When it comes to smoking, drinking and a lack of exercise, many women that I know have a fatalistic perspective. If you are in your 60s or 70s, it’s easy to convince yourself that “the damage has already been done.” But, is this really true? As it turns out, no, it isn’t – not in the slightest! Researchers are increasingly showing that it’s never too late to get benefits from abandoning a bad habit. For example, recent studies have found that people can add years to their life by quitting smoking, even in their 60s.
Other than apathy, another challenge that we older women face is that we tend to get stuck in our routines. After six decades on this planet, our habits have become second nature. As a result, we may not even notice what we are doing to our own bodies until too late. My personal weakness is exercise. I know that I should move more, but, I’m so used to staring at my computer that it takes a serious effort of will to go to the gym.
What bad habits have you developed over the years? If you have a piece of paper handy, take a few seconds to write down the three that are causing you the most harm.
It’s never too late to break a bad habit. The first step is to work on your self-awareness. When you are able to take a step back and look at your life honestly, you will probably see several things that you want to change. The next step is to create a proactive plan to get rid of your bad habits and replace them with healthy activities.
Here are a few habits that women in the Sixty and Me community have told me that they struggle with, along with some suggestions on how to deal with them.
Many of us spend too much time inside, by ourselves. At first glance, this might seem to be more of a happiness issue than a health issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Having good friends is essential to staying healthy at any age.
According to this article on WebMD, several studies have found that people with active social networks tend to live longer than less social people. In addition, being social helps you to recover from serious illnesses faster.
Everyone is busy, but, one of the last things that we should deprioritize is friendship. Our friends are powerful multipliers for everything good in our lives – they make us happier, help us to stay healthy and cheer us on as we pursue our passions.
This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. In fact, I consider the topic of loneliness to be so important that I started an initiative called Boomerly to help Baby Boomers meet like-minded people.
It’s easy enough to tell someone to “just get out there” if they are feeling lonely. But, as anyone who has been closed off from the world for a while knows, this is easier said than done. So, start with yourself. Get in shape, drink water and make a list of hobbies (outside of the house!) that you want to pursue. They, when you are ready, check out the following articles for specific tips on how to make friends and avoid loneliness after 60:
How to Find Friends and Fight Loneliness After 60
How to Deal with Loneliness in Retirement – Interview with Dr. Dale Atkins
You are Not Alone! 6 Ways to Deal with Loneliness and Depression After 60
Many women like to have a glass of wine with dinner. There’s nothing wrong with this. In fact, some studies claim that a moderate amount of red wine may actually help to prevent heart disease. But, if your alcohol consumption has slipped past “moderate,” it’s probably time to make a change.
While there may be some health benefits to drinking in moderation, don’t forget that the risk factors associated with alcohol also increase as we get a little older. If you’re not sure whether you’re drinking too much, the best bet is to check with your doctor. He or she can help to assess your situation, based on your other risk factors and lifestyle.
As with so many things in life, knowledge is power. With so many things going on, it’s easy to lose track of how much we actually drink. So, the first step to getting control of your drinking is to start keeping track. Write down every alcoholic beverage that you drink for 1 weeks, including during the day.
Then, begin the process of reducing your alcohol consumption slowly. For example, let’s say that you typically drink 2 glasses of wine with dinner every night. Try limiting yourself to 1 glass on Sunday. Then, choose another day each week to do the same thing. Within 7 weeks, you will be down to a more reasonable 1 drink a day and I promise you that your body will thank you!
If you feel that your drinking is beyond your control, or you have a more serious problem, consider joining an organization like Alcoholics Anonymous. They have been helping people to deal with their drinking challenges for years and they know what they are doing.
If I could give you one piece of advice to help you look better, feel healthier and be happier after 60 it would be this – move more! Once again, one of the challenges that we face as we get a little older is that we have years of established patterns to address. Maybe you spend a little too much time in front of the TV. Or, perhaps, like me, your computer time is taking over the rest of your life.
Don’t take this issue sitting down (pun intended!) According to a new research study from the Harvard School of Public Health, older women spend about 66% of their waking time sitting. That’s the equivalent of 9.7 hours a day not moving.
The good news is that getting healthy is a part of a virtuous cycle. The more we move, the better we feel. The better we feel, the more we want to move. So, don’t wait. Take action today to build more movement into your life.
The bad news is that our lack of movement is a big social issue. The good news is that companies and organizations have started to realize this and are providing a number of services and products to help us get in shape.
One of my personal favorite options is the Jawbone, a pedometer that helps you to track how much you are walking every day. The device also reminds you when you have been sitting still for too long. It sounds simple, but, I’ve been amazed by how much better I feel just by getting up and stretching every hour or so. Or, if you don’t want to spend money on a new device, you could always use an egg timer or your phone alarm as a substitute.
Another technique that I use regularly is the “one minute rule.” This involved making a small commitment to a new task and then increasing your commitment over time. For example, you could go for a 1-minute walk today and then increase your time by 1 minute per day, until, 2 months later, you are walking for an hour a day. Find out more about how to accomplish anything in one minute a day.
One final recommendation is to look for small opportunities every day to move more. If you live on the second floor, why not use the stairs (at least on the way down!) If you still go to the office, could you park your car a few blocks away or ride your bike? Or, why not find 20 minutes a day to do gentle yoga?
Whatever you do, get moving! The more you make exercise a part of your daily routine, the more active your life will become in every other sense.
Many women over 60 jump from one diet to the next without making the progress they deserve. The reason? Most diets simply don’t work. Even if you manage to lose weight, you will always be at risk of gaining it back as you return to a more typical routine. This is the yo-yo effect that many dieters feel and, in many ways, it is worse than never losing the weight in the first place.
When I talk to the women in the Sixty and Me community that have lost weight, and, more importantly, kept it off, they give me three pieces of advice.
First, when it comes to weight loss, the most successful women don’t diet. Instead, they develop a healthy respect for food. They treat eating as an experience. Many of them learn how to cook. Others build new traditions, like walking to their local farmer’s market to buy food. Over time, they find themselves eating more vegetables and fewer donuts, but, that’s not because they are “dieting.” It’s because they have learned to see food as more than fuel.
Second, the women in our community that have lost weight don’t believe in willpower. They remove temptation before it is staring them in the face. For example, rather than using discipline to limit their portion sizes, they simply hide all of the big plates in their house. Simple. If you are looking for more inspiration, please read this article on 8 things that you should get rid of if you want to lose weight. You can also check out this article with 6 tips to help you lose weight after 60.
Finally, they focus more on movement than on dieting. As I mentioned in the previous section, one of the best things that you can do to improve your health after 60 is move more. Not only is this a good way to increase your longevity, but, it may help you to improve your waistline too!
Bad habits don’t necessarily cause stress, but, they certainly make it worse. When you’re feeling stressed, your body releases “fight of flight” chemicals, which, in the long run can make you sick. To your body, it feels like you’re being chased by a giant bear, 24-hours a day.
Like so many emotional issues, one of the hardest things about stress is that it sits just below the surface of our awareness. We know that it’s there, but, we can’t always put our finger on what’s causing it. If we’re asked, we’ll probably give an answer like “money” or “an illness.” But, more often than not, this is only scratching the surface.
Your plan to deal with stress should have two parts. First, you need to find a way to identify and, hopefully, eliminate the causes of stress in your life. Second, you should develop healthy coping mechanisms.
The first step to dealing with stress after 60 is to identify what is bothering you. Don’t settle for surface level answers, like “money.” Go a little deeper. Sit down with a pen and paper, or your laptop, and start a list of all of the things that are stressing you out. For each of them, ask the following questions:
“What is the main cause of this source of stress?”
“What other smaller factors may be making it worse?”
“What is the worst thing that could happen related to this stress?”
“What is one thing, no matter how small, that I could do today to reduce this stress?”
In addition to dealing with the specific stresses in your life, there are plenty of stress-reducing activities that you can adopt. For example, you could consider practicing gentle yoga or meditation. Or, you could join a local gym. The healthier you are able to make your body; the better able you will be to bounce back from the inevitable stresses that enter your life.
Many women over 60 have trouble sleeping. This is partially due to the changes that occur in our natural sleep rhythms as we age. But, talking to the other women in our community, I suspect that stress, worry and a lack of physical fitness are also contributing factors. Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to so many aspects of life after 60. Good sleep keeps our brains healthy and helps us to maintain the energy that we need to pursue our passions.
There are plenty of things that you can do to improve the quality of your sleep. For example, many women tell me that progressive muscle relaxation (tensing and releasing muscles) works wonders. Others say that aromatherapy, yoga or meditation help them to sleep. For more tips on how to get better sleep, please read this article.
Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you. So, why are so many women over 60 still doing it? For starters, smoking can be a tough habit to break. In addition, as I mentioned earlier, I suspect that many women simply believe that “the damage has been done.”
Setting aside the health benefits of quitting, there are also financial benefits to consider. According to smokefree.org, if you live in the United States and smoke one pack a day, you will spend about $5,000 a year on cigarettes! Just think what you could do with this money.
Quitting smoking is tough, but, there are also more ways than ever to give it the boot. Many women in the community told me that reducing their daily intake helped them to get the confidence to quit smoking entirely.
Most countries also have free smoking cessation programs. For example, if you live in the U.S. you can take a look at Smokefree.gov. In the UK, the NHS Smokefree program can help. In Australia, Quitline is a great place to start.
Whatever you do, don’t give up. Sometimes it takes several attempts to quit smoking, but, it really is worth it in the end.
It might seem somewhat frivolous to throw “having a sweet tooth” in with smoking and drinking, but, the truth is that sugar is a silent killer.
Eating too much sugar can put you at risk for diabetes, obesity and other health problems. In addition, it can damage our skin, which is an issue of particular concern to the women in our community. When sugar enters your bloodstream, it is converted into glucose, where it searches out and attaches to skin proteins. This, in term, leads to sagging, wrinkled skin. All of you know that I’m not a big fan of “anti-aging” products, but, I don’t want to help nature to do her work either!
As with so many of the bad habits that we have discussed in this article, the best place to start is by tracking your consumption. Do you really know how much sugar you are consuming every day? Don’t forget to count your fruit juice! What about bread and cereal?
Once you have a better understanding of how much sugar you are consuming, you can start to look for healthier solutions. For example, why not switch to dark chocolate, with over 70% cacao? Instead of fruit juice, why not consider berry juice, which typically has less sugar? You don’t always need to make big lifestyle changes to see be improvements in the quality of your life. This is absolutely true when it comes to sugar.
Life after 60 can be everything that we want it to be – but, only if we choose the right habits. Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. If more than one of the bad habits in this article resonated with you, pick one to start with. Keep in mind that small changes, applied consistently are more powerful than bursts of activity. So, find one small thing that you can do today to improve the quality of your life. What will you choose? Write it down and take action. Your healthier, happier life is waiting!
Which of the habits in this article do you want to work on? What one step are you going to take today to live a happier and healthier life after 60? Have you already beaten one of these habits? How did you do it and what did you learn? Please let us know in the comments and don’t forget to like and share this article if you found it useful.
Tags Healthy Aging