Yes, I’m middle-aged. And you know what, I decided to embrace it. My body is not the same as when I was in my twenties or early thirties. I did extreme workouts, knocked back a few too many mixed drinks and had sleepless nights – with little to no consequences.
Experts in this article
- Bess Berger, RDN, CDNregistered dietitian specializing in PCOS and menopause
- Julie Pace, RDNregistered dietitian nutritionist at Basic Nutrition Health + Wellness
- Kevin Noel, DC, CSCSchiropractor, certified strength and conditioning specialist, owner of LeverEdge Chiropractic
- Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FANDregistered dietitian and menopause specialist
But now that the wrong pillow or a hard sneeze can sometimes make me feel injured, I have to tweak things a bit.
Fortunately for me, with age comes wisdom. I have learned that harder is not better. Here, I share my tips for healthy aging and how I gently and sensibly take care of my body at this point in my life.
Smooth and functional movement
I know I have to stay physically active because of my sedentary life can accelerate aging1 even further. However, this year, I’ve had some soreness issues and needed to be better at preventing injury. Instead of pushing through the discomfort, I tried a new approach with the help of a functional movement specialist.
Focusing on functional movements, i.e. exercises that mimic the way you move in everyday life, such as squats, for example, should not be relegated to injury rehabilitation. “Everyone should be using a functional motion monitor, just like seeing their primary care physician for an annual physical,” says Kevin Noel, DC, CSCS, owner of LeverEdge Chiropractic. “Motion control is the only way we can find less than perfect movement before it eventually becomes a problem or leads to injury.”
Although it is best to see a professional in this area, Dr. Noel says there are movements you should be able to do, without pain:
- Touch your toes
- Squat down and put your butt lower than your knees
- Stand facing away from a mirror and twist/rotate to see your reflection head on
- Move away from lying on the ground, up to your feet, without using your hands
- Stand on one leg, eyes open and closed, for more than 10 seconds
What’s the best exercise for those in their prime (yes, I said it first)? “I’m an advocate of exploring any range of motion, to its fullest extent. So finding a routine or program that encourages movement variety and limits similar or repetitive movements is ideal,” says Dr. Noel.
The way you move matters. He explains, “We must first learn how to move well and skillfully before we move often. Doing it the other way around would be like “shooting a cannonball out of a canoe.” We need to have a strong base of movement before increasing our fitness tolerance.”
Now that I’m moving with proper form, I want to find the balance between going hard and preventing future injuries. Dr. Noel says, “There are right times to ‘push the envelope’ when it comes to exercise, but I ALWAYS tell people that pain is not normal with movement.”
In my twenties, I ate restrictively for a smaller body. Now, I fuel my body with what it needs to age well and navigate menopause. Not to mention it’s a lot more enjoyable Addition things in diet, than Take away (intuitive eating for the win).
Julie Pace, RDN, a registered dietitian specializing in functional nutrition for women, shares which foods are best for supporting hormonal changes that occur with age: “Focus on nutrient-dense, plant-based foods. Balance hormones naturally with edamame, sesame and flaxseeds that are rich in phytoestrogens.’
As you get older, you may notice that your body responds differently to certain foods. This is “very common!”, he says Bess Burger, RDN, CDN, registered dietitian specializing in PCOS and menopause, who adds that you may want to prioritize high-quality carbs. “Relying on sweet potatoes, beans, chickpeas and fruit is becoming increasingly important for health, restful sleep and maintaining energy levels,” he says.
Additionally, bone strength and heart health are essential as you age. Pace recommends foods for this as well. “Boost bone health with calcium-packed dark leafy greens, fortified plant-based milk (such as soy), and tofu with calcium sulfate,” she says. “To support heart health and overall well-being, add colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables and avocados, nuts and seeds, which are rich in heart-healthy fats.
Another thing I focus on is getting enough sleep. My babies are now in double digits and never wake me up at night. The irony is that some nights, my body just won’t let me sleep.
Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND, registered dietitian and menopause specialist, suggests it may be related to hormones, “As we begin the transition to menopause, sleep is key to managing symptoms and feeling our best. Unfortunately, for many women, sleep becomes more difficult as night sweats occur and hormonal fluctuations begin.”
The transition to menopause is connected2 in sleep disorders, most often insomnia. There are things you can do to support a better night’s sleep, however, according to Escobar.
“Two tips I often share with my clients are to get pajamas made of cooling material and to lower the temperature of the room immediately before going to bed. Both are simple but helpful.”
Finally, I am asking for help in the form of a supplement. What has been key for me is an omega-3 supplement. Omega-3 fatty acids are connected3 with better cognitive ability and reduced risk of dementia.
As for other supplements, Berger says, “Many women can benefit from a high-quality vitamin D and calcium supplement. I usually also recommend a high-quality B vitamin.”
Optimum brain function and slower aging equates to a better quality of life for me. I want to see my middle age alive and full. My goal in this beautiful aging journey? To take care of both my mind and body so that I can fully enjoy every moment.
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Raffin, Jérémy et al. “Sedentary behavior and the biological characteristics of aging”. Aging Research Reviews vol. 83 (2023): 101807. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2022.101807
Proserpio, P et al. “Insomnia and menopause: a narrative review of mechanisms and treatments”. Climacteric: the journal of the International Menopause Society vol. 23.6 (2020): 539-549. doi:10.1080/13697137.2020.1799973
Mora, Ignasi et al. “Structured long-chain omega-3 fatty acids to improve cognitive function in aging”. International Journal of Molecular Sciences vol. 23.7 3472. 23 Mar. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijms23073472
Vetter, Valentin Max et al. “Vitamin D supplementation is associated with slower epigenetic aging”. GeroScience vol. 44.3 (2022): 1847-1859. doi:10.1007/s11357-022-00581-9
Wang, Zhibin et al. “B vitamins and prevention of cognitive decline and dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition reviews vol. 80.4 (2022): 931-949. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuab057