Senior health and fitness.

You may be able to live a longer and healthier life by adopting certain lifestyle changes as you age.

by Nashville General Hospital
Active seniors, group shot

How you age is controlled by your genetics and lifestyle choices. You have little control over your genetics. But small lifestyle changes, which you can control, can boost your health as you get older.

By taking care of your physical and mental health, and creating a self-care plan, you can support a healthier life as you age. 

Physical Health

Support your physical health by staying active, eating well and sleeping well. 

  • Physical activity, of any kind, can help you manage your weight and maintain muscle function. Strong muscles give older adults the strength they need to enjoy day-to-day activities, remain flexible and avoid falls. Some ways to stay active include yoga, a brisk walk, gardening and biking.
  • Eating well gives your body the nutrients it needs to help you stay healthy and prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Your diet should include water along with a wide variety of foods that are high in nutrition and low in fat and sodium. This includes fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like chicken, turkey and fish, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. As we age, our body requires fewer calories, so consider reducing portion size, too.
  • Sleep gives your body time to rest and rejuvenate. Older adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. Consistently getting a good night’s sleep can lower your chances of infections and serious illness. 

Mental Health

Your mental health includes your feelings, thoughts and the way you relate to others. Ways to care for your mental health include:

  • Do at least one thing you enjoy every day.
  • Embrace positive thinking.
  • Find ways to relax with yoga, nature, meditation or in other ways that help you eliminate negative thinking.
  • Build relationships with others by spending time with family, friends or others in your community.
  • Get enough sleep to help clear your mind.
  • Move your body, which can help you lower stress and sleep better.

Self-Care Plan

As you age, it is important to maintain a relationship with your doctor. Equally important is self-care, which is how you take care of yourself between doctor visits. Taking care of your health can lower your chances for chronic conditions, hospital stays and unnecessary medical expenses.

  • S – Self-awareness. Know yourself and pay attention to your health. Keep track of changes in your body, conditions and symptoms.
  • E – Emotional well-being. Focus on the things that bring you happiness and joy. Avoid things that are negative and cause stress. If you struggle with your mental health, talk with your doctor or a mental health counselor.
  • L – Lifestyle changes. Make small changes to your daily habits. Increase physical activity and eat a healthier diet. Reduce alcohol consumption and stop tobacco use.
  • F – Future risk management. Learn your family health history and find out about possible risk factors that can raise your chances of developing certain chronic conditions.
  • C – Contributing factors. Identify things in your life that prevent you from making healthier choices, such as habits, routines and cultural influences.
  • A – Attributes and skills to defend yourself. Create a health diary and record your successes. Reflect on your personal skills and strengths to help maintain and stick to your self-care and treatment plans.
  • R – Resource management. Talk with your doctor about other resources available to you to help with your self-care plan. For example, a physical therapist can help with pain and a dietitian can help with meal planning.
  • E – Empowerment. Empowerment comes from knowledge. Use your knowledge of how to live healthier to help you engage in managing your health. 

Nashville Public Television, in cooperation with the Nashville General Hospital Foundation, produced a video showing how to create a self-care plan. Watch the 8 Points of Self-Care video.

Additional resources for seniors can be found on the Nashville General Hospital Foundation website. Including Your Guide for Better Choices available in English and Spanish

This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should talk with your primary care physician or other qualified medical professionals regarding diagnosis and treatment of a health condition.