That's what 75-year-old Emma King told us when we asked
her if she ever intended to stop exercising. Ms. King lives
in Durham, North Carolina, and has taken long walks at least
4 or 5 days a week, for years. Recently, she took part in
a study of exercise for older adults and added stretching
to her weekly routine. I can really tell the difference
if I miss 2 or 3 days. I don't know what it would be like
not to exercise, she said.
For many older adults,
motivation to keep exercising and doing physical activities
isn't a problem. They say that regular physical activity makes
them feel so much better that it would be hard to stop.
Others say that,
while physical activity makes them feel better, a little
extra motivation helps them get going. For example, Georgia
Burnette, 68, of Amherst, New York, told us that she used
to put on headphones and listen to recorded books borrowed
from the library to make her 40-minute walks more interesting.
Now, she mall-walks for an hour, 5 days a week, with a friend.
Having that companionship is a good motivator, says Ms.
We have included
this section on motivation because physical activity needs
to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. So
does staying motivated!
scores and watching them improve can be an excellent motivator
to exercise, and we have included charts at the end of this
booklet so you can do that. But don't get discouraged if
you see that your scores have improved by only a few seconds
or just one or two lifts of a weight. In terms of real-life
benefits, those slight improvements are multiplied many
times over as you include them in your everyday activities.
You incorporate that extra little bit of endurance and strength
into everything you do, and it adds up to a lot.
But no matter how
enthusiastic you are about exercise, there may be times
when you need extra motivation. It's common for beginning
exercisers, especially those who are frail, to make fast
progress at first. You might get discouraged when the improvements
you were making taper off at times.
periods are normal. Often, they mean that it's time to gradually
make your activities more challenging. If you have any doubts
about whether you are doing the right things to progress
or check with your doctor or a qualified fitness professional.
When you need extra
motivation, try the following:
- Ask someone
to be your exercise buddy. Many older adults agree that
having someone to exercise with helps keep them going.
- Follow Georgia
Burnette's advice: Listen to recorded books or music while
you do endurance activities.
- Set a goal,
and decide on a reward you will get when you reach it.
- Give yourself
physical activity homework assignments for the next day
or the next week.
- Think of your
exercise sessions as appointments, and mark them on your
- Keep a record
of what you do and of your progress. Understand that there
will be times that you don't show rapid progress and that
you are still benefiting from your activities during those
- Plan ahead for
travel, bad weather, and house guests. For example, an
exercise video can help you exercise indoors when the
weather is bad.
Acknowledge Your Efforts
When it comes to motivation, the first month is crucial.
If you can increase your physical activity for a month and
keep going after that, you will have passed a critical landmark.
It's a good sign that you are on your way to making exercise
and physical activity regular, life-long habits.
Sticking With It: What Works
According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report,
you are more likely to keep doing physical activities
- think that, overall, you will benefit from them
- include activities you enjoy
- feel you can do the activities correctly and safely
- have regular access to the activities
- can fit the activities into your daily schedule
- feel that the activities don't impose financial
or social costs you aren't willing to take on
- have few negative consequences from doing your
activities (such as injury, lost time, or negative
In other words, set yourself up to succeed right
from the start. Choose realistic goals, learn to do
the exercises correctly and safely, and chart your
progress to see your improvement.
We want to give
you credit for that. If you increase your physical activity
for more than a month, send us the form at the end of this
book. We will send you a National Institute on Aging certificate
acknowledging your commitment.
Starting with one or two types of exercises or physical
activities and a schedule that you really can manage, then
adding more as you adjust, is one way of ensuring that you
will keep exercising. You are also more likely to keep exercising
if you feel you can do your exercises correctly and safely,
feel that they fit into your schedule, and don't feel that
they result in negative experiences, such as financial burdens
or lost time.
that physical activity can improve your health and abilities
can be enough to keep you exercising, but you might need
extra motivation sometimes. For those times, try exercising
with a friend, listening to music, charting your progress,
marking your calendar for exercise sessions, giving yourself
exercise assignments ahead of time, and rewarding yourself
when you achieve your goals.
fitness should improve.
If you stick
with your exercises for more than a month, it's a good sign
that you are on your way to making it a permanent habit.
If you would like acknowledgment of your efforts, fill out
the form at the end of this book, and we will send you a
National Institute on Aging certificate.
Finding A Qualified Fitness Professional
Most older people can exercise just fine on their
own, without advice from a fitness instructor. Some
have special needs and may want to consult a professional.
If you decide to seek advice, how can you tell whom
to trust? Anyone can call himself or herself a fitness
professional, and many people do but that doesn't
always mean they have the training to help older people
exercise safely and effectively.
Instructors who aren't trained to work with older
adults, specifically, might not be aware of their
needs. For example, they might not know that certain
conditions or medications can change older people's
heart rates or that people with osteoporosis risk
spine fractures if they do some types of forward-bending
A number of professionals are familiar with the special
physical needs of older people. Doctors who specialize
in sports medicine are highly qualified to help you
exercise the right way. So are professionals who have
a college degree in exercise physiology. They can
help you start an exercise program tailored to your
needs, build it up to your best possible level, then
show you how to continue safely on your own.
Physical therapists also are qualified to design
exercise plans for older people, especially those
who have conditions affecting their muscles and skeletal
systems, or nervous-system conditions that affect
their muscles. Sme physical therapists take special
training for a certification in geriatrics.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) also
trains and certifies people to work with older adults.
The ACSM is made up of health professionals and scientists
with an interest in fitness. ACSM-certified fitness
instructors work in a variety of settings; for example,
you might find them leading hospital-based exercise
programs for older adults, working with older people
in exercise studies, or working as personal trainers.
Cardiologists can advise you on how to improve your
cardiovascular system through endurance exercise.
Orthopedic doctors can help you understand how to
prevent injuries to your muscles, bones, and other
Many hospitals and health plans now have wellness
centers that offer exercise programs. Some colleges
and universities hold special exercise classes for
older adults or conduct studies on exercise for older
people. Itâ€™s likely that the fitness instructors
hired by these organizations are carefully screened
and are qualified to teach you how to exercise correctly.
Try calling them to find a fitness professional in
If you do consult a fitness instructor, ask for his
or her credentials. Any instructor who is qualified
to work with older people is likely to be proud of
his or her credentials and will be happy to share
them with you. Also ask about expense. Costs vary,
and insurance plans differ as to what kinds of services
they will cover.