By James Riley

Contributing Writer

Much has been written about how to be healthy and maintain a good quality of life as we mature into our senior years.

Although it is true that as we age our bodies tend to become less efficient in the processing of nutrients and maintaining muscle mass, much of what is blamed on aging can be attributed to an inactive lifestyle and poor nutrition.

It is easy and convenient to blame our physical woes and apparent decline on aging, as if there is little we can do about it. For many otherwise healthy seniors, much of the decline may be attributed to an inactive lifestyle and poor nutrition.

There are a number of simple lifestyle changes that can be made to improve one’s health. Keep in mind that “simple” does not necessarily mean easy, as such changes to one’s habits and lifestyle can be difficult. It is recommended to attempt only one change at a time and stay with that change until it becomes a comfortable habit. Then a second change may be in order.

Too many changes at one time can easily overwhelm the amount of will power available, resulting in giving up and returning to old habits.

Any changes that improve your lifestyle can improve your health. Listed below are six habits of a healthy senior lifestyle. Many seniors already practice some or most of them. Pick a change that is appropriate for you and improve your life.

  • Eat a Variety of Veggies and Fruit:Veggies and fruits provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, calories, fiber and other nutrients vital to our health. Much research indicates that as we age the processing of nutrients becomes less efficient, so it is important to include plenty of veggies and fruits in the daily diet.

The added bonus to consuming lots of veggies and fruit is they provide bulk (fiber) that slows down digestion, improving assimilation and satiation and promoting regular bowel movements. There is no downside to eating veggies and fruit.

  • Eat Protein: Protein uptake also becomes less efficient as we age. Protein is essential to maintaining strength (muscle mass), our best insurance for continuing to move well and preventing falls.
  • Stay Hydrated: For many seniors the aging process makes us less sensitive to thirst, and we are more likely to become dehydrated. Does there seem to be an inefficiency pattern as we age? Keep water handy so you will see it and drink it. Remember, fruits and veggies also contribute to proper hydration. If your urine is pale to moderately yellow, you are properly hydrated. If it is dark yellow, you should consume more liquids. If urine is clear, you may be over hydrating.
  • Do strength exercises for at least 30 minutes twice weekly. That is the government’s minimal recommendation for maintaining muscle mass and bone density. We don’t lose strength and bone density primarily due to aging but due, in part, to performing little weight-bearing activity.
  • Walk Often Throughout the Day: Walking is the best exercise and the natural movement for locomotion. Walking also provides weight bearing, cardio activity, strength and balance training in a pleasurable and essential activity.
  • Move in a variety of ways throughout the day. Movement doing chores, hobbies and activities throughout the day is far more important than an exercise session at the gym. An exercise session is supplemental to the benefit of frequent movement.

Inactivity is the new smoking — it is detrimental to our health. To retain our movement potential we need to regularly use it. The proverb “Use it or Lose it” is very true. Our body does respond to what we ask it to do.

Regularly perform activities that include squatting, lunging, reaching, lifting and pushing and pulling to retain your movement potential.

This is just a brief list of habits that promote a healthy senior lifestyle. Other things could be on the list such as create friendships, laugh a lot and try something new to challenge your thought processes and physical abilities. Those are all good ideas, but for now, pick one of the habits listed above and improve your life.