Mindful Aging for Seniors – 5 Hobbies for Health and Happiness

Are seniors happier than their younger peers? According to studies outlined in the Atlantic, many retirees report being happier than respondents in their twenties and middle-aged years.

Research shows that happiness tends to follow a “U Curve” trajectory, starting high in the early twenties and dipping to its lowest during the forties and fifties. From there, happiness tends to steadily increase in the following decades – rising from the sixties all the way up to the nineties.

This isn’t to say that aging is always easy, or that seniors are a euphoric bunch. However, for many, the key to capturing that wave of happiness lies in finding a meaningful hobby, one that inspires passion and dedication and keeps the body strong. Read on for five hobbies that will keep you fit and feeling fabulous in your golden years.

1. Garden your way to health.

According to experts, playing in the dirt is spiritually fulfilling, and allows seniors to connect to their “primal state.” The experience of gardening also relieves stress, increases mental functioning, and provides lots of exercise. Plus, vegetable gardeners reap the benefits of eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet full of a rainbow of produce.

Gardening is great for seniors at all ages and skill levels. Something as simple as creating a container garden can connect you to nature and provide mental and physical stimulation.

2. Volunteer at a local museum or theater.

If you’ve always been a big lover of the arts or enjoy watching plays and concerts, consider volunteering at your local museum or theater. You’ll get to watch shows for free – plus, you’ll be supporting your local arts community and instilling a love for art in the next generation. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new friends and maintain a lifelong love of learning.

3. Get creative.

The health benefits of artistic participation are scientifically proven. Dr. Gene Cohen, director of George Washington University’s Center on Aging, Health and Humanities, conducted a two-year study with two groups of seniors. Half were involved in various arts programs, and the other half did no artistic activities. After two years, researchers concluded that seniors in the arts group reported better overall physical health and took fewer trips to the doctor than the seniors with no artistic involvement.

So, if you’d rather be the one on stage – or long to see yourself swirling paint around a canvas – consider taking up a creative hobby like drawing, dancing, learning to play the guitar, or singing. Having a hobby, especially a creative one that allows for self-expression and “me time,” is a healthy habit every senior should add to their daily routine. You don’t even need formal lessons. YouTube is packed with how-to tutorials for budding visual artists and musicians.

Artistic hobbies are also great for seniors dealing with alcohol and drug addiction recovery, because creativity provides therapeutic relief. The process of making art connects addicts to communities of like-minded individuals and becomes an emotional outlet for expression, stress relief, and contemplation.

4. Start swimming or stretching.

Low-impact exercises are great for seniors because they increase heart rate without putting undue stress on older joints. Yoga and pilates improve core muscles, increase balance, and force you to stretch, while water aerobics and swimming increase strength, burn calories, build cardiovascular endurance, and decrease anxiety. Plus, group exercise classes encourage camaraderie and hold participants accountable to an exercise routine. Most classes are inexpensive and have flexible time slots.

5. Read and write your way to happiness.

For seniors with reading lists a mile long, joining a book club is a low-key way to make new friends, discuss vital topics, and share in one of life’s great pleasures: sitting down with a great book – only this time, you’re reading (partially) in the company of new friends. If you love one particular genre like mystery or romance, try joining an online community dedicated to that particular area.

And don’t forget the health benefits of reading! Diving into a new novel improves mental agility, reduces stress, and preserves memory function. Writing has similar benefits, and seniors with a knack for creative expression should seek out a writing group focused on letter writing, fiction, or even journaling.

For even more healthy habits you should consider including in your daily routine, click here.

Stay active. Stay young at heart.

Do you need more convincing? Hobbies keep seniors sharp, healthy, and connected to their communities. Plus, trying new things keeps life interesting – and makes for great stories to tell the grand-kids.

 

Looking good, feeling good: The many benefits of exercise and good nutrition

You don’t need to be a swimsuit model or a world-class athlete to know that when you look good, you feel good. The improved physique you get from regular exercise comes with a biochemical benefit that literally leaves you feeling happier. When regular exercise is coupled with a healthy diet, you can expect lower stress levels, decreased blood pressure, and improved cognitive functioning. If you’re thinking about adopting a healthier lifestyle, consider the many benefits you’ll derive from eating right and staying physically active. What’s better than achieving a trim, athletic body that makes you feel great about yourself?

A package deal

A 2013 Stanford University research project revealed that subjects who began dieting and exercising at the same time were able to increase their physical activity to more than two hours a week and got five to nine servings each day of vegetables and fruits. They also succeeded in reducing saturated fat intake by 10 percent. Those who just did one or the other (diet or exercise) only attained dietary or exercise goals and realized fewer overall health benefits than those who did both.

Helping hands

One important factor in making a healthy lifestyle change is to find support and encouragement from others who are working toward the same objectives. That means exercising and observing dietary modifications with a small group of friends or co-workers, or joining a large exercise group. In addition to emotional support, companions can help make sure you’re doing exercises correctly, completing a set number of laps and generally helping you stay with the program.

An exercise group provides a consistent workout schedule and engaging approaches to physical activity, which offer opportunities for greater social interaction. Fitness professionals who lead exercise groups structure workout programs so that you improve both muscular and cardiovascular fitness.

The bottom line

Exercise and healthy dietary choices can help you shed pounds, strengthen both bones and muscles, achieve a better mental outlook, lessen your risk of heart disease and some cancers, and help you live longer. One of the best things about combining exercise and healthy eating is that you won’t require quite as much high-impact physical activity if you reduce your caloric intake and stick to a well-rounded diet. Senior citizens are better able to perform daily activities and are at reduced risks for falls and broken bones. If you’ve always enjoyed playing a sport, such as tennis or basketball, chances are you’ll be able to continue playing longer if pay close attention to the foods you eat.

A holistic approach

Good nutrition can help treat multiple conditions, such as chronic pain, depression or even drug addiction. An effective strategy for coping with a chronic health problem requires a comprehensive approach involving a well-balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight. Exercise, which releases pleasure-inducing endorphins in the brain, mitigates some of the effects of depression and chronic pain. Both conditions can leave victims in a state of lethargy, with little energy for anything but sitting around. A balance of nutrition and exercise helps keep you motivated to manage a potentially debilitating physical or mental condition.

Exercising at home

If you’re rarely motivated to get to a gym, consider creating an exercise area at home. You can mark out a few square feet to do sit-ups, leg lifts and stretching exercises, or you can go a bit further and add weights or a home workout machine. A few helpful items include dumbbells or kettlebells, a yoga or pilates mat, resistance bands, and a doorframe pull-up bar.

A little progress can spur you on to greater things. Dropping a little weight or feeling a bit more energetic can give you the boost you need to make a major lifestyle improvement, look good and feel great.

Courtesy of Pixabay.com.

Nutrition: Food vs Supplements

March is National Nutrition month which helps bring awareness to what we use to fuel our bodies. In my training and workouts I have heard it said by my personal trainer, CJ, focus on the mind and the body will follow. Many people say Fitness is only 20% and Nutrition is 80%. CJ tells me that mindset is 50%; fitness is 20% and nutrition is 30%. The battle of being healthy, disciplined and consistent starts and ends with the mindset. Let’s dive into some of his advice for me.

Food Vs. Supplements: Instead of considering them enemies can’t they all just get along?

1. Clean Organic Wholegrains: Opt for wholegrains
Like everything else in your body, the brain cannot work with- out energy. The ability to concentrate and focus comes from an adequate, steady supply of energy — in the form of glucose in our blood to the brain. Achieve this by choosing wholegrains with a low-GI, which release glucose slowly into the bloodstream, keeping you mentally alert throughout the day. Opt for ‘brown’ wholegrain cereals, granary bread, rice and pasta.

2. Fish Oil or Oily Fish: Eat oily fish
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) cannot be made by the body which means they must be obtained through diet. The most effective omega-3 fats occur naturally in oily fish in the form of EPA and DHA. Good plant sources include linseed (flaxseed), soya beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts and their oils. These fats are important for healthy brain function, the heart, joints and our general well- being. What makes oily fish so good is that they contain the ac- tive form of the fats, EPA and DHA, in a ready-made form, which enables the body to use it easily. Choose salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines, pilchards and kippers.

3. Organic Blueberry: Snack on blueberries
Evidence accumulated at Tufts University suggests that the con- sumption of blueberries may be effective in improving or delaying short term memory loss. They’re widely available, but you can also look out for dark red and purple fruits and vegetables which contain the same protective compounds called anthocyanins.

4. Organic Tomatoes: Eat more tomatoes
There is good evidence to suggest that lycopene, a powerful anti- oxidant found in tomatoes, could help protect against the kind of free radical damage to cells which occurs in the development of dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s. Favor cooked tomatoes and enjoy with a little olive oil to optimize absorption and efficacy.

5. Add vitality with vitamins
Certain B vitamins – B6, B12 and folic acid — are known to reduce levels of a compound called homocysteine in the blood. Elevat- ed levels of homocysteine are associated with increased risk of stroke, cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. A study of a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment found that after two years of intervention with high doses of B6, B12 and folic acid there was significantly less brain shrinkage com- pared to a subset given placebo treatment. Opt for B-rich foods like chicken, fish, eggs and leafy greens.

Next month we’ll add to the list of my nutrition options. In the meantime, join me as I work towards staying fit and eating right. Hopefully, I’ll see you at Fitness-Essentials, I’ll introduce you to CJ and Reggie.

Clif “CJ” Joseph operates Fitness-Essentials in Warren.  Diane has been a client for 11 years.

Fitness-Essentials vision statement: “To create a judgment-free zone that allows our members to reach their maximum potential by embracing positive changes in their mind and body.”

Submitted by Diane Maurer, as told by Clif “CJ” Joseph