(StatePoint) For many, the new year is about establishing goals for the year ahead. But where should you start? As we age, an increasing number of us link our emotional and physical well-being to our overall health. After all, you can't do the things you'd like if you aren't healthy.
With that in mind, Cigna and its Medicare Advantage (MA) fitness partner, the Silver&Fit Healthy Aging and Exercise Program, share these five tips to help older adults get fitter and stronger and be less stressed and happier in 2020:
1. Hit the gym. Exercise is a proven way to help you get fitter and stronger, improve balance, lose weight, reduce blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, manage pain and even be more social. Many gyms offer such options as free weights, machines, pools, classes, private instructors and other amenities that can inspire you to try new things. Prefer working out with others? Group classes can help you discover a new exercise, stick to a schedule and find exercise buddies. If you're new to exercise, remember that slow and steady is the way to build good habits, avoid injury and achieve health goals. It's always a good idea to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
Can't afford a gym membership? You may be surprised to learn that many MA plans offer exercise programs at top fitness centers and YMCAs for no extra cost. Check your plan for details.
2. Nourish your body. For optimal health, nourish your body with healthy, energizing foods, including fruits, vegetables, grains, fish and healthy oils, such as olive oil and sesame oil. Limit pre-packaged, processed foods. Set an achievable goal. Try cutting out one unhealthy food each month, such as sugary soft drinks or chips. Your body will love you for it! Also, stay hydrated, especially when exercising.
At the same time, eliminate unhealthy habits, such as smoking or drinking alcohol in excess. With an MA plan, you may be able to get help with smoking cessation products or alcohol counseling at no extra cost.
3. Stress less. Stress can be toxic and debilitating. Develop a "PLAN" to deal with it. According to Cigna's Dr. Stuart L. Lustig, this includes identifying a Period of time to unwind, a Location to de-stress, an Activity to enjoy and the Name of someone with whom you can talk. Yoga, tai chi and meditation may help you cope with stress, as well as going for walks, listening to music, comedy or audio books -- or even coloring. If you're experiencing extreme stress, talk to your doctor. Remember, the mind and body are connected, and stress takes its toll on physical health.
4. Get social. According to a 2018 Cigna survey, loneliness in America has reached epidemic levels. Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent). Loneliness has been shown to negatively impact physical and mental health. Alleviate loneliness by taking one proactive step each week. For example, call or get coffee with friends or family, join a club or volunteer. You can also connect with other active adults on social media. Check out the inspirational health and fitness posts on the @SilverandFit Facebook page and join in the conversations.
5. Practice gratitude. Happiness comes with thankfulness. Think about people and things you feel grateful for, and start a gratitude journal.
By doing your best to incorporate these five tips into your life, you'll kick-start your journey toward a healthier 2020.