How Can I Get More Energy As A Senior?
If there’s one complaint that older adults have in common, it’s a lack of energy. For instance, the activities that older adults had energy for a few years ago may now cause them to run out of steam.
Older adults experience tiredness and fatigue primarily due to normal changes in the body. For one, aging decreases muscle mass and strength, leaving the body tired and weak. On top of that, the heart does not beat as fast as it once did, which means a decrease in the flow of blood that provides energy to the cells.
Aging, however, is not the only reason why seniors experience fatigue. There are other factors that contribute to reduced energy levels, including:
- Medical treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation, or recovering from a major surgery
- Chronic health conditions, such as heart disease, kidney disease, or liver disease
- Untreated pain that comes from rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other health conditions
- Sleep disorders
Side effects from medications, including high blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, and antihistamines, can also impact a person’s energy level.
Dr. Alicia Arbaje, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Medicine, recommends that patients review all of their medications every three to six months and then ask their primary care doctor: “Do I still need this? Can I lower the dose? Are there alternatives?”
Prolonged emotional stress over worries about health or the need for personal care—and even concerns about the future—can zap the energy of older adults, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA). Besides that, the NIA reports that a lack of energy can also be associated with other emotional conditions, such as:
- Stress from financial problems
- Feeling that you no longer have control over your life
A decrease in energy, however, does not mean seniors can no longer be active. There are ways older adults can boost their energy levels and remain active as they age.
If you are an older adult, here are five steps that you can take to begin feeling more energized:
1. Maintain a well-balanced diet
Starting the day off with breakfast is important to increase energy levels and mental alertness. Also, eating a variety of healthy foods throughout the day with a moderate amount of calories helps to maintain energy levels.
Nutritional experts recommend eating:
- Complex carbohydrates, such as peas and beans
- Healthy fats, such as olive oil, nuts, and seeds
- Lean protein, like fish, plain Greek yogurt, and lean beef
Not only do these foods fill you up, but they provide the vitamins and minerals the body needs.
2. Take vitamin B supplements
Vitamin B plays a role in ensuring healthy cells and preventing infections. B vitamins are involved in metabolizing carbohydrates, proteins, and fats and converting them into energy. One of the B vitamins, B12, is naturally found in animal food products, such as meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. As we age, the body is not able to absorb B12 from foods, which is why B12 supplements are recommended.
3. Get some vitamin D
Vitamin D helps to keep bones and teeth strong. One of the best ways to get Vitamin D is from the sun. During exposure, the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit the skin and trigger the production of vitamin D. The skin gets less efficient in converting sunlight to vitamin D as we age. So, taking vitamin D supplements can help to boost the body’s vitamin D levels. Dr. Alicia Arbaje, a geriatrician at Johns Hopkins Medicine, says she usually does not recommend supplements, but “a vitamin D supplement is often a smart idea.”
4. Get a good night’s sleep
Consistent sleep is necessary to keep up energy levels. The Sleep Foundation recommends that adults 18 years old and over—and that includes older adults—get seven or more hours per night. Seniors are also known to take naps during the day. While there is nothing wrong with taking naps, sleep experts suggest taking naps in the early to mid-afternoon for no more than 20 minutes.
5. Stay hydrated
Older adults are at a greater risk for dehydration since thirst tends to diminish with age, according to the National Council On Aging (NCOA). Also, certain medications can cause dehydration. While the amount of water needed to stay hydrated varies among individuals, health experts recommend drinking about eight 8-ounce glasses of water, which is about 2 liters per day. Water and other liquids, including water found in fruits and vegetables, and green tea, which has antioxidants, help to boost energy levels.
Keeping physically active is one of the major steps older adults can take to boost their energy levels. Whether it’s swimming, running, bicycling, walking, or moving around in any other way, routine physical activity or exercise can improve muscle strength and increase endurance.
Avoid These Things To Maintain Your Energy Levels
Just as certain factors can increase the energy levels of older adults, other factors can cause fatigue; and in some cases, jeopardize their health.
For example, medical experts say that smoking is bad for your health, but some people believe that smoking increases your energy levels. That’s because nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds after entering the body and causes the brain to release adrenaline, which creates pleasure and energy, according to the National Institute of Health. This gives smokers a burst of energy. But, the energy level soon drops, and the “buzz” fades, leaving smokers feeling tired and a little down.
What’s more, smoking decreases a smoker’s lung capacity, which means the lungs do not supply the oxygen needed for the brain and muscles to operate at their peak capacity. This can also lead to fatigue and decreased energy levels.
Other culprits that can cause low energy levels include popular processed foods, such as breakfast cereals, cakes, bread, sausage, bacon, and ham. Some packaged foods add refined carbs, such as white flour, white bread, and added sugar.
“Packaged, processed foods tend to make you feel sluggish and heavy,” says Dr. Arbaje.
One of the most natural ways older adults can increase their energy level is by connecting with other people and taking on new challenges. Sometimes, this can happen at the same time. For instance, older adults might consider taking a class or joining a book club and meeting new people through these activities. These and other events can help older adults feel good about themselves, as well as feel more energetic and engaged with life.