5 Strategies for Everyday Fitness
We all know how important exercise is to aging well, but only 15% of men and 10% of women over the age of 65 are meeting the physical activity guidelines for exercise. One of the biggest factors in exercise participation is a lack of motivation. Small shifts in your lifestyle and mindset can help increase motivation, but ultimately it’s consistency that helps keep your workouts on track.
Before we get started, let’s review those physical activity guidelines!
Strive for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity per week. This translates to about 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. What is considered moderate intensity exercise? Any type of exercise that increases your heart rate and breathing rate. If you are going for a brisk walk, you should be breathing hard, but still able to have a conversation.
Plan two strength training sessions per week. Target the large muscle groups in your upper and lower body, and don’t forget that core!
A few minutes of daily practice will sharpen your balance and help reduce fall risk.
Now that we know the benchmarks, let’s talk about how to reach our fitness goals. Aches and pains, tiredness, chronic conditions, and busy schedules can all play into lackluster motivation to make exercise a priority. Play with the strategies below to find what works for you.
1. Exercise should be FUN! Do you dread walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes/ day at the same monotonous speed? Change it up. Try intervals on the treadmill, where you increase and decrease your speed. Go outside and find a new loop to walk in your neighborhood or a nearby park. Listen to your favorite music, audiobook, or podcast while you walk. Chart or photograph the birds and wildlife you find along a nature trail. Use the stationary bike, elliptical, or track at the gym. Try water aerobics, a dance class, or sign up for pickleball. If you find something you love, you will have a much easier time sticking with it.
2. Make exercise SOCIAL time. Working out with a buddy increases the likelihood of achieving your fitness goals. Plan to meet weekly to walk in your neighborhood, the mall, or the gardens at Cheekwood. Meet at the gym to attend the same class each week and stay after to catch up over a coffee. Make a day of it! The combination of exercise and social time is a great way to stay active and connected.
3. Track your progress. In the world of technology, there are endless possibilities. Activity trackers, smart watches, and fitness apps can help you set attainable goals and remind you to move. Some smart watches even have an integrated fall alert feature, which is a great safety benefit. In a 2015 study, 46% of seniors who wore an activity tracker reportedly increased their activity level, improved their sleep, or ate more healthfully.
4. Set attainable goals. If you aren’t meeting the current physical activity guidelines, start where you are and slowly build up. Maybe you need to break that 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise into three 10 minute sessions per day. Or maybe you know you aren’t going to make it to the gym five days a week and need to plan half your workouts from home. Be honest with yourself and set smaller, more realistic goals.
5. Make exercise a habit. Motivation fluctuates over time, but it's routine that keep us in check. Be consistent. Make a plan, add it to your calendar, and stick with it. Pledge to walk 15 minutes every morning and evening. At every meal time, stand up and sit down 10 times from your chair. Practice your balance at the bathroom countertop a few minutes each morning after you brush your teeth. Always park at the back of the parking lot to increase your steps as you walk into a store. When you are working on the computer, set a timer to remind yourself to get up every 30 minutes for a posture break. The more you can make movement part of your day, the better.
Find what works for you and come up with a daily routine. Regular exercise is one of the very best things you can do for your health. Take the time to prioritize you and make daily exercise a habit.
Elgaddal N, Kramarow EA, Reuben C. Physical activity among adults aged 18 and over: United States, 2020. NCHS Data Brief, no 443. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2022. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.15620/cdc:120213
Project Catalyst and HomeLab. Building a Better Tracker: Older Consumers Weigh In on Activity and Sleep Monitoring Devices. Washington, DC: AARP Research, April 2016. https://doi.org/10.26419/res.00294.001