January 10, 2019
Remember coming up with every excuse possible to avoid bedtime as a child? All that practice follows us into adulthood – especially when it comes time to hit the treadmill.
Despite our resistance to exercise, however, doctors say that moving the body is essential to preserving its strength and flexibility. That can be easier said than done, though. When fear stands in the way of exercise, the idea of starting an exercise regimen can cause embarrassment, stress, or fear, even for those who used to relish physical activity.
What makes exercise so much harder to commit to as we age? If you’re busy juggling work, family obligations, and self-care, you may think that the biggest barrier to working out is finding the time, but that’s not the whole answer. Before we integrate a new positive health behavior into our daily routines, we must integrate it into our thinking. This first step is a crucial one, and it can easily be hindered by our thinking. That’s because every time we consider a new behavior or treatment plan, we intuitively check it against what we know — or think we know — about the body.
Imagine, for instance, that on the third day of a bout with the common cold, you wake up with a very stuffy nose. I bet I can guess what you’d do: reach for a tissue! When your body sends the message that your nose is congested, your mind concludes that it needs to be cleared out; you blow your nose, and hope to restore normal respiration. It turns out it’s not what your poor nose needs! Stuffy noses are caused by inflammation of the nasal passages, not physical blockages. The harder you blow a stuffy nose, the stuffier it will get. Knowing that won’t stop most of us from reaching for the tissues, though. It’s much easier to accept seemingly intuitive health advice — even if it’s wrong — because it doesn’t set off our mind’s self-protective alarm bells.
When your loved ones are feeling anxiety, discomfort, and fatigue, those feelings set off lots of alarm bells telling them to stay still and rest to conserve energy and avoid further harm. If a health care provider tells them to exercise, it can fly in the face of everything they think they know about their bodies. It’s not easy to be told that you must do something that you feel will hurt you.
To support the older adults in your life in starting an exercise regimen as part of their daily lives, you’re going to have to help them overcome the stress and anxiety triggered by the thought of doing something new and intimidating.
Also, don’t forget to practice what you preach! Regular physical activity is one of the keys to a longer, healthier life for all of us.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.
This article was originally published in IBX Insights.
I work in Medicare Marketing at Independence and blog about navigating life with chronic illness and other issues relevant to caregivers and health care consumers of all ages.