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Moving Montana Toward a Fit Future:
Healthy weights for seniors

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Crystelle Fogle, MBA, RD MT Dept. Public Health and Human Services – 406/947-2344

When it comes to aging in America, there’s plenty of good news to go around. Across Montana and across the USA, both men and women are living longer. Study after study also confirms that eating well and being active can make a dramatic difference in the quality of life for America’s seniors.

“You are never too old to enjoy the benefits of nutrition and fitness,” says Marni Stevens, RD, registered dietitian with the Montana Office on Aging. “With healthful food and regular physical activity, seniors can feel an immediate difference in their strength, energy levels, and enjoyment of life. As we get older, our food and activity choices become even more important to our health.”

As we age, we need fewer total calories and more nutrients, like protein, B-vitamins, and calcium. In terms of nutrition, this means that seniors need to focus on quality rather than on quantity. For both optimal physical and mental health, older Americans need to make every calorie count.

According to Stevens, the golden years are definitely not the time for extreme diets or drastic weight loss. “The goal for seniors is to eat better, while eating less,” she says. “Many fad diets eliminate entire food groups and can lead to serious nutrient gaps. Rapid weight loss often leads to a loss of lean body mass, exactly the opposite of what seniors need for good health.”

Eat Right Montana (ERM), a statewide coalition promoting healthful eating and active lifestyles, urges all Montana seniors to use food and fitness to maintain strong bodies and minds. A combination of delicious, nutrient-rich foods and fun, physical activity are two keys to a longer, healthier life.

“Aim for a stable weight as you get older,” says Stevens. “If you want to lose a few pounds, talk to your health provider or a registered dietitian about the best plan for you. The right foods and activities can help you lose fat, while maintaining strong muscles and bones."

Eating FISH the Healthy Weight

Fish is a fabulous food – versatile, quick, and packed with health benefits. Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried – all types of fish can fit into a healthy eating style. Here are six super tips to help you go fishing for great taste, good health and food safety.

1. Eating FISH for great taste.

The only problem with choosing fish is that there are so many options – over 20,000 fresh and saltwater species and maybe a million recipes. Need help? Talk to the butcher in your local supermarket, get a fish cookbook, or go online to troll for recipe ideas.

2. Eating FISH to protect your heart.
The American Heart Association has good reason to recommend two fish meals per week (with 3-4 ounces of fish per meal). The omega-3 fatty acids in fish (esp. in darker-colored fish like salmon and trout) significantly reduce heart disease risk in women and men.

3. Eating FISH to prevent cancer.
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, including prostate and breast cancer cells. Despite lots of hype and advertising, there is no proof yet that fish oil supplements provide the same health benefits as whole fish.

4. Eating FISH to build strong bones.
Fresh, frozen and canned fish can also help maintain strong skeletons. Fish is an excellent source of high-quality protein and a natural source of vitamin D. Canned sardines and salmon also provide calcium, because you eat the bones right along with the fish.

5. Eating FISH for better babies.
Studies have shown that pregnant women who eat fish once a week can lower the risk of pre-term or low birth-weight babies. To avoid potential mercury contamination, the FDA suggests that pregnant women stay away from swordfish, shark, snapper, and fresh tuna.

6. Eating FISH with safety in mind.

For the safest seafood possible, choose it, store it, and cook it carefully. Buy fresh fish that is bright and moist, with no fishy smell, bruises, or colored spots. Keep it wrapped in the coldest part of your fridge (or on ice). Cook thoroughly until the flesh flakes easily.

DANCING Your Way to Fitness

Dance is a wonderful physical activity for all ages, all seasons, and all places. All it takes is a little music and a little space. All you have to do is start moving your body in time with the music. Do it alone or do it in a class – dancing is certainly a fun way to get fit.

1. SWING your partner.
Country western, square, ballroom, tango, salsa, polka, swing itself – dancing has been a fun way to socialize since people first danced around a fire. Pick your favorite kind of music, grab a few friends, and dance the night away – at home or out on the town.

2. ROCK around the clock.
These days almost everybody is into rock – from “maturing” boomers to the tween generation. A little rock music can really pump some fun into other activities. Turn up the radio while you clean the house – or plug in the headphones while you walk.

3. SWAY to the music.
Rumba, Bossa Nova, Cha Cha, boogie woogie, calypso – just hearing the names of these steps makes you want to get up and dance. A class is a great way to get fit and learn new dance steps at the same time. Check online, in the phone book, or with adult education.

4. TAP across the stage.
Having a goal is always an excellent way to improve your skills. Dance classes with recitals and performances aren’t just kids’ stuff; they’re a great way for adults to get fit too! Just pick the steps you’ve always wanted to learn – jazz, tap, funk, hip-hop, or Latin.

5. TWIST and shout.
Prefer the privacy of your home? Need to fit dancing into an irregular schedule? A dance video may be just the ticket. Check out the options at www.activevideos.com and see how easy it can be to have a solo dance party in your own living room. Disco anyone?

6. WALTZ with me.
Even gentle dance styles offer serious fitness benefits – like better balance, greater flexibility, and stronger muscles – for people of all ages. Every step counts – whether it’s a waltz with a loved one, a hula with the kids, or belly dancing with your buddies.