Each of us may have a different idea of what being healthy means, and this will likely evolve as we age. Some people might view vibrant health as the ability to run a mile, while others may simply want enough energy to keep up with their children or grandchildren. Regardless of what it means to you, we can all agree that we want the strength and energy to do what we love—and to feel good about ourselves while we do it.
Our bodies are different at age 20 than they are at age 60, but you can stay healthy at every age. Use this list of healthy aging tips to help you feel your best at every decade. After all, age is only a number—what matters most is how you feel.
Your 20s: Be Proactive
Many of us don’t think too much about preserving our health in our 20s. We’re busy finishing school, starting our careers, dating, spending time with friends, and figuring out who we are and what we want out of life. We also have youth on our side, so we generally don’t face the same health issues that can arise later. But it is essential to take steps to establish a healthy lifestyle now, or risk paying the price later.
Research shows that the choices we make in our 20s can have a dramatic effect on our health in later years. One study1 found that people who adopted a healthy lifestyle in their 20s—including maintaining a lean body mass index, not drinking excessively, not smoking, eating a healthful diet and getting regular exercise—had a lower risk for cardiovascular disease in their 40s.
We should think of our 20s as setting the foundation for our future health. Here are a couple of tips to start building a healthy lifestyle in your younger years.
1. Eat Meals at Home
Eating out can be a common occurrence in your 20’s, but it can be expensive and add unwanted extra calories to your diet. When you eat at home, you have more control over what you’re putting into your body, and it’s easier to avoid consuming excess calories.
Eating at home doesn’t mean you need to spend hours cooking or shopping for groceries. Try taking advantage of nutritionally-balanced, chef-crafted, nutritionist-created meals delivered to your door.
2. Make Healthy Choices Most of the Time
Late-night snacking can also happen more frequently in your 20s—with college exams and late-night parties. To maintain a healthy balance, you’ll want to incorporate exercise and practice good eating habits most of the time.
Since sleep can help prevent unwanted weight gain, make sure part of your recovery during the week includes getting enough Z’s. Not only can it be good for your waistline2, but making sure you get a good night’s sleep is one of the best habits you can develop for the future.
Your 30s: Make Wellness a Priority
In our 30s, many of us are established in our careers and focused on moving up the corporate ladder and/or starting families. With so much going on, it’s easy—and common—to put our health on the back burner, but paying attention to our wellness is important. Although we’ve survived the other less-than-healthy activities of our 20s, we’re starting to feel a little less indestructible.
In addition to focusing on our overall wellness, it’s also time to start getting regular screenings for health issues that may arise later in life.
1. Think About Your Heart—It Will Thank You Later
Aerobic exercise can help you maintain your cardiovascular health—and some studies even suggest that it may potentially delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease3 and reduce the risk of some types of cancer.4
And while it’s great to get your heart pumping, consider doing more than just cardio. Starting at around age 30, we begin to lose muscle mass—as much as 3 percent to 5 percent per decade—even if we are active.5 To fight back against age-related muscle decline, be sure to include strength training in your workout.
You may also want to include a full body stretching and strengthening routine in your regular exercise regimen, as it can not only help to keep you flexible, but can also help prevent and heal back pain.6
And, of course, make sure you’re doing weight-bearing exercises to keep your bones healthy. Examples include dancing, hiking, walking or jogging, tennis and weight training.7
Your 40s: Check in and Reset
Our 40s are a time when work and family may be more settled. But we may also find that we have many competing priorities, including demanding jobs, growing children and aging parents, which can make it easy to forget about our own health and wellness.
It’s also the time when your risk of developing certain diseases, including heart disease and diabetes, may increase.8 If you haven’t already, seize on this as the perfect time to take stock of your health.
1. Get Regular Screening Tests
We may not have concerned ourselves with many doctor’s visits or screening tests in earlier decades. However, beginning in our 40s, there are a number of screenings to start considering, including the following:8
- Blood pressure measurement
- Diabetes blood glucose (sugar) test
- Eye exam
- Pap test and pelvic exam
- Skin cancer screening
2. Update Your Diet and Load up on Fiber
You might notice that your same weight loss and maintenance strategies you used in your 20’s and 30’s may not be working as well as they once did. This is because our metabolism slows at around age 40, due in part to the loss of muscle mass we mentioned earlier.9
While eating fewer calories can help prevent unwanted weight gain, a balanced diet is critical. Understanding what you need to eat to stay healthy at 40 and beyond is important. For example, in our 40s, we can all benefit from getting more fiber. According to the Mayo Clinic, ample fiber can help us maintain bowel health, achieve a healthy weight, and control blood sugar and cholesterol levels.10
As we near our late 40s, some women start to transition to menopause, which can lead to weight gain. As a result of hormone changes, how we gain or lose weight during and after menopause often requires a slightly different approach in our 50s and beyond.
Your 50s: Focus on You
Although the health habits of your earlier decades may have taken a bit of a toll, there is still time to change any practices that are not serving your health. Consider your 50s as a time to make important changes—or simply keep up with good habits.
1. Boost Your Metabolism
If you find that you’re gaining weight more easily after your 50th birthday, you're not alone. Our metabolism tends to slow by up to 5 percent each decade, which adds up in our 50s.11 This might sound like the perfect formula for weight gain, but you can help avoid it by staying active and avoiding empty calories.
As we touched on earlier, nutrient-rich foods that include fiber can help with weight loss.
Your 60s and Beyond: Long-Term Health and Wellness
At this time, our children are most likely grown and we can almost taste retirement, if we’re not already unencumbered by work. In our 60s, it’s time to make a plan that will allow us to live a long and healthy life so that we can enjoy all the years to come.
1. Focus on Heart Health
Heart health continues to be a top priority in our 60s. Research shows that getting 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week can lower your risk of heart disease.12
2. Support Your Bones
As you age, your chance of developing osteoporosis increases. This condition causes bones to become more fragile, increasing the risk of fractures.13
Because our bodies are no longer able to create new bone as rapidly as our bone density is declining, our bodies become weaker and symptoms such as back pain and loss of height may slowly begin to occur.14 Eating a nutritious diet rich in calcium; getting regular physical activity, including weight-bearing exercises; ensuring that you get adequate amounts of vitamin D; and avoiding smoking, secondhand smoke and excessive alcohol are ways to help increase bone density.15 The more we can implement healthy, bone-strengthening habits, the more likely we are to stay strong for years to come.
3. Keep Your Brain Busy
A busy brain is a happy brain. Our minds love to learn, make new connections and solve problems; it’s what they were designed to do. And good news for those in the sixth decade: We continue to grow new brain cells into our 60s.16
Even if you have entered retirement and are enjoying the slower pace of not working, that doesn’t mean you should stop striving to keep your brain challenged. Research shows that constant intellectual stimulation is the best way to keep your mind sharp.17 With your newfound free time, try learning new skills. After all, you finally have the time to work on all those projects you’ve been putting off!
Rest assured that staying healthy as you age is possible—and may be easier than you think. We hope these tips can help you along your journey to better health at any decade. Just remember that at every stage of life, it’s important to see your doctor regularly to make sure you’re not only adjusting your diet and weight-loss plan for your specific needs, but that you’re staying healthy and vibrant as well.
Are you ready to improve your health with a weight-loss program that’s backed by scientific research? Contact Jenny Craig for a free appointment to get started today.
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. A San Diego native and an endurance sports enthusiast, you can usually find her swimming, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple.
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and is written by experienced health and lifestyle contributors and reviewed by certified professionals.
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