The YMCA of the North, a leading nonprofit dedicated to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility, offers community-based healthy aging and chronic disease prevention programs and services that support people in changing their lifestyles, managing stress levels and adopting beneficial fitness and nutrition behaviors for every stage of life.
Demographic changes in the Twin Cities are creating an urgent need to promote healthy living at every age to ensure quality of life. There are several factors that are driving the need to encourage healthy living for local residents: longer life spans, aging baby boomers, rising health care costs, work life balance, busier schedules and a more racially and ethnically diverse population.
“At the Y we are committed to community health and well-being and urge everyone to take steps to make sure they are healthy so they can live longer, healthier lives,” said Jennifer Menk, senior director of fitness at the YMCA. “Healthy aging shouldn’t start at age 60. It should start when people are 20-30 years old with the decisions they are making every day.”
Menk adds that decisions to get the right amount of sleep, take care of stress levels and work out to keep the body moving will help people feel better over many decades.
She recommends ways to promote and preserve health, combat chronic disease, and ultimately reduce individual and community health care costs. Some effective and easy to do preventative actions include:
- Maintain healthy joints by reducing impact – engage in low impact exercise the majority of the time such as swimming, biking, power walking, elliptical training and exercise classes, and add in high impact workouts 1-2 days a week.
- Keep the back strong – participate in yoga, Pilates Mat, Pilates Reformer and core conditioning classes to strengthen the core, create symmetry and stretch muscles in the body. These exercises are key to keeping the back stable while promoting proper posture, alignment and range of motion as people age.
- Maintain healthy bone density – have a diet adequate in calcium and minerals coupled with weight bearing activities that keep bones strong like walking, strength training, dance and step aerobics. These critical activities will reduce the risk of brittle bones and osteoporosis, and injuries from falling.
- Manage stress – lead a life with low stress levels to ease the signs of aging. Yoga and Tai Chi can be beneficial to reduce stress and anxiety levels.
- Get adequate sleep – increase sleep to maintain energy, boost mood and stay youthful over the years.
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet – eat fresh fruits, vegetables and calcium-rich foods. Try new exotic fruits like mangoes, pineapple or kiwi or prepare vegetables in a new way like grilled or steamed.
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