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Legal-Ease: An Attorney’s Perspective: Six Ways to Promote Physical Health

By August 25, 2023September 8th, 2023No Comments

As we age, we naturally lose muscle mass. Physical decline begins in the decade of the 50s, much earlier than previously thought. Researchers with Duke University’s School of Medicine suggest that physical decline begins in the decade of the 50s and worsens as we age, especially for those who don’t exercise (source:

“Don’t wait until you are 80 years old and cannot get out of a chair,” said Katherine Hall, lead author of the study. “The good news is the ability to function independently can often be preserved with regular exercise. Remember, for the healthiest aging, we need to do the things that optimize health — so that the brain and body work at their best for now and for the future.”

In this article, we will cover six proven ways to promote and maintain physical health as one ages that I found on According to Dr. Leslie Kernisan, MD MPH, “They all have a solid track record. They are also good ‘bang-for-the-buck,’ in part because they provide real benefits to just about everyone who adopts them.” In addition, many of these actions overlap with the recommended actions for brain health.

  1. Exercise regularly — and include strength training twice weekly.

Why: Exercise helps older adults maintain their strength and mobility, plus it improves just about every physical health outcome you can imagine, provided you don’t overdo it or get injured. Walking daily is not enough! Research suggests that strength training (e.g., weight lifting or other exercises that strengthen muscles) is especially beneficial as we age. Without strength training, muscles weaken as we age, which can lead to anything from falls to difficulties with daily activities.

It is important to maintain one’s physical health as we age in order to reduce the onset of various health-related issues.

A 2014 research study in JAMA found that a structured exercise program — involving sedentary adults aged 70-89 — reduced the risk of “major mobility disability.” Exercise also tends to improve mood, which has positive effects on the rest of the body. Note: Research has shown that even less-than-recommended exercise brings health benefits. So, remember it’s better to do a little bit every day than nothing at all. In fact, the most important thing is to find something that you can keep doing. Walking is relatively easy for many.

If you only have time for one

exercise, do a set of squats. Squats strengthen all of the muscle groups in your legs, including your calves, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, as well as muscles in your lower back and core. Those muscles provide the foundation for most activities of daily living, such as getting off the toilet, climbing a set of stairs and simply standing up from a chair (source:

  1. Don’t smoke.

Why: Smoking tobacco is bad for just about every aspect of physical health. It’s especially damaging to the lungs but also increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and various forms of cancer. Many tobacco-related diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, can cause difficult symptoms for years.

Fortunately, even after an older adult has developed smoking-related health problems, quitting smoking will reduce symptoms and one’s chance of a premature death: One study found that quitting smoking between ages 55-64 added four years to one’s life expectancy. Many people need to try quitting a few times, so don’t let a past failure to quit stop you from trying again.

E-cigarettes do help some people quit smoking. Although we don’t yet know what the long-term effects of vaping are and using e-cigarettes, preliminary research suggests that it’s better to use e-cigarettes than it is to smoke.

  1. Get enough sleep.

Why: Studies have found that chronic sleep deprivation is linked to increased cardiovascular disease, increased levels of inflammatory blood markers and decreased immune function. Being sleep-deprived also causes fatigue, which can make it hard to be physically active (and is bad for mood, too).

Note: Aging does cause sleep to become lighter and more fragmented and may cause people to need a little less sleep than when they were younger. That said, chronic sleep difficulties or often waking up feeling tired is not normal in aging. Older adults often suffer from true sleep problems that can be treated once they are properly evaluated.

  1. Avoid chronic stress.

Why: Feeling chronically stressed has been linked to physical health problems such as cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and decreased immune function. Research suggests that this may be because stress can accelerate “cellular aging” and also may promote inflammatory markers in the body.

Note: Common causes of stress in older adults include financial stress, relationship stress, work-related stress and caregiving stress. To reduce chronic stress, it’s best to combine general approaches (such as improving sleep, exercising, meditation, relaxation strategies, etc.) with approaches that can help you cope with your specific source of stress.

  1. Maintain a healthy weight.

Why: The main reason is that obesity is a major risk factor for disability in late life. (Strange but true: As people get older, the link between obesity and premature death gets weaker, a phenomenon sometimes called the “obesity paradox in aging.”) Obesity — usually defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more — worsens arthritis.

It’s also been linked to many health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and glucose intolerance, certain types of cancer and sleep-related breathing disorders. Studies have found that when overweight or obese people lose even a modest amount of weight — such as 5 percent-7 percent of one’s current weight — this can improve physical health and symptoms.

  1. Eat a “healthy diet.”

Why: Diet undoubtedly affects certain aspects of physical health. A healthy diet is one that doesn’t provoke negative health effects, such as being prone to take on extra weight, developing insulin resistance, developing atherosclerosis or having uncomfortable symptoms in the belly or bowels.

Frail older people often need extra calories and protein, since malnutrition becomes more common as people age. Research also suggests that eating enough protein is important if you are working on strength training, as the muscles can’t grow stronger without enough protein.

Judd Matsunaga is the founding attorney of Elder Law Services of California, a law firm that specializes in Medi-Cal Planning, Estate Planning and Probate. He can be contacted at (310) 348-2995 or The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the view of the Pacific Citizen or constitute legal or tax advice and should not be treated as such.