Turns out we can’t blame our lack of energy on getting older. Not to say that some of us won’t, but we can no longer say, “Of course I don’t have energy, I’m old."
It is not the best idea to wait until we find ourselves worn out and in the midst of a health crisis before we try to boost our energy levels. These days information is coming at us from all directions. Overwhelming us with ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ when it comes to our health. It is tempting to simply turn away, return to our sedentary ways and consider it exercise when we get up to check the mail.
Wherever you fall in the energy/activity spectrum, there is good news. You can find simple ways to get more energy at any age and promote healthy aging.
What Causes Fatigue?
We all get tired from time to time but fatigue is a little different. This experience is defined as feelings of extreme tiredness caused by mental or physical exertion or illness. The difference between the two is a matter of degree. If you are often tired but recover easily, you may want to consider using strategies to boost your energy before you dip into the realm of fatigue.
Fatigue is tiredness run amuck. Working too much, not getting enough sleep, eating junk food, emotional stress, not having enough support during a difficult life event or illness can contribute to fatigue.
It is important to be aware of how your energy levels fluctuate. For instance, feeling tired after a long day of work can be expected. If a difficult situation arises personally or in the family, your energy reserves may feel zapped. Taking time to recover from these types of days is important. Do something that helps you unwind like getting a good night’s sleep.
Fatigue is something that doesn’t necessarily go away when we take a bath or go to bed earlier. Fatigue tends to follow us around and can continue to be there just as powerfully when we wake up in the morning as it was when we went to bed the night before. Because of this, it's important to check in with your body often and take proactive measures to increase your overall energy levels.
8 Ways to Have More Energy After 50
No matter what your energy levels are at the moment, here are a few tips for positive aging to reinvigorate and renew your energy reserves. These tips can help with reducing both fatigue and tiredness. If fatigue lingers, it's important to talk to your doctor.
- Start where you are. Don't compare yourself to that second cousin who runs a marathon every week and grows her own wheatgrass. You don’t need to compete. Start today by just considering one or two simple changes that you can make to put more energy in your tank and feel better day by day.
- Create one new habit at a time. If you know that you would feel better if you changed your diet, pick one change to focus on. For example, don’t eat after 8pm or work on eating smaller portions. To change a habit, the trick is that small steps support lasting change.
- Take a walk. If you feel tired and the craving monster is beginning to make noise, you might consider taking a five-minute walk. Go outside and walk around the block, stretch your legs, enjoy the weather. It is amazing how invigorating a short walk can be.
- Drink water. As we age it is important that we make sure we drink enough water. Staying fully hydrated helps increase our metabolic rate and ensures that our metabolism is as healthy as possible. It is also the most efficient nutrient when it comes to supporting you during exercise. When your body is dehydrated, one of the first signs is a feeling of fatigue. Make sure to reach for a glass of water when you feel zapped of your energy reserves.
- Do strength training. Lifting weights or engaging in some other form of resistance exercise is one of the best ways for people over 50 to boost their energy levels. The benefits of strength training for seniors include building muscle mass and maintaining our strength. Additionally, being stronger makes our bodies more efficient and this effect carries over into our overall sense of energy.
- Take your vitamins. Taking high-quality supplements on a daily basis can help you feel better overall, and they have a myriad of advantages to your day to day wellbeing. Working with a health care professional can help you determine which nutrients are right for you.
- Breathe deeply. Dr. Elizabeth Frates is a physiatrist and wellness coach who teaches at Harvard and has worked with stroke and spinal injury patients to help them achieve their optimal level of wellness. She coaches people on increasing energy and one of her fundamental tips is to do deep breathing to revive the parasympathetic system. Improve heart and brain health with breathing techniques like the 4-7-8 method: four breaths in, hold for a count of seven and exhale for a count of 8.
- Get enough sleep. Advice for sleeping better is all over the place. If you’ve tried sleep tips like getting to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time each morning, maybe you should try getting less sleep. Yup, it’s a thing. It sounds odd but there are those that insist that determining how much sleep you actually need can reduce that amount of time you spend in bed worrying about not being able to sleep. Apparently, this does help some people find more restful sleep. While this is a method some feel encourages better sleep, make sure you stay safe and consult your doctor before trying it out for yourself. Here's how you do it:
- Do not nap during the day.
- The first night, go to bed later than normal and get just four hours of sleep.
- If you feel that you slept well during that four-hour period, add another 15–30 minutes of sleep the next night and so on.
- As long as you're sleeping soundly the entire time you're in bed, slowly keep adding sleep on successive nights until you find your sweet dream spot.
4 Ways to Use Relationships, Family, and Community to Increase Your Energy Levels
- Are the people in your life “lilies or leeches?” Dr. Elizabeth Frates speaks about paying attention to what might be draining and sapping the energy from you. Do you spend your time with people who you feel comfortable with and encouraged by? Do they accept and respect who you are and your life choices? Are there people in your life who make you feel like you have to hide a piece of yourself? As a result of spending too much time together, is your energy drained or do you feel bored? You may want to limit your time with this type of person and invite others to spend time with you instead.
- Take time for your hobbies. As we get older, many become increasingly isolated. We are busy with work and become attached to our daily routine. Step out of your usual pattern at least once a week. Attend a social event that appeals to you. Be curious and go to a book reading, lecture, or musical event. Change your routine and see what happens.
- Connect with family and friends. Schedule an evening once a month where you have a pot luck dinner with family or friends and have everyone bring their favorite poem to share. Arrange to go to an event with your friends like a concert or a street fair. It is important to make plans with those you love.
- Be of service. You may also improve your energy by becoming socially active and supporting a cause that is important to you. All too often, people complain about various issues and how impossible a situation appears. Pick one thing or issue and then find a group that is working to resolve or change your issue and become an active member. If activism isn’t your thing, consider being of service in some way. Participating in the wider community has a value that energizes you and those around you.
Use one or all of these methods to improve your energy level. Make an experiment out of it by keeping track of how you feel when you take on any one of these tips. What is important is to focus on fully embracing your own self-care and knowing that will help you age well and keep you energized.