(An excerpt from, “Get UP! Defy Aging with Movement,” by Nancy Alexander, PT. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.)
I want to share with you how important the right mindset is to help you achieve your goals. Here, I share with you an excerpt from Chapter 2 in my new book titled, “Get UP! Defy Aging with Movement.” Mindset matters and I’ve identified five ways to train your mind to work for you.
- Defy Aging
You are programmed. I am programmed. We all are programmed. From the day we were born, we have been programmed. It’s time to press the reset program and download some new information.
Ageism is a buzz word these days. When I first heard it, I didn’t understand what it meant. In the dictionary, it is described as, “prejudice or discrimination against a particular age-group and especially the elderly.” (Merriam-Webster.com dictionary, ageism.)
According to the World Health Organization:
Ageism is the stereotyping, prejudice, and discrimination against people on the basis of their age. Ageism is widespread and an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults. For older people, ageism is an everyday challenge. Overlooked for employment, restricted from social services and stereotyped in the media, ageism marginalizes and excludes older people in their communities.
Ageism is everywhere, yet it is the most socially “normalized” of any prejudice, and is not widely countered–like racism or sexism. These attitudes lead to the marginalization of older people within our communities and have negative impacts on their health and well-being.
(World Health Organization, Healthy Ageing.)
As I learn more about ageism, is not just discrimination. It is more insidious than that. It is the expectation that as we get older, we become weaker, we lose flexibility, and we lose our balance. It is the belief that we need more help and that we can’t do it all ourselves. It is the belief, to some, that we can’t live on our own. It is the belief we are in God’s waiting room.
A client of mine, Jane, noticed her balance was getting worse. She was in her mid-sixties and wondered if something else was going on in her body. She went to her family doctor who then referred her to an orthopedic physician. She met with this specialist with one thing in mind, and that was to find out what was wrong and to identify what she could do to improve her balance. He examined he, and when he was finished, he said to her, “Well, Jane, you are getting older.” No. No. No. Shame on him. This is ageism, front and center. This is wrong to me on many fronts. First, was he indeed overlooking some other reason for this? Second, research shows that even though balance declines with age, you can help reverse these effects with exercise and training. You do not need to be afraid. You should be encouraged to take action and move.
It is unfair when others slap us with generalizations and discrimination like this. What is just as destructive though is when we do it to ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us have been programmed to accept compromised mobility as we age–just because we are older. We have to become more aware of the filters we use, both for ourselves and others. I am guilty of it, too, but I am intent on reprogramming myself to know better.
When I lived in New York, I created a publishing company for my books. Because of my passion for helping older adults, I named my new LLC Aging Well Now. I even packaged my community education into an initiative called the Aging Well Academy. I was proud of what I was doing–and I still am. But I learned something thanks to one of my students. One day a participant in one of my classes did me a favor and helped me realize something When she asked, “Why do you call it Aging Well Now? We know we are aging. So what? What we really want to do is live well now regardless of how old we are.” She got it and I didn’t. Thanks, friend, for setting me on a stronger path. She was able to describe my mission better than I was.
What is your self-talk? I was 52 years old and I wanted to start a new physical therapy practice. My first thought was, Am I crazy? I’m too old to start something this big. What am I thinking? True story. I was my biggest stumbling block. I was my biggest barrier. I reacted initially based on my beliefs and my previous programming. However, once I did a little research, I learned that the fastest growing segment of new business was being started by adults over 50. Wow. This was eye-opening. I was helping to set trends. It’s all in your perspective.
Challenge your beliefs, challenge your self-talk. Where is it coming from? What are the facts? Fact is, you might be capable of so much more than you think.
I hope that you’ll realize all the choices you have and you’ll choose to keep moving. I hope that by reading this book, you’ll learn that you can improve your flexibility, strength, and balance at any age. That’s right, any age. So what if you’re 80. You can. You’re 92? You can, too. 102? Yes, you can.
2. Take Daily Committed Action
It takes daily consistent action to reach your goals. You can learn ways, many ways, to move and to keep moving. How you choose to move is up to you.
Let’s break down this sentence:
Daily–Find a way, every day, to move. There is a lot to choose from. Walk the dog. Clean a room. Do some food prep for that special meal you want to cook this week. Get outside and work in the garden. Sweep out the garage or patio. Go to the gym or swim in a pool. Take a walk with a neighbor you haven’t seen in a while. Schedule a golf game. Go for a bike ride. The opportunities are endless. Move daily.
Committed–Here’s where goals and intent come into play. You don’t have to decide right now your level of commitment. But it will come soon. You will understand what is at stake. Know this also. You are making a commitment even if you choose to stay where you are. If you decide not to change, you have still made a choice. I encourage you to learn the facts, trust those around you, and think long and hard about what matters to you. The smart choice for you will show itself.
Action–Hope is not a strategy. Make a habit out of living a healthy and fit life. I’ve heard it said that it takes 30 days of consistent action to make something a habit. A habit takes conscious thought out of the equation. You don’t think about taking a walk. You just go do it. It is not up for discussion. It just happens.
Taking action means doing something. If you’re a planner and like to schedule moving in your calendar, go for it. If you like building spreadsheets to create a plan for you to follow, do it. Just follow through on all your planning. There is no time for analysis paralysis. Pick something and just start. I’ll offer you ideas later in this book on from how to get started all the way to what specifically you can do based on your current activity level. We all have our own starting point, and that’s okay. As Nike, says, “Just do it.”
3. Ask for Help
You don’t have to do this alone. In fact, those who ask for help tend to reach higher levels of achievement than those who don’t. You only know what you know. How can you possibly expect anything more? Others can show you new ways of moving, new ways of living your life.
Trusted sources including your physician, physical therapist, occupational therapist, professional trainer, or mentor. They all can be part of your movement and fitness team. When I turned to a professional coach after my father died, the universe provided me with the guidance I needed. I could not have reached the point I am at today without it. It’s just that simple. I worked hard. I had to go down some roads I didn’t want to. But it was necessary in order for me to see what was possible and for me to trust that all the work I was putting into it would pay off. And the returns just keep coming.
As a physical therapist, I learned a long time ago that I’m not just giving my patients an exercise to do. I am giving them the tools to get their life back. They can think of better things to do with their time. If they are with me, it’s because they are hurting. Something happened and their life is no longer the same. They want it back or they want it to be the best it can be. That’s what I am there for. It’s not just an exercise or movement I am providing. It is so much more.
One of my current virtual class participants recently told me, “This COVID-19 quarantine is doing a number on me. I am weaker and I have less energy. I’m hurting more, too. I’m not going out and I’m just not moving as much,” said Karen. “I need your class. I need to get moving.”
Ask for help, put in the work, and get back to those activities you enjoy.
4. Be with Like-Minded People
I have heard this many times from many people and I believe it to be true: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Go ahead and crunch some numbers. If you have five numbers and you add them up and divide by five, you will always get the average of the five numbers. Always.
Now think of the five people with whom you spend the most time. You are the average of those five people. This includes among other things your weight, your activity level and likely even your wealth. You are the average of those five people. Who are you spending your time with? Do they value moving, exercise, and activity as much as you do? Do they go out and walk or bike every morning? Are they active in their community? Do they have more energy than those who do not move much?
Get to know those who move more than you. It will improve your average. Spend time walking with them, talking with them, socializing with them. It will improve your average. Who knows? You may lift up the others in your life who don’t move as much now. Once they see what movement is doing for you, they are going to want some of that, too.
Maybe you enjoy walking so much with your neighbors and friends that you form a club. You really learn to enjoy each other, support each other, and cheer each other on in recognition of various achievements. You form a community of strong like-minded people, and you change lives as a result–including your own. How cool is that? Be the one that inspires others.
5. Take Responsibility for Your Results
Own your results. Don’t complain, blame others, or justify your situation. As I said before, just do it. Start moving and keep moving. Asking for help can support you in other ways than what was mentioned above. It can provide accountability for your actions. Checking in with your new walking club every day is accountability. Having a buddy you go to the gym with is accountability. Promising your spouse that you will ride your bike with them is accountability. These all help you take responsibility for your results. Accountability is great at helping you create habits. You may be at a point when you don’t see the benefits yet, but you still made a commitment to move. Let accountability be that bridge between action and habit.
You are stronger than you think. I have been blessed to work with many wonderful patients and clients during my 25 years of practice. It has been a privilege to watch them learn what they can do. Years ago, I received a lovely card from one of my homecare patients, Barbara, soon after I discharged her. She had broken her hip during a fall and had it surgically repaired. She wrote, “You showed me I could get better and I did it faster than I ever thought possible. I didn’t know what I could do. Thank you so much for giving me my life back.”
Bob was a participant in my Buff Bones® Chair Class a few years ago. It was a joy to watch him as he cultivated an awareness that his body could do more than he thought. When asked to move his arms a certain way in class, he responded, “I didn’t know I could move this much until you asked me to. I can do this.”
Asking for help is a strength. Reach out and get the help you want and deserve. You just need the special skill to want to and believe that you can.