SOUTHAMPTON, England — It’s not rocket science: If you’re looking to maintain strong physical health as you age, make your diet a top priority.
Researchers from the University of Southampton found that those who practice healthier eating habits throughout their adulthood tend to be more fit and stronger in older age. Just by changing your diet for the better, you can be on your way to a stronger body — and your future self will thank you for it.
“Improving the quality of your diet can have a beneficial effect on health whatever your age,” contends lead author Sian Robinson, a professor of nutritional epidemiology, in a university news release. “However, this study suggests that making food dietary choices throughout adulthood – by cutting down on highly processed foods and incorporating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains into your diet – can have a significant beneficial effect on strength and physical performance later in life, helping to ensure a much healthier old age.”
For the study, researchers focused on the “dietary patterns” of 969 British men and women born in 1946. Participants were surveyed on their diets at four points in their lives between ages 36 and 64. Their dietary habits were then compared to their physical fitness level measured at some point from age 60 to 64.
Three standards were taken into consideration when it came to physical health: length of time to perform ten chair rises (rising from sitting position to standing and back down); timed up-and-go speeds (time used to rise from a seated position, walk a short distance, then turn and return to the starting position); and standing balance (timing participants to stand on one leg with their eyes closed for 30 seconds).
The authors found that participants who consumed more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, while limiting their intake of processed foods during their adult lives, showed the greatest levels of ability on the physical exams as a senior.
“The link between dietary patterns and frailty in older people will open the door to effective interventions against the age-related decline in musculoskeletal function which is growing cause of disability in ageing populations worldwide,” says study co-author Cyrus Cooper.
So if you can’t find the time to hit the gym, pay more mind to what you eat. It may be the best — or at least the easiest — fitness regimen you can easily control.
This study’s findings were published in The Journal of Gerontology: Series A.