Posted by Gina Salamone
It’s a new year, with new New Year’s resolutions. The statistics around New Year’s resolutions are a bit depressing – only about 44% of U.S. adults make resolutions. Of those, nearly half are broken in the first month. But if you look at why resolutions are broken, you can better beat the odds. The primary reason resolutions are broken is a lack of motivation. Not having a good plan and not having support were next in line. Finally, folks set too many resolutions and had too ambitious goals. You could surmise, then, that if you have motivation, a good plan, good support, and set realistic goals, you could be the one to break through and meet your new goal.
Many seniors set resolutions around their health. And one of the key tenants to health is physical activity. Let’s take a look at some recent studies on the topic – to provide you with motivation. Then, let’s discuss how to put an effective plan in place to reach your resolution of good health in 2022.
You have probably heard that 10,000 steps per day should be your goal for physical health. However, a study that came out last fall indicates that you can get vast health benefits by walking at least 7,000 steps per day. The study was conducted by JAMA Network Open and it involved folks aged 38 to 50. The study tracked the steps of participants for one week and then did a follow-up over a decade later. Those who took at least 7,000 steps per day during the observation period had a 50% – 70% lower mortality rate than those who took less than 7,000 steps per day.
In another study published last fall by researchers at Harvard, researchers concluded that humans have evolved to be more active in their later years. This physical activity leads to stress on the body, causing damage to cells. However, the body’s response to this stress is to become stronger and as such, the DNA processes lower the risk of many diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s Disease. The team concluded that physical activity is vital in order for the body to age well.
So, you know that you need to be physically active in order to maintain good health. But how can you formulate a plan to stick to a workout routine? A study published just last month by Nature gives insights into the secrets to sticking to your workout plan. There were more than 60,000 study participants who were gym members but didn’t necessarily go to the gym. The study’s goal was to figure out how to best get these participants into the gym on a long-term basis. The secret they found is this: plan, remind, reward.
The first step seems easy enough: plan. This is the fun part where you can get creative about fun activities to do. Here are some tips:
- First, think about what activities you would enjoy. Do you prefer indoor or outdoor activities? Would you prefer to be a lone wolf or get active with a group?
- Find activities at your local rec center or senior center.
- Find senior activity groups on social media.
- Join a bowling league.
- Find a way to couple volunteering with getting your daily steps in. For example, teach a class at a special needs center – woodworking, dance, painting – anything to get you moving! Or, you could volunteer at a food bank or by serving a meal at a homeless shelter.
- Sign up to walk for a cause. There are many charity walks, including those for Alzheimer’s, MDS, Cancer, Autism, Feeding America, Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warrior Project, and more. And there’s an app for that! Check out charitymiles.org.
- Or, if you are concerned about socially distancing, a good ol’ fashioned walk around your neighborhood will do! There are many other activities that are socially distant by nature – hiking, tennis, golf, biking, snowshoeing, and fishing. And there is a plethora of classes online to join, many for free. For example, there are thousands of online yoga classes on YouTube you can stream for free from the safety of your living room.
The second step is to remind yourself. Put the activity on your calendar. Some folks like to plan day-by-day and some like to have their schedule made for the whole week or month. Whatever your preference, set up a system to remind yourself. Tell your best friend or a close family member about the schedule so they can not only remind you, but be your cheerleader.
Now to the even better part – reward yourself! The biggest challenge that the study found was getting people to actually stick with their new routine. One way to increase the odds is to have a reward to work towards. Here are some ideas on how to reward yourself for your hard work:
- Give yourself a certain monetary amount per month if you reach that month’s goal, to spend on anything you want.
- Only allow yourself access to a certain activity you like if you meet your goal. For example, you can only watch old movies while riding a stationary bike in your living room. Or, you can play cards with friends only if you took a walk that morning.
- If you hit your goal, reward yourself with something that is exercise related, such as a new water bottle, fitness tracker, or yoga pants.
- Reward yourself with something that makes you feel pampered – a pedicure, massage, online cooking class, or a housekeeper for the day.
- Reward yourself with a day off! Reach your fitness goals during the week and you can have Saturday off to do whatever you want.
The health benefits of getting and staying active abound. Don’t let technology be an excuse; you don’t need any fancy equipment to track your steps. There are many free apps you can download to your smartphone that will track your steps for you. Indeed, your smartphone probably has a Health app already installed on your phone that will track your steps. Make 2022 the year your reach your New Year’s resolution of becoming active and staying healthy. You can do it!