There’s never a bad time in your life to get more serious about taking care of your health. But between bone density loss and other health issues, fitness is arguably even more important as you age. Just ask today’s seniors.
The aging population is reportedly catching a strong case of the fitness bug, so much so that Men’s Health named group fitness programs for older adults one of the top fitness trends of the year. Although some seniors are turning to cardio and weight training to tap into the proverbial Fountain of Youth, studies show that others are turning to vitamins—in record numbers.
Here’s the latest on America’s aging Baby Boomers, and the impact that exercise and vitamins are having on their “golden years.”
Exercise and the aging population
The Baby Boomers are all grown up, and they’re driving a significant uptick in America’s senior population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 35 million people over age 65 in the U.S. in 2000. Less than two decades later, that number has skyrocketed to 49.2 million.
Aging comes with inherent health issues. Two of these, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, appear to be on the rise, leading media to warn of a “silver tsunami” coming to states with large retiree populations. The National Institute of Aging’s latest report shows that the country is home to 5.3 million people dealing with Alzheimer’s disease. That number is expected to reach a dizzying 16 million by 2050.
But it’s not all doom and gloom ahead. Evidence shows that exercise could play a key role in warding off dementia in aging populations. According to a recent study, women with high cardio fitness were—get this—significantly less likely to develop dementia as they got older. And if they did develop it, it was on average 11 years later than those who only had moderate cardio fitness.
Aside from exercise, today’s seniors are looking for other ways to be healthy. Enter vitamins.
The senior vitamin study
The vitamin and supplement industry has been booming, but research hints that seniors might be driving a significant amount of that growth. According to a just-released 2017 Journal of Nutrition Study, 68% of Americans over age 65 are taking vitamins, and 29% are taking four or more supplements. Across all age groups, 1 in 2 American adults take vitamins.
As with any health and wellness choice, it’s crucial to do research and choose the vitamins (and supplement brands) with the most research to back them. In the case of vitamins, some have been shown to have a negative effect rather than a positive one. Some studies, for instance, concluded that high doses of vitamin E could put you at greater risk for heart failure. At the same time, a number of smaller studies have shown positive results for particular vitamins. If your doctor has advised you to take certain vitamins or supplements, that’s good advice to follow, at any age.
The Most Important Supplement for Seniors
The senior vitamin study raises an important question: which supplements are most important for us as we age? Because most of your vitamins come from eating a healthy diet, and many people have difficulty keeping track of multiple vitamins, it’s important to focus on the ones that make the biggest impact. Calcium and Vitamin D should be at the top of every senior’s supplement list.
- Calcium: As you age, your body naturally loses calcium every day. However, you can’t produce it on your own, which makes it crucial to ensure you’re meeting your recommended calcium requirements through food and/or supplements. This essential mineral can help seniors offset the bone mass loss that comes with age. In addition to its bone benefits, calcium also helps ensure our muscles contract properly.
- Vitamin D: Because Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium, you should take both supplements to experience the full bone benefits. For seniors who work out regularly, Vitamin D can also help boost muscle strength by activating the receptors on your muscle fibers.
With seniors embracing a healthy lifestyle in record numbers, it’s no surprise that a whole new class of supplements and fitness programs are geared specifically toward helping those 65 and older meet their body’s evolving needs. And while it’s always important to consult with your doctor before embracing diet or lifestyle changes, one thing is for sure: surrounding ourselves with other people, especially those who have healthy lifestyles, has been shown to reduce the risk of death.