Healthy New Year's Resolutions for Seniors

Healthy New Year's Resolutions for Seniors

It’s that time of the year again! With the holidays upon us, the question will inevitably be asked, “Have you made any New Year's resolutions?” Try not to let the idea of committing to unrealistic objectives stress you out - most people give up their resolutions shortly after the new year. Instead, consider setting more practical and attainable goals you can work toward.

If you are an older adult, you’ve probably seen your fair share of resolutions gone wrong. If you have recently started a new chapter in your life, like retirement or a move, this new year may be the perfect opportunity to make some plans for the future that focus on your own health and wellness.

Use your list of resolutions to focus on setting health and wellness goals, but make sure you throw some fun in the mix, too. Improving your physical and mental fitness doesn’t have to mean joining a gym or boot camp, although those are great options if they appeal to you. Choose several smaller goals for the new year, and keep in mind that even small changes will improve your health. Even if you can’t stick to all of them, you will take small steps in creating a healthier lifestyle and may check some exciting things off your list along the way.

For many people, having to be accountable to someone gets us moving when we’d rather sit on the couch. This isn’t the case for everyone, but having a friend or family member join you in your resolutions could help you reach your goals and make your activities more enjoyable. If you already belong to a senior fitness group or local senior community center, you may find more than one like-minded friend who will join you as you set wellness goals for the new year.

Seven Attainable Goals

You don’t have to commit to running a marathon in order to feel like you accomplished something great. Try setting some of the following physical fitness goals for the new year. If you are eligible for Medicare and haven’t had your annual wellness exam, please schedule your visit to discuss your new fitness plans with your physician before embarking on any new routines or activities. Once you get the green light form your physician, make a list of some reasonable goals you can reach.

Consider some of these ideas to help you create a list of resolutions you can feel good about:

  1. Walk 15-30 minutes per day, 5 days per week. This is a great introduction to moving if you aren’t very active. A brisk walk is easy to accomplish at home or during your lunch hour. Grab a friend or your dog, and enjoy some time outside. During the winter or inclement weather, pick an indoor location, like a mall or museum, where you can continue your routine.
  2. Commit to drinking more water. It’s generally recommended that we all drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, so set your goal and do your best to stick with it. Hydration is more important as we age when our body water content decreases. Medications can also result in dehydration, so plan on drinking 8 ounces with each medication you take. Try filling a large water bottle at the beginning of a day that can stay cold and travel with you as you go to work, run errands, or exercise.
  3. Devote some time weekly (or monthly) to volunteering. Volunteerism can have positive affects on physical and mental health. Volunteering has been shown to lower blood pressure and improve heart health, and can also lower your risk of mental illness, including depression and anxiety. Choose days and times that work for you and choose organizations that offer the types of volunteer opportunities you will enjoy. You can choose activities that will promote physical health, like coaching a recreational after-school team for kids, or mental health, like tutoring or reading at a local library.
  4. Reignite an old friendship. Its easy to lose track of friends (and even some distant family members) when we are focused on career and raising a family. Seniors may be in a unique position to reignite old friendships due to retirement or an opportunity to travel. Social media certainly makes it easier to connect online, but why not make an effort to see one friend you haven’t seen in a while per month? It will give you something to look forward to. Seniors are sometimes more vulnerable to feeling isolated and lonely, so a scheduled lunch or coffee date could contribute to your mental wellness.
  5. Choose a brain-training exercise each week. Put your brain to work each week to help maintain your cognitive abilities and improve memory. Make it fun – choose a crossword puzzle one week and Soduku the next. Organize a game night with friends to play Scrabble or a board game full of strategy for multiple players.
  6. Commit to one less dessert per week. The people who resolve to cut sugar entirely out of their diet or give up desserts altogether usually don’t last very long. Instead, try taking baby steps. If your routine includes a sweet treat after lunch or dinner, skip one day a week. You may start to notice that you are more alert and have more energy that day, and you will likely feel encouraged to go for 2 days or more!
  7. Read one book. Even though you may be over 65, you may be more active than ever. You may still work full-time, volunteer regularly, or have hobbies and activities that take up your time. Reading a single book doesn’t seem like much of a New Years resolution, but it’s easy to cross off your list and may actually inspire you to continue reading more throughout the year. Seniors may enjoy an array of benefits from reading, including stress reduction, improved analytical skills, and increased mental stimulation. 

Think Outside the Box for Senior Fitness Resolutions

Now that we’ve concluded that resolutions are indeed attainable, let’s create a list of some fun wellness adventures you can add to your list. These might require a little more planning, but might be exciting to accomplish and may inspire you to come up with some ideas of your own:

  1. Learn a language and visit a country that speaks it. Have you dreamt of learning Italian and traveling to Tuscany for some wine and pasta? Invest in an online or audible language course or take a class at a local community college. Start making plans for your trip so that you have incentive to continue your education.
  1. Hike somewhere new. A hike at a local state park that you just haven’t gotten around tocan be fun, but you can certainly go as far as you’d like. Take a road trip to a national park and hike to a waterfall or special monument. Research ahead of time and find a hike that meets your abilities and interests, and grab a family member or friend to join you on the adventure. Make sure you take lots of water with you to stay hydrated along the way.
  1. Pick an exotic location and a special activity. While visiting New Zealand to bunjee jump or running with the bulls in Spain may be considered too risky, there are places around the globe that offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences that seniors with any range of fitness level can enjoy. Depending on your fitness and health, you might choose to travel to Australia to climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge or to Paris to climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Discuss any plans with your physician to make sure you are healthy enough to enjoy your excursion safely.

Choose one extravagant resolution – if you don’t cross it off your list of resolutions next year, there’s always another year and another list. Get inspired and be proud of yourself for the small achievements, too. Resolutions are intended to make your life healthier and happier – so enjoy the process.

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