Yep, I’m middle-aged. And you know what, I’ve decided to embrace it. My body isn’t the same as it was when I was in my twenties or early thirties. I did extreme workouts, tipped back a few too many mixed drinks, and racked up sleepless nights—with little to no consequence.
Experts In This Article
- Bess Berger, RDN, CDN, registered dietitian specializing in PCOS and menopause
- Julie Pace, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist at Core Nutrition Health+Wellness
- Kevin Noel, DC, CSCS, chiropractor, certified strength and conditioning specialist, owner of LeverEdge Chiropractic
- Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND, registered dietitian and menopause expert
But now that the wrong pillow or a hard sneeze can sometimes leave me feeling injured, I need to modify things a bit.
Thankfully, for me, with age comes wisdom. I’ve learned that hard doesn’t equal better. Here, I’m sharing my healthy aging advice and how I’m gently and reasonably caring for my body at this point in my life.
Table of Contents
Gentle and functional movement
I know I’ve got to stay physically active because a sedentary lifestyle can accelerate aging1 even further. However, this year, I dealt with some pain issues and needed to better prevent injury. Rather than push through the discomfort, I tried a new approach with the help of a functional movement specialist.
Focusing on functional movements, i.e. exercises that mimic the way you move in everyday life like squats, for example, shouldn’t be relegated to injury recovery, though. “Everyone should be utilizing a functional movement screening, much like seeing their primary care physician for a yearly physical,” says Kevin Noel, DC, CSCS, owner of LeverEdge Chiropractic. “Movement screening is the only way we can find less than perfect movement before it ultimately becomes a problem or leads to injury.”
While it’s best to see a pro in this area, Dr. Noel says there are movements you should be able to do, pain-free:
- Touch your toes
- Squat down and get your butt lower than your knees
- Stand facing away from a mirror and twist/rotate to see your reflection head-on
- Get from lying on the ground, up to your feet, without using your hands
- Stand on one foot, eyes open and closed, for more than 10 seconds
What’s the best exercise for those in their prime (yes, I said prime)? “I am an advocate for exploring any and all ranges of motions, to their fullest degrees. So finding a routine or program that encourages movement variety, and limits similar or repetitive movements is ideal,” says Dr. Noel.
The way you move matters. He explains, “We have to first learn how to move well and competently before we move often. Doing it the other way around would be like ‘shooting a canon ball out of a canoe’. We have to have a strong movement base before increasing our tolerance to fitness.”
Now that I’m moving with proper form, I want to strike the balance between going hard and preventing future injuries. Dr. Noel says, “There are appropriate times to ‘push the envelope’ when it comes to exercise, but I ALWAYS tell people pain is not normal with movement.”
In my twenties, I was restrictively eating for a smaller body. Now, I’m fueling my body with what it needs to age well and navigate perimenopause. Not to mention it’s much more enjoyable to add things to the diet, rather than take away (intuitive eating for the win).
Julie Pace, RDN, a registered dietitian specializing in functional nutrition for women, shares what foods are best to support hormonal changes that occur with age: “Focus on nutrient-rich, plant-based foods. Balance hormones naturally with edamame, sesame seeds, and flaxseeds that are rich in plant-based estrogens.”
As you age, you may notice your body responds differently to certain foods. It’s common to gain weight during menopause, and you may be tempted to cut out carbs. However, according to Bess Berger, RDN, CDN, a registered dietitian specializing in PCOS and menopause, you may just need to prioritize high-quality carbs.
“Leaning on sweet potatoes, beans, chickpeas, and fruit becomes more and more important for health, restful sleep, and keeping up energy levels,” she says.
Additionally, bone strength and heart health are essential as you age. Pace recommends foods for that too. “Boost bone health with calcium-packed dark leafy greens, fortified plant milk (like soy), and tofu with calcium sulfate,” she says. “To support heart health and overall well-being, add in colorful fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants, and avocados, nuts, and seeds, which are rich in heart-healthy fats.
Another thing I’m focusing on is adequate sleep. My babies are now in the double digits and never wake me up at night. The irony is that some nights, my body just won’t let me sleep.
Su-Nui Escobar, DCN, RDN, FAND, registered dietitian and menopause expert, suggests it may be related to hormones, “As we start the transition to menopause, sleep is the key to managing symptoms and feeling our best. Unfortunately, for many women, sleep becomes more difficult as night sweats appear and the hormone imbalance begins.”
The transition to menopause is linked2 to sleep disturbances, most often insomnia. There are things you can do to support a better night’s sleep, though, according to Escobar.
“Two tips I often share with my clients are to get pajamas made of a cooling material and to lower the room temperature right before going to bed. Both are simple but helpful.”
As for other supplements, Berger says, “Many women can benefit from a high-quality vitamin D and calcium supplement. I also usually recommend a high-quality vitamin B as well.”
Optimal brain function and slower aging for me equates to a better quality of life. I want to view my middle-aged years as vibrant and fulfilling. My goal on this beautiful aging journey is to take care of both my mind and body so I can fully relish each passing year.
Well+Good articles reference scientific, reliable, recent, robust studies to back up the information we share. You can trust us along your wellness journey.
- Raffin, Jérémy et al. “Sedentary behavior and the biological hallmarks of aging.” Ageing research reviews vol. 83 (2023): 101807. doi:10.1016/j.arr.2022.101807
- Proserpio, P et al. “Insomnia and menopause: a narrative review on mechanisms and treatments.” Climacteric : the journal of the International Menopause Society vol. 23,6 (2020): 539-549. doi:10.1080/13697137.2020.1799973
- Mora, Ignasi et al. “Structured Long-Chain Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Improvement of Cognitive Function during Aging.” International journal of molecular sciences vol. 23,7 3472. 23 Mar. 2022, doi:10.3390/ijms23073472
- Vetter, Valentin Max et al. “Vitamin D supplementation is associated with slower epigenetic aging.” GeroScience vol. 44,3 (2022): 1847-1859. doi:10.1007/s11357-022-00581-9
- Wang, Zhibin et al. “B vitamins and prevention of cognitive decline and incident dementia: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition reviews vol. 80,4 (2022): 931-949. doi:10.1093/nutrit/nuab057