The Baby Boom generation is known for staying active and refusing to slow down as they age. That's all well and good, but if you're trying to stay fit and healthy, you may accidentally be sabotaging your own fitness.
Here are five all-too-common mistakes I see Baby Boomers making when it comes to their fitness programs:
1. Don't Lift Weights. Aerobic exercise is essential for heart health, brain health and weight management, but it's not the only exercise you need. After 30-something we all begin to lose about a half pound of lean muscle tissue each year, unless we're actively working to build muscle. That lean muscle that you're losing is the primary driver of a healthy metabolism, so the more muscle you maintain, the more you get to eat. Nice, huh? Strength training is also essential for staying mobile and independent as you age and for maintaining bone density. So two or three times a week, include full-body strength training in your workouts.
2. Cut too many calories. Lean muscle tissue needs fuel to survive, but so does your brain, your heart and all your organs. Far too many Boomers try to lose their spare tires or junky trunks by cutting way back on their calories (see point 5), not realizing that they may actually be doing more harm than good. Cutting your daily calorie intake below your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is almost guaranteed to starve your body of needed fuel, which then encourages further lean muscle tissue loss and a ratcheting down of your metabolism. To lose weight, you need to peg your daily calorie count somewhere above your basal metabolic rate and below your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Hint: this is one reason it's easier to lose a hundred pounds than 10 pounds. With only 10 pounds to lose, you have a much smaller margin of error.
3. Overload Your Joints. Nothing will derail your workouts quicker than a joint injury; just ask anyone with arthritis or a rotator cuff injury. You can't always prevent degenerative joint diseases like osteoarthritis or immune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, but you can prevent injuries from careless technique. To protect your joints, warm up before you go full-bore into your workout, develop all the muscles supporting and surrounding the joints, exercise at the intensity that's appropriate to your fitness level, and include flexibility exercises at the end of your workouts. Remember that ligaments and tendons often respond to exercise more slowly than muscle, so increase your workouts very gradually over time, and back off if it hurts.
4. Think All or Nothing. It's easy to get caught in the trap of all-or-nothing thinking. It goes something like this: "I don't have an hour and a half to drive to the gym, change clothes, work out, shower and get home, so I'll just have to miss today." And then today becomes tomorrow, and before you know it, three weeks have passed and you haven't worked out. What if, instead, you said, "I don't have time to get in my full workout, but I can take a fifteen minute walk at lunch, take a couple of rounds up and down the steps, and bust out a few pushups while I watch the news." Maybe it's not the whole workout, but it's better than nothing, and it kept you in the habit of staying active.
5. Set Only Short-Term Goals. Seriously, why would anybody think that all the weight you gained over the last 10 years would magically come off in 90 days? Short-term goals are great for keeping you motivated, but your fitness deadline is the day you die, not six weeks or 90 days from now. Make a commitment to finding a level of activity and a set of healthy eating habits that you can sustain every day for the rest of your life. Once you set that life-long goal, you'll discover that staying fit is actually easier than you thought. No more crazy diets that you can't wait to ditch, and no more make-you-wanna-puke workouts that seem like punishment for all your sins. Just good, healthy, common-sense tactics that fit easily into your daily routine for the rest of your life.
How about you? Are you guilty of sabotage? Are there other ways you think you've set back your own fitness? Share your experiences in the comments section below, and tell us how you got back on track.
(photo credit: Mike Baird, bairdphotos.com)