I’ve been working out lately. A lot. I’ve been inspired since recently reading a book called Younger Next Year by Chris Crowley, a 70-year-old heart patient, and Harry Lodge, his physician and mentor on a path to health. In the book, Crowley shares the experience of his own rejuvenation by following his doctor’s guidance around physical activity. The exercise advice can be summarized very simply: “Exercise [hard] six days a week, every week, for the rest of your life.” That’s all there is to it (but easier said than done, right?)
It is easy to find books encouraging you to exercise more. But most recommendations remind us of the minimums: You should work out at least three times a week for at least 20 minutes. What I think is different about this book from other prescriptive health guides, is that Younger Next Year is about thriving. It does not just give the minimum exercise guidelines for a basic level of health and survival. It tells you what you need to do to thrive; to live a full, long, and happy life; to literally become younger next year than you are today. The downside, of course, is this does not come easily. It takes work. Hard, sweaty work, 60 minutes a day, almost every day, for the rest of your life.
The good news is there is a growing body of research highlighting the rewards of investing in your own physical fitness. Most people are well aware of the physical benefits (on weight, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, and almost every other measurable health metric). But the benefits do not stop there. Recent research shows that exercise is as good for the mind as it is for the body, encouraging new brain cell growth and staving off mental decline as we get older. And there seems to be a relationship between exercise and psychological well-being, since those who exercise are more likely to rate themselves as happier and more satisfied with their lives. Exercise is now being prescribed as one of the most effective treatments for psychological depression.
But we probably don’t need to be convinced that exercise is good for us. The question becomes how do we find the time, how do we muster the energy, where do we get the inspiration to dig in and do the work that we all know needs to be done. Here are a few mindsets that I have found to be helpful in getting me to the gym on a consistent basis. See if any of them get your own heart rate going:
1. Whatever the problem, exercise is the answer.
If you don’t have energy to exercise, exercise will give you more energy. If you don’t have time, exercise will give you the strength to get more done in less time. If you don’t have the motivation, remind yourself how good you will feel after working out.
2. Practice self-control.
Studies show that self-regulation can be exercised like a muscle. When you push yourself to go to the gym, not only do you strengthen your muscles, you strengthen your will. Developing self-control will help you be successful not only in maintaining your health, but in all areas of your life.
3. Focus on the future.
What kind of a life do you want to live in the future? What activities do you see yourself doing 10 or 20 or even 30 years from now? Start training for those now. Being future oriented will motivate you to make better health decisions today.
We all like to find “shortcuts.” To solve problems, we look for the quickest and easiest solutions we can find. But sometimes the best rewards come to those who simply work the hardest. For those who make the time to go to the gym, push beyond their comfort level, and keep going back for more, the benefits are powerful, far-reaching, and long lasting. If you want to be younger next year, you know what you need to do. Now do it.