A Changing World Creates New Health Challenges

The world is changing. It’s undeniable and unavoidable. Technology has taken such an active role in our lives that living the way we did twenty years ago would be called “off the grid” now. Like it or not, things are different. We’re all just along for the ride, either embracing the change or trying to resist it.
The world is changing both figuratively and literally. Yes, our society and culture are onto an entirely new page, but the planet we live on is transforming as well. For one thing, you may notice fewer undeveloped lots than there were 20 years ago (Palm Coast residents can relate to that). Maybe you’re seeing fewer fireflies nowadays, or different bird sounds when you sit outside on your porch. Or maybe you’re feeling hotter.
Yes, the world is warmer now than when many of us were young. The data showing this is exhaustive, and on many days it’s entirely evident just by stepping outside. Science tells us the median global temperature is nearly one whole degree higher now than it was less than a century ago, and that with this instability we’re seeing more weather extremes such as hurricanes, floods, and even sharper cold snaps.
The response to this phenomenon is being debated on the news every day, but at some point the average person has to figure out how to deal with it. Doing the same things outside that we’ve always done can be more dangerous if it’s a record high or low temperature day. And with us seeing records on both ends of the spectrum several days a year like clockwork, adjusting habits is an unavoidable necessity, especially for seniors. This year’s edition of Palm Coast Magazine’s Health & Wellness aims to provide readers with realistic, effective strategies to spend time bettering themselves while staying safe from whatever Mother Nature throws our way.
According to the US News & World Report, Florida is the fourth hottest state in the United States. Six months out of the year have highs in the 80’s in Palm Coast particularly, and residents know full well that 80-degree weather can and will occur year-round. It’s not bad without humidity. But the phrase ‘low humidity’ occupies a space in Palm Coast-ers’ minds somewhere between ‘winning lottery ticket’ and ‘one-dollar gas.’ That is to say, it’s wishful thinking.
That’s a troubling trend for a community which bills itself as a local leader in outdoor recreation. Palm Coast is taking intentional steps to become a destination for pickleball, and the city is always promoting its intricate network of walking and biking trails. The newest set of apartment buildings in Town Center are located a biking distance away from a movie theater, grocery shopping, schools, a convenience store, and medical offices. Palm Coast is not blinking in its goal of being a city that lives outdoors.
At the same time, however, Palm Coast is composed of a higher percentage of seniors than the average city. It was conceived as a retirement destination and even as it pivots toward younger families, the 50+ transports are not slowing down. That poses a problem for the active senior who’s facing more oppressive heat than they’ve ever lived in before. It’s an issue of comfort, yes, but beyond that it’s a recipe for increased risk of heat stroke or cardiovascular issues.
The first precaution available is one which does not have to affect an active lifestyle at all: exercising in the mornings and evenings. For those who believe the early bird truly does get the worm, a 7:00 AM jog or bike ride is a refreshing, healthy way to start the day. The view at Waterfront Park in particular, with the eastern sunrise illuminating the waterway, is a must-see for the Palm Coast outdoor enthusiast.
Those looking for something a little later may consider opting for sunset activities instead. Rather than going for a ride or run which may leave you far from your car after dark in the event you miscalculate, consider something illuminated: Palm Coast’s parks feature facilities for basketball, softball, volleyball, racquet sports, and more that are illuminated at night. Holland Park is a great choice for this, as is Wadsworth Park just over the Flagler Beach line.
Beyond time of day, it’s also possible to find a good workout indoors. Palm Coast is home to two Planet Fitness locations, each of which offer a high-value gym membership for a low monthly rate. Those looking for something a little less corporate can consider Anytime Fitness, MPower Fitness, Just Train Fitness, and more. Each option provides a workout setting in the air conditioning and away from the heat.
Thirdly, the area is a great place to consider taking up water sports. The Belle Terre Swim & Racquet Club and Palm Coast Aquatics Center are popular choices for those looking to swim laps, allowing for a full-body cardio workout that keeps the athlete cool the whole time. There are also kayak and canoe launches at several locations within the county, providing an upper-body workout in areas with access to wind, shade, and water. Furthermore, there’s extensive ocean access in Flagler Beach and unincorporated Flagler County where residents can take up surfing, paddleboarding, or simply swimming in the rhythmic waves. Just remember to wear sunscreen.
Just as heat can be a problem living in Florida, residents aren’t entirely immune from the cold either. This being the February issue, if anything it’s the more relevant and present concern than the heat. And it hasn’t been just any Florida winter; temperatures are as far as ten degrees below the seasonal average in some parts of the state.
On particularly frigid days, the best idea may actually be to stay inside. The aforementioned indoor gyms will have heating just as they have air conditioning during the other portions of the year. But there are lots more ways to stay physically and mentally well than just taking regular exercises indoors.
One great way to nurture one’s own body and spirit is to look into taking a yoga class. There are several options scattered around Flagler County, like Hot Yoga Lounge, One Love Yoga Studio, and Padma Yoga. Practitioners experience a renewed sense of their own balance and stillness, plus an opportunity to shut off the outside world and truly spend some time looking within. Plus, it’s a great way to improve flexibility, reduce stress, and exercise the body without significant risk of injury.
In the same vein, Palm Coast offers a robust sampling of senior fitness classes for the town’s golden year population. These classes present the opportunity to improve physical fitness and mindfulness in a variety of areas which will all contribute to the maximum physical comfort when joints and muscles will need it most. Senior fitness trainer Artie Gardella, whose schedule is available at synergyseniorfitness.com, is one of the most popular instructors for those sorts of classes.
For those whose bodies are still up to it, surfing can also be another great way to stay active in the winter. Usually considered a summer sport, the most serious about the craft often times find spending the extra money on a full-body wetsuit is well worth it for the traditionally better waves that come around in the winter months. And if that’s not reason enough to become a January shredder, the decreased crowds at the beach will provide a less stressful, more relaxing chance to enjoy the area’s most accessible water sport.
Good news: we’re living in the golden age of mental health awareness. No longer is it highly stigmatized to pursue avenues that uplift one’s mental well-being, whether it’s regular upkeep or more serious treatment. The winter can be a time when mental health care is most important, and it’s one way of self-betterment that’s equally available regardless of weather changes.
One easy way to nurture one’s mental health is to spend time outside. Being exposed to fresh air and sunlight is beneficial for nearly everyone, regardless of what you’re doing when you’re out there. Maybe it’s taking a walk around the block, or dusting off that street bike. Maybe it’s meeting up with friends for a cup of coffee somewhere with outdoor seating. Or perhaps it’s taking an hour or two before sunset to sit on the porch with a good book.
Another option is to consider pet adoption. The Flagler Humane Society is just one resource who’s always looking to connect pets with loving homes. Owning a dog, cat, or other small and manageable pet is one of the most reliable ways people have found to enrich their lives, and find companionship that’s unconditional and easy to maintain. Of course, owning a pet isn’t right for everyone’s life circumstances and there are always right and wrong choices of animals. But it’s impossible to discount the positive life impact a furry friend can have.
Lastly, it’s never a bad idea to take up a new hobby. Birdwatching (see page 20) is especially popular in places like Princess Place Preserve, whose biodiversity is unrivaled in the area. Fishing, both salt and freshwater, is fun, easy, and inexpensive year round, and it might just provide you with the evening’s dinner.
For the greatest variety of choices, all ages of residents can visit the Palm Coast Community Center for classes and programs ranging from sports to self defense to gardening to books to board games. Not only do series like these provide a consistent activity year-round, but they also offer an opportunity to get to know your neighbors, and possibly make a life-long friend. Because, after all, we’re at our best and healthiest when loved ones are around to make life better.
Even as technology continues to envelope us, it seems like it’s still the simple things in life that can give us the most pleasure and give our lives more meaning and purpose as well as providing better health and wellness at the same time.