Fitness After 50: Exercises for the chronically, mentally paralyzed – Part II

By Vicki Morgan, CPT

I love falVickiTruFitPromo1webl. That cold slap in the face, the colors of desert sunsets sprinkling the trees, the smell of pine in the air … what a gorgeous, joyful time. For some.

For others it’s a grim reminder of the coming winter … a biting freeze that chills to the arthritic bone. The stifling, thick cold makes it hard to breath, makes the heart work harder, makes the hands hurt and grow numb … and it’s too bloody cold to walk outside. Fall and winter in Colorado are the roughest times of year to start an exercise program. The onset of cold can be quite discouraging to an already unmotivated soul.

In part one of this article, I talked about mental immobility. Not only is it depressing and de-motivating, it is internally, physically and mentally destructive. Mental paralysis can be born of fear, anxiety, depression, grief, despair, medication or disease. Those who have never suffered from immobility have no idea what it’s really like. A sufferer usually can’t just “snap out of it” or “visualize” their way out of it. In the latter section of part one, I unpacked what happens physically when we move our muscles ever so slightly. We learned in part one how just the slightest movement does a world of good. Even flopping around on the bed can be considered exercise. From the folds of our couch, from the fortress of our bed, even moving one limb activates a whole chain of physical reactions that cause you to become addicted to movement … and therefore addicted to exercise.

Consider this. If you’re mentally immobile and can’t get motivated to exercise, it may be due to the pressure that you feel to get fit. But here’s the deal. Wrong beliefs about physical activity may be counteracting your motivation. Here are just a few to consider:

  • Exercise has to be intense to be valid. NOPE!
  • You have to exercise at a certain time, and you have to commit to those hours. NOPE!
  • Reaching goals is a requirement for happiness and success. NOPE!
  • Exercise should be exhausting, not renewing or relaxing. NOPE!

Exercise does not have to be intense. It’s supposed to be YOU time. The “No Pain, No Gain” approach is dead. It’s old school. The old adage of “high intensity for at least 30 minutes” has been replaced by newer recommendations that permit lower-intensity activity in shorter durations. I have a client who is 78, and after one year of what I call “feel-good strength training”, she’s almost as strong as I am. She’s been sore maybe ONCE in that entire year. She feels decompressed and renewed after training … not beat up and spent. You can slowly, steadily do something at home every day, and YOU can pick the time! The only requirement is consistency. If you haven’t moved much in ten years, then kicking your legs for three minutes, twice a day on the couch is probably sufficient to start. Remember … exercise should never be a burden. It is a discipline, but it should be a joyful one.

Somehow, someway, if you try, you will come to love exercise. You may have to actually invent exercises that are fun for you personally. A more relaxed approach to exercise might boost your motivation as well. You can move in ways that will renew instead of exhaust you. Any movement is better than nothing. The world will keep turning if you miss a day.

One last note: If you’re being pressured by a concerned family member to “get in shape or die”, that in itself can be demotivating. Encouragement is ALWAYS better than a threat. Love is a better motivator than fear.

Now that the pressure is off, try enjoying a bit of movement. In the last part of this short series, I’ll give you some ideas for “feel good” strength training that you can do at home.

Vicki Morgan A.C.E. is a Senior Strength & Fitness Trainer at Flex Gym and Fitness. She is also a professional blog writer and audio podcast producer. Consult a physician before beginning any exercise program. If you experience pain or difficulty, stop and consult your healthcare provider. This article is not meant to take the place of any treatment or activity your physician has deemed necessary. 

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