We all know that as we get older bits stop working properly or fall off! But what is more worrying, is that the effects of aging seem to accelerate after 65. However, all is not lost! Walking and just moving around is the single most important thing older people can do to extend their life expectancy and remain independent.
The body is a complex beast and is made up of various bits that, when they fail, can cause us a few problems. What I will look at are those parts most at risk and look at how we can extend their life or functionality.
Brain Mental acuity goes into decline in latter years, resulting in slight cognitive impairment otherwise known as “senior moments”. Walking regularly has been proven to reduce mild cognitive impairment and improve mental agility.
Heart The valves that control the direction of blood flow get thicker and stiffer, limiting the amount of time you can spend in the cardio zone before heart attack becomes a real threat. Studies have suggested that co-enzyme Q10 is effective in reducing heart stiffness, while boosting pumping action and electrical function. Supplement your diet with CoQ10 supplements and eat oily fish such as mackerel, and trout.
Bones These can weaken due to lack of calcium and certain vitamins which can result in major injuries from small falls. Taking additional calcium, vitamin D and K will help improve the situation. Vitamin D aids in calcium absorption, as does sunshine.
Muscle Strength losses accelerate to 30 percent per decade after the age of 65, this will, of course, have an impact on your mobility. If you already walk, then continuing to do so with slow down the degeneration effect. However, strength training, will help you regain a decade’s loss in a matter of a few months.
Joints/cartilage/back Wear-and-tear starts to deteriorate the padding in the joints and spine, leading to stiffness and pain when hiking. Whilst it might seem counter-intuitive moving a joint loosens it. A simple set of exercises that can be done at home will help ease the stiffness. Move your stiff joints through their full range of motion (arm swings for shoulders; squats for knees) 5 times per day. When out walking, repeat movements at regular intervals throughout the day.
Skin our largest organ thins with age, and our ability to heal wounds decreases. This means that open cuts are more susceptible to infection. Increasing our zinc input, which is found in most nuts, meat and dairy will help revitalise the skin.
Feet Years of use wear out the padding under our instep and heel. This can create hot spots on our feet and cause pain from your feet all the way to the back. However, there is an easy way to reduce or prevent this and that is using insoles.
Water By age 70, total body water decreases by about 8 percent, which increases the risk of dehydration, heatstroke, and hypothermia. Therefore, when out walking it becomes more important to drink at least 2 litres of water.
Feed your body to grow old disgracefully
One of the biggest enemies in our diet are the ‘free radicals’. These reactive compounds attack cell membranes, red blood cells, and tissue, and they contribute to risk factors for chronic diseases like arthritis, immune dysfunction, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Free radicals come from food (especially commercial cooking oils), exposure to UV radiation, and, ironically, exercise itself.
When the body is young, working out stimulates the production of free-radical-fighting antioxidants within muscle tissue. However, with age, its ability to produce antioxidants decreases, so we need to get more from our diet. The answer lies in eating more berries especially blueberries, blackberries cherries, cranberries, and goji berries which are some of the most powerful antioxidants available.
Whilst you are out walking it is possible to eat a healthy snack high in vitamin A and omega-3 that will help reduce heart and fight cancer-causing free radicals.
Just add equal portions of macadamia nuts, dried mango, dried pineapple, dried coconut flakes plus half measures of cashews and dried papaya into a bag and mix well.
Older hikers have a harder time moving around for long periods without getting stiff. This simple stretch helps ease joint pressure and stimulates circulation, which flushes lactic acid and reduces post-hike soreness.
Position yourself at the base of a large rock, tree or wall. stand with your back against the wall while you slowly slide to the ground. Swing your legs around and up the wall. Rest here for 5 to 15 minutes, then use your fingers to “rake” your skin from ankle to pelvis. Do 10 rakes.
Simple Home Exercises
There’s no need to reduce your workouts just because of your age, simply do the following exercises every other day in three sets of eight repetitions. Lift six seconds on the way up, three on the way down, resting 1-2 seconds between reps and two minutes between sets. Use 0.5- to 4 Kg ankle weights for all exercises.
Seated leg extension – From a seated position, slowly extend your right leg until it’s parallel with the ground, then lower. Do three sets of eight reps for each leg.
Standing leg curl – Stand behind a chair with your legs together. Slowly lift the right foot, bending the knee and moving the right heel toward the glutes. Lower back to the ground. Do three sets of eight reps. Switch sides.
Standing hip abduction – Stand behind a chair with your legs together. Keeping your toes pointed forward and leg straight, raise your right leg out to the side, lower it slowly. Do three sets of eight reps, then switch sides.