It takes courage, grace and a dose of humor to age well, and a sound body and mind are a big help. People used to think that getting old meant an inevitable decline into mental and physical weakness. Now we know that’s a myth. With a healthy diet, plenty of sleep and social interaction and an ongoing commitment to keeping your body fit, aging can be a vital, productive chapter of your life. Here are 4 tips to help you approach fitness for energetic aging.
Start Where You Are
You don’t have to be a lifelong athlete to embrace fitness. All you need is a commitment to a stronger, more functional body. Even if you’ve never set foot in a gym or on a running track, fitness is within your reach. If you know you have health problems, talk with your doctor about the best way to start an exercise program. If you’re in good health, you’re probably safe to start out with a basic walking regimen and some simple strength and flexibility training.
Start Easy and Keep Going
Fitness requires strength, endurance (stamina) and flexibility. These take time to develop. To avoid injury and disappointment, start small and gradually work towards an achievable goal.
Never exercised before? Start with 15 minutes of walking every other day, and 15 minutes of stretching on the non-walking days. Gradually increase your time on the walking days to 30 minutes, then start increasing the pace. Add strength training exercises to your stretching routine until those days total 30 minutes also — to prevent injury, try to focus on legs one day, abs/core another, arms/shoulder/chest on the third.
If you get too sore or too tired, take a rest day. Just don’t forget to start up again! As you get stronger, boost your walks to daily, and keep your strength training to at least 2 days a week.
As you get stronger, you may find yourself craving new challenges. Give in to this temptation! Try joining a gym or taking classes. Is the weather hot? Spend one of your exercise days swimming laps. Do you have friends who participate in sports you’d like to try? See if you can tag along to their fencing lesson or their ballroom dancing class. Check out any form of sport or fitness activity that piques your curiosity. If you find something you like, pursue it and see where it takes you. It will protect the health of your mind as well as your body.
Practice Positive Self-Talk
Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. You may feel discouraged if at first you don’t meet your goals. There might be days of sore muscles or plain old exhaustion. That’s when attitude counts. Remind yourself that you’re in this for the long haul. Take time to applaud yourself for milestones — that first mile without stopping, that first full set of heavier weights. Reward yourself for making progress with healthy treats — a pedicure, new workout clothes, a massage. Tell yourself that you’ll get dressed and started on your workout before deciding to give it a miss.
Fitness is a journey full of unexpected rewards. Not only will your body be stronger and better able to serve you, but your mind will be sharper and more focused. You’ll sleep better, and feel more energetic. You’ll be able to maintain a healthy weight more easily, and be more resistant to illness.You may even be able to reduce the amount of medications you take.
Most importantly, you will be able to tackle the challenges of aging from a place of confidence. Don’t get stuck in the myths about getting old. Give yourself the promise of years of healthy, vibrant living by making fitness a central focus of your life starting today.