Got half an hour? It can change your whole day.
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Even if your working years are in the rearview mirror, chances are you don’t have as much leisure time as you’d once imagined. Many older adults are helping family members, managing personal health issues, taking on part-time work, tackling hefty household chores (downsizing, anyone?) — and more.
This lengthy to-do list can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed, both of which have a major negative impact on your health.
The good news is that you can take a big step toward a necessary downshift, and it doesn't require clearing a whole day. Just 30 minutes can be a crucial reset, experts suggest, with strategies like these.
Emotional well-being and fitness go together! SilverSneakers classes and events are happening daily at participating gyms, online through SilverSneakers LIVE, and at community centers near you. Activate your free online account to get started.
Take a Walk
Although it may seem like a simple activity, walking is a powerhouse when it comes to health benefits, according to personal trainer Kourtney Thomas, C.S.C.S. Not only do you burn calories, especially if you walk briskly, but you also gain strength in every muscle group, improve your alignment — which helps with joint function — increase your breathing capacity, streamline your digestion, and boost your mood. It may even lengthen your life.
A 2019 study in JAMA Internal Medicine on older women found that as few as 4,400 steps daily was associated with lower mortality rates, compared with those who were more sedentary — and that the higher the step count, the greater the mortality decrease, until the trend leveled off at 7,500 steps.
Also, says Thomas, it’s often a welcome break from a hectic — or ho-hum! — day, and it can also be a way to connect with a friend or family member too.
"Making this a regular habit can be something you look forward to doing, and maybe sharing with others," she adds. "You can just appreciate that feeling of moving. That, in itself, can be very joyful."
Recommended workout: Try a SilverSneakers LIVE Walk Strong (Express) class! Esta clase de caminata en interiores de bajo impacto y fácil de seguir mejorará su estado de ánimo y su resistencia aeróbica en solo 15 minutos. No se necesitan equipos. View the schedule and RSVP here.
Prep Dinner for a Few Nights
Setting aside time to chop, peel, prep, and cook can be a great mindfulness break, according to dietitian Erin Kenney, R.D., owner of Nutrition Rewired and author of Rewire Your Gut. Rather than viewing meal prep as a rush to get dinner on the table, it can serve as a de-stressing opportunity, she believes.
"Take some time to focus on what you're doing - and how it's nourishing you on multiple levels," she says. "Best of all, you can make enough for a few nights, which means you'll have a healthy grab-and-go option."
Make a Date
Having time away from your daily routine can be incredibly valuable as a way to connect with your partner and friends, says Tanya Dalton, author of The Joy of Missing Out: Live More by Doing Less.
It helps to have a few rules, like no talking about bad news, or household tasks that aren't getting done, or to-do list items. Remember, it's a not a meeting - it's a fun event.
Try doing an activity together, even if it's just hanging out in the backyard or window shopping. Maybe even go for a meandering half-hour drive and get a little lost.
"The point is to get away from news, and from all your everyday stressors, and to just be together," says Dalton. "Talk about tiny things, like something that made you laugh. Just be together for that time. You'll likely find moments of surprise and delight, which is what date night is all about."
Do a Crossword, Put Together a Puzzle, Read a Novel
Engaging in more complex activities during downtime — rather than passive ones like watching TV or scrolling social media — can offer a major boost in terms of building important pathways in your brain that help with productivity and focus, says Dalton.
For example, a 2019 study of older adults who regularly do crosswords and number puzzles found that those activities led to better brain function, including sharper memory, stronger reasoning, and more sustained attention.
Plus, it can be a boon for your emotional health. Taking just 30 minutes to bolster your brain health can make you feel calmer, more resilient, and better adept at problem solving.
“When you’re truly engaged in a task and enjoying it, that lights up all the parts of your brain related to pleasure and reward, and that can carry over into your work and everyday tasks as well,” Dalton notes.
Carve Out Some Alone Time
When it comes to “self-care,” the term can conjure images of self-indulgence instead of true compassion for yourself, says Christine Carter, Ph.D., sociologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley.
There's an apt phrase that applies here: "You can't pour from an empty cup." But taking some alone time will give you a chance to replenish and reset, believes Carter.
Giving yourself 30 minutes every day to take a walk, do a creative activity you love, meditate and/or do yoga, read an engaging novel, or just daydream isn’t an indulgence — it’s a major step toward better mental, emotional, and physical health.
"Self-care is not selfish," she says. "Putting 30 minutes aside for you, and what you need, isn't a luxury. It's a way to care for yourself in a meaningful way."
Here’s a short Chair Yoga Flow to Recharge that you can try right now!
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