Winter can be a tough time for seniors to stay healthy. Cold, icy weather can prohibit you from being active outside, even going for a short walk. Illness is more prevalent this time of year, and seniors with a weakened immune system may more easily contract colds and flu.
However, winter fitness is important, as it can prevent weight gain that can occur from inactivity and holiday eating and drinking, as well as the aches and pains that arise from sedentary behavior. Eating nutritious foods, making plans to be active and social, and taking preventive measures to ward of illness and depression will help you stay fit and healthy this winter. Here are some suggestions to keep you up and at ‘em during the cold, dark months until spring re-appears.
If the weather is sunny or slightly overcast, and the temperature is above 40, go grab some vitamin D and fresh air by taking a nice, brisk walk or bike ride around your community or local park. Dress in layers that will keep you warm without the bulk, such as a thin, thermal layer followed by pants, a vest and outer shell. This way, you can remove layers if you should start to heat up. And of course, remember to wear shoes with good traction and a hat and gloves.
For those days when it’s just too cold, rainy or snowy, there are still plenty of indoor activities to enjoy. Grab a friend or family member and visit your local museum or aquarium. Walking around will get your joints and muscles moving, and viewing inspiring artwork or tropical fish will be uplifting. Like to bowl? A person weighing 150 pounds can burn 105 calories in 30 minutes of bowling. If you are up for exercising via video games, try Wii Fit, which offers a lineup of exercises and levels to fit your style, or play Wii Sport games like tennis, bowling, baseball, golf, or fencing with a friend or relative. These options will get you moving and entertain you at the same time.
Because people spend more time indoors during the winter and may eat a smaller variety of foods, nutritional deficits — especially vitamin D deficiency — can be a problem. Nicole Morrissey, a registered dietician in southwest Michigan, recommends consuming foods that are fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, grains and seafood options like tuna and salmon.
While farmer’s markets may be closed for the season, you can still enjoy a few top fruits and vegetables that are in-season for the winter and surprisingly healthy. According to EatingWell.com, these include:
- Pomegranate juice is rich in antioxidants that might help prevent plaque buildup in the arteries and improve blood flow to the heart in people with myocardial ischemia, according to two recent studies.
- Dark leafy greens, such as kale, chard and collards, are rich in vitamins A, C and K. Collards, mustard greens and escarole are also excellent sources of folate.
- Citrus fruits, including lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit, are at their juiciest in the wintertime and are loaded with viatmin C and flavonoids, which help boost “good” HDL cholesterol and lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
- Potatoes are an excellent source of two immunity boosters—vitamins C and B6—folate, and a medium potato delivers 4 grams of fiber (women need 25 grams daily and men need 38 grams).
- Winter Squash—including butternut, acorn, delicata and spaghetti squash—are low in calories and high in vitamins, such as vitamin A (214 percent of the recommended daily value) and vitamin C (33 percent), vitamins B6 and K, potassium and folate.
For some tasty and healthy winter recipes, you can download a free winter recipe booklet from Eatingwell.com.
Take Care of Yourself
Staying social during the winter can often be difficult for seniors, especially if they live alone, because it can be hard or even dangerous to get around in bad weather. This can sometimes lead to loneliness and isolation. To help avoid these issues, family members or caregivers should check in on seniors as often as possible—even a short, daily phone call can make a big difference. Seniors can also arrange a check-in system with neighbors and friends, where each person looks in on one or two others daily.
Lastly, wash your hands to help prevent contracting colds and flu, and sneeze into your elbow to avoid spreading germs if you are sick. It’s amazing what something so simple can do to help you and those around you stay healthy!
By following these simple suggestions, seniors can enjoy an active and healthy winter, and will be ready to go out and garden or play golf once the weather breaks in the spring.
Our community offers experienced staff who are dedicated to helping seniors live a vibrant, engaged life. From fitness classes, nutrition assistance and community activities to scheduled group outings, personal transportation, and more, seniors can age in place with caring, professional staff, numerous amenities and activities, and assistance every step of the way.
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