Are you over 50 and finding that you don’t have the energy you once did? While the hormones that gave you strength and pep in your youth and kept the extra pounds off are waning, that doesn’t mean you can’t fight back. Your lack of energy may be a perception that can be remedied. Taking steps to improve your health now can result in a longer, healthier, and happier life down the road.
Estrogen precipitously drops at menopause, and testosterone begins a slow decline after age 30. Testosterone, an androgen, helps maintain muscle mass and bone density. Other anabolic hormones, such as growth hormones and insulin-like growth factor, also decline with age, causing decreases in muscle fibers and muscle mass.
Injuries are also more common with aging, due to balance problems and decreased strength. An injury can also sideline you from physical activities you enjoy, leading to further muscle and nerve function declines.
However, many experts believe it is less physical activity and aging that causes increased fatigue and decreased muscle strength. This is welcome news, because it means you can take control and improve your energy levels.
Cognitive changes associated with aging include a decrease in brain volume and blood flow. Recall of recent events and the ability to process new information may decline, but procedural and long-term memory usually stay stable or may even improve.
Age-related changes in the cardiovascular and respiratory systems may mean it takes less activity to cause shortness of breath. As you have these changes, you may notice fatigue more quickly with exercise.
Declines in growth hormone and melatonin can also impact deep sleep, making it less restful. This can set up a cycle—less restful sleep leads to more fatigue, which decreases your desire to exercise.
Changes in the gastrointestinal tract and immune system can increase your risk of infections. Older adults may not eat as healthily as they did when preparing meals for a family. Whether it is a lack of desire, appetite, or energy, choosing highly processed fast food instead of home-cooked, nutritious meals can increase fatigue.
While these changes and many more occur, there are steps you can take to increase your energy and preserve your brain, muscle, and heart function longer. Many people find it hard to get started, but once they develop new habits and enjoy their newfound energy, they want to continue building healthier habits.
Are you ready to restore the pep and vigor you had a decade ago? It is certainly possible. All it takes is a minor investment—in you!
If you are ready to invest in yourself by making simple behavioral and dietary changes, you can reap rewards that may last a lifetime. Spend some time learning about nutrition and supplements and how they may supplement your exercise and nutrition plans.
Take a minute to think about what you’ve eaten for the last three days. Write it down if you can. What would an outside observer say about your food choices?
Eating the right foods gives your body the nutrients it needs and can keep you from becoming overweight or obese. Unfortunately, much of our diet is made up of ultra-processed, hyper-palatable foods. Manufacturers process the food, draining it of nutrients, and then add back chemicals to make the food look and taste better.
Your body is designed to process mostly whole foods. Whole foods are:
Examples of whole foods include:
Most foods you make in your home are minimally processed whole foods. Eating whole foods provides nutrients and vitamins without excess calories. If you are trying to lose some excess pounds, a whole food diet can support your other weight loss efforts. You will also notice a boost in energy when your body gets the nutrients it needs to function efficiently and loses the excess pounds weighing it down.
Engaging in physical activity is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your overall health and boost your energy levels. It can help delay, prevent, or manage many of the chronic diseases associated with aging.
Making a conscious effort to move your body during the day can really add up. Unfortunately, 29.4% of women and 25.5% of men over 50 years old are classified as inactive, defined as only moving around enough for daily tasks. You don’t want to be in that group!
Here are some tips to get you started:
When middle-aged adults exercise, they have a significantly lower risk of developing chronic disease, even decades later.
You may have heard people say, “Your mind is a muscle. If you don’t use it, you will lose it.’ While the sentiment may be true, your mind is not a muscle. Defining it as a complex set of neural circuits is more accurate, but still doesn’t even begin to describe the amazing complexity of the human brain.
The “use it or lose it” part of the saying is true. Your brain likes to maximize its efficiency and minimize its energy use, just like most living things. Your brain prefers that you do the same activities, talk about the same topics, and follow the same routine every day.
To keep the connections in your brain working well, you need to move it out of its comfort zone. Mental stimulation is necessary to keep your mind fresh and invigorated.
Spend time outdoors. Fresh air and sunlight improve your mood and your health. Take a break from the harmful effects of light from screens. Sitting all day is hard on your posture, weakens muscles, tightens your hip flexors, and contributes to being overweight or obese.
When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes cholecalciferol, which is another name for vitamin D3. Depending on the population, between 40% and 60% of Americans are vitamin D deficient.
The following conditions increase your risk for vitamin D deficiency:
It is hard to get enough vitamin D3, an important vitamin for bone and immune health, from your diet alone. Vitamin D3 supplements can help replenish your vitamin D levels, especially in the winter or for people who can’t spend enough time outdoors.
Sunlight and nature are also important for mental health. Spending time outdoors relieves stress and lowers cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone.”
Short-term forest bathing reduces oxidative stress on your cells, lowers inflammation and cortisol levels, gives you more energy, and lowers stress.
A restful night’s sleep is important for everyone. Try to get around 8 hours of sleep each night. Lack of sleep contributes to depression and anxiety. Anxiety and depression contribute to poor sleep.
If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to have serious health problems that make you tired and low on energy, like:
Many people think sleep is a time when your brain function slows down. This is not the case. Your brain is active all night, clearing harmful toxins from your brain. The glymphatic system is your brain’s self-cleaning machine. It is 10 times more active at night than during the day.
Sleep deprivation slows your ability to process information and retain it in memory.
Tips for better sleep:
Your immune system protects you from bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other pathogens. It takes a lot of energy to mount a defense against infection, day in and day out. Most of the proteins that control how immune cells work require vitamins and minerals as cofactors to make important chemical reactions occur. Key micronutrients that support the immune system include:
Before making significant changes in your lifestyle or diet, make an appointment for a physical exam. While it is very likely that simple lifestyle changes will improve your energy levels, it is a good idea to make sure you don’t have any treatable medical conditions such as thyroid disease that can cause fatigue and low energy. Verify whether you are up to date on all the recommended screening exams for your age and sex. Some medications have fatigue as a side effect. Ask your doctor if there are alternative medications that may work as well without causing fatigue.
While we strive to always provide accurate, current, and safe advice in all of our articles and guides, it’s important to stress that they are no substitute for medical advice from a doctor or healthcare provider. You should always consult a practicing professional who can diagnose your specific case. The content we’ve included in this guide is merely meant to be informational and does not constitute medical advice.