We all know the truth. We’ve heard it hundreds of times: some form of daily or almost daily exercise after 60 will keep both your body and your mind happy.

Yet getting into that routine can be challenging. Do you set exercise goals on January 1, filled with great intent and then quit on January 10? Here are some tips that may motivate you to keep going and develop an exercise routine for life.

Set Realistic Goals

You want exercise to become a habit. You don’t need to do two hours a day to feel the benefits. If you haven’t exercised in a while, it’s unreasonable to think that you will suddenly start doing even an hour a day. Start out slowly. Ten minutes a day. Fifteen minutes the next.

Work up to your desired goal over a two to three-week period. This will also help to prevent injury. Do you want to walk for an hour a day? Does 30 minutes a day feel right to you? Listen to your body. Maybe you are an every other day person. Set a goal that matches your lifestyle and go for it.

Mix It Up to Get More from Exercise After 60

The same exercise routine all the time can get boring. Try a couple different forms of exercise. In the summer, I take the water aerobics classes at the local pool twice a week. It’s a great way to cool off and I feel like a little kid splashing around with all of the other ladies my age who attend the class.

I like to hike as much as I can in the warmer months and I try to hit different trails or routes during the week. In the winter months, I attend a Pilates class in town. Hiking/walking is my mainstay exercise, but I break it up with other activities and that helps to keep me engaged.

Schedule Your Exercise

One of the things that I find beneficial is to build my day around my exercise. Do you set aside a specific time each day for exercise? Since I kept a daily calendar during my working years, I find that keeping one now works well too.

Committing anything in writing creates a little motivational push. I schedule my writing time and exercising time first, and whatever else I have going on, I fit around those two things. The idea is to keep exercise at the same time every day. This is a tool can keep you on track and help you to make exercise a habit.

Walk a Shelter Dog

Did you know that many shelters are thrilled to have volunteers who will walk or play with their dogs? Dogs make the best trainers and being in a park walking with them will exercise both of you. If you have a dog depending on you, you might be more inclined to show up and walk. If I don’t get out with my dog on a walk during the day, I feel very guilty!

The Right Equipment

For me, shoes are my important piece of equipment. You want to wear shoes that fit well and that support your feet correctly and comfortably while walking. Loose T-shirts, shorts and leggings do double duty for Pilates or walking.

Whatever you decide to wear, make sure that it is comfortable and unbinding. And don’t forget to dress warmly enough on these unpredictable spring days. I like to have an extra layer on me that I can remove if necessary.

Eat Breakfast

Yes, it’s still the most important meal of the day. Eating a little protein with vegetables is my favorite breakfast. Breakfast gives you energy and mental clarity and it will fuel your exercise. I like what I call breakfast salad: hard or medium boiled eggs on a bowl of chopped lettuce, tomato, peppers, avocado and a few sunflower seeds. I use a little vinegar and oil for dressing.

Rewards

Was it Newton who said that “for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction?” Or something like that. Exercising regularly deserves a little payoff at the end of the day, an opposite reaction, if you will.

Here are some favorites: a hot bath or shower. Sitting outside on the deck with a cup of tea and watching the sun set. A bowl of blueberries. A favorite TV show. Doing something nice for yourself and telling yourself that you did well. Self-encouragement and self-acknowledgement is a good way to keep yourself motivated.

As the weather turns warmer, it becomes easier to get outside and walk or swim. And if you need to be indoors, the local YMCA, recreational centers or a gym offer a wide variety of classes. Here in Ashland, Oregon the continuing education program at the college even offers walking classes for seniors. Many of these resources are free or quite reasonably priced.

Nothing wears as well or as classically on any of us as the look of health that comes from exercise. And who doesn’t appreciate the feeling of vitality and vibrancy created by daily movement and effort?

What are some of the ways that you motivate yourself to exercise? Do you set aside time in your day for exercise? What are some of your favorite activities? What do you think are the keys to getting the most from exercise after 60? Please share with the community.

Stephanie RaffelockStephanie Raffelock is a novelist and a blogger. In her Sixty and Me column, she explores writing, living fully and loving well. She enjoys literary representation by Dystel, Goderich and Bouret in New York. You can find Stephanie at StephanieRaffelock.com or Tweet her @Sraffelock.

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