Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for the ‘Mind-Body Fitness’ Category

Happiness Improves Fitness

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

The mind-body connection continues to amaze.  New research reveals a connection between happiness and increased fitness in older adults.  A large study of men and women aged 60 and older suggests that enjoyment of life contributes to a healthier and more active old age, as well as to a longer life.

Most of us share goals of remaining independent, keeping mentally sharp and staying as mobile as possible as we age.  Researchers at University College London conducted the study to discover whether a positive outlook is related to reduced physical impairment over a period of eight years.  They collected data on:

  • physical health
  • walking speed and mobility
  • depression
  • enjoyment of life
  • and levels of impairment in daily activities

Their findings showed strong associations between physical function and life enjoyment. Older people who enjoy life are at lower risk of developing problems with daily activities and for declines in physical function. Once again, a positive mental attitude contributes to a healthy body.

The study, as reported in Idea Fitness Journal, May 2014, is available in Canadian Medical Association Journal (2014;doi: 10.1503/cmaj.131155).

For more posts on this topic, please see:

Get Fit Now!  Midlife Fitness Predicts Healthy Old Age

Seven Habits of Highly Resilient People

A Tribute to a Special Woman


Get in the Habit of Exercise to Overcome Weak Willpower

Saturday, October 26th, 2013

Which is stronger:  habit or willpower? A new study suggests that habits may be more important than willpower in the effort to change. This is great news for those of us who feel our willpower is liable to flag under pressures and temptations. Habits persist even when we're at low energy and weak self-control.

As reported in the IDEA Fitness Journal (September 2013), scientists at the University of Southern California conducted five studies to examine whether habits could improve or undermine goal achievement. They found that people tend to default to a habit when they lack the mental capability to make a choice, for example if they are deliberating about whether or not to exercise. If the habit of exercise is part of your normal routine, then you default to doing it.

This applies equally to unhealthy habits:  If your tendency is to eat junk food, you'll revert to this behavior when stressed or tired.

Over the last 25 years of my career, numerous people who are in the habit of exercise have told me that they can't live without it. Both the mind and the body become attuned to the myriad of benefits that an exercise routine delivers and feel out of sync if it is interrupted.

Consistency is more important than intensity. Each day you should eat and exercise in such a way today that you can face doing it again tomorrow. This is how to gradually establish healthy habits that will serve you throughout life and that you will revert to when life becomes hectic.

To learn more about the study, go to!/article/51501/51501/


Two Key Notes for Success: Set SMART Goals and Bounce Back with Resilience

Sunday, October 20th, 2013

If you want to fulfill the promises you make to yourself, consider using a tool like SMART goal setting combined with a spirit of resilience. Following an exhilarating week of special events in Cleveland, my mind keeps gravitating to these two themes that emerged, one from the Ideastream public radio pledge drive and the other from the Shaker Heights High School Alumni Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

During the Ideastream radio show, we spelled out the method of setting SMART goals. Experts in the field of self-improvement often recommend the SMART system, stating that your goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timed.  The SMART method applies to whatever goals you want to achieve, whether it's running a marathon, losing weight, finding a mate or moving up the corporate ladder.  And I'm proud to say that we walked the talk by meeting our fund-raising goal for the two-hour special! To see a specific example of how to set SMART goals for weight loss, revisit the blog post "Get Real Results with SMART Goals."

The other key note emerged from the personal stories of the inductees into the Shaker Heights High School Hall of Fame.  I was in the illustrious company of an astrophysicist, an ornithologist, and a film director, among others.  For some of us the path to our achievements was never a straight line, but a circuitous one that involved set backs and detours. Coping with road blocks and finding ways to move forward involves a resilient spirit.  You can see more about resilience in two of my recent posts, "Resilience:  Bouncing Back with Spirit" and "Seven Habits of Highly Resilient People."

A clear purpose and effective coping mechanism will allow you to follow your dreams. Keep your eye on your goal and be flexible to modify your plan if life intervenes. Your goals in exercise are a great opportunity to apply this type of thinking!

Joan Pagano (2nd from left) pictured with fellow Shaker Hall of Fame Inductees.