Active Aging Adds Life to Your Years
You’re never too old for a challenge. Physically and mentally demanding activities do wonders for the health of people of all ages.
Research shows active lifestyles—keeping up strength, endurance, balance, and agility (mental and physical)—can lessen challenges associated with increased age. This movement (pun intended) to improve quality of life for older adults can also help change our collective negative perception of aging.
Active aging—a concept adopted by the World Health Organization and others—is the best way to grow old, says Columbia nurse practitioner Janejira Chaiyasit, DNP, who promotes its principles when she meets with her senior patients. “Active aging allows the individual to connect with their physical health and thus lets patients be more intuitive to what they want to achieve,” she says.
An expert in older adult health, Chaiyasit shares simple active aging habits that, as she puts it, add life to the years.
Active aging tips
Active aging is not about forcing exercise or exercising excessively. The only rule for active aging is to stay active in body and mind as much as possible, to the best of your ability. And don’t compare yourself to anyone else: What’s easy for one person may be demanding for another.
Review daily habits and find ways to increase time outdoors
- An analysis of more than 100 studies found that greenspace is beneficial for mental and physical health, whether you’re exercising or simply enjoying the outdoors.
- A simple walk around the block provides sunlight, fresh air, and opportunities to promote social skills that are good for your mental health and brain function.
Increase physical activity
- No need to run a marathon; research shows even a slight increase in physicality has both mental and physical health benefits.
- Every conversation counts. Living longer can mean outliving friends and family. Studies show social interaction is essential to good health. Talking to someone at the bodega or library instead of sitting with your thoughts at home is wonderful for every aspect of health.
Chaiyasit tells her patients not to think of active aging as exercise or a way to lose weight. Think of it as a way to be mindful of physical and behavioral tendencies and use that mindfulness to feel in control of aging and choose healthy habits.
Active aging is the best way to age
Aging should not be a negative experience. There will be physical and financial limitations, but there are easy ways to make the most of it and be happy.
Life is not over when you reach a milestone birthday. Active aging is a strategy to keep you feeling good year after year by filling your days with activities for your brain and body.
- Physical activity is the movement of the body that requires muscle use and uses more energy than resting.
- Mental activity is anything that keeps the mind active: reading, puzzles, following a new recipe, knitting, volunteering, learning a new skill, and so forth help brain health.
Ask your health care provider about the best ways to support your well-being physically, emotionally, and socially. Talk to them about your goals and your idea of well-being. Active aging is highly individualized.
Call 212-326-5705 or go to ColumbiaDoctors Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Group to make an appointment or learn more about active aging and overall health.
Janejira Chaiyasit DNP, AGNP-C, is the clinic lead and an adult-gerontology primary care provider at the Nurse Practitioner Group of ColumbiaDoctors Primary Care. She is also assistant professor of nursing at Columbia University School of Nursing.