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Many things influence healthy aging. Some, such as your genetics, are beyond your control. Others, like exercise, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, going to the doctor regularly and taking care of your mental health, are within your control.
We know we should exercise, sleep enough, eat right and go to the doctor. Knowing we should and doing it are two different things. But if you want to stay healthy and strong enough to live your best life at any age, doing those things is vital. And it’s never too soon or too late to start forming healthy habits.
Caring for your mental health is also vital to your overall health and quality of life. It determines how we think, feel and act. So making connections with others and finding ways to manage your stress levels and mood are key to healthy aging.
A recent long-term study found that sticking with certain healthy habits can add over 10 years to your life and help you avoid serious illness, like cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
The study found that these five habits had the most impact:
Getting a yearly physical exam is another important part of staying healthy for life. Seeing your doctor each year means:
Is over 50 over the hill? No. The earlier you start making an effort to stay healthy, the better. But you can enjoy the benefits of those same healthy habits no matter how old you are.
“Men over 50 can be just as healthy, fit and active as younger guys. It may take a little more effort, but eating right, exercising regularly and getting your routine health screenings can keep you going strong,” says the Cleveland Clinic.
Those habits can help cut the risk of many health problems that are more common in older men, like heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. Getting enough sleep — seven to eight hours each night — also helps you stay healthy.
And for men over 50, exercise is more important than ever. Physical activity is the best way for men over 50 to improve their heart health, muscle strength, flexibility and balance. It can also help cut the risk of some health problems, like dementia. There are two main kinds.
Aerobic or cardio exercise: Cardio gets the heart pumping and uses large muscle groups. There are many benefits gained from aerobic exercise for men over 50, including better sleep, mobility, flexibility and brain function. Aerobic exercises include swimming, biking, hiking, team sports and walking.
Strength or resistance training: Resistance training helps build up muscle. In addition to more muscle, benefits include stronger bones, better balance, more joint flexibility and better weight management. It’s especially important as you get older because it helps fight the decreasing bone density and muscle mass that happens as we age. Examples of strength training include working out with free weights or on weight machines, using resistance bands, doing body weight exercises like pushups, and gardening activities like digging or shoveling.
Experts say to do both aerobic exercise and strength training. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to shoot for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise and at least two days of strength training each week. If you’re not already active, talk to your doctor before you start.
Keep in mind that injuries happen more easily when you’re older. Even if you’re already active, a break of even a few weeks can mean starting over. If you’re just starting out or starting over, go slow and build up over time to avoid injuries.
You can’t do anything about getting older. But some choices you make now can help control how you feel in the future. You can add healthy, active years to your life.
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