Maintaining the Motivation to Exercise in Middle Age

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • How does one stay motivated to exercise? Especially as we reach middle age, life seems to conspire against us. Schedules get clogged while strange aches make us wary about working out. Yet loved ones often worry about our health as they watch us become sedentary. “My mom isn’t even 50 yet and takes high blood pressure medication and is on the verge of diabetes,” a friend said. “I want her to get motivated and out of the house to be more active so she can run and play with my kids one day.”

    So what works? I asked some of my female friends, ages ranging from 45-60, how they keep themselves motivated to exercise. Their responses are enlightening and inspiring.

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     “Being a hyperactive kid, I've always liked ‘moving around,’” Leslie said. “Loved PE in school and had a roommate in college who talked me into a jazzercise class and got me running as well. That got me hooked on exercise, and group exercise in particular.”

    Yet like many people, life found a way to interfere with Leslie’s exercise regime. “When my mom was dying, I stopped exercising because I didn’t have the time,” she said. “A couple of months after she died, I booked a weekend at Lake Austin Spa & Resort in Austin. I had a nice, relaxing weekend with good food, a nice choice of workouts and just enough pampering. It kind of kicked off a commitment I was making to take care of myself again.”

    Patti, a lifelong exerciser, also was slowed down due to health issues. “Surgery caused me to slow down/drop off the wagon,” she said. “I usually am pretty good about exercising--those endorphins are addictive!” Patti’s also keeps an eye on the scale. “There are speed bumps along the way, but when my weight starts to get beyond a certain point, I know I need to cut back on the sugar,” she said.

    Getting on the scale also provides Jan’s incentive to exercise. “I have a certain weight (which has grown over the years) that warns me that I'm losing control of my discipline. It all boils down to self discipline,” she said. “Yesterday my workout was so brutal I had the thought, ‘I am quitting this program.’ Of course, after it was over, the thoughts changed to ‘Gosh, that was miserable but needed for my own fitness.’”

    Others gauge their exercise routine by the way that their clothes fit. “I know that when my favorite jeans are getting tighter that it is time to get back into the exercise groove,” Chris said. “Now that I have more free time, I schedule weightlifting during my favorite morning TV show, ‘Ellen’. I agree that walking is a great place to start, especially with a buddy - I have two buddies - my husband and boxer. I feel guilty when they aren't getting their exercise either. In a nutshell, I just feel better when I exercise and that is motivation enough.”

    So how to get started if you’ve been off the exercise bandwagon for awhile (or have never been part of it)? Several friends said walking is an easy way to begin.

  • Leslie, who regularly teaches exercise classes, suggested trying different fitness routines. “What I've seen work well for getting people into exercise and helping them stay committed is finding a workout they like,” she explained. “Some people have the self-discipline it takes to do a workout at home using equipment or DVDs. I need a deadline so what works for me is to go to a scheduled class where I know I have to make time to be there and it will take one hour of my time.”

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    An exercise buddy also can be helpful. “That way, on the days where you don't feel like going, they'll help you stay motivated and vice versa. Plus it makes it makes it more fun!” Leslie said. “And find a class/activity you like. I've always loved step aerobics and running. I tried to get one of my sisters to go with me to class and to run and she hated it. She's more amply endowed than I am so the ‘bounce’ of both activities was not to her liking - go figure. Instead, she loves to swim.”

Published On: April 19, 2010