutrient
intake. Do not try to lose weight unless your health care provider
tells you to.
for Safe Physical Activity
Physical activity is good for your health at
every age. If you have never been active, starting regular physical
activity now may improve your strength, endurance, and flexibility.
Being active can help you live on your own for a longer time
and lower your chance of getting type 2 diabetes, coronary heart
disease, and colon cancer.
Whatever activity you choose, follow the safety
- Ask your health care provider about ways
you can safely increase the amount of physical activity you
- Take time to warm up, cool down, and stretch.
- Start slowly and build up to more intense
- Stop the activity if you experience pain,
dizziness, or shortness of breath.
- Drink plenty of water.
- When you are active outdoors, wear lightweight
clothes in the summer and layers of clothing in the winter.
- Wear sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat for
- Wear shoes that fit well and are right for
Aerobic activities use your large
muscle groups and increase your heart rate. They may cause
you to breathe harder. You should be able to speak several
words in a row while doing aerobic activities, but should
not be able to carry on an entire conversation. Examples of
moderate-intensity aerobic activities include:
- walking briskly
- water aerobics
- housework or gardening
- active play with children or grandchildren
To get started, pick an activity you enjoy.
Begin with small, specific goals, such as I will take a 10-minute
walk three times this week. Slowly increase the length of time
and the number of days you are active.
You may benefit most from a combination of aerobic,
strength, balance, and flexibility activities. Build up to 30
minutes or more of moderate-intensity cardiovascular or aerobic
activity on most, preferably all, days of the week. Try to incorporate
balance and flexibility activities into your daily workout as
well. Work toward doing strength exercises on 2 or 3 days a
Regular aerobic activity can help
- Reduce functional declines associated with
- Lose or maintain your weight by burning calories.
- Lower your risk of coronary heart disease
and stroke by strengthening your heart and lowering your blood
pressure and cholesterol.
- Keep your joints moving and reduce your arthritis
- Lower your stress and boost your mood.
- Have more energy.
- Meet new friends by joining a class or walking
Strengthening activities require
your muscles to use force against a resistance, such as gravity,
weights, or exercise bands. Examples of strength training
- lifting weights
- household or garden tasks that make
you lift or dig
- pushing a lawn mower
activities regularly may help you:
- Keep your muscles and bones strong as you
- Increase your strength and independence.
- Reduce your need for a cane.
- Reduce the risk of bone fractures and other
injuries, or recover faster if you are injured.
- Maintain or lose weight because muscle burns more calories
than body fat.
Balance activities typically
focus on the muscles of your abdomen, lower back, hips, and
legs. They require you to control your body as you move through
space to avoid falls. Examples of balance activities include:
- walking heel to toe in a straight
- standing on one foot
- standing up from a chair and sitting
down again without using your hands
- Tai Chi
- rising up and down on your toes while
standing and holding onto a stable chair or countertop
Doing balance activities
regularly may help you:
- Stay steady on your feet.
- Reduce the risk of a fall or injury.
Flexibility activities help increase
the length of your muscles and improve your range of motion.
Examples of flexibility exercises include:
Doing flexibility activities regularly
may help you:
- Maintain the movement of your muscles and
- Prevent stiffness as you age.
- Prevent injuries.
- Lower your stress.
Weight-bearing activities require
your bones and muscles to work against gravity. They include
any activities in which your feet and legs are bearing your
total body weight. Examples of weight-bearing activities include:
- climbing stairs
Doing weight-bearing activities
regularly may help you:
- Build and maintain bone mass.
- Reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Many activities give you more than just one
benefit. For example, doing aqua aerobics using water weights
gives you aerobic and strengthening benefits. Yoga combines
balance, flexibility, and strengthening benefits. You do not
have to do four separate types of activities each week. Choose
what you like to do and round out your activities from there.
Remember, any amount of physical activity you do is better than
physical activity into your day.
There are plenty of ways to be active
without setting aside a special time for exercise.
The tips below may help you to add
more activity to your everyday life.
- Take short walks throughout your day. Try
a 10-minute walk before breakfast, at lunchtime, and after
- Clean your house or garage, or wash your
|Be good to yourself.
Due to loss of loved ones, health
problems, trouble paying bills, or other reasons, many older
people feel lonely, sad, or stressed in their daily lives. Feelings
like these may cause you to lose energy, not feel like doing
anything, not eat enough, or overeat. Being good to yourself
may help you to cope with your feelings and improve your energy
level, eating habits, and health. Here are some ideas for being
good to yourself:
- Get enough sleep.
- Stay connected with family and friends.
- Join a walking group, or other social group.
- Surround yourself with people whose company
- Volunteer or get active with groups in your
- Try a part-time job at a place you would
enjoy working for a few hours a week.
- Watch a funny movie and laugh.
- Take up a hobby such as playing cards, gardening,
cooking, or dancing.
Remember, it's never too late to
improve your eating plan, be more physically active, and be
good to yourself for a healthier life.
|Tips for Older Adults
Healthy Eating & Physical
Activity Across Your Lifespan
Young at Heart
- Eat breakfast every day.
- Select high-fiber foods like whole-grain breads
and cereals, beans, vegetables, and fruits.
- Have three servings of vitamin D-fortified low-fat
or fat-free milk, yogurt, or cheese every day. Milk products
are high in calcium and vitamin D and help keep your bones
strong as you age. Or take a calcium and vitamin D supplement.
- Drink plenty of water or water-based fluids. You
may notice that you feel less thirsty as you get older, but
your body still needs the same amount of water to stay healthy.
- Ask your health care provider about ways you can
safely increase the amount of physical activity you do now.
- Fit physical activity into your everyday life. For
example, take short walks throughout your day. You do not
have to have a formal physical activity program to improve
your health and stay active.
- Get enough sleep.
- Stay connected with family, friends, and your community.
American Dietetic Association
Consumer Nutrition Information Hotline
Food and Nutrition Information Center, U.S. Department
Phone: (301) 5045414
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Institute on Aging
Exercise: A Guide from the National Institute on Aging
The President's Council on Physical Fitness and
Exercise: The Key to the Good Life
Phone: (202) 6909000
U.S. Administration on Aging
Phone: (202) 6190724
Eldercare Locator: 18006771116
U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
Eating Well as We Age
How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts
Fit and Fabulous as You Mature
Weight Loss for Life
Weight-control Information Network
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Bethesday, MD 208923665
Phone: (202) 8281025
Toll-free number: 18779464627
FAX: (202) 8281028
The Weight-control Information Network (WIN)
is a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive
and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health,
which is the Federal Governments lead agency responsible for
biomedical research on nutrition and obesity. Authorized by
Congress (Public Law 10343), WIN provides the general public,
health professionals, the media, and Congress with up-to-date,
science-based information on weight control, obesity, physical
activity, and related nutritional issues.
Publications produced by WIN are reviewed by
both NIDDK scientists and outside experts. This publication
was also reviewed by Tamara Harris, M.D., M.S., Chief, Geriatric
Epidemiology, National Institute on Aging; Steven Blair, P.E.D.;
and Yvonne Jackson, Ph.D., Director, Office for American Indian,
Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian Programs, U.S. Administration
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