When you were younger, good health felt like a given. These days, you know it’s something that only happens with hard work and healthy habits. It’s easy to get discouraged, especially when the numbers on the scale or the cholesterol readings don’t seem to budge, but change happens more slowly when you’re older.
That said, if you’ve been living a healthy lifestyle for a while but your health isn’t improving, you might be doing something wrong. Before giving up, ask yourself if you’re making one of these common mistakes.
You’re spending too much time sitting
Your advanced age isn’t an excuse to take a load off. Sedentary behavior is linked to negative health outcomes that range from cognitive decline to heart disease.
That doesn’t mean you can’t sit down with a good book, but you should avoid long periods of sitting. Even if you exercise daily, too much time sitting hurts your health. Work more movement into your days: Use a standing desk for reading and paying bills, alternate between sedentary hobbies and active chores, and park at the far end of the lot when buying groceries and running errands. These changes might not seem like a big deal, but little things add up.
You’re not getting your heart rate up
Too many seniors believe walking and light exercise is enough to stay healthy, but if you’re not doing exercise that gets your heart rate up and challenges your muscles, you’re not getting the full benefits of physical fitness. In addition to low-intensity exercise like walking or qi gong, make sure your fitness plan includes vigorous workouts such as:
- High-intensity interval training (HIIT)
- Zumba or dancing
- Resistance-band training
You’re too worried about injury
Are you worried about exercising because you’re afraid of getting hurt? Injury can happen when you’re physically active, but you’re more likely to become disabled if you don’t exercise. Recent research has found that sedentary seniors are more likely to fall than seniors who stay active, and falls are the number one cause of injury in older adults. If you’re really concerned about falling, exercising for strength and balance needs to be part of your prevention plan, along with changes at home like adding handrails and grab bars, improving lighting, ditching the shag rugs, and getting rid of clutter you could trip over.
If you have a limiting health condition, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking up a new fitness regimen. Working with a physical trainer is another smart call. A personal trainer will teach you proper form to reduce your risk of injury.
You’re waiting for motivation
Motivation isn’t given, it’s made. If you’re waiting for the right mood to start exercising, your health will slip away before you know it.
Make exercise something you have to do, like brushing your teeth, instead of treating it like something you ought to do. Scheduling workouts or attending fitness classes is a great way to build an exercise habit. Once you get started, you’ll find it easier to keep going: Exercise improves your moods and increases your energy, making it easier to muster that motivation.
A strong, healthy body doesn’t come as easy after 60 as it did at 30 — but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. If you take care of your body through exercise and nutrition and avoid these common fitness pitfalls, you can prevent many of the health problems that plague older adults and enjoy great health into your 70s and beyond.