It Takes a Community, So Build It!

Like many Baby Boomers and seniors, you may at a point in your life when you want to start a new chapter.  That could mean beginning a second career or trekking through Africa on safari.  You’re searching for ways to build your enduring fitness, instead of sinking into a comfy chair or sitting in front of your TV.  And it works best if you seek out encouragement to help you on your journey.

Find a buddy to help you stay with your new fitness program.

In fact, one of the best predictors of success in a behavior-change program is support.  That can take the form of family members, friends, social media groups, gym members, etc.  Buddies can support you in many ways:

  • They help keep you motivated and accountable.  For example, you’ll be much more likely to make that morning walk if you know someone is counting on you.
  • Researchers know that people tend to exhibit health behaviors similar to those around them.  You can increase your level of self-control or commitment when you surround yourself with other like-minded individuals.  On the flip side, your efforts can crash if others perform less than optimal health behaviors.
  • Buddies can help you through challenging situations, listening without judgement and offering encouragement.
  • Spouses are especially influential in positive health behavior change.  And studies have shown that change is more successful if both partners are moving away from unhealthy behaviors together.
  • You can formalize your “partnership” with a life coach, personal trainer or Registered Dietitian.  These health professionals will educate you and keep you accountable.

Some people may be jealous or uncomfortable with your fitness or eating changes.  They may consciously or unconsciously sabotage your efforts.  If you feel this is happening, talk with the saboteur, ask if he or she can identify what might be the problem, and gently ask for their support.  Most people will correct their behaviors once they’re aware of them.

What does your support system look like?  Do you even have one?  Take a serious look at those who might be able to encourage you as you begin to make important lifestyle changes.

EXERCISE

Brainstorm 10 ways to build a supportive community for your behavior-change journey.  List specific people (your spouse, your siblings, your children or co-workers). Think about where you interact with people who could help you–a senior center, bowling alley, crafts or card club, church–any place you can enlist the support of people who would like to see you be successful in building and maintaining your fitness.

Now list the specific support you need to ask for from that person.  Here are some examples:

  • To a spouse: will you congratulate me when I start using smaller plates or eating a salad at each dinner?
  • To a co-worker: will you join me every morning break for a 15-minute walk?
  • To a sibling: it would help if somebody checked in with me on my exercise program once a week, could you do that?

Then, write in a date or time when you will talk with that person, and check off this information when you’ve completed it.

Excerpted from my first book, Building Your Enduring Fitness, now available at BuildingYourEnduringFitness.com.

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