So many of our patients struggle with the idea of exercise. They think it means they need to be in a gym 5 or 6 days a week, flipping tires or jumping around for an hour or more. As I, myself, am easing my way closer to that half-century mark, I definitely recognize a shift in my own viewpoint regarding exercise. What I have discovered even as my body is changing with age, is that there are still so many ways I can move my body and get the activity I need and want. Maybe running is no longer the best for my knees and back but walking, biking and swimming feel great. Heavy duty aerobics classes with a lot of high impact moves may be a thing of the past, but dance classes really get my energy up and heart pumping.
So, I wanted to share a few simple strategies for overcoming the “I can’t”s of exercise. First of all, a simple alteration in thinking from what you can’t do to what you can do, can make a huge difference. You may not be able to do a perfect downward facing dog, but that doesn’t mean that yoga is out for you. Most great instructors can show you simple modifications to make classes inclusive for everyone. Also, a good personal trainer can be worth its weight in gold. One on one training ensures you are doing your exercises correctly and safely. In addition, if one movement doesn’t feel good, a skilled trainer can quickly make changes that will still ensure benefits to the same muscle groups. Finally, change your vocabulary and eliminate the charged word “exercise” from it permanently. Many people associate a negative connotation to this word, so call it something else like “physical activity” or “movement”. You’ll be amazed at how your perspective changes and hopefully this simple modification can offer a fresh new outlook and motivation to start getting your body moving. Finally, don’t forget about the simple act of counting steps. With so many devices on the market, there is no excuse for not knowing where you stand with step-counting. Consider this: if your baseline steps per day are 5000 and you set and achieve a goal of increasing them by just 1000 additional steps per day, that amounts to 7000 additional steps per week or 1 ½ extra days of walking per week. So get out there and get moving!