Seniors: Motivations for Exercising

Sep 22nd, 2009 | By Dr Jerry D Elrod | Category: Senior Moments Blog

Today’s article will have further emphasis in this column on Friday, when we deal with Heart Health.

  Certainly the evidence suggests that many find it difficult to develop a steady discipline for exercise.  It is much too easy to find a comfortable chair, to take a nap, to avoid physical demands on the body.  Particularly those who have never had a regimen of exercise in their lives is it extremely challenging to get into a routine.

With all the information that suggests the imperative for exercising, there is still an abundance of reluctance, avoidance, and refusal.  This writer is one of those who finds it boring to engage in regular exercise, who takes exception to all the exercise machinery advertised as quick means for getting in shape and/or losing weight.  All the reminders of obesity do not seem to alter or encourage persons to choose a regular exercise program.  We/they are making potentially deadly or, at least, life threatening choices.    That alone would suggest some means for motivation in finding a reasonable program to exercise, heart and muscle.

A physical exam will ordinarily reveal the need for an exercise program.  Clinics, such as Mayo and others, offer programs which outline stretching and daily walking exercises that enable a person to improve his/her heart rate, leg and other muscles which are critical to aging.  But once out of the medical office, it takes choice and determination to follow through.

Here are some tips (compliments of Dr Sharon Elrod) that may be helpful:

  • Create an exercise journal and begin with only one exercise that you intend to do, including frequency.  For example, your first entry may be to walk every day, just down to the end of the block and back.  No more.  Just that one item.  Follow through with that one item with the frequency you planned, and make a notation each time you complete that exercise.
  • Congratulate yourself for doing what you planned to do for exercise!  There is nothing like positive feedback for reinforcement.  Tell your spouse or a friend what you planned and how you completed your plan.
  • At the end of a week, add one more item to your plan, and write it in your journal.  Your second item might be to walk every day to the middle of the next block and back.  Then follow through with both items, #1 and #2, for a week, again with the frequency you intended (e.g., daily, every other day, every two days… you get the picture).
  • Congratulate yourself both for doing what you initially planned, and what you added, to your exercise regimen!  It’s that positive reinforcement thing!
  • Keep adding one item each week, with frequency included, and make it a habit to do the follow up and self-congratulations.  Stop only when you choose to stop, believing you are getting the maximum amount of exercise that you need.
  • No recriminations if you are unable, for whatever reason to complete your exercise plan on a given day or two.  We all mess up. Resolve to get back at it the next day.

The next opportunity you have to observe a toddler learning to walk, look carefully.  That child takes a tentative step, then another, and at some point falls down.  She then gets back up and tries again, eventually learning to walk with fewer and fewer falls.  Running without falling is generally much farther down the road.  And you will usually find him smiling and congratulating himself when he realizes what he has accomplished.

Go and do likewise.



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