Aging, entropy, and motivational sayings


Tracy wrote about moderate fitspo, inspirational messages that are mildly, rather than outrageously, positive and moderately, rather than wildly, demanding.

You know, “It does get easier and you go faster” rather than “It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.”

So we can make some motivational sayings better by moderating them. Nice.

But what if the truth is gloomy? How then to motivate?

I’ve been thinking about aging bodies and fitness, and physical activity as helping to stave off the inevitable decline. That might be true but it’s not a particularly rousing motivational saying.

The same is true for aging and weight loss.

Consider what Tom Caulfield has to say about women who exercise lots as they age. The truth doesn’t provide much fodder for catchy motivational slogans: Exercise intensely for long periods of time and you might just stay the same!

The study Caulfield cites shows that women who exercise a lot, and regularly, even running marathons, still gain weight as they age. They just gain less. That’s good health news but won’t exactly make for a very good poster at the gym.

I reviewed Caulfield’s book here .

My worry, as always, is that unrealistic expectations hurt us. You might think, given that you’re still gaining weight as you age, that exercise just isn’t worth it. But that’s wrong on at least three fronts.

First, you miss out on loads of other health benefits of exercise, most of which have nothing to do with weight.

Second, there are lots of other benefits, in terms of overall well being, that aren’t even health related.

Third, gaining less weight is still better than gaining more weight. It’s better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish, as my parents might jokingly say.

But it doesn’t make for a snappy saying on a poster.

Of course, not all of life’s truths do make for short zippy sayings.

But some of the facts about exercise and aging do.

My original favorite?

It’s never too late to start.

That’s especially true for senior citizens who see huge gains in health and fitness when they start a program of physical activity, especially weight training.


6 thoughts on “Aging, entropy, and motivational sayings

  1. I have found the same to be true, as I have been on this health kick of mine for about 5 years–this has been the hardest! When I did a little research, I read that basically we need less food as we get older and as we maintain at the same weight, we just keep needing less…so it’s easier to gain weight. UGH…not what we want to hear. I do like “it’s never too late to start though…” While most motivational messages don’t appeal to me, that one does work. The other one I like is something to the effect of “if you want to eat like the average person, you will look like the average person”…and I think the same would hold true substituting exercise…

  2. The weight loss rationale for older women to exercise is going to fail most of the time, because it’s too hard to lose weight (at any age) with exercise alone. It’s not the most important reason why we post-menopausal women should exercise anyway. Your use of the term “entropy” is exactly on point, as is your closing comment about the gains in health and fitness that seniors get when we exercise. We have to get used to a different self-image. It’s just one of the many challenging things about getting old.

    The motivational slogans don’t get to the heart of the problem in terms of exercise. From my own experience as a 61 year-old woman who spent time in CrossFit and now does powerlifting, I see a number of factors that keep post-menopausal women from exercising:

    1. Fear of getting injured;
    2, Fear and shame about being weak, incompetent, fat, old and irrelevant in a room full of young people;
    3, Cost;
    4, Lack of a friendly place to train and lack of trainers qualified to work with older people. 99% of serious programs are geared towards the young and run by young trainers with little or no experience in working with older people or understanding our special needs (in my experience, this is also true in CrossFit, despite its rhetoric about scaling).

    Any motivational slogan worth its salt is going to have to address fear and shame while reminding us of the benefits of exercise, especially weight lifting. I got lucky and found a superb coach, but I fight fear and shame at every workout. It takes its toll, and I wish there were more of us in the gym.

    There’s one thing I’ll say regarding weight loss, and I say it with some hesitation because I don’t want to offend you, Sam, since you’re vegan. It’s tough to lose weight if all your sources of protein are also carbohydrates (i.e., beans and grains), because carbs drive the acquisition of body fat. When I stopped being a vegetarian five years ago and went on the Paleo diet, I lost all the menopausal weight I had gained. However, it’s still possible to modify one’s carbohydrate intake, even as a vegan, and lose some weight. Dr. David Perlmutter’s book, Grain Brain, discusses this concept for everyone, whether they eat animal products or not.

    1. Thanks! Food for thought. And I’m not vegan, though I lean in that direction food wise. I aim for two thirds vegan. Tracy, my co blogger, is vegan. I think your list of things that put older women off exercise is fascinating and tough. If ever want to guest post about your experiences, just send me a line!

      1. Sam, I will consider a guest post because there are some things that have been kicking around in my brain on this topic. Thanks for the offer and I will get back to you.

  3. I don’t really have motivational aphorisms to kickstart times of sluggishness / negativity. The best thing is simply for me to walk out the door and do it! Even it’s a tiny bike ride after I’ve been sick or especially sad, I most often feel a tad better. It’s just the ability to move around and not to think too much at all. But just observe the world around you in the moment.

    And it a way, that’s what life is about…being and living in the moment in appreciation.

    I would like to also add that we can’t simply focus just on physical fitness: there is mental health also. So along with a favourite exercise, I hope each women finds also non-exercise passion also for mental health insurance and balance about self.

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