Healthy Fuel Equals Healthy Movement
Aging is an inevitable process that can be enjoyable with healthy lifestyle practices. Many problems can be associated with aging, such as osteoporosis, muscle weakness, heart disease, increase blood pressure and diabetes. However, these things can be prevented or managed with good self-care. That self-care should include healthy nutrition that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and legumes as well as a regular exercise routine that includes daily stretching.
A British Medical Journal conducted a study following over 100,000 men and women for 20 years evaluating the effects of milk consumption. During the course of this study it was discovered that women who drank the most milk suffered the most hips fractures (1). Dairy products are packed with fat and cholesterol and may increase the risk of health problems ranging from asthma to some types of cancer. An elevated risk of prostate cancer incidence and mortality has been associated with dairy consumption and the same may be true for ovarian cancer (2). The reality is there is no reason for humans to consume cows’ milk, and there are many reasons to avoid it.
Calcium is a necessary nutrient, but we can easily get enough from plant foods. The most healthful sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes because calcium is a mineral found in the earth not from animals like cows. Cows do not produce calcium and they must eat it from plants. Moreover, instead of harming our health by consuming cows’ milk, these plant foods boost our immune systems and help us avoid chronic illnesses. Just think how much healthier our nation would be if everyone traded their milkshakes for green smoothies!
Nutrition can also help you move better when you exercise and enjoy other recreational activities. For instance, fruit has a high-water content and can therefore help to hydrate your body as well as work to flush out acids. Dark leafy green vegetables are also great for flexibility for the same reason. The high-water content of fruits and dark leafy green vegetables is beneficial because adequate hydration helps the muscles to stretch (3).
Nutrition choices that you can make to improve your ability to move and feel better is whole plant foods that are rich with vitamin C, sulfur, antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
Vegetables with the highest sources of vitamin C include:
- Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower.
- Green and red peppers.
- Spinach, cabbage, turnip greens, and other leafy greens.
- Sweet and white potatoes.
- Tomatoes and tomato juice.
- Winter squash.
Sulfur is the third most common mineral in your body and carries out many functions. One of sulfur’s most important roles is to maintain the bonds in the proteins in our bodies. The way in which proteins are bonded together dictates their function. You can think of sulfur as having an equally important role in our connective tissue as vitamin C. Besides helping with protein integrity, sulfur is also thought to slow the transmission of pain signals in our bodies. This is part of why hot springs are so popular, as they are rich in sulfur and people that bathe in them claim that their pain is relieved from doing so.
- Vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and brussels sprouts, kale, callaloo, spinach, asparagus, okra, lettuce, sweet corn, and eggplant.
- Allium vegetables: onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives. This group is an excellent source of sulfur.
- Beans: Beans are high in sulfur and steamed soybeans have the highest sulfur content of all.
- Fruits: The avocado is the fruit with the highest sulfur content, followed by kiwi, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, melons, grapefruit, grapes, oranges and peaches.
- Other Plant Foods: Tea, grains, sesame seeds, cashews, peanuts, pistachios and other nuts
Normal daily activity can cause damage and inflammation to our bodies. Free radicals are waste substances produced by cells as the body processes food and reacts to the environment. If the body cannot process and remove free radicals efficiently, oxidative stress can result. This can harm cells and body function. Therefore, eating foods that are high in antioxidants will help combat inflammation and free radicals that are damaging to your internal cells. The foods highest in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories are plants because they contain phytochemicals with an array of different nutrients which helps our bodies detoxify and counteract the damaging free radicals.
- Dark chocolate
- Goji Berries
- Red Cabbage
- Green Tea
When you begin to fuel your body right, you will have the energy for an effective exercise plan. Exercise produces big results whether you are 40, 60 or 80. According to the Human Physiology Laboratory at Tufts University Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, we respond well to exercise at any age. When you exercise regularly muscles grow, bones strengthen, and metabolism increases. Exercise also helps our body fat, blood sugar, and blood pressure improve. As an experienced coach who specializes in senior fitness, I witnessed these statistics in people I worked with every day. With modest effort, exercisers in their 80s grew stronger and increased vitality.
Reduced muscle strength is associated with age-related disability. The most common cause of muscle weakness is inactivity. After three months of high-intensity muscle training, healthy men over 60 experienced gains similar to those reported for younger men training with similar intensity and duration. People who were stronger remained more independent and less burdened by advancing years.
If you are unsure where to start, talk to your doctor to make sure an exercise routine would be safe for you to do. After your doctor approves, you can begin with a daily 30-40-minute walk with a 10-minute stretching routine after. The aches and pains that held you back will begin to decrease in time with consistent healthy nutrition and regular exercise.
In order to fully enjoy the blessings of life, it is worth taking care of your health. Your choices have the power to bring you a healthy experience from the inside out.
- Milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men: cohort studies
BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g6015 (Published 28 October 2014)
Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g6015