Healthy Aging

Good News about Senior Health and Fitness

Just in time for Older American’s Month, it’s time for a checkup….of our attitudes about aging.

With age, it’s easy to focus on the negatives as health issues crop up—and that negativity can become a habit. However, we found some uplifting news about both health and fitness, specifically for older adults, that might just make Older Americans Month the celebration it deserves to be.

Quitting Smoking—Even at 60—Can Pay Off:  Smoking cessation extends your life, as many researchers have already found.  In a new study, Dutch researchers found that quitting smoking would add the same number of heart-disease free years to a person’s life as taking three preventive medicines combined—about 5 years—but without taking the medications. The team looked at data from 989 patients, average age 60, after they had a heart attack, a stent put in, or bypass surgery and used a model that estimates life expectancy without a recurrent health event such as a heart attack to make the calculations.

Undo Your Fear of Falling, Reduce Risk: Fear of falling (a major contributor to serious fractures), is as important as a previous history of falling in estimating future risk, according to a recent study. “If you fear falling, that could significantly increase your risk of falling,” says Alice Bonner, PhD, RN, director of strategic partnerships for CAPABLE, an aging in place program at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, who is familiar with the research. To reduce that fear, work on balance, Bonner says. She suggests the Matter of Balance program, offered through local Area Agencies on Aging  or tai-chi classes.

Step It Up, Even in Spurts, To Live Longer: Taking more steps every day, either all at once or in short spurts, appears to add to longevity. Researchers followed nearly 17,000 women, average age 72, over an 8-year study period.  Short spurts of walking—taking the stairs, walking to or from the car—added to longevity. So, of course, did longer bouts. Those who took more than 2,000 steps a day all at once had a 32% decreased risk of dying during the study period.

Wear Mobile Fitness Apps, Feel Better: Older adults who adapt to  mobile fitness technologies say they feel better, physically and psychologically. Hesitant to download an app, use your smartphone or smart watch to track activity? Most makers have online support. Just ask!

Nature as Healer: Older adults who went to a 24-session horticulture class slept better, had less anxiety, and had better thinking skills, according to a recent study.  These researchers say participants ”reported an increased mean happiness” after each session. Ask the American Horticulture Society for more information.

Maintaining the Mood: Bonner has sage advice about keeping your mood hopeful, not depressed: “Find the people who are the bright spots and who have figured out how to remain optimistic,” she says. Those are your people. For inspirational reading, she suggests a book by social psychologist Katharine Esty,  “Eighty Somethings.”

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Photo: Shaun Newton

Kathleen Doheny is a Los Angeles-based independent journalist, specializing in health, behavior, fitness and lifestyle stories. Besides writing for Senior Planet, she reports for WebMD, Medscape, Endocrine Web, Practical Pain Management, Spine Universe and other sites.  She is a mom, mother-in-law and proud and happy Mimi who likes to hike, jog and shop.

This article offered by Senior Planet and Older Adults Technology Services is for informational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition or before starting an exercise regimen. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately.




6 responses to “Good News about Senior Health and Fitness

  1. Re “horticulture class”: A class is certainly a good way to learn how-to but the real benefit is in the garden. Other studies have shown a great benefit in improved mood from growing/tending a garden. I have found this to be true from my own experiences as well.
    Bonus: Grow vegetables and save a trip to the market and the cost of fresh produce. Avoid pesticides and other chemicals and you will also know, without a doubt, that your food is totally “organic”.

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