January 3, 2008
Table of Contents
Happy New Year
Two accomplished senior fitness professionals join us today to help everyone kick off 2008 right! First, Jim Evans provides practical tips certain to boost our success at honoring our New Year's pledges. Then, Andy Baxter reviews compelling reasons to keep fit for life -- and encourages aerobics-only exercisers to add strength training to their current fitness regimens. Come to think of it, that would make a pretty good New Year's resolution itself!
Resolving to Keep Those New Year's Resolutions
SFA author Jim Evans is a 40-year veteran of the fitness industry and an internationally recognized consultant on senior health. Following is his prescription for making good on the earnest intentions we've formulated for the new year:
Is there anyone who doesn't make some kind of New Year's resolution? We resolve to lose weight, we resolve to quit smoking, we resolve to quit drinking, we resolve to get out of debt -- the list goes on. Recent polls indicate that more than 50 percent of Americans resolve to spend more time with their families. Does all of this sound familiar?
Making resolutions is easy. Keeping them is something else. According to some sources, more than 70 percent of us make resolutions every New Year, but the majority give up within weeks. How to keep those resolutions? Try these five simple suggestions:
1. Write them down. No, don't type them on your computer. Write out your resolutions in longhand on a single piece of paper in order to better feel the commitment. Then write them again at least 10 times, and look at them. (Can anyone still remember how to write? This could be a lesson in penmanship too).
2. Post them. Write your resolutions (again) on separate slips of paper and post them in strategic locations on the mirror in your bathroom, on the door of your refrigerator, at the bottom of your TV screen, on the dashboard of your car, and other places where you will see them frequently during the course of every day to reinforce your commitment.
3. Visualize the outcome. Every time you look at one of your resolutions, think of the final result and the positive impact it will have on your life. Follow the "act as if" approach. Act as if you have already lost weight. Act as if you have already quit smoking. Act as if you have already quit drinking. Act as if you are already out of debt. Act as if you are spending more time with your family. Act as if you have already achieved your resolution -- whatever it is -- and it will help to keep you on track by giving you a positive sense of fulfillment.
4. Devise a plan of action. Think of what you will need to do every day to achieve your resolutions and write it down. This is not the same as writing down your goals -- this means writing down exactly how you intend to accomplish your goals. For example, if you want to lose weight, will you follow a specific diet? If so, what kind of diet? If you will have to purchase certain types of food at the grocery store, what kinds of foods? How many times a day will you eat? Will the food have to be prepared a certain way? Will you increase your physical activity? If so, how? Be specific and detailed. The more you write down, the more you will be committed to achieving your resolutions.
Writing these steps down will also reinforce your determination and remind you of all the different things you can do to help yourself reach your goals. Remember, there is always more than one way to "skin the proverbial cat." You might consume more calories than you intended on one day but make up for it by burning up more calories than you originally intended. It is not so much what you do or don't do on any particular day but, rather, what you do or don't do over the course of each week to establish a positive direction. It all balances out if you write your plan down and use it as a guideline.
5. Mark your progress on a calendar. This is the time of year when you will probably receive lots of calendars in the mail -- from your insurance representative, your real estate agent, your local pharmacy, etc. If you don't receive one this year, you can easily download a simple calendar from online. Now, post the calendar in a prominent place in your home or office, and every day that you stay on your diet, every day that you don't smoke, every day that you don't drink, every day that you stay on your budget, or every day that you spend more time with your family, mark a big X from corner to corner in the square for that particular day.
Do this every day for a month, and you will have established the right discipline -- the right habit pattern -- to succeed at your goal. Seeing a string of 30 Xs in a row creates a history of success and momentum that is hard to break. It will give you a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and you can continue to build on your success one day at a time -- or, one X at a time.
Ready, set, go!
Staying Fit Through the Ages
SFA member Andy Baxter is the owner/operator of Baxter Fitness Solutions. Learn more about his consulting services at www.baxterfitnesssystems.com. Below, Andy shares some persuasive facts and inspirations to help everyone get up and get moving in 2008:
What motivates us to stay fit? It may be an intrinsic motivator, such as the personal satisfaction of committing to a program and sticking with it. Or, it may be an extrinsic motivator, perhaps training for an event with the possibility of winning a medal to validate our hard work. As we age, our motivations to stay fit take on more profound underpinnings.
Staying fit as we age is not only a matter of maintaining or improving our appearance. It is also about prolonging our quality of life, our independence and, indeed, life itself. Quality of life issues might include the ability to lift your grandchildren or to go on outings without having to stop and catch your breath while others wait for you. Regular exercise enhances quality of sleep, raises your metabolism to burn more calories, gives you energy, increases bone density and neuromuscular facilitation, improves motor skills, balance, strength, and confidence, and promotes heart health, general health, and brain function. And that's just the stuff I could list in one sentence!
Strength is the most often neglected element of fitness in the fifty-plus crowd. As we age we lose muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. Loss of muscle mass means loss of metabolically active tissue. If we are losing muscle then, by default, we are increasing our body fat percentage. Our muscles contribute to the support and stability of our joints. An arthritic knee joint, for example, needs as much muscular support as it can get, since the cartilage in that joint is compromised.
Functional strength is the real world use of our muscles. Getting out of a car, climbing stairs, getting out of the bathtub, carrying groceries, and opening a jar are all examples of functional strength. Strength training gives us the ability to perform these activities which, in turn, gives us confidence. Confidence is the antidote to our fear of falling.
The very best part of this discussion is that we are never too old to get fit. Eighty-year-old muscle will respond to a load by adapting and getting stronger just as 18-year-old muscle will. Walking, as our sole form of exercise, will not provide enough range or load to effectively recruit sufficient muscle mass to restore or preserve the functional strength we need. Remember that a fitness program should address strength, endurance, and range of motion.
A Thought for the New Year
Right now is an excellent time to wipe the slate clean and start afresh! In the words of the thirty-fifth president of the United States of America:
"We stand today at the edge of a new frontier."
-- John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (1917-1963)
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