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COLUMN: Healthy aging for an active retirement

What is healthy aging supposed to look like?
(Pixabay photo)

Ron Cain | Contributed

As a personal trainer specializing in the 50-plus crowd and as an aging Boomer and grandfather, I value being able to do what I want without pain or not too much.

Why do some people live longer than others, and what contributes to common ailments that afflict so many people over 50?

The real question is: What is healthy aging supposed to look like versus what is considered typical. The answer is what we think typical or average is, in fact, not healthy and certainly not reflective of healthy aging.

READ MORE: What is a personal trainer?

Here are some key tips for aging with vitality:

Keep a healthy weight. Most people gain weight with age, and that gain accelerates after 50, especially in women. Excess weight comes with a price: premature wear and tear on knees and hips, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cancer, and difficulty with day-to-day tasks like getting off the floor or climbing a ladder.

Eat a healthy diet. In North America, we have a disease diet – excess sugar, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, preservatives and genetically modified foods. Focus on getting sugar and refined, packaged foods out of your diet while eating more fruits and veggies.

Get lots of sleep. North American society is chronically sleep-deprived. A little less than 150 years ago, we averaged two hours more sleep per day than we do now. Electric lights allowed us to extend our days, radio and then TV gave us a reason to stay up, we moved away from 5 am wake ups as people shifted from farms to cities. Today, we’re bombarded with electronic stimulation and stress. When we sleep less, we gain weight, and it has a profound effect on memory.

Lifelong learning. Elder college, changing jobs, learning new technology, cardiovascular exercise and strength training, and trying new activities contribute to brain health and maintains the plasticity of the brain.

Maintaining relationships. Today, we have a more mobile society where people move and change jobs far more frequently. Churches are closing, service clubs and legions have struggled or even disappeared. We have virtual friends we’ve never met and any spare time to look up old friends. People are not going to knock on our doors. We have to get out there and get involved.

Stress management. No single factor outweighs stress. Stress causes a hormonal response in the body that is very unhealthy and contributes to weight gain and heart disease.

Exercise. As a fitness professional for almost 40 years, I may be accused of bias, but I have also worked with the elderly, and I have seen first hand the cost of not exercising.

Alzheimer’s is a vicious disease and one that has ravaged my family. Walking 30 minutes every day at a fast pace can reduce the risk of dementia by 40 per cent or more. Studies have shown that weightlifting in subjects over 60 improved short-term memory.

We are animals genetically bred to move all day, searching out food miles away from our abode. Today we spend 70 per cent of our time sitting. Our lifestyle has gone from physical to sedentary, with few jobs requiring significant effort. This has a profound impact on our health and stress levels.


Ron Cain is a personal trainer with Sooke Mobile Personal Training. Email him at

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