Everybody likes to have fun, right? It doesn’t matter what age you are or even what you’re doing. If an activity is fun, then you’re more likely to continue doing it.
That’s true for exercise and fitness. But too many of us don’t see the fun to be had in exercise. We think it’s too much work, or not interesting – when, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Just listen to Betty Franks, 82, of Roswell, Georgia:
“I love it,” says Betty of her twice-weekly weightlifting sessions with a trainer. “No one can convince you to work out. You have to know that there will be a benefit, and you’ve got to enjoy it.”
Never Quit Playing
Remember when we were kids? We loved to play and have fun. And then, somewhere during adulthood, work and responsibilities took over. We had homes to manage, careers and children… Fun was largely forgotten. As Oliver Wendell Holmes, the physician and author, famously said, “We don’t quit playing because we grow older; we grow older because we quit playing.”
He never met Sue Heaton, 69 who retired from her flower shop and enjoys exercise so much she has become a part-time trainer herself.
“I work out because it’s fun,” says Sue. “I planted flowers for a living because it was fun, but that was my business. In my personal life, exercising makes me feel good when I’m done, and even when I’m doing it. And it puts me with positive people.” Indeed, the social aspect is key to many mature Americans.
You can find friendship and support among peers and coaches whether it’s at the country club, a running team, a yoga studio or a gym. You can increase the social interaction by lots of ways, like:
- Going with a friend
- Taking a group class
- Using a trainer for solo or group sessions
Many fitness centers offer group classes in everything from yoga to resistance training, salsa dancing to aerobics. Here at TASH, we try to keep everything in a group setting. Some great relationships have started here.
Activity Is Its Own Reward
A good gym owner, class instructor or personal trainer knows how to help you have a good time while working up a sweat. They want to make sure you feel comfortable and engaged, not intimidated by the younger, firmer bodies or the confusing words and equipment. That doesn’t mean you aren’t working hard or pursuing your goals seriously. You know there is pleasure and reward to be found in challenging work, in reaching targets, and in being recognized for your efforts.
You did it when raising your family and working at your job. You can do it now, taking care of yourself. As Shawn Achor, psychologist and author of “The Happiness Advantage,” says:
Focusing on the good isn’t just about overcoming our inner grump to see the glass half full. It’s about opening our minds to the ideas and opportunities that will help us be more productive, effective and successful at work and in life.
Betty’s Tips for Fun and Fitness
No one has to tell that to Betty Franks. As she raised her family, Betty occasionally dabbled in yoga or some other form of exercise, before relocating every year or two for her husband’s sales career. When the couple finally retired in Georgia, Betty’s daughter encouraged her to exercise regularly and to use a trainer, so there’d be less risk of injury. Betty quickly took to it, after choosing the trainer she felt most comfortable with. She wanted someone skilled, but also patient, encouraging, and firm when necessary.
Then she walked twice a week to the gym for the sessions, until she was struck by a van and injured. She fully recovered, but decided against making that same walk. So now, trainer Robert Haddocks comes to her, at her assisted-living center, for their twice-a-week workouts.
“She touches her toes, palms to the floor, with ease; cranks out 15-20 solid push-ups; chest presses 30-pound dumbbells for 10 reps,” he says. “She’s super flexible, great balance and such a pleasure to work with.”
Betty appreciates Robert’s coaching and corrections. She says it’s important to pay attention to proper form and safety.
She also advises:
- Don’t do something if you don’t like it. (She hates the elliptical machine and treadmills.)
- “Don’t compare yourself to anyone,” Betty says. “I am an older lady, and you can get intimidated if you look around at all the younger bodies.”
- Establish a connection with someone – friend, trainer or class instructor.
Betty’s husband, Jim, now uses a trainer twice a week, in addition to the golf and fishing he enjoys. When she’s not working out, Betty reads, enjoys bridge, and plays drums in the band at her living facility. “Someone asked why I exercise, and I just came out and said, ‘So I don’t have to later.’ I’m not going to wait till I have a problem. It’s now in life when everybody should be exercising. We need to keep everything good, keep everything moving.
“I’m very happy and content,” she says, confident that her workouts are keeping her healthy, strong – and having fun.
Slow It Down for Safety and Effectiveness
How often in life have we been told to hurry up? Drive faster! Don’t be late! Pick up the pace!
But with healthy living after age 50, the opposite is often best. At the gym, we might naturally think we’re supposed to perform a movement as fast as we can. Maybe we’re competitive, or don’t want to look like we don’t know what we’re doing. But in many exercises, including weightlifting and other resistance training, we should most times try to slow things down. Move methodically and with intention, so you can make sure you’re performing the motion correctly. That will give you the most benefit and decrease your chance of injury.
Work with a trainer on balance – important for people over 50 to help avoid falls.
Other forms of exercise are great for us, too, and require a deliberate pace. Think about it: No one ever raced through a yoga class.
Meditation lowers blood pressure, stress and inflammation. It can help with chronic pain and headaches, depression, anxiety and insomnia, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says.
Studies show older people who meditate also see improvements in:
- Cognitive decline
You don’t have to sit on the floor cross-legged. You can meditate in a chair or bed. You can listen to a meditation podcast at your own volume, if that’s an issue, or find a class for other seniors. And guided meditations are helpful at this stage of life, because they provide cues to lead you through a section, so you’re not left wandering on your own.
Don’t assume your age means you can’t lift weights, practice yoga or meditate. Just discuss any concerns with the trainers or instructors, who are educated and experienced in making modifications for individual participants of all kinds.
Lifting, stretching, walking… we’ll help you find the movements that are right for you to do, and help you do them at the right speed. Just don’t wait too long to get started. Let us hear from you today.
Choose Healthy Foods as You Get Older
Recipes are fun, and we’ll share them frequently. But it’s also important to remember the basics of good nutrition as we get older. Here are a few tips from the National Institute on Aging to keep in mind.
- Drink plenty of liquids. That means water, yes, and also low-fat or fat-free milk and 100 percent juice, if you like. Watch out for added sugar, and stay away from diet sodas.
- Mix your vegetables. Brighten your plate with different colored vegetables – red tomatoes, green lettuce, orange carrots, etc.
- Socialize around eating. Potlucks, church socials, meals with families or lunch with a friend -– eating well is always more fun when you do it with others.
- Add herbs and spices. We lose our ability to taste flavor as we get older, and some medications interfere with taste and smell.
- Ask your doctor about supplements. Food should give us most of what we need, but talk to your doctor to learn if you should add vitamins or other supplements.
- Keep it lean. Make sure the meat you eat is low in fat.
- Keep it whole. As in whole foods – an apple over a slice of processed dessert, for instance.
- Limit fried foods. It’s just as easy to have a roasted chicken breast as it is fried chicken wings. And the first option is much lower in calories and fat.
What’s Fitness, Anyway?
Fitness means being able to perform physical activity. It also means having the energy and strength to feel as good as possible. Getting more fit, even a little bit, can improve your health. — WebMD