Why is it that we all know exercise is essential to a long and healthy life, yet only 32% of us over 60 regularly exercise? Nobel laureate, Daniel Kahneman, explains that we’re wired to take the easiest way to any goal, and as we age, we tend to further let ourselves off the hook. We’re going to have to trick ourselves into finding enough pleasure and gratification in exercise to tip the balance in favor of benefits over costs in our own minds. But, we do have options. Here are 6 healthy lifestyle tips to improve your fitness after 60 that we hope you’ll love enough to tickle your pleasure center.
It’s hard to make progress in anything if you don’t know where to start. Looking at where you think you are and comparing it to where you imagine you want to be can be discouraging. Instead, take the senior functional fitness test to get a true picture of your starting point, so you can make some real and measurable improvements.
Focusing on present moment incremental steps is so much easier than always looking at the faraway end point. You can feel good about yourself right away, because you’re performing the most important step… taking action, and not just thinking about it. Even if your mobility is limited, there is a fitness program for you. Everyone can begin.
The fastest way to drop an activity is to dread doing it in the first place. If the thought of running makes you take a nap, try a walk in nature. Does walking alone bore you? How about a round of golf on an executive course (9 holes), and walking instead of riding in a cart? Still can’t get motivated?
Maybe you’re the type who has to accomplish something – try running your Saturday morning errands on a bicycle, or hire yourself out as a dog walker.
Sit down and take a look at your schedule and at what you currently enjoy doing, then brainstorm ways to ramp up your activity level doing those things. Don’t shy away from also trying new things. You’re looking for ways to integrate several hours a week of moderate activity into your days that are pleasurable, gratifying, or both.
Sometimes, routines are the very things that cause our resistance. You should have some kind of structure to your exercise, just to make sure it’s getting done, so how about stringing together completely disparate activities? Take an hour-long tennis lesson one day a week. Play in a weekly bowling or golf league. Go to yoga or qigong twice a week.
Now you’ve tricked yourself into exercising four times a week, so maybe that strengthening program doesn’t look so bad once a week. Celebrate your accomplishments with a weekly swim and spa day. That’s six days and you’ve covered all the bases (cardio, strength, balance, flexibility); everyone deserves a day of rest – from having fun!
The important part is to fill in the blanks with activities you’ll actually do. Making it your own and loving it is what will help make it a natural part of your lifestyle, instead of something extra to do.
Remember, as Dr. Kahneman explained, our tendency is toward “least effort,” so we have to build accountability into our new lifestyle change, because we know how we are! It simply hasn’t been enough to know exercise can add years to our lives.
One easy way to stay accountable is through journaling. What were our measurable steps this week? Did we skip any activities? Which ones, and why? If you still struggle with resistance, see if you can find an accountability partner.
Try a friend with a similar goal, maybe one of your league or team members, or your coach or instructor. Be sure to choose a partner who understands your goals and isn’t militant about helping, but at the same time is at least as active as you are or more so.
By far the most nurturing forms of exercise that make your body feel loved are energy practices like yoga, qigong, or tai chi. They gently and effectively challenge your body’s endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility – the core challenges you need to meet to be fit. Most studios offer free introductory sessions. Check out different styles to see which one you’re most drawn to.
Many practices integrate meditation into the session. Your foursome could end the golf match with a light lunch together, or you could go out for frozen yogurt after bowling; schedule a massage after that tennis lesson, or take an aromatherapy bath when you finish your weight training session. However you do it, begin to blend exercise to a larger picture of self-nurturance.
One of the best ways to motivate yourself to optimum self-care is to feel good about your appearance. You don’t have to wait until your fitness is where you want it to be before you start honoring your body. In fact, fit you may not look much different than unfit you, depending on your body size.
Fitness can sometimes be relatively invisible on the outside, but inside you know for sure. Wherever you are in your personal process, choose clothes that fit. Push the too small clothes to the back of the closet until you’re ready, or get rid of them.
Definitely rid yourself of the over-sized clothes, if you’ve been hiding behind them. You know your style, so own it. Feeling good throughout the process is far more motivating than punishing yourself with unflattering clothes until you think you deserve more. You deserve more now.
Put some effort into making a plan that gives you pleasure. You owe it to yourself to live long and thrive.
What holds you back from exercising, even when you realize the consequences of not doing it? What healthy lifestyle tips would you share with the other women in out community?