nutrition to Age Healthy

Healthy Aging – Part 2 – Balance and Core Strength

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Balance and Core Strength

Welcome back to our 4-part series on Healthy Aging.  In today’s episode, we are going to focus on healthy aging for Balance and Core Strength.

In our last episode, we touched on the importance of supporting a healthy brain. After all, not much else matters if our brain isn’t working properly.

One of the primary reasons that seniors have to leave their home and move into assisted living or nursing homes is because of their fall risks.

Did you know that nearly 3 million seniors are taken to the hospital, each year, due to fall injuries?

Of those 3 million, more than 800,000 require long-term care, due to head injuries and/or hip fractures.

If you start being pro-active, now, and strengthen your core muscles, you will improve the odds that you can ‘age in place’ and stay in your home, instead of becoming one of the 3 million who require medical attention.

However, before we can even discuss the exercises that help support your core and improve balance, we must talk about proper nutrition. Because, if you’re not eating the right kinds of food, your body won’t be strong enough to improve muscular strength.


Since protein is the foundational building block for strong and healthy muscles, it’s imperative that you eat enough protein each day.

As we age, our production of digestive enzymes slows down, so it’s important not to ‘over-do it’ with protein in one sitting. It’s much better to spread your proteins out, all through the day. And, it’s especially important to make sure you start your day with a protein-rich breakfast. No cereal and toast for you.  Optimally, you’ll eat 30-40 grams of protein, at each meal, in the form of:

  • Full-fat Greek yogurt
  • Chicken
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Fish – especially tuna
  • Eggs

Just 3 or 4 ounces of the chicken, pork or tuna will get you to 30+ grams of protein. So, as you can see, it’s pretty easy to do.

If you find that your body is struggling to effectively digest your foods, you can buy digestive enzymes to help you out. They are taken at meal time and should contain:

  • Protease
  • Amylase
  • Lipase


Fat is also a very important nutrient to aid in balance and core strength, because of its’ role in optimal nerve function. You may have heard the term ‘myelin sheath’, but might not know exactly what it means. Here is the definition:

‘Myelin is a lipid-rich (fatty) substance that surrounds nerve cell axons (the nervous system’s “wires”) to insulate them and increase the rate at which electrical impulses (called action potentials) are passed along the axon.’

If you’re not eating enough healthy fats, it’s very difficult to create myelin, which means your nerves can’t send good signals from Point A to Point B. If your nerves can’t get from Point A to Point B, then, even if your brain is telling your legs to stand up, the signal’s not getting there, and you’re unable to stand up efficiently, risking a fall.

Ideally, you’d eat 60 to 75 grams of healthy fat per day…..or, said another way, 20-25 grams per meal.

Great sources of healthy fats would include:

  • Olives/olive oil
  • Avocado/avocado oil
  • Walnuts
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Full-fat dairy (from healthy, pastured sources)


Carbohydrates, in the form of vegetables and fruits, also play a key role in supporting optimal muscle growth and function.

My favorite two veggies for muscle health are:

  • Beets
    • People who drank beet juice experienced a 38 percent increase in blood flow to muscles, particularly “fast twitch” muscles that affect bursts of speed and strength, according to a study conducted at Kansas State University.
  • Spinach
    • A rich source of iron, which is very important for building strong muscles.
    • Also a great source of magnesium
      • A mineral that’s essential to muscle development and energy production.
    • Popeye was right about this one. 😉


So, now that you know the foods that will help you build strong muscle to aid in balance and core strength, let’s look at three exercises that will help, too.

  1. Sit/Stand from chair, or bed, with arms crossed over chest.
    1. This type of exercise forces you to use core muscles to lift and lower your body, instead of using your arm muscles.
      1. Initially, you might need to use your arms, but with practice, you’ll get stronger and stronger.
    2. 10 reps, 3 or 4 times per day, will be beneficial.
    3. Below is the video to show you how to perform this exercise.
  1. Uni-Pedal Standing – fancy term for standing on one foot
    1. Stand behind a steady, solid chair (not one with wheels), and hold on to the back of it. Lift up your right foot and balance on your left foot. Hold that position for as long as you can, then switch feet.
    2. The goal should be to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair and hold that pose for up to a minute.
    3. After you are very successful with this exercise, you can take it up a notch, by standing on a pillow. Please watch this video to understand why and perform the activity correctly.
    4. The great bonus with this exercise is that it has been shown to improve bone density and minimize osteoporosis in women over 70. Win-Win
  2. Seated Chair Sit-Ups
    1. This exercise is amazing for strengthening your core.
    2. Since it’s difficult to try to explain, with words, how to do this exercise, I am including the video, so you can see it being performed.

There are many more exercises you can enjoy to improve balance and strengthen your core. However, these will, at least, get you started on your journey.


The key reasons you want to improve this aspect of your life is to minimize your fall risks. Head injuries and broken hips from falls is a leading cause of hospitalization, loss of independence and, sadly, loss of life.  It’s never too late to start.  Each day, by improving your holistic nutrition and spending a few minutes on key exercises, you will significantly improve your chances for a healthy and vibrant senior life.

If you feel like you need a bit of guidance to get you going, please reach out to a graduate of Nutrition Therapy Institute for a referral for a Holistic Nutrition Therapist with proper training in holistic nutrition courses. Some of the school’s graduates are physical therapists with their certification in nutrition therapy.


And, as always, a tasty, and easy recipe to start you out on the right foot.

Seared Ahi Tuna with Pumpkin Seed Sauce

I thought it would be fun to give you a recipe with all the seasonal PUMPKIN goodness…without any of the sugary spiced up drinks you tend to see.  This sauce can be used on virtually any cut of meat as it’s versatile taste pairs well with anything!

Seared ahi tuna steak with a green salad and tomatoes on a grey plate.


1 tsp. olive oil – healthy fat for nerve health

1 medium onion cut into wedges

1 med bell pepper, sliced

1 cup halved cherry tomatoes

¼ tsp. sea salt

¼ tsp. ground black pepper

¼ tsp. ground chili powder

4 (4-oz) raw ahi tuna steaks – healthy protein

Spinach – healthy carbohydrate rich with iron and magnesium for muscle health

Pumpkin Seed Sauce

½ cup pumpkin seeds – another healthy fat for nerve health

¼ Sriracha chili sauce

½ cup water

Zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ cup cilantro

3 cloves of garlic

¼ cup chopped onion

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp coriander

Directions for Pumpkin Seed Sauce

Place all of your pumpkin seed dressing ingredients into a blender and blend.

Transfer to a skillet, sauté on medium heat for 5 minutes until sauce is thick and fragrant.

Directions for Tuna

Heat oil in a large over medium heat.

Add onion and bell peppers; cook, stirring frequently, for 5 to 6 min. or until onion is translucent.

Add tomatoes cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 to 3 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft.

Remove veggies from skillet.  Set aside.

Combine salt, pepper, and chili powder in a small bowl, mix well.

Coat all sides of ahi steaks with seasoning

Heat the same skillet over medium-high heat.

Add ahi; sear for 2 minutes on each side, or until desired doneness. Remove from heat.

Slice tuna on an angle.

Lay tuna over a bed of spinach with veggies and drizzle the pumpkin seed sauce over it.

Bon Appetite

For the full holistic picture of nutrition for healthy aging read the rest of this series: Part 1 – Brain Health, Part 3 – Vision and Hearing, and Part 4 – Optimizing Oral Health with Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Potassium

Event! – For more strategies to age healthfully, be sure to check out the Vibrant Aging: Cognitive Health & Mobility Workshop hosted by the NTI Director.

About the author: Dr Becky Spacke, teaches holistic nutrition courses at Nutrition Therapy Institute. In addition, she has a private practice, working with people at risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease. 

About Nutrition Therapy Institute’s Holistic Nutrition Certification

Since 1999, NTI has provided students with the highest quality in nutrition training by offering comprehensive holistic nutrition courses online and in-person to help students achieve thriving careers as holistic nutrition therapists in the field of holistic nutrition counseling and wellness. Start our holistic nutrition courses and earn your holistic nutrition certification. 

Images: Photo by sk on Unsplash; Image by Matěj Vrtil on Pixabay

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