Healthy Aging: Planning Your Activity Attack
We have all heard the saying “a body in motion tends to stay in motion” and this is especially true as we age. As we discussed in our previous post on the benefits of being active as you age, there are numerous long-term physical and mental benefits of maintaining a regular physical activity and exercise routine – especially for seniors. From helping you maintain a healthy weight to improving your mood, being active is a key ingredient to healthy aging!
Now that you are motivated to keep your body moving, it is important that you make a plan and set goals that are achievable for your needs and abilities. Having an “activity attack” plan will ensure that you remain safe, have fun and keep on track with your physical activity and exercise goals.
Planning Your Activity Attack
- Physical activity versus exercise – so what’s the difference and does it matter?While both terms refer to activities that require movement that contracts your muscles and burns calories, they are actually two different things. Physical activity refers to everyday activities like raking leaves, doing housework, walking the dog, or taking the stairs rather than the elevator. In contrast, exercise is a form of physical activity that is structured, planned and generally more strenuous with the ultimate goal being to improve fitness.Incorporating both physical activity and exercise into your daily routine is optimal; however, your exercise options may be limited by your physical abilities. Remember, even moderate physical activity can provide long-term health benefits. The point is to keep you body moving whether it’s taking the dog for a walk each day or joining an aerobics class.
- Figure out where you are so you can plan for where you want to be. In order to set reasonable and achievable activity and/or exercise goals you must first determine your current activity level. Try completing an activity log for one week (including the weekend). Each time you are physically active write down the activity you were performing and for how long. Remember that being active includes everything from gardening and taking out the garbage to swimming and jogging. The results of your activity log might surprise you… you might be more (or less) active than you think.
- Talk to your doctor first! It is extremely important that you talk to your doctor before beginning any new physical activity or exercise routine. Bring your activity log with you when you meet with your doctor. Your doctor can use your log to help you assess you current activity level and determine other activities and/or exercises which would be good for you to try and which ones you should avoid based on your medical condition(s) and age.
- Start slow and don’t get discouraged. Growing older can bring with it many physical changes including poorer balance, weaker muscles and stiffer joints, which can limit your physical capabilities. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t run as fast as you used to or if you are not able to participate in the same activities you did when you were younger. Start slowly with lower impact activities in shorter intervals. As your strength, endurance and confidence build you can add new activities and perform them for longer periods of time.
- Write down your activity plan. Once you have talked with your doctor and determined which activities and/or exercises are best for you, write out your activity plan. Many people find that having a specific plan on paper helps them keep motivated and on track especially during the first few months. List each activity or exercise you plan to do, when you plan to do it, how long you plan to do it, and where you plan to do it.
- Create short and long-term activity goals.Goal setting is another motivational trick that many people use to keep them focused and on track with their activity plan. Start with two short-term and two long-term goals (having too many goals can be overwhelming and cause unneeded frustration). Also, make sure your goals are realistic and achievable – the point of a goal is to succeed!Examples of short-term goals:
- This week I will take the dog for a walk around the neighborhood twice.
- By the end of the month I will have joined a low-impact water aerobics class at the local swimming pool.
Examples of long-term goals:
- In six months I will walk around the local high school track three times per week.
- By this time next year I will be able to swim 35 laps in the swimming pool twice a week.
Rewarding yourself for achieving your goals is another great motivational trick. When you set your goal also set your reward – you might be surprised at how quickly you can achieve your goal when you know there is a “prize” waiting for you at the end.
Now that you have the tools to plan your activity attack it’s time to get moving! Check back on our Limitless Living Blog for our continuing series of posts on healthy aging. Our next post will feature ideas for easy ways you to increase your daily physical activity.