Fitness Over 40

Feel-Good Fitness: What It Is and How to Get It

Posted by LeeAnn Langdon on Thu, Oct 06, 2011 @ 10:05 AM

For me, one of the best things about getting older is getting your priorities straight. You begin to know from experience what you really value and how important it is to act on those values. When it comes to my fitness routines, I'm happy to report that the older I get, the less I care about the size of my clothes, the number on the scale or how hot I look (I'm afraid that horse has left the barn).

Now, I'm looking for fitness programs that make me feel good. What exactly is feel-good fitness and how do you go about getting it?


What Is Feel-Good Fitness?

  • Relieves stress. Many fitness activities, from walking to weightlifting, dancing to swimming, all have a rhythmic element to them that many people find meditative. In addition, aerobic activities increase mood-boosting endorphins and decrease stress hormones like cortisol.

  • Relieves depression and anxiety. Blame the endorphins again for having pain-relieving and mild sedative effects. Exercise also distracts you from your worries and creates feelings of self-confidence that can help combat depression.

  • Improves sleep. A good workout challenges all the systems in your body: your cardio-pulmonary system, your metabolism, your musculo-skeletal system. Repairing the body after your workouts happens largely in your sleep. As long as you're not exercising within an hour or two of bed time, most people find that exercise improves the quality and quantity of their sleep.

  • Makes you feel confident and capable. Anytime you learn or accomplish something new, you boost your confidence. Feel-good fitness gives you the opportunity every day to learn a new technique, increase your mastery, and beat your personal best performance.

  • Improves your body image. Visible changes to your body shape and composition can take weeks and months, but even a single session of feel-good fitness can change your image of your body. Chalk it up to those feelings of confidence. Watching your body achieve new things helps you appreciate it in whole new ways.

  • Increases your stamina. Life can wear you out, but regular exercise actually increases your ability to handle it. As you build your cardiovascular and muscular endurance, you'll find that your energy levels are higher and your daily chores are more manageable.

How to Make Your Fitness Feel Good

feel good fitness

  • Make it Fun. Experiment with all sorts of activities to find the ones that speak to you. Roller skating may make you feel like you're hurtling toward cracked cranium--or it may make you feel like a kid again. Dancing may get you grooving or make you feel like a big dorky klutz. What's important is that you find the activities that you like and that you want to do. If it's fun, you won't even realize that you're working out.

  • Keep it appropriate to your abilities. Don't make the mistake of trying to keep up with other people or with the workouts you could do twenty years ago. If you want your fitness to feel good, start small and build up gradually. Overdoing it leads to injuries, and it definitely doesn't feel good.

  • Be consistent. You don't have to do the same workout every day (in fact, you shouldn't), but you do need to be active on a consistent basis. Your fitness program will feel good if you do a little bit every day rather than try to be a weekend warrior who spends the rest of the week recovering.

  • Focus on functional abilities. Your fitness will be more rewarding if you focus on what it helps you accomplish, whether it's carrying the laundry upstairs without being short of breath, or being able to reach back to scratch between your shoulder blades. Focus on the function and you'll see the payoff in everything you do.

  • Listen to your body (but not your excuses). Your body knows how much it can and can't handle. Pay attention to how you feel during and after your workouts to know how hard you can push it next time. Just be sure you're not hearing your highly-efficient excuse maker. If you think you're too tired to exercise, just give it 10 minutes at a moderate pace. Then if you're still tired, listen to your body and take a break. 

Starting a new fitness program can be a real challenge. You can make it a lot easier if you do your best to make your fitness feel good. For more tips about how to take the pain out of your workouts, check out the All Gain, No Pain Workout: Fitness for Baby Boomers eBook.

(photo credit: Michael Pereckas)

Tags: Baby Boomer, body image, functional fitness, cardiovascular exercise, endurance

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