healthy eating for healthy aging

Holidays and weather consipire against exercise

Holidays and weather consipire against exercise

When it comes to staying active, the weather and the holidays are conspiring against me. So is the calendar. These are the shortest days of the year. Despite that, I’d been looking forward to getting out in the brisk winter weather. Key word “brisk”; not “frigid”. Not howling wind/frigid weather. Nothing like a bomb cyclone to put the damper on outdoor activity.

As an older adult, I’m extremely conscious of the importance of staying active. Forced inactivity is stressful. Adding to my non-exercise distress this week: a report from the WHO outlining the detrimental impact of inactivity on health around the world. The report includes the observation that:

Both men and women in all parts of the world become less active as they get older “despite clear evidence that being active benefits older adults in relation to preventing falls, remaining independent, reducing isolation and maintaining social links to improve psychosocial health”.

World Health Organization

We’ve been told exercise is important for weight management, but the benefits of physical activity go beyond burning a few extra calories. Aging leads to muscle loss (sarcopenia). Inactivity accelerates this process. Exercise can’t reverse this muscle loss, but it can slow it down. Muscles that are used on a regular basis are better maintained. As you age, meaningful daily exercise becomes more and more important. I sometimes think older adults need to think of daily physical activity as a “job”.

During the holidays we’re bombarded with advice on healthy eating, much of it negative: don’t eat cookies, don’t put whipped cream on hot chocolate, don’t drink eggnog, etc. In my opinion, staying active may be more important for health than cutting out cookies or eggnog. Holiday foods are short term; exercise is 365 days a year.

Weather is also 365 days a year. We always have to plan around weather, whether frigid wind chill or pouring rain or a heat wave. Wait it out or plan alternatives. Don’t let weather or holidays discourage you from staying physically active.