Like most Americans, you’re probably aware that physical activity is important to one’s overall health and well-being. And, like many Americans, you may not exercise as much as you should. If you’ve made a resolution to be more physically active next year, here are some tips to get – and keep – you motivated.
Recognize you’ll be more independent as you age
Physical activity is one of the single most important things you can do for your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, regular exercise can help:
- Reduce your risk of numerous diseases, including some cancers
- Strengthen your bones and muscles, which helps prevent falls
- Improve your mental health
Disease, accidents due to falls, and a loss of cognitive function are all major reasons seniors become less independent as they age. Exercise help prevent all three, increasing the likelihood you’ll be able to pursue your passions well into your later years.
Get a “workout buddy”
Exercising with someone not only gives you an opportunity to add a social element to your workout, it increases your chances of maintaining a regular routine. A study at Indiana University found that married couples who worked out together had a much lower dropout rate that couples who worked out separately (6.3% to 43%). This could be as simple as walking with your spouse or neighbor every morning. For even more motivation, take a friend to an exercise class at the local senior center. The more people you have supporting you, the more likely you’ll stick to a routine.
Get a dog
A dog is a great workout buddy. First, they need to be walked, so you have a constant source of motivation. Numerous studies show that dog owners are healthier than non-owners and the benefits extend beyond physical health. In study conducted by psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University, researchers discovered that pet ownership led to better overall health and well-being. “Specifically, pet owners had greater self-esteem, were more physically fit, tended to be less lonely, were more conscientious, were more extraverted, tended to be less fearful and tended to be less preoccupied than non-owners,” according to Allen R. McConnell, PhD and lead researcher.
Set a goal
If you walk in the mornings, set a goal to walk to the park and back or three laps around the lake. Having a specific goal will help you keep focused and make you less likely to become distracted by all the temptations that will try to keep you from keeping your commitment.
Clip on a pedometer
A study of more than 300 New Zealand seniors found that people walked almost twice as much when they wore a pedometer. These devices allow people to check their progress and actually having something recording your level of activity seems to be enough of a motivator for people to get moving.
Put exercise on your daily to-do list and schedule a specific time for it. Most people do best by having a regular time each day – often first thing in the morning. Having a regular routine helps many stick to their commitment easier.
Add in some fun
Look for activities for which you already have an interest in doing – such as gardening, dancing, or golf. It’s much easier to get motivated for something you actually enjoy doing! If your main activity is walking, change your route to include new sights and sounds to keep you interested.