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Standing up against the need to be a couch potato

For the past three years, I have been trying to lose the same five pounds.

I’ll lose a couple pounds, feel like I’m doing really well, and then celebrate by going out for ice cream. I know I need to get back to the gym, beat the scale and (more importantly) develop good exercise habits, but I’m just not motivated.

According to R.J. Shephard’s article, “Aging and Exercise,” in the Encyclopedia of Sports Medicine and Science, I am in good company: It is difficult to motivate the vast majority of older adults to exercise regularly. But after doing some research, I’ve discovered ways to get recommitted.

Weigh yourself daily. In a study at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, of 3,026 dieting adults, those who weighed themselves more frequently lost more weight over two years or regained fewer pounds. That makes sense to me. I got frustrated at not losing the pounds, so I quit weighing myself to avoid having a bad day. I need to force myself to look at those numbers.

Stick a model on your fridge. Seriously, this works. But you have to choose people based on your motivational style. In a series of three studies, Penelope Lockwood and colleagues discovered that some people are motivated by success and others are motivated by failure. So, if you’re motivated to succeed, put a slim model on your fridge. If you’re motivated to avoid failure, put an example of a failed dieter where you can see it. I’m not sure which strategy works best for me, so I’m going to pin up Gisele Bundchen and a close-up of my cellulite.

Get rid of the candy jar. Why, oh why, do I keep filling up my candy jar with my favorite chocolate treats? A Wall Street Journal article reported that in a four-week study of 40 secretaries, when candy was visible in a clear, covered dish, participants ate 2.5 pieces of chocolate on top of the 3.1 candies they would have eaten had the chocolates been in an opaque container. Moving the dish closer, so the subjects could reach the candy while at their desks, added another 2.1 candies a day to their intake. I keep the candy jar handy to increase the esprit de corps at work, but I am sabotaging myself in the process.

If all else fails, imagine yourself as a weightlifter. Believe it or not, there is something to visualization – even when it comes to exercise. Guang Yue, an exercise psychologist from Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Ohio, compared “people who went to the gym with people who carried out virtual workouts in their heads.” He found that the group of participants who conducted mental exercises of the weight training increased muscle strength by almost half as much (13.5 percent) as those who went to the gym (30 percent). So, if I can’t get to the gym, it helps to know that mental practices are almost as effective as true physical practice and that doing both is more effective than either alone.

Now that I am recommitting myself to exercising, I have a few things to do: get back on the scale, pin up some motivating pictures, get rid of my office candy jar and imagine myself thin and fit. Now, I need an exercise partner.

This article was originally published in the OCRegister.com. It has been republished here with permission.

Best exercise for older adults

Maintaining a healthy exercise routine is a fundamental part of life for all ages. Each age group stands to benefit from the advantages regular exercise can bring to one’s overall health. This is especially true for older adults who are 50 years and older.

Regular exercise combats all forms of disease by strengthening muscles, including the heart. This improves circulation which reduces the occurrence of high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Regular exercise along with a healthy diet reduces the risks of heart attack and stroke.

Yet not many 60 year olds can start a rigorous exercise routine without injury. Most need to practice an exercise routine that is challenging yet doesn’t provoke stress or cause injury.

The National Institute of Health points out that there are four general types of exercise that are necessary to maintain good health, particularly in older adults.

Strength training

By working with light weights or exercises that use one’s own weight to build muscle increases metabolism which keeps blood sugar in check.

Balance

According to NIH, 300,000 older adults are admitted to the hospital for broken hips each year. Oftentimes, medications can cause side effects such as dizziness or confusion that increase the likelihood of falls with older adults. Other older adults may be suffering from problems with the inner ear which can impede one’s depth perception. Also, impaired vision caused by poor lighting or other household hazards or diseases like cataracts makes it difficult for older adults to safely navigate around the house. Once you have cleared your exercise routine with your physician, you can experiment with various balancing exercises.

Doug Schrift of Eldergym.com describes this type of exercise as an opportunity to ignite your “internal spatial orientation.” For example, if you close your eyes and start raising your arm above your head, you should have a pretty good sense of the location of your arm because of your inner sense of feedback. Balancing exercises strengthen that sensation.

Those who play tennis on a regular basis improve their sense of balance. But sometimes all it takes is placing a strip of masking tape on the floor. With a chair close by for support, you simply practice walking on that line. Dancing, high knee marching, and high above-the-head reaching moves are all beneficial forms of balancing exercises.

Stretching

Encouraging and maintaining flexibility is an important part of good health. The Asian culture, particularly the Chinese community, have been practicing the art of Tai Chi for centuries. This series of movements are ideal in all aspects of exercise. It builds strength, trains on balance and encourages stretching while not creating a negative impact on the body.

Endurance

Strengthening the skeleton and muscles is important. So is strengthening the cardiovascular system. “The most underrated form of exercise out there is walking,” said Dr. Jeremy Osmond, Director of Rehabilitation at Orchard Park Post-Acute Rehab Center in Orem, Utah. “Everybody should be doing it. It’s the simplest form of exercise but it is so healthy and so good for you.”

Also, swimming, biking, low-impact hiking, even household chores increase the heart rate for an extended period of time. Start by exercising in five-minute intervals and build from that.

Exercise is something everybody needs to incorporate into their daily routine, and older adults are no exception. By investing a small amount of time every day for exercise, you can enjoy big rewards in maintaining good health.