Top tips to help seniors reach their health goals

Achieving one’s health goals is hard but it’s even trickier if you approach the task without a plan. To help with this Aspira has a webinar to make reaching your health goals easier. Natalie Lacombe has some winning tips for you, whether you want to increase your activity, improve your nutritional choices or just improve your mental health.

Natalie is vice president of the Fitness Council of Canada and was Canfitpro’s recipient of the Presenter of the Year award. She passionately connects with those trying to improve their physical, mental and immune health while blending 25 years of international work experience with degrees in psychology and exercise science.

Distinguish between wants, needs and goals
Natalie stresses the importance of determining your intention before embarking on any journey of self improvement. This is done by establishing the difference between wants, needs and goals.

Move toward pleasure and away from pain
When it comes to health goals Natalie believes it comes down to two simple choices. “It is either to move toward pleasure or move away from pain. The consistency of the behaviour of moving away from pain will increase if we are moving toward pleasure,” says Lacombe.

People want to exercise to gain energy, vitality and move away from a painful body weight but the workout that tends to work best and delivers the most consistency is not the one that is trendy or even most effective, it’s the one that is fun, according to Lacombe. We should also move away from foods that cause us pain. An example of this is cutting down on coffee because of sleep issues.

“Think about your health goals - your needs, wants and desires - and ask yourself which ones are moving away from pain and/or which ones are moving toward pleasure,” added Natalie. “Let’s say you are struggling with joint issues and want that to be improved. The moving away from pain is ‘I don’t want to feel that pain anymore’, that is literal pain. Perhaps the moving toward pleasure part is ‘I want to feel comfortable in my daily movements.”

These are the motivating factors Natalie wants you to consider before even thinking about the strategies.

Write it down
Natalie says that statistically people are 42 per cent more likely to achieve a goal if they write it down. Taking a note manually or digitally on your phone helps to keep it at the forefront of your mind.

Boxes to tick to optimize physical health
Movement: Move as often as possible Natalie insists. “Our bodies thrive in movement. The more we stay stagnant the more we leave ourselves open to disease. Moving is walking, tai chi, whatever.” Lacombe recommends at least 10 minutes every day rather than one 60-70 minute block of exercise once a week. Regular movement offers all sorts of mental and physical health benefits.
Nourishment: The inclusion of whole foods here is key says Natalie. “Move towards foods that don’t have labels, this can be seen as moving toward pleasure by nourishing yourself better.”
Hydration: The importance of a hydrated body can’t be stressed enough according to Lacombe. “A dehydrated body doesn’t find energy, a dehydrated body doesn’t make the best decisions when it comes to nourishment and struggles when it comes to movement,” she says.
Energy: Maybe your goal is having the energy to maintain positive communication in the relationships that matter to you or to volunteer or to do activities that are meaningful to you.

Boxes to tick to optimize mental health
Sleep: Natalie firmly believes in a good night’s sleep. “A person who is not rested, a person who has not slept properly has problems finding the energy and vitality to choose to do the things that matter to them. Sleep really impacts everything, the quality and quantity of sleep really matters,” she says.
Cognitive stimulation: This is really important to everyone as we get older. Whether that’s engaging in a meaningful hobby, reading books, learning, watching documentaries or sharing ideas with interesting people.
Stress management: Lacombe says: “The stressors are out there and we have no control over what happens on the outside but we can control how we react and respond inside ourselves.”
Coping with mood changes: “Coping with mood changes often means spending less time worrying about the past and the future and more time in the present,” says Natalie.

Recognize the importance of social health
Natalie advises us to be more present. To search for the activities and the places we enjoy. This could mean becoming “a tourist in your own town” as she puts it. It is important to connect with the friends and family you love on a regular basis but to make room for reflection and alone time. Being lonesome and enjoying time in your own company are two different things Natalie says. The former is not good for social health but the latter is.

Be S.M.A.R.T
Lacombe says using this acronym will help with achieving your health goals.
Specific: Is saying “twice a week I want to spend time with a friend or talk to family on the phone,” says Natalie.
Or wanting to do more exercise or every day taking a walk outdoors and if the weather doesn’t allow substituting that with something indoors.
Measurable: Putting a number on what you plan to do, like I’m going to walk ten minutes every day.
Attainable: Being realistic with your goals
Relevant: This is most important one according to Natalie. The exercise or activities must be relevant to you personally rather than what society or a friend decides is important for you.
Time based: Let’s say you aren’t walking at all now but you want to walk ten minutes a day, this will be your new goal for the future.

Be aware of past obstacles
Unless you are aware of them, Natalie says past obstacles are likely to pop up again when you are trying to achieve your health goals. We are not setting ourselves up for success unless we acknowledge past obstacles. So booking a fitness session for the end of the day but knowing you’ll be too tired to attend is setting yourself up for failure. Trying a morning workout would be the solution to that problem.

It's good to celebrate
“We need to celebrate achieving our health goals,” says Lacombe. Think about how you’ll celebrate if you achieve your health goals. “Maybe it’s brunch with a friend? Maybe it’s sharing your goals with family/friends, a luxurious bubble bath or another treat. We are achievers and we want to move towards pleasure and away from pain but it is very important to celebrate achieving your health goals,” Natalie adds.


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