Sometimes we have the greatest intentions of starting to exercise regularly only to have day after day pass without following through.  I’m no stranger to that challenge but have found something that really helps me stay consistent.  Having an exercise buddy is a proven motivation strategy and the good news is that it can even be a long distance buddy.  I mentioned earlier that my friend Chris and I calculated the distance between where she and I live (600 miles) and decided to start walking towards each other while keeping track on the map. Knowing I have to report my progress to Chris really gives me a nudge. What I didn’t mention is that she is battling lung cancer and each time I’m tempted to put off the walking I consider the effort it costs Chris to do the same thing I can do so easily.  At that point none of my usual excuses sound remotely credible. Besides that, it has been just plain fun!  Touching base via email to say what town we’re in, commenting on what we are going to do while we’re "there".  It’s just a fun way to connect. 

What about you—is there someone you would like to re-connect with?  Recently, we have had 3 other people join our buddy program and now Chris told me about a great opportunity to join a "virtual" walking group in conjunction with the famous Alaskan Iditarod Dog Sled Race.  Check out  http://www.idita-walk.com  to see how a group in Nome, Alaska has created a way for anyone to be part of the fun between February 3rd and March 18th.  It might give you that little extra nudge you need to get moving.   Happy walking-see you in Nome!

What if an internet search for geriatric exercise turned up everything from skydiving, and adventure courses to chair aerobics rather than making an assumption of diminshed capabilities based on age. What if we didn’t believe that aging equaled decline?   I ask that question frequently and often get blank stares. This belief is so ingrained in our culture that most people don’t know how to respond, yet there is evidence all around us that we can live with vitality through the full lifespan. I have photos of 100+ year olds water skiing, hiking in the mountains, lifting weights and sky diving yet the very phrase geriatric exercise imposes powerful negative images of frail individuals struggling to perform the most basic exercises.  Age is not the deciding factor, function is.  Consider young adults recovering from injury who struggle to regain their strength and mobility for the basic activities of daily living.

I also have examples of 90+ year olds working in professions requiring high levels of intellectual performance, doing challenging volunteer work, providing important emotional and spiritual direction to others, yet the word geriatric continues to imply a diminshed presence in the world.   Do you have examples of people you know living vital full lives in their 80’s, 90’s, and 100’s?  Share your stories with us by posting a comment below. 

On a personal note, are you experiencing a lack of energy, diminished strength, diminished focus etc?  Do you attribute any of these things to advancing age?  I want to hear from you.  What about the opposite?  Are you feeling stronger, more energetic, more focused as the years pass?  I’d like to hear from you!   

Last week we talked about the five stages of behavior change Pre-Contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance.  This week I’m offering suggestions about how to move from Contemplation into Action.

Pre-Contemplators and Contemplators can move into action by having “instant opportunities” to get started.  For example, if your goal is to increase physical activity consider posting a simple, specific exercise reminder such as, do 20 curl-ups, somewhere you will see it regularly.  If that doesn’t move you then add more specifics such as, do 20 curl-ups while waiting for lunch to heat, so it pins you down to a specific time frame. Also have available short “bites” of information from a magazine or web-site that reinforces the importance of being physically active on a regular basis.  The key is making the commitment of time and/or energy very small in order to ease from just thinking about it to doing it.

Use the same strategies as above in the Preparation stage and also think about what exercise opportunities are available to you in your community.  Can you walk at lunch, are there classes available that are easy to attend – both where and when they are held?  Does a class you’re interested in offer any “sample” classes or even an opportunity to observe.  Also find an exercise buddy to help motivate you to move forward and consider that they can be long distance.  My friend Chris and I figured out the number of miles between where we each live (about 600) and agreed to “walk” towards each other.  We check in regularly to report how far we’ve made it on our maps and plan to reward ourselves with a road trip to actually meet half-way. The key is creating easy opportunities and trying a variety of things to gain the confidence to consistently move forward from preparation into action.

Action and Maintenance require the steps above plus as they say just doing it.  Don’t allow skipping your planned activity session to end the commitment.  Instead, determine to at least do a “set” of movement NO MATTER WHAT i.e.50 curl-ups, or 50 stair steps, or dancing to 3 songs, etc. Pick something you like to do as your first set and often once you get started doing one set you’ll continue until you’ve knocked out 20-30 minutes of activity. Even if you only do one set you have still succeeded in your committment to do some activity each day and will be more likely to get back to your program.

The challenge of New Years resolutions is usually not defining a resolution, but following through with behavior change!

Motivation (posted October 19th) explored factors impacting behavior change; attitudes and norms, perceived wishes of others, belief that change is positive, and belief that the action taken will result in the desired change. The Stages of Change theory created by researcher James Prochaska is another enlightening concept outlining five stages people go through as they move toward making a positive change.

1-Pre-contemplation

·         not intending to, or ready to change,

·         may not understand advantages of making the change, or   may be resistant to change,

·         may view the pros of the negative behavior as greater than the cons.

2-Contemplation

·         some knowledge of the consequences or advantages of the change,

·         pros and cons of change are judged about equal,

·         intending to or thinking about change

3-Preparation

·         have determined the pros outweigh the cons,

·         intend to make a change,

·         have a plan of action for change within six months.

4-Action

·         taking action on a regular basis (i.e. attending a class, eating nutritiously),

·         tend to feel empowered and in control of life,

5-Maintenance

·         sustaining the change for at least six months (i.e, walked daily, quit smoking, etc.),

·         behavior change becomes part of the person’s lifestyle.

The New England Journal of Medicine reported that “at any given time, fewer than 20% of people with a less than ideal behavior are prepared to change”, i.e. ready to take action. Consider physical activity as an example (resolution to exercise).With the vast majority of people residing in pre-contemplation and contemplation stages it is unfortunate that the "build it and they will come" approach of offering lots of classes (aerobics, yoga, tai chi, etc.) appeals almost exclusively to only the 20% who are ready to take action by attending a class. Virtually no programs exist to help people move forward from contemplation into preparation, action and maintenance.


If you’re having trouble making a desired change consider where you are in the stages of change.  Next time I’ll talk about steps you can take to move from contemplation (thinking about it) to preparation (gather information about what’s available) and action (join a class, or take a 10 minute walk).

  Happy New Year!