This post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50.
“Move more and eat less” is the simplest advice for maintaining both a healthy body and a healthy body weight. As simple as that advice might be, both sides of that equation can be fraught with complications. However, none of those complications are insurmountable; in fact, even minor adjustments in our lifestyle habits can translate into major changes in our fitness, body weight, and overall health.
On the “move more” side of the equation, study after study consistently point to the undeniable benefits of daily physical activity to health and longevity. A recent study on 122,007 adults conducted over 23 years concluded that increased aerobic fitness “… was associated with reduced long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit.” Simply put, keeping our bodies moving as often as possible extends our healthspan, allowing us to live as healthy as possible for as long as possible. But even for the most motivated among us, each day presents barriers to staying active, barriers that we have to overcome or at least side step so that we can move more and sit less.
Below are six common barriers that we can all relate to, along with some simple ways to keep them from becoming everyday excuses.
I’m too busy. We all have the same 1,440 minutes each and every day, including those whose family, work, and personal demands keep them crazed from the time they wake until the time they sleep. Even when it feels as though our lives are out of control, we can still find a few minutes to move. Brief “activity snacks” throughout busy days can help relieve stress and break up long periods of sitting. Walking stairs, taking the long way around the office, doing isometric exercises while seated, a few pushups, squats, or toe-raises are all ways to sneak physical activity into a crammed day. And if the work week just doesn’t allow time for much movement, then being a weekend warrior is much better than just collapsing in front of the TV.
I’m too tired. We can all relate to feeling absolutely drained—and there are times when taking a nap is a healthier choice than forcing yourself to exercise. When energy levels are so low that a workout is just out of the question, a good alternative is to take a walk, even if that means strolling through your home during television commercials. Any movement is better than no movement and just taking a walk can help boost our spirits and energy.
It’s too painful. Aches and pains are an inevitable part of aging and sometimes pain can be so debilitating that moving is out of the question. But for lesser aches and pains, we can find ways to keep ourselves moving without aggravating nagging problems. Bad knees or hips? Keep your upper body and core active with seated or standing movements and exercises that don’t make matters worse. Arthritic hands? Walking is an obvious option, as are simple hand, arm, and shoulder exercises with light or no resistance can help relieve arthritic pain and strengthen surrounding muscles.
It’s too expensive. There is no doubt that exercise can become expensive, but only if we choose it to be. Joining a health club, working with a personal trainer, buying a bicycle, or even getting new exercise shoes all cost money. But walking is free, as are many online exercise videos, traditional calisthenics (think of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, etc.), stair climbing, yard work, household chores, etc. The goal is to keep moving whenever possible and there are endless ways to do just that.
It’s too boring. Some people just hate the regimented nature of group exercise classes or tire quickly of traditional activities such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling. The challenge then becomes finding activities that keep us engaged. Even if we regularly flitter from one activity to another, the very fact that we’re active is what is most important. There are lots of ways to fit move movement into each day and the best of those are the ones that we enjoy the most.
It’s too late (to do any good). One of the goals of Food and Fitness After 50 is to remind readers that it’s never too late to get and stay active. Experts sometimes refer to regular physical activity as a polypill, a medicine with multiple benefits. Even if you’ve led a sedentary life for the past 50 years, adding more movement to every day will dramatically improve your healthspan. Staying active keeps us fit and strong, and that directly contributes to happier, healthier, longer lives.
For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.