Holistic Approach to Fitness, Nutrition and Mind is Key

By Mark Van Tol

Think keeping fit at a retirement community is only about aqua-fitness classes and walks at the local mall?  Think again. Mature adults are living active and healthy lives and retirement communities are at the forefront of providing them with innovative fitness programs, healthy nutrition, and brain exercises. The retirement communities that do this best are those that take a holistic approach.

Here are some tips on how to stay fit and age gracefully:

  • Flexibility is the key for older adults desiring an active lifestyle, but you need a strong body first in order to be flexible. Taking a holistic approach to fitness helps to gain strength, flexibility and mobility.
  • Strength training, movement for mobility classes using medicine balls and free weights, stretching exercises such as Yoga and Tai Chi, and dance classes.
  • Older adults with workout regimes need to ensure their nutrition needs are met for optimal health. However, many with heart health concerns need sodium-reduced diets which can be bland.
  • As we age, our cravings for flavour increase - seniors, in general, eat too much salt. This can have a negative affect on their health and overall well-being. The solution to making food delicious and healthy is to use highly flavoured ingredients such as herbs. The maximum daily intake of salt for an older adult with high blood pressure is no more than a teaspoon's worth.
  • As we age we don't want to part with our favourite meals. Residents will be better off when able to offer suggestions to the chefs about dishes they want to see on the menu. The difference is when they are prepared to be good for their health.
  • On-site greenhouses and fruit and vegetable gardens provide fresh ingredients to be used by chefs. Residents will be able to participate with gardening. This activity, like many others, also helps keep the mind active.
  • Daily activities whether gardening, reading, scrapbooking, or doing puzzles helps preserve memory and can prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. Studies have shown that people who lead active lifestyles tend to have brain reserves in some areas denser than compared to those who are less active.
  • While computer games that focus on brain exercises can be highly effective, they are a pricey solution that also requires a comfort level with technology. Brain exercises can be done on one's own or in social groups. Memory games for groups, such as flash card memorization and picture perfect memory with photos can be offered at retirement residences.
  • The main pillar to brain health is lifelong learning. Creativity through the arts, learning a new skill such as painting, photography, or journal writing all work to keep the brain active and healthy

Three Easy Brain Exercises

  1. Use your non-dominant hand: Dialing a phone number or brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand are activities that could strengthen your cognitive connections
  2. Take up a musical instrument: The complexity of learning how to read, interpret and play music is a great brain builder
  3. Read: Critically and analytically. As yourself questions as you read. According to neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima, reading out loud has been shown to be effective in stimulating the frontal lobe