Woman’s Day (New Zealand)
GET BACK IN THE FITNESS GROOVE
Psychologist-approved tips for keeping you on the exercise track
Physical activity is important for staying fit and healthy as we get older, but as work, family and life in general take over, many of us fall out of the exercise habit. Fortunately, it’s never too late to get moving. Dr Gordon Spence, psychologist, exercise scientist and author of Get Moving, Keep Moving, shares his top tips.
CHOOSE SOMETHING YOU’LL ENJOY
What better way of motivating a physical pursuit than choosing something that interests or excites you?
While that might be the gym, it might not be! Perhaps the gym just seems most convenient and doable for you? Is it the option that’ll help keep you moving? How much does it excite you? Is there something else that might excite you more?
Try brainstorming this with others and look around. Our communities are jampacked with interesting physical activity options. You might discover dragon boating or fencing, or something else you’d never ever considered before. Then you just need to be brave and give something different a go.
HELP SOMEONE ELSE ‘OWN’ THEIR GOALS
It’s a truism to say that in helping others, we often help ourselves. As an educator, I’m constantly delighted by how much I learn from my students – it’s never a one-way street. So, if you know someone who’s looking to become more active, and you feel you could help, reach out!
Maybe you paddle for a dragon boat club and you think a workmate might enjoy it too. Tell them about it – but remember that your passion might not be their passion. Provide some information and encouragement, but don’t push too hard.
ATTACH WHAT YOU DO TO SOMETHING BIGGER THAN THE ACTIVITY ITSELF
People often come unstuck with physical activity goals because they quickly get bored. Let me be clear – running around the park, going to the gym or doing laps at the pool do not have to be connected to bigger things, but it can help if they are.
And by bigger things I mean something like a running festival if you like to run, a 30km charity walk if you enjoy regular walks with your bestie, or an ocean swim if doing laps at the local pool is your go-to.
Obviously, this tip is about goal-setting and sharpening your focus. Things that add a pinch of spice to what you’re doing and a dollop of social connection if you’re doing it with others.
CREATE RITUALS THAT ENHANCE INTEREST AND FUN
Being creative can really dial up the ownership factor. Take
parkrun for instance. There are loads of parkrun events across New Zealand and every Saturday morning – for free – hundreds of people walk, jog or run a set five-kilometre course. Some like to dress up, run with dogs or be volunteers, and many (if not most) then gather for coffee and a debrief afterwards. These are all rituals that enhance interest and fun.
KNOW WHY YOU’RE DOING IT
The other key to sustaining physical activity is knowing why you want to do it. Sure, you can lower your risk factors and improve the quality of your life, but so what? If you’re going to age in a healthier way – and I hope you do – what makes that important? How would you make the most of it? What would it allow you to do that seems important?
Also, who in your life would benefit from your healthy ageing? Our health status is never just about us, it also affects others. Being clear about that helps to build commitment, and can also help us to share our plans with others who might be willing to encourage and support us.