The good news in your 60s: Maintaining your fitness will put the brakes on aging.
The reality check in your 60s: You’re slowing down just a little, even if you’re an avid fitness buff. Dietary changes may help.
- It’s time to embrace the power of protein. By your 60s, you may have lost as much as 20 percent of the muscle you once had. To hold on to it longer, eat more protein throughout the day. By making this a priority, you’ll cut your risk for diabetes, heart disease and frailty in the decades to come. Especially if you want to lose weight. In a study of older adults, those who cut 300 calories per day lost 12 pounds, but two of those pounds were muscle. On the other hand, those who cut calories and did strength training lost nearly 20 pounds, and more of this came from pure fat.
- Avoid making old-person noises when you get out of your chair. In a different study, those who squeezed in two workouts weekly were 46 percent more likely to live another 15 years. People in their 60s developed the muscle power of a 40-year-old in just four months by strength training at least one hour and 45 minutes per week.
- You don’t have to live with your belly. Belly fat boosts your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease, regardless of your weight. The good news: It’s the first fat to scram with a healthy diet and exercise.
- Avoid creaky knees. By your early 60s, the cartilage cushion that keeps knees comfy starts to wear away. But losing just 5 to 10 percent of your weight (if you’re overweight) can slow the degeneration of cartilage. Every pound of body weight exerts four pounds of extra pressure on your knees with each step.
- You need new shoes. Feet flatten out and get bigger as muscles and connective tissues weaken, and the 26 bones in your tootsies start to shift. Weight gain adds to the issue; your shoe size may grow as much as a full size between your early 50s and mid-60s.
- Bone health should become a priority. One in 5 women and 1 in 25 men in their late 60s and 70s have osteoporosis. As a result, your fracture risk soars starting in your late 60s — and broken bones, especially of the hip or spine, can steal your independence.
- Supplements aren’t a cure-all. Older adults are popping more calcium and vitamin D pills than ever before, but a recent analysis of people 50-plus showed that supplements don’t guard against brittle-bone breaks. What does: weight-bearing exercise such as walking, dancing and strength training, plus calcium from foods like dairy and canned salmon (with the bones). Leafy greens such as spinach contribute, too. "I start the day with a healthy shake — it might include flaxseed for fiber, almond milk for calcium and potassium, protein powder, a cup of blueberries, cinnamon for anti-inflammatory benefits, etc.," said Laura L. Carstensen, 64, founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity in California. "One of the things I’ve learned about healthy habits is that I have to enjoy them. Otherwise, they never stick.”