Exercise can save you money

Exercise can help you save money.

You’ll be happier if you exercise.

And you’ll attract people to you if you’re not scowling – you’ll make more friends.

Exercise can save you money

Don’t believe me? A HealthPartners Research Foundation research study showed that people over 50 years old who started exercising only 90 minutes per week saved about $2,200 per year in medical costs. And a CDC study showed that older people who visited a health club twice a week saved over $1,200 more in healthcare costs than those who visited a health club less than that.

Sounds good to me.

How this makes sense

Exercise does more for you than just increase physical fitness. Exercise can save you money.
Exercise does more for you than just increase physical fitness. Exercise can save you money.

And it makes sense. If you’re exercising, you’re getting fitter. And you’re getting healthier. We’ve talked many times about the health benefits of exercising – It can lower your blood pressure and boost your good cholesterol (HDL). Exercise promotes better blood flow, and decreases the risk of heart disease. Plus, it can help prevent or manage other health concerns like diabetes and stroke.

Exercise has also been proven to ward off many types of cancer. Anecdotally, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a cold. Even before we all started to wear masks all the time, it had been several years since I’ve been laid low by illness (knock on wood – don’t want to jinx myself…).

Happiness after exercise

Exercise is also a mood-lifter. Those post-exercise endorphins are no myth. After a workout I’m happier and easier to be around. Just ask my sister. Exercise helps you sleep better too. And a good night’s sleep is a must-have for happiness. The world seems brighter after I burn a few hundred calories! And after a good workout there’s no guilt at eating a healthy dinner. 

Exercise can save you money and attract people to you!

If you’re happier and in a good mood, you’ll be easier to be around. No scowls – more friends. People will want to be closer to you. Even with a mask on, people know if you’re scowling! More friends = more happiness. A better outlook on life. And all from a couple hours of exercise.

If you miss a day or two

You’re a few weeks into your new, “healthy you” plan and things are going fine. You have good days and days that it’s a struggle, but you’re making it through. You’ve been sweating up a storm but eating (mostly) right. But you’re starting to wonder, what happens if you miss a day or two. You may have a trip planned and you don’t know if you’ll be able to do your workouts. And if you’re on someone else’s timetable, you don’t know what the meal situation is going to be like. You’re worried that if you miss some time that your plan will be completely undone.

First, take a breath and celebrate

First, take a minute and celebrate your successes! It’s not easy sticking with a healthy plan for a few days, much less a few weeks. And you’ve done it! You’ve stuck with it! You should be incredibly proud of yourself.

But if you miss a couple of days

But that trip is coming up, and you’re concerned. Know that if you miss a day or two, it’s not the end of the road. You may eat things that aren’t on your meal plan. You may miss a few workouts. But you can’t plan your entire life around your workouts. Things happen.

It’s OK. The world will not end.

It’s OK if you miss a day or two. Or even more than that. The world will not end, and you’ll be fine.

The key is to get back on the plan as quickly as you can. And while you may not be able to completely stick with your meal plan while you’re away or your schedule is disrupted, try to eat as sensibly as you can. Don’t think to yourself, “I can’t do my plan, and I don’t want to be impolite and ask for separate food, so that’s it. I’m done.”

Eat sensibly and move!

No. Eat as sensibly as you can. Try to limit high-fat and high-sugar items. Say, “Thank you, but no” to all the sweets your host offers you. (Or just have one of your absolute favorites.) Stick as closely to your own meal plan as possible without being rude.

And get what exercise you can. Suggest walks outside. If you’re staying at a hotel, check out the fitness center. 

Back to normal

You may not want to go all out when you get back to your routine after you miss a day or two.

When you get back to your normal routine, assess where you are. Get back to your healthy eating plan as quickly as possible. You may have gained a couple of pounds, but they’ll come off when you’re back to your plan.

And you may want to ease back into your exercise program a little more slowly. If you miss a day or two, you probably won’t lose momentum. But more than that and if you go back to full exertion, you could be sore for a couple of days. So, modify the intensity a bit for the first few days. And if your muscles are sore the next day, it’s normal. Follow these suggestions to feel better – Drink more, stay active and don’t sit too long. And remember that the sooner you get back to your routine, the easier it will be.

You’ll get back to your fitness routine in no time! You’ll be improving your health and increasing your resilience. There’s no need to quit if you miss a day or two in your fitness journey – you’re just taking a little break.

Maintaining Your Motivation

You’ve been eating right and exercising for a few weeks now. Congratulations! It’s been going pretty well. You’re hanging in there. But every once in a while that muffin looks better than what you planned for breakfast. Or your co-workers are going to your favorite sandwich shop for lunch. And there’s that piece of cake left over from your significant other’s birthday. Maintaining your motivation through all the temptations is really hard.

And it doesn’t get easier.

Five Keys to Maintaining your Motivation

So, how do you maintain your motivation? How do you stick to the plan? These five methods help me maintain a healthy lifestyle every day.

1. Take Each Day as it Comes

One day at a time – Today is the only day that matters in your “healthier you” plan. Yesterday is gone. No matter how “good” you were yesterday (and congratulations for that!), it doesn’t matter today. Keep that date you set up for yourself today in your calendar. (You’re doing that, right? A few weeks ago we talked about forming healthy habits, and a key point was making that recurring appointment with yourself on every day you wanted to exercise.) Make every food decision count especially on days that eating right is a challenge. For every meal you prepare, ask yourself if it’s a good choice for you.

2. Just Get Going

The final stretch with my dog. Just do it, don't agonize over working out. That's maintaining your motivation.

Don’t think too much about your workout preparation – On days that you really don’t want to exercise, just do it. Shake yourself mentally and don’t think about the things you’d rather be doing (like watching TV, reading a book, lying on the couch). Just change into your workout gear and start to exercise. Promise yourself you’ll do 10 minutes of your workout. Before you know it, you’ll be cooling down and looking forward to that final stretch.

3. Reflection

Reflect on how far you’ve come. Just a couple of weeks ago you knew you should start an exercise program and healthy eating plan but were confused about how to start and what to do. And now you’re crushing it! A great way to keep going is to put these reflections in a journal. (Check out my Gratitude and Happiness Journal on Amazon.) Every day, think about what you’re happy you’ve accomplished and write it down. When you go back and read these reflections, you can’t help but feel motivated to carry on. (Writing these thoughts down will also give you a great sense of gratitude, and we know that happiness follows gratitude, and resilience follows happiness and optimism!)

4. Visualize

Visualize yourself maintaining your motivation. Picture yourself eating a plate of vibrant greens with your family and enjoying it! Better yet – you’re all eating that wonderful salad and loving it. Feel how you’d like to be, at the place you enjoy the most, with the people you love most. Picture yourself at a party, enjoying yourself, holding a glass (a champagne flute?) of sparkling water. I can’t tell you to picture yourself exercising and loving it, because I can’t do that myself. But I do it so that the other pictures can become realities.

5. Your “Why”

Your reason for sticking to your plan. Finally, and probably the easiest way of maintaining your motivation – remember your reason for starting in the first place. Whether your reason is for your family or for your own future, remember that. You’re eating right and exercising to lower your blood pressure, to improve your cardiac conditioning, to improve your cognition and memory. 

These five methods will keep you on the straight and narrow. Maintaining your motivation will be easy.

Get energized and exercise

We’re all suffering from sleep deprivation, and it would be really easy to just yawn and say, “I’ll work out tomorrow…” and take a nap. But we need to get energized and exercise! 

That reminds me of the saying, “Rise and shine!” and one of my favorite movie lines. In one scene in “The Great Race” (which has THE BEST pie fight scene ever!), Natalie Wood chirps to Jack Lemmon, playing the mustachio-twirling villain, “Rise and shine!” To which Jack Lemmon snarls, “You rise and you shine!”  

But in all seriousness, it is possible to fill yourself with energy and the get-up-and-go to, well, get up and go exercise. And not with calorie-laden caffeine drinks or sugar-filled candy.

So, how can you get energized and exercise if all you want to do is lie down and sleep?

Decide

Get energized and exercise. Breathe deeply and get more oxygen flowing.

Decide that you’re going to change your clothes into your workout gear, turn on your exercise program if you do a stream or DVD, or get stretched out for your run. Just decide. And go change.

Then stretch, shake your arms out, do a few marching steps, take a deep breath and exercise.

Not that easy

Sure, sure – it’s easy for me to say that. And yes – I have lived it. Ever raise a puppy? They have to go outside every couple of hours to maintain their housebreaking training. If it’s your responsibility to see to the puppy, you’re sleep-deprived. Or have a newborn baby? Same goes. Chronic sleep deprivation.

But, you have to take it as a given that certain things are worth going without sleep. Like a well-trained puppy. Or a happy baby. 

So you accept the fact that you’re not going to be sleeping much. And decide that certain things must be accomplished. Like exercise – because the benefits of exercise are many. Plus, just the act of exercise replenishes energy. It doesn’t make sense, does it – expend energy to replenish energy. 

Expend energy to replenish energy

But, think about it – when you exercise you’re breathing more deeply. You’re getting more oxygen and it’s making its way into your lungs, through your bloodstream and into your brain, providing more energy. Same thing with meditation – you’re focusing on your breathing and getting more oxygen.

Self-care is important

While you’re losing sleep, it’s important to take special care of yourself in other ways. Hydration is important every day, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water – good old H20 – and eating right. Be sure to eat lots of veggies and fruit, whole grains and lean protein. Grab a nap when you can, and you’re not supposed to be exercising! And you’ll be more inclined to get energized and exercise.

Dead battery

I had to replace my car’s battery last week. It was old, hadn’t been used much in the pandemic, and was close to dying.

Pre-COVID, I was on the move several times every week. Classes, practices. Occasionally a road trip to a dog competition or even a major road trip for a working vacation. But after the lockdown, I didn’t go anywhere more than 2 miles away, or do anything.

My car is about 9 years old, and it was still on its first battery. It had regular maintenance, and it had been used to travel many miles every week. But the travelling stopped. The battery didn’t get much use and was dying.

A metaphor

We can use my car’s battery as a metaphor for our bodies. With proper maintenance and a great deal of good use, we’ll thrive for years. With maintenance but lack of use, we’ll fade away.

We’ll see our doctors regularly, have all the prescribed tests. We’ll get the healthiest, freshest foods. We’ll listen to the top podcasts and improve our minds. But without the use, our bodies will wither.

Use it or lose it

That old maxim is true. We’ve got to use our muscles or they’ll lose strength. We’ve got to use our bones or they’ll crumble away. We’ve got to use our heart or it will be subject to decay.

Move it

Don't let your body be like my dead battery. Use it or lose it.

Exercise is like a road trip for the body. Back in the good old days on a road trip I would drive for 8 hours a day, making pit stops every couple of hours. Exercise is not quite like that, as we only really need a few hours a week.

But exercise is crucial for a body that will last and get us through everything we need it to. 

We need strength work for our muscles and bones, and cardio for our heart and lungs. 

And it’s all good for the brain. Exercise has been shown to improve memory and focus. It helps us sleep better at night. Read more: http://fitness-over-50.com/2018/04/more-reasons-to-exercise/

So, don’t be like my car’s battery. Use your body or you risk losing it.

I’m taking Nike’s slogan

Everyone recognizes Nike’s trademarked slogan, “Just do it!” But it has real meaning for me.

Lots of things I DON’T want to do

There are many things none of us wants to do on any given day. But in order to live with ourselves, we recognize that we just have to buckle down and “do it.” I don’t want to get up, but I have to take the dogs out or I’ll have a wet bed. So I do it. I don’t want to tackle the mess on my desk, but I have to or I won’t be able to find anything. So I’ll do it. I don’t want to face the crowds at the fruit market this afternoon in a mask, but we need stuff so I’ll just do it.

Cook?

I don’t want to actually cook meals, but they’re so much better, healthier and more affordable than anything out of a box or delivered, so I’ll do it. I made a dynamite soup on Saturday with sweet potatoes, chicken and swiss chard (that I should have taken pictures of ) that warmed us up on a raw, miserable day. And it was worth it.

So I remember those things as I stare at the piles on my desk as I write this. Now where’s that receipt from …

Working out

The same applies to working out.

I don’t like to work out. But I do it.

It’s become a habit. 

Samuel Johnson, the famous 18th century literary figure said, “The chains of habit are too weak to be felt until they are too strong to be broken.”

What does that mean? 

Just do it! That applies to exercise.

We do something and do the same thing, and do it over and over again. That thing becomes a habit. And then when we decide to not do it, it’s practically impossible. Not doing that thing creates a hole in ourselves that we are compelled to fill with that thing. Not doing it will leave you with the feeling that something is missing for the rest of the day. 

It takes conscious effort to break a habit. And it’s not easy. It may be easier to develop a habit than to break one. (Not that you’d want to break the habit of exercising.)

So, exercising is a habit. It’s just something I do. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday. It doesn’t matter what I do during my workout. I just do it on those days. Even if I just have 20 minutes to devote to my workout. I make those the best 20 minutes of exercise that I can. But I do it.

Here are 4 ways that exercise can become a habit: http://fitness-over-50.com/2017/05/4-things-to-make-exercise-a-habit/

Focus on what you’re doing

I hate running. But if I focus on my form, I get the maximum benefit in the least amount of time.

I’ve said it before – I don’t like to work out. I hate exercising. I hate getting out of breath and sweaty. I hate running. I hate working my joints when they don’t want to get worked.

But I do it. 

The benefits

I do it because of the benefits I know I’m receiving from exercise. Exercise helps my aging brain hold onto memories, as well as learn new stuff. Exercise helps my bones and muscles stay strong. Exercise helps my endurance. Exercise helps me sleep better.

So I do it. But I don’t have to like it.

Maximize my focus, minimize my time

So when I exercise, I want to make sure that I’m maximizing my time and not work any longer than I have to. So I focus on what I’m doing to make sure that I’m really targeting what I’m supposed to be targeting. 

Years ago, when I went to a health club to exercise I saw women (it was an all-women health club) lift one-pound weights with no attention to form. I saw women mosey on the treadmill while looking at their phones. And I saw women in group classes just going through the motions.

Time to kill? Not me!

I wondered about those women. They must have had so much time on their hands, they could afford to be at the health club for hours at a time and burn fewer calories than I did in my half hour or 40 minutes. (How rude were those women – not giving their all to that instructor? She was giving her all to them! The least  they could do was reciprocate.) But I had to get back to work! I was on a deadline! I had to put my time in on the stair machine or treadmill or rowing machine or free weights, clean up and get back to work. 

And now – I work out at home and I still hate it. But I give my all. If I’m going to devote that much time to something I dislike doing, I’m going to do it well and not feel guilty about it. Going through the motions doesn’t do anyone any good. I’m exercising for a reason so I’ll do it right! 

The secret to success

The secret is to just pay attention. Focus on what you’re doing. If you can’t do a move properly, modify that move to give you maximum benefit now and help you get stronger or more flexible so you are able to do that move the right way at some point in the future. Get the maximum benefit from every exercise you do. From your warmup through the workout to your cool-down.

Sharpen your focus

Everyone exercises for different reasons. Sure, some of them may be similar – like staying fit, losing weight, strengthening muscles. But exercise also helps you in other ways: it helps your brain.

Exercise equals food for the brain

Your focus will improve after you exercise.

As we age, it seems like everything deteriorates. It’s the old “use it or lose it” adage. If we don’t exercise, our muscles become weak and may even atrophy. If we don’t do weight-bearing exercises, our bones become brittle and may break.

Exercise provides oxygen for the brain, but even more, exercise helps our brain in other ways.

A recent study of athletes’ brains showed that they were better at ignoring distracting background noise and better at focusing on the sounds that really mattered to them. The study tested athletes and other participants by attaching electrodes to their scalps and studying the electricity their brains produced when different sounds were introduced. 

Dr. Kate Essad, Lead of Sports Neurology, Director of Concussion Management at Aurora Health Center in Milwaukee, says that “by doing activities like sports, which require habituation of reaction time and integrating many different sensory systems, your brain can function faster and it can perform tasks faster – and probably better.”

“Most neurological conditions, migraine, dementia – all of them are benefitted by regular exercise because the brain requires fresh blood flow and cardiovascular conditioning,” she says. “And all of these conditions are reduced by stimulating your brain. It’s the most important thing for dementia and cognitive decline – things people get when they age.”

Take a focus break

So, if you’re sitting at your desk and have been working away for a couple of hours and your mind starts to wander – you’re losing focus – take a break. Get up and walk for ten minutes. When you get back and start work again, chances are you’ll be able to concentrate better and be much more productive.

Dr. Essad also points out that there are other ways to help your brain too, like reading and writing, learning a new language, or playing a musical instrument.

Everyday things to help your brain

And everyday there are things we can do to make sure our brains age as well as the rest of us:

Get plenty of exercise, practice mindfulness or meditation and make healthy food choices.

Read about how I clear my mind so that it’s able to focus on important stuff.

Yet another study supports what we know …

Another study that supports what we already know: that those who exercise  are in better health than those who don’t.

Cycling and exercise for health

82-year-old Norman Lazarus, a professor emeritus at London’s Kings College, requested that a study be performed on the health of older active cyclists. King’s College and the University of Birmingham took him up on it. Researchers compared 125 amateur cyclists, ages 55 through 79, with a group of people ages 57 through 80 and with a younger group ages 20 through 36. All of the noncycling group were healthy but did not exercise regularly.

Lazarus had noted that he and his riding group were not experiencing many of the frailties, such as joint problems or chronic illness, that affect so many other people as they age. His group had been avid cyclists for most of their lives.

Less evidence of aging in cyclers

The researchers found that those who exercised – in this case cycled – regularly did not show evidence of the outward signs of aging.

The male cyclists in the study had to be able to ride 62 miles in 6½ hours, and females had to be able to ride 37 miles in 5½ hours, according to the study, published in the journal Aging Cell. I’m not a cyclist but seems like a fairly intense regimen.

Less loss of strength

In a series of lab tests, researchers found cyclists did not lose muscle mass and strength like the noncyclists did. The cyclists also stopped the clock on increased body fat and cholesterol, and the men’s testosterone levels remained high.

Improved immune systems

One of the most surprising findings was that the cyclists’ immune systems were equivalent to those of healthy young people in the study, as measured by the presence of immune cells, known as T-cells. The cells are produced by the thymus gland and typically start to decrease as the thymus begins to shrink after age 20. Depleted immune systems are one of the greatest barriers to health in the elderly.

Intense exercise is the key

We know from other studies that cycling is not the important part of this – the intense exercise is.

The CDC recommends that adults get 150 minutes a week of moderately intense exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise.

The moral

The moral here – do something! It’s better than nothing. And even if you can’t do even moderately intense exercise now, you soon will be! So get moving!

“Best Exercise for Aging Muscles”

I saw that headline and sat back. Yeah, I guess that’s me! Aging muscles… Sounds kind of rude. Accurate but rude!

As we get older, it’s true, cells deteriorate. So what can we do to slow that progression down or even stop it?

Use it or lose it!

There are lots of studies out there that prove this. I’m not going to bore you with statistics. But, you know – if your knees get stiff you’ve got to get up and walk around. If you’ve pulled something in your back, you know your doctor told you not to rest – get up and move! It’s harder to lose weight too as we age. Yes, eating less is imperative, but so is movement!

As I’m writing this I feel myself slumping. I wrote about this last week – every few minutes I have to think about sitting up straight and pulling in my stomach. Once an hour it’s helpful to get up, walk around, drink some water. It’s good to get your body moving and it’s good to hydrate!

And, if you really want to help your muscles and your mind – because lots of studies have also shown that exercise helps keep your brain young – do a focused period of exercise. Intense exercise is better than leisurely, but any exercise is better than nothing!

An exercise program that you like – or at least find interesting – is better than one you don’t like. You’ll stick with it and get better results from the program. My running is the exception – I run a couple of times a week on the treadmill to improve my speed and endurance for dog agility. I still hate it. But I do it because I know it does help. And I’m starting to get better at it. I do enjoy the audio books I listen to while I run, and that certainly helps keep me motivated to run.