6 Ways to Enjoy Getting Fit at Any Age

Form a routine, don’t restrict food and other tips to get happy and healthy.

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- Posted on Jul 13, 2020

An older man getting ready for a morning bike ride in the woods.

Does fitness ever feel like a young person’s game? High jumps, backbends, squats—yikes! While it’s true that many workouts are designed for younger hips and knees, healthy fitness at any age is possible. “Be intentional,” says trainer Tiana Dottin, who, along with her husband Brandon, runs Fire and Voice, an at-home fitness program. “Don’t just move without thinking. Connect with your mind and body.”

We spoke with Dottin to learn how everyone, even older folks, can get back in the swing of exercising. (The biggest secret: it’s not all about weight loss!)

Form a Routine
“A lot of people underestimate the power of taking small steps,” says Dottin. “You don’t even need weights or a gym to start, just a mat and the sidewalk.” While it’s tempting to throw yourself into hours of intense exercise, especially in the beginning, walking for thirty minutes a day— for a whole month—is more sustainable long-term.

“It’s about maintaining a habit,” says Dottin. If you don’t feel up to walking around the whole neighborhood Dottin suggests you jump on the mat instead. “Even if it’s just stretching, ingrain the habit.” We all have to start somewhere.

Lean on Your Community
“Your community doesn’t want to set you back,” says Dottin, “but no one knows how to support you if you don’t ask for help.” Get your friends and loved ones on your team. That could mean asking your spouse to bring home fewer unhealthy snacks, or inviting your kids and grandkids to come on a walk. You’re more likely to exercise for the long haul—and be positive about it— if you feel supported.

Know Your Triggers
Do you ever feel disappointed in yourself for not exercising? Or ashamed of your body the way it is right now? You’re not alone. It helps to understand where that shame comes from. “Was it a high school gym coach who made you feel bad?” Asks Dottin. “Did you put on weight in college or after having a baby and never felt comfortable?”

Try shifting your focus. Instead of thinking I feel bad about my body because I don’t exercise enough, remind yourself how great it feels to move. “Rewire the brain,” says Dottin. Let exercise be a time to celebrate what your body can do.

Don’t Do Exercise You Hate
This might seem obvious, but if you dread something, don’t do it! “I hate running,” says Dottin. “Every so often I’ll go on a short one.” Forcing yourself to run or jump won’t help long-term —people who hate exercising often quit. Instead, ask how does my body want to move? Maybe you prefer yoga to weight lifting, or dancing to squats. “Live more sustainably and functionally,” says Dottin. Take pleasure in how your body moves.

Set Reasonable Goals
Sure, losing weight can take pressure off your joints, but slimming down isn’t the only reason to exercise. Does your body really need a six-pack? Do you need to look the way you did as a cheerleader in high school? At most ages, these goals aren’t healthy or sustainable.

“If you’re sixty-five, you’re never going to get your thirty-year-old body back,” says Dottin. “Sorry! It’s the facts.” Focus on reasonable goals for your ability and age bracket. “Work out so you can play with your grandkids, lower your cholesterol, or get off your breathing medication,” she says. These things might not seem glamorous, but they contribute more to overall health and happiness than a flat stomach.

Don’t Restrict Food
“Restriction is not sustainable,” says Dottin. “Don’t cut out any food groups.” It’s tempting to drop all your unhealthy habits —chicken-fried steak! Ice cream! Too much cheese!— at once, but most of us can’t do it forever.

“I have an eighty/twenty rule,” says Dottin. “I’m mindful about my eating eighty percent of the time, and less mindful twenty percent of the time.” If you love something, don’t give it up. Instead, ask do I need to eat the full portion size? Can I eat this only on weekends? Just like exercise, eating better is about sustainability.

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