Top tips to be your best during Healthy Aging Month…and every month

Happy, healthy September! Since Food & Fitness After 50 was published, Dr. Bob and I have interviewed about 50 inspiring adults asking them what they do to achieve optimal aging. They range in age from 55 to 90 years old and they live as far away as Australia and as close to home as our own backyards of Hartwell, Georgia or Chicago, Illinois. (We hope you like our posts and if you haven’t already followed our blog, please do by clicking here.)

Today, we are taking a short trip down memory lane to mine the advice and wisdom of the folks interviewed for Fit to Eat. As we do in our book, we’re capturing the ideas in three buckets: Eat Well, Move Well, and Be Well.

Eat well

Three themes came through from our 50+ folks on eating well.

  • First, no one adhered to a rigid plan or fad-diet-of -month. No Paleo, no Keto, and no CICO or carnivore eating plans. The key word for everyone was balance. Balance is the ability to eat and drink anything you want, in moderation. Of course, you must know what moderation is; eating a basket of fried chicken wings with a half dozen beers every Friday night is not moderation! It is OK to indulge occasionally, like Bob did on his 7-day bike trek across Iowa riding about 65-miles a day, but you can’t overeat every day and claim you are eating well.
  • A second theme that emerged is eating for health, not to achieve a number on the scale. Those we interviewed enjoyed a wide variety of healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, lean meats, fish, and dairy. Some folks focused on plant-based vegetarian diets, but most didn’t limit a particular food or eliminate an entire food group, like grains. Eating a variety of foods is smart because you are more likely to get all the nutrients you need to support optimal aging.
  • Lastly, everyone we spoke to did not fear their food! They know that eating is not only biologically necessary, but one of life’s pleasures. They are conscious of limiting sugar and saturated fat and excess alcohol, but they love sharing meals with family and friends over social occasions.

Move Well

Everyone we talked to was active in their own way. Some loved pickleball and others used their fists and feet from boxing to ballroom dancing. Some were runners, other walked. Some loved cycling on the open road and some preferred riding an exercise bike while binge watching a favorite show. Me, I love group exercise classes and walking my dog while Bob prefers individual activities and doesn’t own a dog.

The theme that emerged is to find something you like to do and do it. Make it challenging…get your heart rate pumping a bit harder, your breathing a bit labored, and fatigue your muscles when you lift weights. As Sally says, “no challenge, no change.”

Exercise brings intrinsic joy, but it helps to have a mentor to encourage you or a buddy who will meet you at 5:15 am every morning for a run before work. So, make it fun and make it your own and be consistent!

Be Well

We all know that eating well and moving well are only part of the equation for optimal aging. To be well we need resilience, probably the most important trait for healthy aging. Because as we age, stuff is going to happen; we lose loved ones, we get injured, we experience chronic health problems, we get joints replaced…but, through it all we need to see the positive and bounce back from setbacks. Everyone we talked to had experienced some challenges, but they all recognized the issue and found ways to positively cope.

Social support is also important for being well, whether family or friends, community or religious institutions, everyone valued social support for optimal aging. Book clubs, health clubs, volunteering at the library, joining a local botanical garden, or developing a social club for Single Outstanding Ladies Offering Support (SOLOS), anything that keeps us connected helps us to be well.

Lastly, intellectual curiosity and a thirst for lifelong learning was a trait of all the over 50 age group we talked to. Try to learn something new every day on your journey to healthy aging, this month, and every month.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and professor emerita at Georgia State University. She is the co-author (along with Dr. Bob Murray) of Food & Fitness After 50.