It's Never Too Late to Start These 6 Healthy Habits

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Was this helpful?
  • Establishing healthy habits for your life doesn’t have a deadline. While breaking bad habits can be challenging, replacing them with good ones is worth the effort at any age. Healthy food choices and exercise can help seniors feel better and also improve mental health in older age. Social health is also important—staying in touch with old friends and making new ones will improve your quality of life. Develop healthy habits to feel your best now and for years to come.

  • 1
    Exercise regularly to keep your muscles and bones strong and your weight under control.
    Older women exercising outside

    As you get older, your metabolism slows down, your bones become weaker, and you may lose some muscle mass. But staying physically active helps you burn calories and prevents frailty. Even if you weren’t active when you were younger, it’s not too late to start a regular exercise routine. Just be sure to start slowly and build up intensity over time, and always stay hydrated. Talk with your doctor about exercise for seniors that’s appropriate for your current level of physical fitness and state of health. 

  • 2
    Make wise food choices to ensure you’re getting the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
    Woman at produce stand

    The changes in your metabolism may mean you need to make some different decisions when you head to the grocery store. You may need fewer calories to stay at a healthy weight, but you also need to make sure you’re getting enough of the right kinds of nutrients. So making healthy food choices becomes more important than ever before. Colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy with vitamin D, fish, eggs, and legumes are all packed with nutrients, so eating these means you’ll get the vitamins and minerals you need without unnecessary calories.

  • 3
    Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep to stay alert all day and keep your memory sharp.
    Senior man and woman sleeping

    Getting enough sleep benefits many areas of your life—both for physical and mental health. Plus, you’ll just feel better all around with a good night’s sleep. But sleeping may become more difficult in older age because of insomnia, snoring, medication side effects, or health conditions you may have. Without quality sleep, you may have problems with memory or concentration, and you’ll be at higher risk for falls or other accidents. If you’re having trouble falling or staying asleep, talk with your doctor about how you can get better rest at night.

  • 4
    Keep in touch with friends—and make new ones—to improve your social health.
    Senior woman and friends hoola hooping

    Social interaction is linked to good health just like food and exercise. Seniors who have strong relationships with friends and family are likely to have sharper mental ability, longer lives, and better quality of life. They also may have a lower risk of dementia, depression and anxiety. However, seniors are more likely to have fewer friendships because of medical conditions or the death of friends and family. To improve your social health in older age, seek out social activities you enjoy and others with similar interests to reduce your risk of isolation.

  • 5
    Challenge yourself mentally to keep your brain in shape.
    Senior man reading

    Keeping your brain healthy involves many factors, including a good diet, physical activity, and social interactions. It’s also important to stay intellectually active in older age to preserve your mental health. Reading, enjoying pastimes, volunteering, and learning new things all contribute to better cognitive health. Your brain exercises can include many different activities, such as taking a class, learning a new hobby, or playing games with friends. Choose one or two you enjoy, and keep it up.

  • 6
    Stop smoking, even if you’ve smoked for years, and you’ll instantly improve your health.
    Stop smoking

    Even in the first day after you stop smoking, you will reduce your risk of having a heart attack. Other health benefits, such as lower risk of cancer and stroke, improved lung function, better heart health, and easier breathing will all follow in the days and weeks to come. It’s not too late to quit, even if you’ve been smoking for decades, although it may be a challenge. Ask for your doctor’s help to give up smoking for good.

Was this helpful?
Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 19
View All Aging Well Articles
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
  1. Health Tips for Older Adults. National Institute for
    Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
  2. It's Never Too Late: Five Healthy Steps at Any Age. Johns
    Hopkins Medicine.
  3. Aging and Sleep. National Sleep Foundation.
  4. Research Suggests a Positive Correlation between Social
    Interaction and Health. National Institute on Aging.
  5. Social Participation and Its Benefits. Centre on Aging,
    University of Manitoba.
  6. Cognitive Health and Older Adults. National Institute on
  7. Quitting Smoking for Older Adults. National Institute on