Over 50? Don't Make This Big Mistake, Warn Experts
By age 50, many of us are looking to slow down a bit, enjoy what we've accomplished, and appreciate life a little more. But the key to living another half-century is not slowing to a stop. If you're over 50, experts have an important piece of advice: Don't let yourself stagnate, physically or mentally. Staying mentally and physically active can have major, wide-ranging benefits for your health, keeping your heart strong, your brain in top shape, and slashing your risk of chronic disease. Read on for the 5 essential tips—and to ensure you age better than normal, stop doing these Everyday Habits That Make You Look Older, According to Science
Remember Your Adult Life is Only Half Over
By definition, 50 is true middle age—the midpoint of adulthood that indicates there's a lot of time left. According to actuarial tables, the average 50 year old will live to age 80. If adult life begins at 21, you've lived 29 years as an adult, and you have 30 years to go. "At 50, your adult life is only half over," says Robert Beam, MD, a family medicine specialist with Novant Health-GoHealth Urgent Care in North Carolina. "There is plenty of time to learn a new language, learn to play a musical instrument, check out scuba diving, kickboxing, or even go to college." Maintaining the outlook that these are years to fill with activity will help keep you healthy.
Stay Physically Active
As we age, most of us get less active—at the precise time our bodies need us to keep moving. Being too sedentary is a major risk factor for obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart attack, stroke, and reduced bone density. Getting more exercise lowers the risk of all six. The American Heart Association recommends getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week (or 75 minutes of vigorous activity), plus muscle-strengthening exercise two times a week. Moderate-intensity exercise includes activities like brisk walking or gardening, while vigorous exercise includes running, biking, or swimming.
Even small amounts of activity can make a real difference. If you sit for most of the day, Sarah Rettinger, MD, an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, recommends setting a timer reminding you to get up and move once every hour, for five to ten minutes. "Take a short walk outside, walk stairs, take a few laps around the house or apartment, do a few jumping jacks—anything to get your heart rate up a bit, or to make you a little out of breath," she says. "Over the course of a day, these mini-breaks really add up."
Stay Mentally Active
Additionally, staying mentally active and engaged can keep your brain healthy, lowering the risk of depression and anxiety and reducing your risk of developing cognitive decline and dementia in the later years.
An important piece of that is staying socially connected and active. Studies have found that loneliness can have negative health effects similar to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and may increase older adults' risk of developing dementia by 50%. Do everything you can to stay social: Socialize regularly with friends and loved ones, join activity groups, or volunteer. Studies have found that mentoring young people is particularly good for brain health.