Food, fitness and health: how to be at your best in your 60s and beyond


Over 60? This June, we're celebrating Youth Day by encouraging youthfulness through a holistic approach to your wellbeing. Here's your guide to managing your diet, exercise and health.

Over the decades, the Italian actress Sophia Loren was celebrated worldwide for her distinctive grace and style. She once mused, "There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap into this source, you will truly have defeated age."

You can also bring creativity into caring for your body, and work to defeat age by prioritising your health and wellness. This is the ticket to enjoying mobility and independence as you get older. We asked some experts for guidelines on how to enjoy your best health in your 60s and beyond, and here's what they had to say.

Don't let vitamin or mineral deficiencies get the better of you

As you age, you're more likely to develop deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D and calcium. "Try as much as you can to meet your nutrient needs through food, but if in doubt, consult a dietitian or doctor who can help you determine if supplementation is right for you," suggests Candice Smith, Head of Vitality's Nutrition Strategy. These are her diet tips:

  • Reduce your cancer risk by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables (these are high in phytochemicals - plant compounds that help protect against cancer) and less processed meats.
  • Immune function decreases with age. Help counter it with zinc-rich foods (like seafood, beans and lentils, and nuts and seeds) and folate-rich foods (like dark green vegetables such as broccoli and spinach, and legumes such as chickpeas, beans and lentils).
  • Older adults often struggle with constipation. Choosing high-fibre foods over refined products can help prevent or relieve it.
  • To counter any loss of taste and smell, flavour foods with a variety of salt-free spices and herbs, lemon juice, or vinegar.
  • Eat oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, and sardines) at least twice a week to reduce your chances of developing heart disease and to slow down cognitive decline. Here's a delicious recipe from the Vitality HealthyFood Studio for Sicilian-style fish balls in tomato sauce.

Focus on regular low-intensity activity, mobility and balance

In the 60s, musculoskeletal problems are common. Regular exercise can reduce the impact of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, diabetes, and certain cancers. It'll also help you to stay independent and give you the confidence to perform daily tasks.

  • Do 4 to 6 sessions a week of exercises like walking, cycling, stair-climbing, hiking or swimming.
  • Use free weights, elastic bands, body weight or machines for strength-training.
  • Daily balance and core strengthening exercises will help reduce the risk of falling, and improve your gait and posture.
  • Stretch regularly to maintain sufficient joint space and flexibility, which can help reduce the wear and tear inside your joints.
  • Exercise is also beneficial for better brain function and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline and dementia.
  • If you're unfamiliar with a specific exercise, or are unsure of suitable exercises for your age, ask a biokineticist or personal trainer for assistance.

"Staying active can add years to your life. A combination of cardio, strength and balance training can help maintain muscle tone and make everyday tasks easier. Plus, with regular exercise, you'll likely have more energy, confidence and cope better with the daily stresses of life," says Mari Leach, a biokineticist at Discovery Vitality.

Keep an eye on your risk profile with preventive screenings

We asked Dr Deepak Patel, Principal Clinical Specialist at Discovery Vitality, how you can keep best an eye on your health status. He suggests the following screenings as some of the preventive measures you can take:

Recommended screening Frequency Top health tip
Pap smear (women only) Once every three years Every year, thousands of older adults suffer serious health problems from diseases they could be vaccinated against, like shingles, flu, and pneumococcal disease. Talk with your doctor about which vaccines are recommended to protect you.

Also ask your doctor about vitamin D supplements for strengthening your bones.

Do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week, as well as 2 to 3 strength training sessions and balance exercises to improve your quality of life and reduce your chances of a fall.
Dental check-up Once a year
HIV test Once a year
Flu vaccination Once a year
Glaucoma screening Once a year
Mammogram (women only) Once every two years
Prostrate exam (men only) Once every four years
Colonoscopy Once every ten years
Vision test Once a year
Pneumococcal vaccination Once a year
Pneumococcal vaccination Shingles vaccination

Have you found out your Vitality Age?

Your Vitality Age is a measure of how healthy you are relative to your actual age.
It measures all aspects of your wellness like exercise, nutrition and stress. Plus, completing the assessment can earn you 2 500 Vitality points!

By finding out your Vitality Age and doing a Vitality Health Check you will increase your cash back on HealthyFood at Pick n Pay or Woolworths and HealthyCare at Clicks or Dis-Chem. Find out today.

Age backwards with Vitality!

If you've already found out your Vitality age and aren't too thrilled with the results, don't worry. There are many ways to lower your Vitality Age and be rewarded in the process.

To get started, why not:

Click here to find more ways to earn points and improve your health, step-by-step.

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