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What Stops Us From DoingWhat We Know is Good for Us?

Updated: Jul 4, 2023

While there is no other nondrug prescription that has as many benefits for

health as physical activity the reality is that the majority of us aren’t as

physically active as we could be. As the title of this post asks: What stops

us from doing what we know is good for us?!

There are several studies about physical activity in retirement. For the most

part they highlight that people continue with activities they started before

retirement. However, if we haven’t been physically active before retiring,

what can help us to get started after retiring?

Answers to this question were provided in a study by Canadian researchers

who looked at factors impacting people’s experiences of physically active

leisure in the transition to retirement. There were three key ideas that

reflected their study participants’ ideas about the role of physically active

leisure in their lives:


1. Structure and Spontaneity: While the retirees in this study talked about

the importance of having some level of structure in their days (e.g., daily

routines) they also mentioned how important it was to slow down from the

rushed and schedule-driven lifestyle they had while working. One person

described why she decided to quit participating in an aquafit class: ‘That

early morning, rushing out the door, I’m not interested in ever doing that

again.’ While some people reported that they needed the structure of a

class to motivate them, others wanted to find activities that they could do

spontaneously, such as biking around their local park.


2. Responding to New Constraints: Several study participants reported

health-related concerns that made regularly engaging in physical activities

challenging. However, rather than stopping, most looked for activities that

would provide them with the same benefits (e.g., being in nature) but didn’t

present the same kinds of physical challenges. They also tried out

strategies to overcome constraints (e.g., using walking poles, take frequent

breaks) or adjusted priorities. One strategy was to increasingly value their

health and use this as a motivator to be physically active.


3. Physical Activity as More Than Exercise: Choosing physical activities

that were fun or enjoyable and that met important needs were the biggest

motivators for study participants. One participant was reported to say: ‘I

don’t enjoy exercise at all! I find it more torture…My form of exercise is

more working or doing yard work and stuff. I enjoy that more.’ The

importance of the socializing was also emphasized, as well as activities

that would provide multiple benefits at the same time. For example, one

person posted that she chose walking to relieve stress, get exercise and

enjoy the outdoors.


What Can You Take From This?

If you aren’t sure what you could be doing to build more physically active

fun into your life you might want to complete the ‘Interests Inventory’

available on The Retired You website under the Tools link [link here].


Tips: If you want to get more physically active and have been struggling to

do so, here’s some ideas to consider:

  • Create a weekly schedule for yourself that includes different types of

  • physical activity. Remember, every little step or move matters!

  • Choose activities that are important to you and find ways to make them enjoyable and fun.

  • Look for the benefits available to you from these activities (e.g., accomplishment, stress relief). Use these as motivators for taking action.

  • Check out available online or virtual physical activity programs that you can do in the comfort of your own home.

  • Find spaces or programs that provide you the supports you need; especially important are programs or places where opportunities for social interaction are possible.

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