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July 01, 2022

Summer makes a great time to revisit your resolutions to live healthier

The season brings plenty of exercise opportunities. But it also includes many interactions with family and friends – key sources of motivation for adopting a healthy lifestyle

Men's Health 50-Plus Men
Summer Beach Exercise Source/Image licensed from Ingram Image

Many people have long ago ditched their New Year's resolutions, but the summer season offers another opportunity to take actions to live healthy. The warm weather presents new exercise options and social events frequently put people in front of key sources for motivation – their friends and families.

We're halfway through the year, about to hit our summer stride. The remnants of your New Years' commitments to live healthy likely are long gone, as is your attention to the rudiments of your health and well-being.

Perhaps you made it to the gym for a while. Maybe the diet started to show some results. But, in the end, despite your best intentions, the distractions of life pushed you off the healthy behavior wagon. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and won't suggest that you fell off.

That said, this halfway point in the year presents a great opportunity to jump-start your wellness regimen and leverage a confluence of incentives that can make the behavior changes you want really stick this time.

The case for a summer strike

Here's what I mean. First, the nice weather gives you more fitness options. In April last year, I discussed the enhanced benefits of exercising in nature.

Second, summer vacations and family events bring your social motivators – kids, grandkids, friends and family – front and center. As your "why" for getting healthy in the first place, their increased proximity during the season should make it abundantly clear that the sacrifices of a healthy lifestyle are well worth the effort. I'm a big believer that the more you have your loving constituency "in your face" the stronger your health consciousness is.

Finally, the summer represents a vintage case study in intergenerational relationships. Earlier this year, I reviewed the motivational dynamics of hanging out with younger generations, an opportunity that is pronounced during the summer.

Now, out of compassion for the 50-plus men I target, I was tempted to pass on the most obvious summer-based trigger for a behavioral restart, but given the challenges men face, I'll add it to my closing argument: your appearance. Yes, if there is anything that can get a man off his butt, or cause his loved ones to tell him to do so, it's his bathing suit profile. Need I say more?

So, if you're convinced that summer is the right time to embark on a healthy lifestyle, what's it going to take to be successful? What are the best practices you can employ to get over the hump and on the pathway for long-term change? Here are some tips to give you a head start on your reinvigorated journey.

Your game plan

Let's start with the basics. You need a game plan. Haphazard approaches don't work. All of the experts recommend that you establish specific, measurable and realistic goals. Don't overreach, and try to work off of established habits in other areas of your life. For example, if you are already an early riser, then consider building-in a morning exercise routine. You get it. Here's some goal-setting strategies that I previously outlined. 

The Cleveland Clinic endorses a comprehensive planning approach that includes goal setting and rewards positive behavior. The Clinic emphasizes that behavior change is a journey and you need to be prepared for the natural ups and downs that life brings. They key is managing the implementation of your plan so that you have a strategy to navigate these normal hurdles and stay on course.

The three 'Rs'

An interesting insight into breaking bad habits and adopting positive behaviors is offered by the Harvard Medical School. The experts there suggest that making lasting behavior change and breaking bad habits is building a solid foundation anchored by motivation and confidence.

As noted, most experts point to your social relationships as the strongest motivators – often referred to as intrinsic motivation. Confidence can grow from the achievement of small "baby steps" that progressively give you the confidence to reach your major goals.

With motivation and confidence in place, Harvard advocates for an approach centered on what they call "The Three Rs" – reminders, routines and rewards. This strategy recognizes the patterns behind bad habits to enable behavior change. The medical school uses television-based junk food snacking to make their point about connected behaviors. See if this sounds familiar.

The "reminder," or trigger is your favorite television program. This prompts a trip to the kitchen – your "routine." The "reward" is the consumption of the snacks as you watch the program. Left unchecked, this pattern has a strong potential to repeat itself. The antidote is to recognize these patterns and find alternatives to break the cycle.

Playing for the long term

No matter your age, circumstances or level of interest in leading a healthy lifestyle, it's critical to remember that the goal is a lifestyle that extends beyond diet and exercise, a long-term proposition that produces the health and happiness, and ultimately the fulfillment that you seek.

The platform is relatively standard. You tailor your short-term strategies to serve as stepping-stones to achieving your long-term goals. To continuously fuel your passion to stay the course, you engage in social activities that serve as continuous reminders of your "why" for the sacrifices behind your behavior. You are not perfect.

Despite your best intentions, there will be days that you don't make it to the gym, eat the wrong things, or miss events on your social calendar. Your ability to bounce back, get on track and maintain your commitment is the true testament to the people you love. It's not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. Your health is no exception.

So, as we approach Independence Day, declare your independence from the millions of men who have abdicated their power to control their lives, and the most fundamental human right of health and happiness. For, just like all the rights and privileges of a civilized society, it's not just about yourself. There are people that love you, depend on you, and hope to have you around for a while. 

Make this summer the one that changes your life for the better. Leverage all of the ingredients that the season brings and use them as a springboard to a life of physical, mental and social well-being. Your declaration will be the best thing you ever do – for you and the people you love.

Louis Bezich, senior vice president and chief administrative officer at Cooper University Health Care, is author of "Crack The Code: 10 Proven Secrets that Motivate Healthy Behavior and Inspire Fulfillment in Men Over 50." Read more from Louis on his website. 

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