We hope you agree that regular exercise and physical activity are important and that you’re ready to take action! This chapter is all about getting organized. It offers tips for setting short- and long-term goals, choosing activities and fitting them into your daily life, and managing some of the practical things, such as getting the right shoes or working with a personal trainer.
This guide’s main goal is to help you become more active, get the most from your activities, and do them safely. The key is to know your starting point and build slowly from there. Knowing your starting point will help you pick activities that are comfortable and realistic for you. Starting out this way also will help you be successful.
Think about a typical weekday and weekend day. How much time do you spend sitting? How much time are you active? When you’re up and moving, what kinds of activities are you doing?
To help you figure out your activity level, try filling in an activity log. For a couple of weekdays and a weekend, keep track of how much time you exercise or are physically active. Write down how much time you spend doing each activity. The Activity Log in Chapter 7 will get you started.
You can use the last column of the Activity Log to write down some ways you think you can add activities to your daily routine. If you’re not active yet, aim for a modest beginning and build from there. If you are already pretty active, then you can be more ambitious about adding to your activities.
There are many ways to fit exercise and physical activity into your regular routine:
Many people find that having a firm goal in mind motivates them to move ahead on a project. Goals are most useful when they are specific, realistic, and important to you. Consider both short- and long-term goals. Your success depends on setting goals that really matter to you. Write down your goals, put them where you can see them, and review them regularly.
In addition to seeing how physically active you are now, you can check how fit your body is. Several simple tests can help you see how fit you are right now (see "Test Yourself" in Chapter 5). The results can help you set realistic goals. They also will be useful later on to measure your progress.
Short-term goals will help you make physical activity a regular part of your daily life. For these goals, think about the things you’ll need to get or do in order to be physically active. For example, you may need to buy walking shoes or fill out an Activity Log so you can figure out how to fit physical activity into your busy day. Make sure your short-term goals will really help you be active. Here are a few examples of short-term goals:
If you’re already active, think of short-term goals to increase your level of physical activity. For example, over the next week or two, you may want to move gradually from walking to jogging, increase the amount of weight you lift, or try a new kind of physical activity. No matter what your starting point, reaching your short-term goals will make you feel good and give you confidence to progress toward your long-term goals. Use the Goal-Setting Worksheet in Chapter 7 to help you get started.
After you write down your short-term goals, you can go on to identify your long-term goals. Focus on where you want to be in 6 months, a year, or 2 years from now. Long-term goals also should be realistic, personal, and important to you. Here are a few examples:
Add your own long-term goals to the Goal-Setting Worksheet.
"I started exercising regularly way back in 1960. A friend put me in touch with a personal trainer at a nearby gym, and he showed me how to lift weights. Today, at age 83, I’m still exercising to stay fit. I get up every day and exercise for 10 to 15 minutes. I lift weights followed by stretching. In the evening, I do the same routine for about 15 minutes. I’m a drummer by profession, and I do about four gigs a month. Exercise keeps my muscles strong and lets me continue to do my drumming."
Don’t forget to build rewards into your plan. For each goal you reach, treat yourself to something special — a movie, a trip to a museum, a new CD, or a picnic in the park.
Let us help you celebrate your progress! If you increase your physical activity for more than a month, call our Information Center at (800) 222-2225 and we’ll send you a certificate from the National Institute on Aging to recognize your commitment.
Some people find that writing an exercise and physical activity plan helps them keep their promise to be active. See if this works for you. Be sure the plan is realistic for you to do, especially as you gain experience in how to be active. You might even make a contract with a friend or family member to carry out your plan. Involving another person can help you keep your commitment.
Make your plan specific and grounded in your goals. For each exercise or activity you choose, include:
Start out with realistic activities based on how physically active you are now. Don’t expect to go from couch potato to super athlete right away. Regularly review and update your plan and long-term goals so that you can build on your success. You can use the Weekly Exercise and Physical Activity Plan in Chapter 7 to write down your activities.
When it comes to motivation, the first few months are crucial. If you can stick with physical activities you enjoy, it’s a good sign that you will be able to make exercise and physical activity a regular part of your everyday life.
Most older people don’t have health problems that would prevent them from doing moderate activity or the types of exercises described in this guide. In fact, there’s a way for almost every older adult to exercise safely and get meaningful health benefits.
You may want to talk with your doctor, however, if you aren’t used to energetic activity and you want to start a vigorous exercise program or significantly increase your physical activity. You also should talk with your doctor if you have any of the health problems mentioned below. This does not mean that exercise is dangerous. Doctors rarely tell people not to exercise, but they may have certain safety tips for those who have recently had hip or back surgery, those with uncontrolled health problems, or those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or arthritis.
Your activity level is an important topic to discuss with your doctor as part of your ongoing preventive health care. Talk about exercise at least once a year if your health is stable, and more often if your health is getting better or worse over time so that you can adjust your exercise program. Your doctor can help you choose activities that are best for you and reduce any risks. Here are a few things you may want to discuss:
Use the My Go4Life online tools at www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life to set your exercise and physical goals and keep track of your progress.
Some people with diabetes may need special shoes or shoe inserts to prevent serious foot problems. Medicare may pay some of the costs. Your doctor or podiatrist can tell you how to get these special shoes.
Almost anyone, at any age, can do some type of exercise and physical activity. You can still be active even if you have a long-term condition like heart disease or diabetes. In fact, exercise and physical activity may help. But, talk with your doctor if you aren’t used to energetic activity. Other reasons to check with your doctor before you exercise include:
Your shoes are an important part of your physical activity routine. Remember, you’re going to be wearing them a lot. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:
If you’re not used to exercising, you may want to work with a personal fitness trainer. One of the best ways to find a personal trainer is to get a referral from someone you know who has a great trainer. Ask your friends and family or your health care provider. You also can check with a local health club or senior center. Once you have a couple of names, here are a few questions to help you pick the right person. If you can answer YES to most of these questions, you’re probably on the right track.
Education and Experience
|Does the trainer have a certification from an accredited organization? For groups that certify personal trainers, exercise specialists, and fitness instructors, see National Commission for Certifying Agencies in the Resources section.|
|Does the trainer have education or experience in exercise science, aging, and program design?|
|Does the trainer have at least 2 years of experience, including experience training people your age?|
|Will the trainer be able to develop an exercise program based on your goals, abilities, and health?|
|Has the trainer worked with people with your medical conditions?|
|Does the trainer know how to personalize your exercises based on medications you take?|
|Did the trainer listen carefully to you and answer your questions?|
|Does the trainer have a sense of humor and a personality that you like?|
|Has the trainer told you what to expect from the sessions?|
|Are the costs of the sessions and the cancellation policy clearly stated?|
|Is the trainer insured or bonded?|
|Will the trainer give you a list of clients so you can check references?|
Publication Date: May 2011
Page Last Updated: September 30, 2013