20 August 2008

Be in great shape in your 60s

If you understand what your body’s needs are at different ages, you can tailor-make your eating habits and exercise routine to ensure you get the best possible results.

No, you don't have to resign yourself to middle-age spread. Yes, you can have a great body, regardless of your age. Some fabulous women share their secrets. By Mandy Collins, Femina magazine

Staying in shape takes work – no-one is saying it doesn’t. But if you understand what your body’s needs are at different ages, you can tailor-make your eating habits and exercise routine to ensure you get the best possible results.

It’s a case of working smarter, not harder, so simply follow our decade-by-decade guide with dietary advice from Johannesburg dietician Shirley Norman and exercise tips from biokineticist Tiaan Campher of the Sports Science Institute (SSISA) in Cape Town.


Your body now
As we age it’s essential to remain healthy and active to maintain a good quality of life. Exercise remains important but it doesn’t have to be strenuous.

You may find your vision, hearing and senses of smell and taste starting to decline now. You may also start having problems with bladder control, which might be caused by the weakening of muscles and ligaments in your pelvic region. Gastrointestinal complaints such as constipation and heartburn may also become more troublesome and should be checked if they occur frequently.

If you don’t have a healthy routine of eating well and staying fit, disease can threaten your health at this time.

Monitoring the health of your heart is vital, too, so have regular blood-pressure and cholesterol checks.

Your body essentials

  • Potassium – found in fruit and vegetables (especially in bananas and raisins) helps decrease blood pressure.
  • Zinc – found in meat, liver, eggs and seafood, helps heal wounds.
  • Probiotics – found in yoghurts containing live cultures, are good for constipation and general digestion.

Your diet tips

  • Limit your salt intake to help control blood pressure. Never add salt to food at the table and aim to use less than one teaspoonful of salt a day.
  • Have no more than two glasses of wine or tots of spirits a day. Alcohol increases blood pressure, causes reflux and is fattening because it contains what are known as ‘empty’ calories – a high number of calories without nutritional value. Alcohol also lowers blood-glucose levels, increasing hunger.
  • Pay attention to the three Fs of constipation: make sure you get adequate fluid, fibre and (good) fats in your diet to lubricate the colon.
  • Eat small, regular, low-fat, low-sugar meals to keep heartburn at bay. Regular meals also keep your bowels regular.
  • Don’t drink with your meal. Rather have some water half an hour before eating to decrease problems such as bloating and reflux. It’ll also fill you up, so you’ll want to eat less.

Your fitness plan
Maintaining mobility is even more important now. Your lifestyle should keep your senses alert and your body strong and flexible to avoid disabling falls. At this age your body is less tolerant of extreme activity so, with your doctor’s approval, establish a moderate exercise routine. A daily walk is an excellent way to maintain fitness but you should include some age-appropriate flexibility and strength training too: swimming is a good option. Studies have shown that regular exercise helps guard against frailty and may even prevent its onset, so it’s vital to remain active.

Sorted at 60

Val Heard, 69, (pictured here) is an inspiration. She recently started belly-dancing classes which, she says, are "quite amazing – I didn't know I had three sets of stomach muscles". Val also swims and boogie boards saying it's the only way to keep your arms in shape. Val says: "I'm always ready for a meal though I don't eat between meals and I eat lots of salads and fresh foods."

Joan Potgieter, 60, says she's always been healthy and slim and done moderate exercise. She started cycling in earnest in her thirties and these days she does regular work-outs. She also eats healthily and starts each day by drinking a jug of lukewarm water, followed by a breakfast of muesli and yoghurt. When she needs a snack, she eats fruit. "I eat a lot of fish, sushi and vegetables, but no red meat, and I believe in vitamin supplements – they make all the difference," she says.

Lettie Gerber, 62, says she stays in shape with a balanced lifestyle. "Even when I’m alone, I’ll always cook a good meal. Though I eat vegetables I'm really a ‘rys, vleis en aartappels’ person," she says. "I also walk a lot and do my own housework and gardening, plus I walk on the beach with my grandchildren every Saturday. I take keeping healthy one day at a time." – (Mandy Collins, Femina, July 2008)

This is an edited extract of a article that originally appeared in the July issue of Femina. Get the latest edition, on shelf now.

Read more:
Be in great shape in your 50s
Be in great shape in your 40s


Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Live healthier

Exercise benefits for seniors »

Working out in the concrete jungle Even a little exercise may help prevent dementia Here’s an unexpected way to boost your memory: running

Seniors who exercise recover more quickly from injury or illness

When sedentary older adults got into an exercise routine, it curbed their risk of suffering a disabling injury or illness and helped them recover if anything did happen to them.