As we age, our energy declines naturally. Cell alternations reduce muscle mass, and hormonal changes also cause activities to become more tiring. While slowing down is normal, intense and persistent fatigue is not. Fortunately, scientists have long studied how to help people over 50 maintain their energy levels. Understanding how to alter your sleep habits and eating schedule can make all the difference. Wanting more vitality demonstrates an appreciation for your life and health, so check out these easy science-backed tips to transform your body and mind.
Rule Out All Medical Options First
Although energy naturally lowers with age, unusual fatigue can result from a larger medical problem. Many illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and sleep apnea contribute to low energy. Certain medications can make you feel fatigued as well–blood pressure medications and diuretics, for example.
Talk to your doctor if you experience unusual fatigue, or if your energy sinks after starting a new medication. None of these other tips will work if you’re experiencing a health complication that’s impacting your strength.
Have Your Hormones Checked
As we grow older, hormones such as testosterone and progesterone decline, and other hormone sensors become less sensitive. These drops can result in insomnia, weight gain and decreased muscle mass, all leading to low energy.
Your hormonal changes will vary based on gender, age, and genetic makeup, so you don’t want to assume that your symptoms will mirror another person’s. Rush University endocrinologist Raquel Carneiro, MD, recommends getting your hormones checked as soon as possible. Your doctor can recommend any supplements or blood tests needed to combat the tiredness, and prevent thyroid disease.
Stay Active, Even For Just A Little Bit
You don’t have to resort to heavy weight lifting to strengthen your muscles and boost your energy. According to the National Institute on Aging, working out moderately for 30 minutes most days a week creates a noticeable difference. If you want to start slow, you can begin with ten-minute exercises and go up from there.
Your regular exercise doesn’t have to happen at the gym, either. You can fulfill your active time through gardening, biking, walking, or playing with kids. Having fun during your activity will make the time fly by faster.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing found that stretching exercises such as practiced in yoga, improve aerobic fitness and clear-mindedness in older people. No matter how old you are, you can always improve your strength and flexibility. Researchers at the University of Oregon taught classes to people ages 65-85, and all reported feeling more energetic afterward.
Despite some rumors that yoga can harm you in the long run, esteemed medical scientists agree that no long-term adverse effects have ever been observed. Performing yoga stretches only encourages more vitality and confidence.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your energy levels plummet during the day. And according to Harvard physician Julie K. Silver, our risk of insomnia increases with age even if we weren’t insomniac before. To boost your energy during the day, you’ll want to focus on getting as much sleep as possible.
Silver advises against napping, as it makes you more awake at night. Instead, she recommends lightening up your daytime schedule and hitting the sheets at the same time every night. Keeping a consistent schedule will improve both your sleep quality and quantity.
Being A Morning Or Night Person Matters
Instead of fighting against your body clock, sleep scientists support going along with it. Everyone has an individual circadian rhythm, an internal system designed to regulate sleepiness and wakefulness in 24 hours. In other words, the circadian rhythm is your body clock that determines whether you’re a morning or night person.
The National Sleep Foundation suggests going for a morning walk or turning on bright lights when you wake up, as sleeping too long or staying in the dark can mess with your body clock. On the flip-side, limit artificial bright lights when you’re trying to sleep.
Losing A Few Pounds Will Increase Your Energy
Even minor weight loss can provide significant vigor, report doctors at Johns Hopkins University. While weight becomes harder to lose the older we get, small steps can drop the couple pounds we need. Weight loss experts recommend shrinking portion sizes and eating balanced meals, along with exercise.
Before beginning a new diet, always talk to your doctor, especially if you have preexisting heart conditions. Your doctor may even recommend a physician or physical therapist to help you. To prevent exhaustion, choose exercises that are easy on the joints.
Everyone knows that dehydration saps one’s energy. Dan Judelson, an assistant professor of kinesiology at California State University at Fullerton, argues that even doing chores can cause fatigue from dehydration. Ensure that you’re drinking plenty of water on the daily to remain energized.
To tell if you’re drinking enough water, Judelson says, “Urine should be pale yellow or straw colored. If it’s darker than that, you need to drink water.” Dehydration knocks down our alertness and attentiveness, so drink plenty of water to keep yourself invigorated.
Eat Smaller Meals More Often
Waiting too long in between meals can lower your blood sugar levels, which makes you crash. To steady your energy, you may want to eat smaller meals more frequently. As long you portion control your meals, you won’t gain weight, and you’ll stabilize your blood sugar.
Eating complex carbohydrates makes you feel fuller and more energized for longer. Whole grains, beans, peas, nuts, and vegetables all contain complex carbohydrates needed for more vigor. Nutritionists also recommend eating red meat in moderation, since it takes longer to digest, which consumes energy.
Embrace Whole Foods As Often As Possible
“Packaged, processed foods tend to make you feel sluggish and heavy,” states Alicia Arbaje, M.D., M.P.H., a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Medicine. Most doctors recommend eating whole, unprocessed foods as often as you can. These renew your stamina with vitamins and antioxidants that your body needs.
Healthy whole foods recommended to people over 50 include beans, oatmeal, eggs, fish, berries, and leafy greens. Animal products should be eaten in moderation, as the digestion process takes up more of your energy. At the same time, though, animal products contain plenty of B12, which heightens your energy levels.
Fish For More Omega-3’s
Several studies link consuming omega-3 to having lower risk of mental decline and Alzheimer’s. Omega-3 fatty acids also reduce blood pressure, relieve inflammation, and improve clarity. To top it all off, they even improve joint health and sleep.
Researchers at the University of Siena, Italy, discovered that taking omega-3 capsules for just 21 days made volunteers have faster reaction times and feel more vigorous. To stay on top of your omega-3’s, doctors recommend taking supplements or eating fish a couple of times a week.
Keep Tabs On Your Vitamin D
As we age, our skin doesn’t convert sunlight to vitamin D as well as it used to. Vitamin D produces calcium with contributes to bone health, energy and mood. Medical News Today estimates that five to ten minutes of sunlight exposure two to three times a week can produce enough vitamin D, but this may not be enough for those older than 50.
You can learn whether you’re vitamin D deficient through a simple blood test. If your doctor recommends it, you can take supplements to help your energy and mood.
Strategize Your Coffee Consumption
Caffeine makes you more alert, which can help during your weaker points of the day. But caffeine can also induce insomnia if you drink too much after 2 pm, and contribute to stress and anxiety. To reap the benefits of caffeine, you’ll have to use it judiciously.
The National Sleep Foundation reports that most people feel tired between 1 pm and 3 pm, during a post-lunch afternoon crash. You may want to save your coffee break for 1 pm or drink something with less caffeine at this time, such as black tea. Avoid drinking caffeine too late or too often.
Strategize Your Wine Breaks Too
In a study conducted at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, scientists found that 20% of Americans use alcohol to fall asleep. However, the research shows that liquor disrupts our sleep more than it enhances it. Although alcohol sedates us, it also suppresses melatonin, a key facilitator in sleep.
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., recommends drinking only two to three days a week and keeping the drinks under three glasses (for wine and beer). Drinking midday or at five o’clock happy hour can cause us to feel sleepy earlier, disrupting our sleep cycle, so pick a time when you won’t mind feeling tired afterward.
Keep Calm And Carry On
Although most people don’t think much about feelings, stress-induced emotions actually consume vast amounts of energy, according to Harvard Medical School. The more stressed you feel, the less strength you’ll have to perform daily tasks.
If you’re stressed, you may want to consider lightening your work week or carving out more time for yourself. Meditation, running, and other relaxation therapies can effectively reduce stress. Talk to a therapist if you need help managing stress, anxiety or depression.
Go Out And Be Social
Meeting some friends for coffee not only brightens your mood, but it’s also crucial for brain health. A 2017 AARP survey found that those over 40 with denser social networks have significantly higher alertness and motivation than those who stay isolated. In short, socializing maintains both your energy and memory.
If you struggle to meet with those around you, make sure to see a therapist. Treating feelings of depression will lighten your mind, granting you more energy for social outings and activities.
Exercise Your Mind
As we age, changes in memory and mental functioning keep our brains less active, which reduces our stamina. This is according to Susan Lehmann, director of the Division of Geriatric Psychiatry and Neuropsychiatry at John Hopkins University School of Medicine. To boost our energy then, we also need to keep our mind active.
“Keeping the mind active and engaged is good for brain health, and studies show the importance,” Dr. Lehmann says. Reading, doing puzzles, and socializing with friends or family keeps your mind alert and increases your vigor.
Switch to Fragrance-Free
Many perfumes, scented lotions, and colognes contain phthalates, which lower testosterone. A 2012 study recorded in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that exposure to phthalates reduces testosterone levels significantly in men and women ages 40-60. Low testosterone impacts energy levels, especially for those with already low hormones.
To avoid phthalates, use fragrance-free care products, and ditch the cologne and aftershave. You may want to avoid plastic containers and plastic wrap since many plastic products contain phthalates as well.
Get Allergy Tested
Allergies develop and disappear throughout our lifetime. The medical director of Allergy & Asthma Care at the New York University School of Medicine, Clifford W. Bassett, confirms that even people in their fifties and eighties come into his office with new allergies.
Scientists still aren’t sure why allergies change throughout our life, but if you’re suffering through fatigue, you may want to consider getting allergy tested. New York physician Dr. Vincent M. Pedre says that “Most people have no idea they have these sensitivities, and they get used to feeling down.” You may not even realize you have an allergy.
Avoid Eating When Tired
When we feel tired, we’ll sometimes grab a snack in hopes of restoring that energy. Studies show, however, that eating those extra calories gives us a false high. Especially caffeinated snacks like energy drinks, which create a short energy burst, followed by a crash.
“One big mistake I find that people make when it comes to energy levels is trying to fix low energy with food–especially when you’re not hungry,” says Melinda Johnson, national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. To combat the temptation, Johnson recommends eating a substantial breakfast and drinking plenty of water throughout the day.