Is 60 the new 50? It could be, but it may depend more on the state of your waistline than your state of mind. A new poll found that while cancer tops today’s boomers’ list of health concerns, it’s actually their weight that’s putting them at a higher risk for less salubrious senior years.
The AP Life Goes Strong Poll found that today’s boomers are more obese than other generations: Roughly a third of those polled reported weights that qualified as obese (compared to a quarter of older and younger responders), with an additional 36% being overweight.
The good news is that by focusing on a few key habits, boomers (actually, all of us) can reap significant health benefits, starting right now.
Exercise. While most boomers say they get some exercise, it often falls short of the 2.5 hours of moderate weekly exercise that’s recommended to maintain health and fitness levels. How do you stack up? If walking briskly for 30 minutes every day is beyond your comfort zone or available time, try walking 10 minutes, two or three times a day. Add in some strength training every week if you can to help preserve lean muscle tissue as you reach your senior years. This one change will pay off handsomely, both today and as you age, in terms of improved strength, balance and coordination (check with your physician first before starting any new physical activity program).
Make half your meals and snacks fruits and vegetables. Packing half (yes, half!) of your plate with an array of colorful fruits and vegetables is an easy but powerful way to be sure you’re getting nature’s most potent building blocks for optimal health while keeping calories down (indeed, it’s one of the things I like best about the new USDA "My Plate" guidelines). The bonus? This strategy will also help you fight against the number-one concern for boomers: cancer. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is strongly linked to a reduced risk for a variety of cancers.
Skip the soda. Numerous studies have found an association between soda consumption and higher weights, and Dr. Oz and I have done segments together where we focus on curbing liquid calories. A new study published last month in the New England Journal of Medicine provides further evidence that sidestepping soda is one of the most powerful changes you can make for your waistline. Soda was one of four culprits (along with potato chips, processed meats and unprocessed red meats) cited as specific dietary factors associated with long-term weight gain. To enjoy the bubbles without the downside, swap for sparkling water instead; add a squirt of freshly squeezed lemon or lime for added taste and vitamin C.
Sail into your boomer years at the healthiest weight you can be. It will not only enable you to live out your vision for this phase of your life to its maximum potential, it will also set a stellar example of self care for your children and grandchildren that will last them a lifetime.