As a youngster, you probably ran around with your friends, played tag and got exercise without even thinking about it. As a teen, you may have joined a school sport and focused more on the competition than the fact that you were staying in great shape.
Then you hit adulthood, and, suddenly, tag was a silly concept and team sports were off the table. You knew your metabolism was slowing down, and so you felt obligated to work out — but you probably dreaded doing it. Maybe, to keep your exercise guilt at bay, you tried taking a couple classes at the gym or picking up an active hobby like speed walking.
Even if this isn’t your exact story, it more than likely rings true for you in some respects. After all, it’s human nature to slow down a bit as you age.
But slowing down and being sedentary aren’t the same thing. A body’s needs may change over time, but that’s no reason to give up on an active lifestyle altogether. Quite the opposite. Studies have shown that not only is an active lifestyle possible for seniors, but regular exercise is key for healthy living.
Listed below are some of the most common excuses and misconceptions seniors have when it comes to exercise. After each excuse is a list of reasons to persevere with a more active lifestyle.
“I’m no spring chicken. I deserve some rest.”
Of course you do, but not at the expense of your overall greater health. Today’s Geriatric Medicine reports that even just 150 minutes of exercise per week makes an astounding difference on senior’s mental, physical and emotional well-being.
So no — no one’s asking you to give up rest, relaxation or afternoon naps. But you might hold off on settling into your comfy chair until after your morning walk. You’ll do your body and mind some good and feel like you’ve earned that leisurely afternoon.
“My body’s not what it used to be.”
No, it’s not. Aging does, of course, take its toll on the body, but by avoiding activity, you’re only inviting your body to become less capable of activity. The sedentary lifestyle creates a vicious cycle.
To overcome the negative snowball effect of not exercising, start the opposite snowball effect. In other words, start exercising to reach a more athletic state so that you can continue exercising and pushing your limits even further.
So today, maybe you go for a short walk — no need to start off with marathon. In a couple weeks, maybe you could try biking, yoga or ping pong. Your body may not be in its twenties anymore, but you can still reach a new, healthy peak and feel great.
“Exercising at my age will do more harm than good!”
No one expects you to bench press a hundred pounds. Part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle is finding the right exercises for your age and fitness level.
And when you do those right kinds of exercises, more than just your body will thank you. Seniors reap incredible benefits from proper exercise, like:
- Avoiding injury and discomfort by doing age-appropriate activities
- Feeling more energetic and alert
- Sleeping more soundly
- Keeping chronic diseases at bay
- Reducing chronic pains like arthritis
- Building strength, mobility, flexibility and balance
- Feeling more confident
With these benefits pushing you forward, exercise should be a no-brainer. Now the big challenge is to get started and stay motivated. Fortunately, there are more tools at your disposal than you might realize, and they’re discussed in the next section.
“I don’t like exercise.”
You think you don’t like exercise? So does everyone who hasn’t found the right kind of exercise for them. Here are three truths to counter the mistaken belief that you don’t want to work out:
Attitude Is Everything
Approach exercise with a positive attitude and it will be that much more fun. When you’re struggling with self-motivation, revisit that list of benefits. Even when you’re not in the mood to exercise, your body is craving those rewards.
You Can Have Fun While Being Active
There are thousands of ways to exercise, and you can choose the one that sounds most enjoyable to you. Sick of walking? Try yoga. Try Pilates. Try water aerobics. Heck, try cardio kickboxing if you’re up for it — and your doctor approves. Find the right set of activities for you, and allow yourself to have fun!
You Don’t Have to Do It Alone
Invite a buddy when you go for a walk. Try out group exercise classes — there are so many available now that you’ll be part of a positive, supportive team of exercisers in no time.
Staying active isn’t something you have to do alone or something that has to be boring or painful. It’s just a matter of using your resources. Talk to your doctor about fun, effective and age-appropriate exercises. Try out a few different activities. And grow your social life by inviting others to do the same.
Active for Life
Some days, the idea of getting up off the couch is less than appealing, and that’s alright. Everyone has their lazy days, and the older you get, the more you’ll want to claim your right to rest and relaxation.
But don’t confuse well-earned rest with a sedentary lifestyle — you’ll ultimately be the one who suffers from this mistake. Start getting active now to make your senior years less about doctors’ visits and more about fun, full days and socializing.