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"Definitely NOT!" 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. Last year, 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, Ms. Burnette said.
Physical activity needs to be a regular, permanent habit to produce benefits. So does staying motivated!
Recording your scores and watching them improve can be an excellent motivator to exercise. On the other hand, if you see that your scores have improved by only a few seconds or just one or two lifts of a weight, you might get discouraged.
Putting it in perspective might help. While your test scores might rise by what looks like only a tiny amount, in terms of real-life benefits, those slight improvements are multiplied many times over as you include them in your everyday activities, probably without even realizing it. You incorporate that extra little bit of endurance and extra little bit of 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.
These leveling-off periods are normal. You are probably doing your activities correctly, and you are probably still benefiting from them. Often, these leveling-off periods mean that it's time to gradually make your activities more challenging.
For times that you need extra motivation, try the following:
According to the U.S. Surgeon General's report, you are more likely to keep doing physical activities if you:
When it comes to motivation, the first month is crucial. If you can increase your physical activity for a month and still 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.
Most people like to do for themselves. For many older adults, just the idea of improving or maintaining their health and independence is enough motivation to exercise.