One of the best pieces of advice I can offer to support lifelong health is, “don’t let a health set-back become a new health set-point.”

Healthy habits aren’t just a one-time choice. They’re a series of small choices made day after day, week after week, month after month to build a foundation for well-being. Sprinkled in are the big choices you make in the face of adversity.

Life Changes and Challenges

Think about that for a minute. Life continually ebbs and flows.

Sometimes it’s hard to get started on the path to well-being, other times it’s easy to get started and hard to be consistent, and still other times – those wonderful times where you feel empowered and a little smug, perhaps – you’re consistently making good decisions that support your healthy lifestyle vision and goals.

But often, when you’re really in the flow – life intervenes with an illness or injury, work or family pressures that derail your great habits. This type of health set-back is a critical turning point, a fork in the road, and the direction you choose will determine your future health trajectory.

A Path to Recovery

In 2017, as part of a commitment to myself to be as fit and healthy as possible on my 60th birthday, I choreographed and performed a high energy dance piece with a local dance company. I was lean and fit, having fun, and feeling healthier than I had in a couple of years.

Then in early 2018, I hurt my back trying to maneuver a water tank that was far too heavy to manage. That started a year-long process of pain management, fits and starts back into a fitness routine, waking up feeling tired and sore, and hobbling around in frustration!

For the fist time in 10 years I had to pull out of the dance concert.

The whole year was a really interesting experience. I’ve always known that it’s easier to stay in good physical condition than to start from scratch and get into good shape – but last year I lived it.

It’s also easier to encourage positive aging expectations when you feel pretty good most of the time! The past year trying to navigate through both sleep and activity with pain and stay upbeat about retaining a healthy active lifestyle – regardless of age or challenges – was a lesson in humility.

Sometimes I felt like just saying, “To heck with it, I’ll just downsize my life!”

The Crossroads

Gratefully, I recognized this moment as a health crossroads and persisted with physical therapy and physical training until I could start fully reclaiming my lifestyle.

Knowing what it feels like to be physically strong and flexible motivated me through the initial discomfort of moving my body every day in ways that improve strength, mobility, and endurance. I recognized how much harder it would have been if I had never known how it felt to be physically fit.

I share this with you as both a confession and encouragement. I understand that consistently making choices that support well-being isn’t usually the easiest path. I also get how much determination it takes to navigate set-backs that threaten your vitality and independence.

This is especially true after 60 when family members, friends, and others seem more prone to offer a narrative along the lines of “well you’ve had a good run but it’s time to give that up.”

Conscious Choices

Absolutely no judgement if in response to a challenge, you choose to take something out of your life. But make sure it’s a conscious choice measuring the pros and cons – not just a default into “easier” or buckling under common negative expectations of what’s possible as we age.

I’m back in rehearsals for the 2019 dance show, with a few concessions: perform one dance rather than two, warm-up longer, cool-down and stretch afterwards, and be more conscious of body mechanics every time! Both perseverance and adaptation have been key to continuing to do what I love!

I would love to hear your story.

What health set-back are you negotiating? What keeps you moving forward? Have you felt like giving up? What strategies could you use to regain fullest function possible? Please use the comments below to share with the community.

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