• BREAKING NEWS ABC shows live and on-demand -- Download the WATCH ABC app!

Eating well, exercising lead to improved quality of life as we age

October 10, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Most of us realize that if we eat well and move more we'll have a better quality of life as we age. But to what extent? And is it ever too late to start making those changes? New evidence reveals just how important these factors are to aging well.

Are you ever too old to start working out?

"For many older people, particularly older women, there was never any idea that this is something that they would ever consider to do," said William Evans, Duke University professor of geriatric medicine.

Evans is talking about big changes many seniors experience when they begin to strength-train.

"We've been able to take people as old as a hundred and triple their strength," said Evans. "A 95-year-old person as strong as a 60-year-old person or younger."

Seniors need strength to perform simple tasks like gardening and making meals; something we often take for granted. Yet keeping muscle intact affects so many things: metabolic rate, body fat, blood pressure, bone density, body temperature, even cognitive function.

"The single most important thing that you can do to prevent Alzheimer's disease is to become physically active," said Evans.

He suggests you exercise two to three days a week for about 50 minutes. Exercising with others is also helpful.

"Depression is greatly reduced," said Evans.

Evans is the author of "Biomarkers: The 10 keys to Prolonging Vitality." He cites studies that found aerobic exercise and strength-training reduced age-related conditions.

Evans used stretch bands that come in many tensions and offer variable resistance.

"We have them lift a fairly heavy weight, it's about 80 percent of their maximal lifting capacity," said Evans.

Nutrition is equally as important. As we age our caloric needs decrease but our appetite might not.

"Fatness is a pretty powerful predictor of disability," said Evans.

So here's a simple equation to remember: Fewer calories plus less fat -- actually less saturated fat. That is the key to aging well.

We also want to go with a higher-quality protein. Older people need more protein in their diet than younger people do. That also goes for complex carbohydrates in things like brown rice, 100-percent whole-grain baked goods, and of course whole-grain pasta. And don't forget along with that, we want colorful produce.


Load Comments