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Maintain a Healthy Weight in the New Year
January is National Healthy Weight Awareness Month. It arrives at an ideal time of the year when many of us are recovering from elaborate holiday meals or unending weeks of snacking or living on unhealthy “comfort foods.” Those sugary desserts may have added to extra weight gain.
Between the cold weather, short days, quarantine fatigue, and health club closures, the last few months of 2020 made it easy to be inactive and gain weight as a result. Perhaps most distressing of all, we missed out on the improved emotional benefits and energy that physical activity provides. Becoming out-of-shape not only depresses the immune system, but also affects our emotional well-being.
Physical fitness is the first step to maintaining a healthy weight. If you’ve been inactive, then start with fun exercises that don’t require too much exertion.
One of the best ways to get started and stay motivated with exercise is to find a friend to join you. You’ll not only benefit from social interaction, but your friend can keep you accountable on those days when you’ll find any excuse not to exercise. Before long, others may even join you for a walking or hiking group, exercise class, or regular game of tennis. (But don’t forget to practice social distancing and follow COVID-19 guidelines.)
Getting a new pet like a dog can provide numerous benefits that help you maintain a healthy weight. Pets depend on us for exercise. They also provide emotional comfort and improved well-being that may help you with healthy weight maintenance.
Despite the pandemic, you can still enjoy many sports while maintaining proper social distancing. Examples include walking, jogging, hiking, cross-country skiing, tennis, pickleball, biking, yoga, sight-seeing or nature walks, even swimming. Groups and families can still gather together to play socially-distanced games like tennis, bike, or walk around the neighborhood. You can do many of these activities while wearing a face mask.
Let’s not forget about fun activities to do within your social bubble, such as the family members within your household. Here are some suggestions to liven up leisure or chore time with your family:
- Engage in active family playtime. Any game like charades or ping-pong can get you moving.
- Help out with light household chores. You’ll take care of much-needed tasks, but get some physical activity too. Organizing, cleaning, and vacuuming are examples.
- Take the activity outside. Mowing the grass and gardening may provide exercise and help the household budget.
- Make television watching more active. Try being active during commercial breaks with sit-ups, stretching, yoga, lifting light dumbbells, or lunges on the living room.
Besides physical activity, nutrition and diet are key to maintaining a healthy weight. Follow a diet that is low in processed foods and refined sugars, but high in fresh fruits and vegetables. Always balance different foods from the basic food groups. Experts recommend eating in moderation, keeping sweets to a minimum, and resisting the urge to use food as a reward or punishment.
Other factors like getting enough sleep (7-9 hours per night) and stress can significantly affect your weight. For seniors or those with pre-existing health concerns, being overweight isn’t the only health risk. Being underweight can also affect your ability to fight infections. Cancer patients or those with osteoporosis, for example, need to be particularly mindful of maintaining enough muscle tone.
Finally, the BMI or Body Mass Index can be a useful tool to know if your weight is in the healthy range. Your number is based on the BMI Index Chart. A BMI lower than 18.5 is considered underweight. Between 18.5 and 24.9 is a normal or healthy weight range. Between 25.0 and 29.9 is overweight, and over 30.0 is obese. Remember that BMI is meant to be a screening tool but not an indicator of your body fat or overall health.
Think of the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight in the new year! Not only does exercise strengthen bones and improve mental health and mood, but it also reduces your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, Type II diabetes, metabolic disorders, and cancer.
Finally, maintaining a healthy weight significantly improves your quality of life and life expectancy. Premature death can be reduced by as much as 39 percent with an active lifestyle. As Cicero wrote, “Even in old age, exercise and moderation can preserve something of young vigor.”
Find More Senior Fitness Articles
There are more articles like this on our blog – from staying active during COVID-19 to heart-healthy tips for seniors.