Everyone knows one key to long term healthy living is to stay active. But many aged in their 40’s or 50’s find their body doesn’t behave like it used to — joints hurt, muscles are stiff and stamina is very different than when they were 20 or 30.
Thankfully, taking action right now can help prevent, and certainly delay those ailments so you keep doing your favorite sports and activities into your golden years. Let’s look at 7 things you can do now that your future self will thank you for.
1 REMEMBER: FOOD IS FUEL
Eating the right kinds of food helps you maintain a healthy body weight, gives your body the vitamins and nutrients it needs and keeps your immune system in tip-top shape. Eating the wrong kinds of food, however, can lead to weight gain and chronic inflammation, which could worsen aches and pains and impact your recovery. Your body is a finely tuned machine that requires premium fuel to function optimally. Focus on eating whole foods — lean meats, lots of veggies and fruit and good sources of carbs — and drinking plenty of water.
2 REST EASY
Many people struggle to get the necessary amount of sleep and ultimately rely on caffeinated drinks to help them get through the day. If you’re pushing your body week after week, year after year, then you need to make sure you improve your sleep quantity and quality. That’s because deep sleep is when your body repairs and rebuilds itself from all your training and exercise. Read How To Sleep for more specific tips.
3 GET QUIET
Stress from work, family, finances, etc., adds up fast. Stress puts a lot of strain on your autonomic nervous system, increases your stress hormones and negatively affects your health. This makes it to harder to recover from exercise, limits the results you’ll see and may even contribute to injuries and health problems.
To prevent this, take at least 10 minutes every day to decompress. Turn off your phone, close your computer, put in some earplugs or headphones, close your eyes and focus on breathing from your belly. I prefer to have some quiet time first thing every morning, before the demands of the day hit me. Prayer, reading for personal development, and journaling are all great exercises to help you calm your mind and set your intention for the day. Mental health is super important, so don’t neglect this one.
4 “LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY”
If you are active and pushing hard, you will likely get hurt or injured at some point. Although it’s tempting — or even a badge of honor — to “push through the pain,” for long-term results, this is a bad idea.
Don’t just think about today’s game or today’s workout. Think about the long game. Your healthy living journey lasts for life. If you tweak something in the gym or on the court, shut it down for the day. Rest, repair, recover and come back healthy and strong.
5 MIX WORKOUT INTENSITY
Workouts like sprints intervals, heavy weights and intense circuits are great, but they can also be stressful on your body. Everything from your joints to your nervous system needs time to rest and recover after hard-hitting training. But if you do them all the time, it will lead to fatigue and potentially cause injuries.
Instead, add at least 1–2 low-intensity workouts every week. For 20–40 minutes, do easy aerobic work to get the blood flowing, (which helps your muscles recover and improves your cardiovascular health), and finish with some gentle foam rolling, stretching and breathing. Find a way to get some yoga into your routine. It doesn’t have to be all weird and spiritual, but the movements and stretches are literally the fountain of youth.
6 BE CREATIVE
The more you specialize in only one sport or one style of training, the more likely you’ll develop overuse injuries and muscle imbalances because of all the repetition. Instead, incorporate new sports, movements and skills into your life. For example, if you ski, try martial arts. If you’re a runner, then add swimming to your routine. If you love to lift weights, take do some yoga once a week.
7 STAY MOBILE
As we age, our mobility and flexibility naturally declines, which can increase the risk of injuries and make it harder to do the activities we love. To enjoy plenty of exercise — no matter your age — take the time now to improve the range-of-motion in your body. Take care of your hips. Before every workout, do a dynamic warmup where you open your body and move properly. On your off-days, take a few minutes to stretch to help your body stay loose and mobile.
Thanks to Anthony Jeung from My Fitness Pal for doing some heavy lifting on this article.