You know you should – exercise has been linked to better cognitive functioning and physical health – but you don’t.
How many years have you said, right about now, “I’m going to start exercising regularly!” “I’ll go to the gym.” “I’ll walk every day.” Maybe you’ve even joined a gym round about now, at the start of a new year.
You’re not the only one. More than half the people who join a gym never go, and those New Year’s resolutions are famously fickle. The fact is, sticking with it is hard – so we asked some experts for their best tips on how to motivate yourself for exercise. We got the scoop from one fitness trainer and several people who’ve managed to turn “should” into “did.”
We asked: How do you keep going? What motivates you?
Here’s what they told us. Maybe one of these ideas will work for you.
Get a Gym Buddy. This works at any age, but Sabrena Merrill, senior exercise consultant for the American Council on Exercise, says people 60-plus really take to it. “My experience is that older adults enjoy engagement and social connectivity [when exercising], whether that is with one person or a group of their peers. Physical activity lends itself to social connectiveness.” Try posting your gym buddy request on Facebook – you never know whom among your friends or friends of friends has been secretly trying to motivate, just like you.
Think pain relief What motivates us for fitness after 60 can be different than what motivates younger people, Merrill says. Older adults are often after health benefits, as well as relief from pain. “Pain is a powerful motivator,” she finds.
Make it reward time If you like audiobooks, decide that exercise time is when you get to delve into that delicious new story you’ve been waiting to start. You may just walk and walk and walk.
Focus on the “after glow” before you start When Roberta Grant of Santa Barbara, CA., is lying in her warm, cozy bed in the morning, resisting getting up and out for her four-mile walk, she thinks about how she’ll feel after it. It’s a process. Once she’s up, she thinks about “how good I’ll feel once I warm up and then how virtuous I’ll feel when I’m done.”
Enter an event. No matter where you live, chances are you can find a 5K walk or other road event that’s open to all ages and categories of fitness. After committing to go, you’re unlikely to back out—especially if you sign up with a friend. And now, you’ve got to train. You wouldn’t want to embarrass yourself, right?
Pay someone and you will show up Rebecca Joseph of Los Angeles goes to a trainer three times a week and supplements it with a ”yoga booty” class. Without the workouts, she aches. And she wouldn’t miss a booked appointment—that costs! “It’s the external and internal motivation combined,” she says. Signing up for a class could work, too; you’ve paid for it.
Add value to training sessions Senior Planet commenter Tiara suggests, “If you’re adept with a computer and MsWord, and have a digital camera, have a partner take pictures of you doing exercises prescribed by a trainer. Then switch off. Make notes of proper positioning of body parts using gym equipment, and how many repetitions of each exercise you should do, then pop it all into text boxes in MsWord and create a printed guide for yourself to use on your own to help you exercise safely!”
Think of it as cheap therapy “If I’m upset about something that happened to me during the day, exercising helps me to get over it,” says Agueda Mitraud Cardosa of Burbank, Ca. Recently she was aggravated with someone and instead of stressing out, she headed to the gym for a workout. Sure enough, an hour later she felt ”brand new.”
Get yourself new gear No matter what form of exercise you pick, getting something new that will help you work out is motivating. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. Remembering that I had fresh, new running socks has helped me get out of bed on many a dark morning.
Go straight there If you’re working and can’t find the energy to go back out to the gym once you’re home, try the suggestion of one commenter on Senior Planet: Don’t go home! Head straight to the gym after work (maybe a colleague wants to join you?); you might even find yourself re-energized once you’ve worked out a little.
Count your steps Another Senior Planet commenter said, “I bought a pedometer and have a little competition with my self to walk every day, aiming for 10,000 steps. I started slowly and worked up. I also try to keep in touch with other retired colleagues, and when we meet, we walk first and then have lunch.”
Woof Think about volunteering to walk someone’s dog or even getting your own to be your exercise companion – an older dog from your local shelter will already be housebroken. “When you have a dog friend that needs to go walking three or four times a day, you’ll benefit from regular daily exercise and meet new friends,” Janet says.
Think travel Colin Milner, CEO at the International Council on Active Aging, works out with a trainer three times a week, even in the harshest of Canadian winters. In the summer, he adds four bike rides. He’s sure that regimen is why he has traveled with ease to more than 40 countries in the past five years. “When I was 19, it was all about the bicep,” he says. Now, not so much. If you’re not in shape, he says, ”you are not going to do well climbing up the stairs of the Notre Dame or at the Great Wall of China.”
Got a motivation tip? Share it in the comments section below.