“I can’t cut back on sugar this week because my friend’s birthday is Friday and I want to have cake! I’ll start Monday.”
“I can’t join the gym now because I don’t have time to commit to workouts every day. I’ll think about it when this project at work ends and I have more time.”
“I was working out three times a week, but I missed two weeks so I might as well not start again.”
“I can’t start eating healthy now, the holidays are almost here and there’s no way I’ll keep it up then so what’s the point?”
Any of these sound familiar? When contemplating any kind of change we typically think the change has to be abrupt, hardcore, tough rules and all or nothing. That it has to be a perfect plan, followed to perfection. I have good news, it doesn’t!
Merriam-Webster defines perfect as “being entirely without fault or defect” , “satisfying all requirements” and “corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept”. We humans are not without sin and are full of flaws which means we cannot meet this definition of perfect. Perfection is a potentially destructive goal. If you are striving for perfect in all you do you may fail to enjoy the ride, or even small achievements in your life.
It may keep you from pursuing things you want in life. Psychology Today says perfectionism is, “A fast and enduring track to unhappiness, it is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders.” They add, “Perfection, of course is an abstraction, an impossibility in reality, and striving for it can lead to procrastination, a tendency to avoid challenges, rigid thinking and a lack of creativity.” Perfection is impossible! But still so many of us fall victim to striving for it.
Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or as Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” If you are not willing to start until everything is perfect or until you think you can be perfect in meeting your goal, you are never going to start. When looking to improve your health, so many have the “The diet starts on Monday” mentality where you have to 100% be eating healthfully with no exception.
This type of thinking will keep you where you are in terms of health and fitness. If you don’t change, nothing changes. But it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight never to deviate from your idea of the “perfect” diet and exercise plan. Small changes to your eating habits and exercise routine count. Eating healthy meals on most days of the week is better than never eating healthier meals. Getting a workout in two days a week is way better than not working out at all. Don’t let the idea of perfection keep you from creating a healthier lifestyle. It’s not all or nothing.
Progress, not perfection!
If beginning an exercise routine is your goal, you may be worried about sticking with such a big time commitment. Any exercise is good. Even if you get just one walk in a week to start, that counts. If you make it to the gym twice a week, that counts. If you miss a week, come back the next. That’s ok! It doesn’t have to be a “perfect” workout regime. There is no such thing! Plus, starting with smaller goals is a great way to build to a sustainable healthier lifestyle.
Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”
Focus on your progress, on your journey to adding more exercise in your life. Because it is something that should be done for life, not just thirty days or the few months before spring break. Taking care of your body is a lifelong commitment.
There are always going to be things that come up to disrupt your well laid plans for your workouts or healthy meal plan. Be prepared for those times and ready to hop right back on track again.
There is no failure when it comes to your health and wellness. Use any setback as a learning tool. It can help you better prepare for the next bump in the road.
Strive for excellence, but allow for imperfection.
Sometimes the goal we have in mind can seem so overwhelming, we don’t start because we think we will fail. Or we don’t know what steps to take to get there. To be successful, focus on the small steps that will lead to the big goal. Have a goal of running a marathon but you have never run a mile? Start with a goal of run/walking one mile three times a week.
Once you have achieved that goal, you can start moving toward the next win on your journey to running that marathon. Otherwise, you may get discouraged while training for your huge goal of running 26.2 miles straight.
Create benchmarks along the way and be proud of accomplishing each one. Not sure where to start? A personal trainer can help you set these smaller goals to achieve on the way to your overall fitness goal.
“It's not about perfect. It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs.” - Jillian Michaels
Focusing on perfection will lead to a motivation crash the second something goes a little south. Knowing that health and fitness is a lifelong journey, not something that you are either on or you are off or pass or fail, will help you recover from any setbacks. Embrace the wins along the way when things are going well and use those wins to fuel you when you hit a road block.
If you do fall short of a goal, reflect on what happened and use it as a learning experience to help you along moving forward. It’s all part of the journey.
“Perfection is impossible; just strive to do your best.” -Angela Watson
Looking for perfection can hold you back in other ways as well. For example, I have started writing this post about ten times now. I write a few lines, delete some lines, then save it and come back and reread what I’ve written and delete some more and start again.
When talking with a client about my next blog post I told her that I was having trouble feeling satisfied with what I had written. As I explained that I didn’t want to submit it because I thought the post wasn’t good enough, a lightbulb went off and I realized I can keep writing and rewriting but it is never going to be perfect.
I’ll always find something that I want to come back and change, have grammatical errors, or feel like I didn’t get my point across as I had hoped. I can’t let my perfectionist ways keep me from finishing (or starting) a project or blog post or new workout plan. It may never be what I would deem perfect, but I hope that I, and others, benefit from what I have accomplished.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck
We are human, we are imperfect, we are unique. There will always be things that sway you from your path to your target. Being flexible, focusing on the process and celebrating your progress will help you overcome obstacles, because you know there will be ups and downs.
The path to success isn’t a straight line. Celebrate your successes along the way and don’t let perfectionism keep you off the path to your goal.
One of the most common complaints I hear from clients is knee pain. Someone will tell me they can’t exercise because they have bad knees, or I will hear they don’t want to exercise for fear of hurting their knees. Knee pain is something that affects millions of people in the United States. According to a study published in American Family Physician, “Knee pain affects approximately 25% of adults, and its prevalence has increased almost 65% over the past 20 years, accounting for nearly 4 million primary care visits annually.”. There are many reasons why one could be suffering from knee pain and it can happen at any age.
The Knee Joint
The knee is the largest joint in the body. It allows your leg to bend and straighten by connecting the upper leg bone (femur) to the two lower leg bones (the tibia and fibula). There are two pieces of cartilage (the medial and lateral meniscus) that sit and act as cushions between these bones. (There is also additional cartilage that covers the long bones that is different than the meniscus.) Numerous ligaments act as stabilizers in your knee and tendons connect the bones to the muscles. Your kneecap (patella) sits on the front of your knee and moves up and down when you bend and straighten your knee
Two groups of muscles are the main support to the knees. One are the hamstrings, which are the muscles on the back of the thigh. They run from the hip to just below the knee and work to bend the knee. The other are the quadriceps, which are the four muscles on front of the thigh that run from the hip to the knee and straighten the knee from a bent position. Your hip muscles can also affect your knee, as they control the way your knee moves and work together with the other muscles connected to your knee.
What Are Some Causes of Knee Pain?
A common cause of knee pain can be from an imbalance in the strength around the knee. For example, “Runner’s Knee” (patellofemoral pain syndrome) is pain right behind and around the knee cap. Runner’s knee isn’t a structural problem (like a torn meniscus), the issue lies in how your muscles function. It is most often a result of abnormal mechanics caused by muscle weakness and/or tightness in the legs or core that forces the patella to bump against the femoral groove causing pain. Often our quadriceps are stronger than the hip muscles and/or hamstrings. Strength training for the posterior hip muscles, like the gluteus medius will help correct this incorrect movement of the kneecap. Tight muscles can also be a cause of misalignment. Static stretching after exercise and foam rolling can help relieve tight muscles.
This doesn’t just happen in runners. Many people have an imbalance in the strength around the knee which causes the knee to be unstable. This can be caused by our sedentary lifestyles. When we spend the majority of the time sitting, our hips, glutes and hamstrings are tight and not as strong as our quadriceps.
Hip or foot pain can change the way you walk. This altered gait can place more stress on your knee joint. In some cases this can cause knee pain. Identifying the cause of the hip or foot pain is important to realign your gait and subsequently ease the additional joint pain. Sometimes a pair of shoes can change your posture and walk. Making sure your shoes have the support you need is important to prevent any injuries or ease existing pain.
Excess body weight can also put a lot of pressure on the knees. A study showed that each pound of weight loss can reduce the load on the knee joint by 4 pounds. Lose 10 pounds, and that’s 40 fewer pounds per step that your knees must support. Less pressure means less wear and tear on the knees.
Inflammation is another cause of knee pain and can be due to a variety of reasons. Being overweight may increase inflammation in the body that can lead to joint pain. Losing weight, a healthy diet, reduction of stress and good sleep are all things that can reduce this inflammatory response. Inflammation is also a symptom of arthritis.
There are many different types of arthritis. The three types that most often occur in your knees are Osteoarthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Post-Injury Arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a progressive condition that slowly wears away joint cartilage. Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory condition that can strike at any age. Another type of arthritis can develop following an injury to the knee.
Knee injuries can include torn meniscus or ruptured ligaments, inflamed tendons or torn cartilage. Injuries can be caused by many different reasons; including sports injuries, falls or other accidents.
Should You Exercise with Knee Pain?
Now that you have a bigger picture of how it all works together, it should make sense that having strong muscles and bones to support the knees can help, and may eliminate or prevent pain. By building strong muscles, you can reduce knee pain and stress and help your knee joint better absorb shock. Strengthening exercises involve developing stronger muscles in your quadriceps, hips, and hamstring. Having strong muscles in place can take some of the pressure off your knees.
A common misconception is that exercises can harm your knee joints by placing excess pressure on them, especially in high impact activities such as running or high impact exercises. A study in the National Institutes of Health shows that arthritis in the knees is not more common in those that run. A report by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) provides strong evidence that exercise is, in fact, good for the knees. The findings concluded that exercise actually helps improve the cartilage in between joints instead of breaking it down.
Keeping moving with low impact activities and strength training will help arthritis pain. Swimming, water aerobics, stationary bicycles and low impact aerobics are all good examples of low impact activities appropriate for those with arthritis. Movement is lotion for the joints.
Here are a few exercises to help strengthen the muscles that support the knee. I would recommend starting with 10 repetitions of each. Only increase that number when you can perform them easily, without pain or difficultly. Complete a 5 minute warm up, a walk or stationary bike, prior to completing these exercises.
Lateral Band Walks
Place a resistance band around your ankles. Come into a half-squat position, with core tight and glutes engaged. Without letting your knees cave in, and keeping your weight in your heels, step out sideways with one foot, and slowly follow with the other foot. (You can add a second resistance band above your knee for additional challenge.)
Forward/Backward Band Walks
Place a resistance band around your ankles. Come into a half-squat position, with core tight and glutes engaged. Step forward at a 45-degree angle with one foot, and follow with other foot. Repeat on the other side.
For backward, take a step backwards at a 45-degree angle.
Stand up straight with your back to a wall and your feet parallel, about two feet away from the wall, spread hip-width. Slide down the wall slowly until you are just about in a sitting position. Hold that position for up to 10 seconds and then slowly slide back up. Don't allow your knees to overextend in front of your toes.
Lie flat on your stomach. Slowly bring your heels as close to your butt as you can, and hold that position for a few seconds then release and extend your legs. You can also do this exercise standing while you hold onto a chair and lift one leg at a time.
Hip Raise or Bridge
Lay on your back on the floor. Bend knees keeping feet on the floor. Heels should be close to the butt. Pushing off with the heels, squeeze your gluteal muscles and lift the hips towards the ceiling and slowly lower your hips back to the floor rolling your spine down one vertebrae at a time.
Simply stand with your heels hanging over the edge of a stair and rise up onto your toes to perform calf raises.
There are many ways to strengthen the muscles that support the knee. Exercise selection depends on your fitness level and your specific knee issue. Consulting with a physician, physical therapist or personal trainer can help determine what is appropriate for you. The best thing you can do for existing knee pain, and to prevent knee pain, is to strengthen the muscles that support your knee and keep them flexible. Don’t let knee pain keep you sidelined, keep moving!
Topics: LivRite News
Healthy habits include anything you do to benefit your physical, mental or emotional well-being. They help create a healthy life. If you are not used to living a healthy lifestyle, these habits can be difficult to develop.
Change is hard! However, if you are ready to commit to improving your health, creating healthier habits is possible and will greatly benefit you in the long run.
Why a habit? Habits free us from decision making and from relying on self-control. According to researchers at Duke University, habits account for about 40 percent of our behaviors on any given day.
Once something is a habit, it becomes almost automatic and you do it without thinking. A habit is formed through a habit loop consisting of a cue, an activity and a reward. Something cues you to complete a certain activity like a location or time of day.
When that activity is complete your brain releases chemicals (like dopamine) that signal pleasure. Because of the reward, your habit loop is reinforced. This reward can feel like stress relief or happiness or another benefit that feels good to you at that moment.
Your brain will want to complete that activity again next time it is cued so you will receive the reward. This works for all habits, healthy ones and bad.
For example, say whenever you get ready for bed (cue), you brush your teeth (activity), which results in clean feeling teeth that makes you feel good (reward).
Or a bad habit, whenever you drive to work (cue) you stop by Starbucks and get a Venti Mocha Frappuccino (activity) on your way in and you are rewarded by that rush of sugar (reward).
Do you have some unhealthy habits you want to break? Think of the habit loop.
A habit starts with a cue. Because bad habits serve you in some way, it’s very difficult to simply eliminate them. Instead, the activity you would like to stop needs to be replaced by a new habit that provides a similar benefit or reward.
Let’s say you want to quit smoking. What cues you to smoke? Identify your triggers and replace the bad habit with a healthier one whenever that cue comes up that will elicit a reward/similar benefit.
If you normally go outside on your work breaks (cue) for a cigarette, ask a coworker to go for a walk with you instead. Or, if possible, remove those cues that make you want to smoke. Another example, if you would like to stop snacking in the evening after dinner, think of what cues you to do so.
If it is sitting and watching tv, switch the mindless munching to knitting or doodling. Or remove the cue of watching tv by meeting up with a friend instead or talk on the phone. Cut out as many cues as possible. If you can’t remove the trigger, replace the unwanted activity with a healthier option.
James Clear said, “When you learn to transform your habits, you can transform your life.”
Here are three more ways to create and keep whatever healthy habits you want to start.
- Add a healthier behavior to an existing habit. You brush your teeth every day right? It’s automatic (because it is a habit!). Try adding an action you want to make a habit at the same time as one of your existing habits.
For example, if you want to eat more vegetables you don’t have to necessarily completely change your normal eats. If you normally make eggs for your breakfast start adding spinach to them to get more vegetables.
Or if you need to drink more water, add filling your water bottles for the next day to the time you normally brush your teeth before bed. Put your water bottle right next to your tooth brush so you will remember. Then your water bottles are ready to go the next morning. Pretty soon when you go to brush your teeth, filling your water bottles will just be part of the routine. Do you drive by the gym on your way home from work? Make it a new stop on your usual drive home. Before you know it, going to the gym after work will be automatic.
- Start Slow. You wouldn’t go out and run a marathon if you’ve never run a mile. Make small changes (a few or even just one at a time) and slowly add more from there. This goes for anything, including both exercise and nutrition. It is important to make SMART goals. (Check out my post about SMART goals here!) The R stands for realistic. Setting small, measurable, realistic and time measured goals will help you reach a bigger milestone and keep you motivated along the way. If you are new to exercise, a SMART goal, or habit to start, may be to go to the gym twice this week. Or to take a walk for 20 minutes three times this week.
It can be easier to make changes to your nutrition slowly as well. Eating healthfully should be lifelong, not just for 21 or 30 days. A SMART goal to start eating better could be to cook at home three nights this week if you usually go out or get take out every night.
Or pack your own lunch if you normally go out. If you drink soda, replace it with water or unsweetened tea. As you get used to these changes and they become habit, you can add more.
- Pause, don’t stop. In her book “Better Than Before”, Gretchen Rubin says restarting is harder than starting. If you derail from your new exercise routine or healthier eating, take a step back and pause. Don’t think all is lost because you missed a few days of your new habits. You didn’t stop, you just paused and are able to start right back up where you left off. This happens to everyone and it will to you as well. So plan for it and know what you will do when you do get off track. Building healthier routines is not all or nothing, and missing a week or workouts or one weekend of unhealthy eats doesn’t make you a failure. It makes you human and you can start right back where you left off.
Not sure what kind of healthy habits to adopt? Here are a few things that might be a good fit in your daily routine. You don’t have to do all of these suggestions, some of them you might already be doing, plus it’s better that you don’t try too many new things at once. As we already discussed, start small and pick one or two things to turn into a new habit then build from there!
- Drink More Water – Track your water intake with an app like My Fitness Pal. Drinking one full glass of water before every meal is a great start and a great habit to implement!
- Walk during every break you have at work or aim walk for 2-5 minutes every hour
- Strength train two times a week
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible
- Turn off all electronic devices at least an hour before bed
- Keep a Sleep Schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day
- Be Mindful – Stay in the present moment, whatever you are doing. This could be meditation or simply focusing on the task at hand. Pay attention to your breathing and all the sensations you are experiencing.
Change can be hard. Be patient, give yourself some grace and keep reminders around of why you want to create this healthier life.
“Habits are the invisible architecture of daily life. We repeat about 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence, and our future. If we change our habits, we change our lives.”
― Gretchen Rubin, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
Topics: LivRite News
I like to exercise. I like it so much I made it my full time job! So it may surprise you to know that there are days when I just don’t feel like working out. At all. Really.
It is completely normal to have times when the thought of going to the gym or lacing up those sneakers for a walk or run sounds horrible even if you normally like your fitness routine.
Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep the night before, are not feeling well or you are overwhelmed with life but you just don’t feel the energy to muster up a workout.
There are also those who never feel motivated to exercise. They just don’t like it! I have met with many individuals who always have to push themselves to get a workout in or maybe they don’t workout at all.
Love it or hate it, the benefits of exercise outweigh the negative so we all should include it as part of our lifestyle. Whichever group you fall in, you are never always going to be motivated. Zig Ziglar is credited with saying, “People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” Motivation is fleeting, it isn’t a permanent situation.
You have to continue to motivate yourself as often as necessary and become disciplined. Mario Andretti said, “Desire is the key to motivation, but it’s determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal – a commitment to excellence – that will enable you to attain the success you seek.”
Zig Ziglar also said, “It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enables us to follow through.” Exercise is an important part of a healthy life.
How can we get motivated to do it? Then how do we turn that initial motivation into determination, discipline and commitment?
Find Your Why
The Merriam-Webster definition of motivated is “provided with a motive : having an incentive or a strong desire to do well or succeed in some pursuit”. Think about your motive for exercising.
Why do you want to work out? Many health conditions are improved or prevented by exercising and eating a healthy diet. Your why might be to lower your A1C number and not develop diabetes.
Someone else might have high blood pressure and is looking to lower it through lifestyle changes. Others may want to lose weight to stay healthy to live a long life with their kids and grandkids.
Whatever your why, or motive for exercising, write it down where you can see it whenever you need some motivation. I have heard of many people writing their why on a post-it note and putting it on the mirror in their bathroom so they see it first thing every morning. Put it where you will see it when you need a reminder of why you are keeping exercise in your schedule.
Create Small Goals and Track Your Progress
Develop a few goals you can work on short term. Even if you have a larger goal, identify some milestones to be reached along the way. Maybe your first goal is to exercise three days a week. Keep track of your workouts to ensure you will meet your goal.
Another goal could be to do a push up on your toes or do a pull up. Working toward a goal can be a motivator to keep up with your workouts. Make sure you track your progress, either on paper or in an app. According to Thomas S. Monson, “That which is measured, improves”. Seeing improvements makes you want to keep going.
Get An Accountability Partner or Group
Find people who will support you and keep you on track. It could be friends, coworkers, family or an online accountability group. Many health and fitness apps have the ability to chat with others with similar goals and might be a good place to find someone to push you to stick with your workouts. Keep it positive. Find a pal that supports and encourages but doesn’t nag.
Group fitness classes can be fun and motivating. It is inspiring and motivating to be surrounded by dedicated, like-minded individuals plus you will receive support from the instructor and other participants. In many of my classes regular participants get to know each other and expect to see each other at every class. They become accountability partners to come to class and push each other throughout the workout.
Another awesome accountability partner is a personal trainer. Having someone create workouts especially for you, push you through it and will hold you to your appointment for the workout can be very helpful.
Make it Fun
If you are consistently dreading your work out, maybe you haven’t found the right one for you. There are so many ways to exercise. Keep trying out different things until you find something that you don’t hate.
Finding a workout buddy is another way to make working out fun plus getting a built in accountability partner.
If you used to like your routine but it has become a bit stale, switch it up and do something different. Exercising doesn’t have to be at the gym; walking, running, playing sports or dancing are all great ways to workout. Maybe you will never think of it as “fun” but at least you won’t dread it.
Make It A Habit
“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” - Jim Ryun
When motivation wanes, discipline is extremely important. Exercise should be part of everyone’s life. Your why, your motivation can get you started working out but to have the discipline and commitment to keep doing it regularly, it is best to make it a habit.
Creating a new habit can be difficult. Utilizing all of the things already discussed here will help you get that exercise in. Here are a few tips to make it a habit.
Create cues that signal it is time to exercise. Brushing your teeth is a common example of a habit. You don’t even think about it, you just do it. Think about your cue to brush your teeth. What triggers you to do it? Is it when you are in the bathroom right before bed? Create cues for your workout.
Maybe your gym is on the way home from work. The night before when you brush your teeth, put together your gym bag with everything you need for the gym the next day. (Pairing this new habit of getting your gym bag together with your existing habit of teeth brushing might make it easier to remember.)
Put your gym bag next to your work bag or in the car so it goes to work with you in the morning. Then when you drive home from work, you are going straight to the gym. In this example, your cue to exercise is leaving work. Your cue to prepare for the gym by putting your workout clothes and anything else you need for the gym in a bag the night before is brushing your teeth.
Schedule your workouts on a calendar. Plan what you will do and when. Getting your workout in at the same time of day has shown to be beneficial to developing an exercise habit.
Make it an appointment just like a business meeting or doctor visit that you can’t cancel. When people ask you if you can do something at that time you can honestly say you have an appointment and can’t.
Reward yourself. If you are consistent, you will notice a feel good feeling after you are done with your workout due to the endorphins released during exercise. After some time, this could be enough to keep up that exercise habit.
I have said to myself “remember how you will feel when you are done” many times before a workout. You also feel better overall when you are working out regularly, your sleep improves, your mood improves plus more.
It gets to a point when you feel so much better when exercise is a part of your lifestyle that if you stop for a period of time, you can’t wait to get back to it to feel better again.
This is what rewards me and keeps my exercise habit going. However, when you are new to exercise, it may be helpful to create other rewards like putting a dollar for every workout you do and buying yourself new workout clothes with the money you accumulate.
Or only watching your favorite tv show after or during a workout. Someone else might feel a reward would be a long hot bath after the workout. The point is to treat yourself in a healthy way that you wouldn’t otherwise do and will look forward to after that workout.
Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Despite knowing the benefits, it isn’t something we are always motivated to do and that is normal. It’s ok to have those days where it is harder than others to get to the gym or get that run or walk done. Even the most disciplined have those days.
Keeping in mind your specific reason for staying healthy (your why) and committing to an exercise habit are helpful in keeping an active and healthy lifestyle and getting the workout done those times it is harder to get started.
Experiment with ways to exercise to find what you like best and don’t be afraid to change it up. Surround yourself with positive people to keep you accountable and you won’t have to look far for exercise motivation. Before you know it you will be committed to your workout routine and have the discipline to stick to it even when motivation does wane.
“Weight loss doesn't begin in the gym with a dumb bell; it starts in your head with a decision.” - Toni Sorenson, The Great Brain Cleanse
Looking for some exercise moves to help get you started? Take a look at our workout library to find exercises and video instructions.
The very day after I turned 40, I started to see articles everywhere like “Exercises to Never Do After 40” and “Top Ways to Build Muscle After 40” or “What is The Best Workout For Women Over 40?”. I received emails, saw ads on websites and spotted magazine articles all with the big 4-0 in the title.
How the internet knows how to specifically target you based on your age is a very scary thing that could be the subject for another type of blog post, but we will just focus on the fitness aspect of this type of information here.
Kidding aside, we are bombarded with these messages that once we are past a certain age we can no longer do particular workouts or exercises. The things I was doing in my workout the day before at 39, I shouldn’t do the next day because I’m 40 (gasp)? Should someone who is 60 or 70 not start exercising? Are the exercises appropriate for a 20 year old not right for someone who is 65? Does age really matter?
Your Body As You Age
I’ve met with someone who is in great shape at 81 and can hold a 7-minute plank (no lie). I’ve also met with someone who at age 32 cannot hold a 10-second plank (also true).
Age is not necessarily a factor when it comes to fitness level. Everybody’s body and lifestyle are different which affects the type of workouts that are most appropriate for you. Age doesn’t matter as much as your particular stage of fitness and health.
That being said, there are some changes that your body goes through as you get older that can affect the workout that is best for you, but also makes exercise even more important than when you were in your 20s and 30s.
Bone mass peaks around age 30. Bone resorption begins to exceed new bone formation in your 30s and slowly leads to bone loss. Osteoporosis is a disease characterized by low bone mass and is a leading cause of bone fractures in women over the age of 50 (National Institute of Health for Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, 2015).
Though osteoporosis is not typically diagnosed until later in life, the bone loss process starts earlier. Strength training and weight bearing activities will help offset this bone loss and strengthen bones. Women especially suffer from bone loss. Strength training, either with body weight or weights, is beneficial to do at any age. But to specifically help prevent osteoporosis, it is best to start in your 20s and 30s.
Beginning in your 30s, your natural muscle mass and strength will start to decline (unless you do something about it!). The less muscle you have, the lower your metabolism, which may cause weight gain.
It also can contribute to joint pain, back pain, as well as other physical ailments. However, this does not have to happen.
An exercise routine with strength and resistance training beginning in your 20s and 30s can combat the extent of any muscle loss. Are you in your 40s or beyond and have never had a workout routine with any type of weight training?
Don’t worry, incorporating any weight training and weight bearing activities at any age can help to maintain your muscles.
In our 40s, both men and women start to experience dropping hormone levels.
This makes it easier to gain weight, especially the most dangerous type of fat around our middle, visceral fat.
This type of weight increases the risk of other health conditions such as; high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
This can happen at any age, however, it is more likely a little later in life due to the changes in our hormones.
A consistent exercise routine and a healthy diet can fight all of these changes.
Balance becomes more challenging and reaction time slows as we age which contributes to falls.
The Center of Disease Control and Prevention reported that one out of four people over the age of 65 experience a fall each year. Combined with bone loss, this results in many broken hips and other bones.
Balance training should be a part of all exercise routines for anyone, especially those over the age of 65, to reduce the risk of falls.
This is not a comprehensive list of the things our bodies go through as we age, but highlights some of the most prevalent changes and those that can be improved or prevented by exercise.
Certainly our bodies start to wear with use, which may result in more aches and pains and make exercise feel more difficult.
But that is more reason to keep moving! Kenneth Cooper, MD is attributed as saying, “We do not stop exercising because we grow old – we grow old because we stop exercising…”.
Benefits of Exercise When You Are Older
Some think that it is too late to start exercising at a certain point because physical decline as you age is inevitable or they feel they are too out of shape, are in too much pain or just plain too old to exercise.
That couldn’t be farther from the truth. Physical activity will be good for anyone at any age or fitness level. Exercise can help make you stronger, prevent bone loss, improve balance and coordination, lift your mood, boost your memory, and ease the symptoms of many chronic conditions. Many symptoms we associate with old age, such as muscle weakness and loss of balance, are made worse by inactivity.
It’s never too late to start. Improvements to one’s physical health can be made at any age. Studies have shown that people in their 90s who started an exercise routine for the first time built muscle strength.
Other research shows that starting exercising later in life still cuts the risk of health problems and improves symptoms of any ongoing issues.
What if you have never worked out before? Starting a new workout routine should be entered into slowly and with consideration. Ease into it and build from there to help avoid potential injuries. This is true for any age!
Should Your Workout Change As You Age?
I mentioned I started seeing articles about exercising for those over 40 the very day after my 40th birthday. One specifically was about the exercises you shouldn’t do after that age.
Should you not do certain exercises after a certain age? Not necessarily. Fitness level and any injuries you may have are more important than age when it comes to exercise selection.
For example, high impact moves (like those that involve jumping) should be avoided by anyone with knee replacements or certain knee injuries. A 25 year old could have knee injuries and a 70 year old might as well.
Both persons should avoid the high impact exercises and modify to the low impact version.
As you get older, your body does have a bit more wear and tear. You may notice you don’t bounce back as easily from a tough workout or injury as you may have done in your 20s or 30s.
You may start to experience more aches and pains. A proper warm up prior to exercising and a good stretching routine is always beneficial for anyone, but is even more important as we age.
Also, in your 40s and beyond you should be even more considerate about your form and any previous injuries.
A recent New York Times article profiled Julia Hawkins, a 103 year old who ran the 50 and 100 meter dash at the National Senior Games this year.
She set the 50 meter dash record when she was 101 after taking up running the year before when she was 100!
Hawkins previously competed in the Senior Games in biking. She only started running when biking became too difficult for her.
Her secret to longevity, “To stay in shape, just keep active”. I love her story and it shows that you don’t have to stop being active at any age.
You may need to adjust your type of workout, but there is always something you can be doing to keep moving.
Working Out with Chronic Conditions
Those with arthritis or other painful conditions may feel they are in too much pain to exercise. It doesn’t seem like it makes sense, but the more you move, the better you will feel.
A study of people over 60 with arthritis in their knee (or knees) found that those who exercised more had less pain and better joint function.
Keeping the muscles and surrounding tissues strong is crucial to maintaining support for your joints and bones. Weak muscles create more stress on your joints.
Any movement, no matter how small, can help. Daily activities such as mowing the lawn, walking the dog or raking leaves make a difference.
Your doctor, physical therapist or personal trainer can recommend particular exercises for your condition. If you are taking a group exercise class, let the instructor know prior to class about your situation. They can provide you with the appropriate version of each exercise.
Bottom line, exercising is important for your health for your entire life. Our bodies do change as we grow older, but exercise is the key to minimize any resulting health conditions or potential illnesses.
There is no magic birthday that is the day for everyone that they have to stop doing one type of workout and must do another, or need to get out a rocking chair and call it a day.
Modify your workout routine based on your fitness level and physical condition, not your age. Make it a priority so you can stay active, independent, healthy and happy for the rest of your life.