How to Keep a New Year's Resolution to Be More Active

Image of happy mature couple in warm clothing walking outdoors in snow

Last year's January issue of the Assisting Hands "Hand in Hand" newsletter urged readers to make exercise one of their New Year's resolutions. How did that go for you? If your exercise program fell by the wayside, let’s reboot for 2016!

Like most Americans, you’re probably aware that physical activity is important to one’s overall health and well-being. And, like many Americans, you may not exercise as much as you should. If you’ve made a resolution to be more physically active next year, here are some tips to get—and keep—you motivated.

Resolve to be more independent as you age

Physical activity is one of the single most important things you can do for your health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular exercise can help:

  • Reduce your risk of numerous diseases, including some cancers.
  • Strengthen your bones and muscles, which helps prevent falls.
  • Improve your mental health.

Disease, accidents due to falls, and a loss of cognitive function are all major reasons seniors become less independent as they age. Exercise helps prevent all three, increasing the likelihood you’ll be able to pursue your passions well into your later years.

Get a “workout buddy”

Exercising with someone not only gives you an opportunity to add a social element to your workout, but also increases your chances of maintaining a regular routine. A study at Indiana University found that married couples who worked out together had a much lower dropout rate than couples who worked out separately (6.3% to 43%). This could be as simple as walking with your spouse or neighbor every morning. For even more motivation, take a friend to an exercise class at the local senior center. The more people you have supporting you, the more likely you’ll stick to a routine.

Get a dog

A dog is a great workout buddy. First, they need to be walked, so you have a constant source of motivation. Numerous studies show that dog owners are healthier than non-owners and the benefits extend beyond physical health. In a study conducted by psychologists at Miami University and St. Louis University, researchers discovered that pet ownership let to better overall health and well-being.  

Set a goal

If you walk in the mornings, set a goal to walk to the park and back or three laps around the lake. Having a specific goal will help you keep focused and make you less likely to become distracted by all the temptations that will try to keep you from keeping your commitment.

Clip on a pedometer

A study of more than 300 New Zealand seniors found that people walked almost twice as much when they wore a pedometer. These devices allow people to check their progress, and having something that actually records your level of activity seems to be a great motivator for people to get moving.

Schedule it

Put exercise on your daily to-do list and schedule a specific time for it. Most people do best by having a regular time each day—perhaps first thing in the morning, or right after work. Having a regular routine helps many stick to their commitment more easily.

Add in some fun

Look for activities in which you already have an interest—such as gardening, dancing, or golf. It’s much easier to get motivated for something you actually enjoy doing! If your main activity is walking, change your route to include new sights and sounds to keep you interested.

Source: Assisting Hands Home Care in association with IlluminAge. Copyright © IlluminAge, 2015.