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How to Make Physical Activity a Part of Your Daily Life

How well do you understand the importance of regular exercise? Science tells us the benefits of consistent exercise are everything from improved immune function to a strong cardiovascular system to strong bones. But, if you’re like many other aging adults, you may struggle to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. In fact, research shows that only one-third of people between the ages of 65 and 74 are physically active, beyond performing daily household tasks.

Some of the barriers you may be experiencing in starting a workout routine could include time constraints, lack of motivation, or fear of injury. While these are all valid reasons why someone might be hesitant to get into a regular routine, there are various simple solutions for each one that can boost your happiness all the while helping you achieve the results you need.

Self-Motivation is Key

Any time you’re starting something new, the process can feel intimidating or risky – that’s why it’s important to first start with building up your self-motivation and self-confidence, then training yourself to create a routine of intentional action steps towards your goal. Disciplining yourself to actually do it can undoubtedly be challenging, so try approaching exercise in the same way you go about your daily routine – brushing your teeth, taking a shower, fixing a cup of coffee, etc. – those actions have become habits so much so that you most likely don’t have to think to do them before you do them, you just do them! 

Also, another great way to motivate yourself is by scheduling your daily exercise regimen based on your energy levels, or the time of day you are most motivated to do moderate to intense level activities. For example, if you have more energy in the morning, begin your day with a workout, then proceed with the rest of your routine. The magic lies is in creating a healthy exercise habit that fits your lifestyle and doesn’t feel like a burden.

Ways to Create a Sustainable Routine

Once you’ve mentally decided that physical independence is important for your mind and body, the action steps you need to take will be less dreadful and more rewarding. Look to your physical therapist as a guide and support in creating an action plan that includes the most effective and safest movements for your current physical condition.

Start Small

You might be tempted to jump into a rigorous routine, especially if you haven’t been exercising and feel like you have ground to make up. But here’s one thing you must know: you don’t need fancy equipment to start and maintain a regular exercise routine. For beginners, all you need is your bodyweight against gravity. To take it up another level, you can then incorporate ankle weights and resistance bands. 

Starting small is the best way to remain safe and to make sure the routine you create is sustainable. If you push yourself too hard in the beginning, you’re less likely to stick with it. Plus, as little as 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week can help older adults avoid chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia, arthritis, diabetes, or hypertension. One way to begin is to sprinkle movement throughout your day, even if it’s in one or two-minute increments. Keep a small nerf ball or therapy putty in your living room to improve grip strength while you’re watching TV. (Try this: squeeze the ball or putty tightly in your hand for five seconds, then release. Pinch the nerf ball or putty between one finger and thumb for five seconds, then release. Repeat 10-15 times on each side.) You can also work on improving your balance by standing on one foot for 10 seconds while alternating with the other foot you are brushing your teeth in the morning. 

Get Creative

Sometimes when we think of exercise, it brings to mind images of someone sweating buckets at the gym or playing a contact sport. But there are lots of powerful ways to increase movement – try incorporating some of these aerobic activities into your routine:

  • Walking or hiking
  • Some forms of yoga
  • Some yard work, such as raking and pushing a lawnmower
  • Bicycle riding (stationary or outdoors)
  • Water aerobics

It is important to remember that in order for cardio or aerobic exercise to count towards meeting the aerobic guideline and make a difference in your overall health, you must do them at a moderate- or vigorous-intensity. Even something as simple as walking is a great way to get the aerobic activity you need, as long as it’s at a moderately intense pace – while doing the activity, you should feel your heart increase/working more than it would be in a state of rest (you can measure your own heart rate by checking your pulse on your neck or wrist or using your blood pressure monitor at home).

Need ideas for muscle-strengthening activities that count as quality physical activity? Here are some great ways you can strengthen your muscles, whether at home or in the gym.

Make It Fun

If you don’t already have an activity you enjoy, try a variety of activities until you find one or a few that you love. If you truly enjoy and look forward to doing the activity, you’re much more likely to stick with it over time.

Here are some activities that are popular amongst seniors that you may or may not have tried before – either way, they’re great options to make a part of your daily life: 

  • Walking or jogging
  • Yoga
  • Dancing
  • Lifting weights
  • Thai Chi
  • Stretching
  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Swimming
  • Hiking

Exercising is one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself and is critical to your quality of life, longevity, and injury prevention. Not only will you experience small wins in the beginning, but you will notice how it carries you through the years, helping you to avoid chronic illnesses as you age. We encourage you to start now and gradually work your way into making it a habit that will benefit from head to toe.

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