In Praise of Small Changes: Suggestions for Moderation

Big changes for the new year? Maybe not. Richard tells how small steps, can reap big rewards. It's his common sense approach to health. Not everything has to be epic to have an impact.

Some movement is better than no movement. Faster and more intentional movement is even better. How to start? Let’s ask someone who has been designing exactly these sorts of programs.

Despite them having the undeniably younger mindset, I still come across many in my mid-60s peer group who have given up on fitness. They often cite injury which prevents them doing the sport they used to be good at, but I do sometimes wonder whether more exercise wouldn’t serve them better, than less. Of course, they may just have become lazy and inactivity doubtless breeds more, and before you know it, you’re making excuses.

Small Changes / Big Impact

What’s very evident is that small changes or tweaks can have a big impact on wellbeing and longevity, without requiring obsessive fitness regimes, or the need to adopt extreme monastic practices.

Yet, it’s pretty clear that it’s never too late to do something. For sure, I can’t run as fast, for as long, as I used to and I need to build more recovery days into my schedule. That’s just about recognizing that the older body has different needs, but it is almost always capable of more physical functionality than many achieve.

It seems that many just simply stop doing any form of physical exercise and continue with poor diet choices, then use aches and pains as an excuse not to change, without realizing that this might be the very cause of their condition.

Spurting and Weight Lifting

Tweaking tips would include spurting (called intervals in athletics circles) where you just get the heartbeat up by increasing your speed between lampposts, or trees, or similar. I see many dog-walking amblers who could make much more productive use of their so-called activity time.

It’s important to lift some weight in later life. Muscle memory seems to fade more quickly with age and I know that if I’ve been less active for a week or so, regaining that feeling of muscle control is difficult. Bodyweight is good enough for lots of exercises easily done at home; a light dumbbell or kettlebell can help but isn’t essential. I know someone who exercises with (full) bottles of wine but, admittedly, she isn’t much of a connoisseur.

Flexibility and Bodyweight Strength Exercises

Do something that helps with flexibility. Yoga or Pilates-style moves are ideal and can also feel really therapeutic mentally.

Simple bodyweight strength exercises such as plank, squats, dips and press-ups, combined with basic stretches done three times a week can transform physiques in 6-8 weeks. No gym, heavy equipment, class, or personal trainer required; all can be easily researched online.

The finishing straight of a recent 10k race ….I know it looks like I’m in a father & daughter race, but I promise his child had only just joined him!

Exercise in the Morning

I find doing exercise early in the day is preferable and beneficial. Get it out of the way —there can be too many reasons for not doing it as the day progresses and it also makes you feel better and seems to kick-start your metabolism.

Tweak Your Diet

Diet is a whole subject in itself with far too much hype, claim and counterclaim. I tend to prefer the tweak approach here as well.

Eat a little bit less. Not too late at night. Eat fresh, local, varied, and with as little processed food as possible. Try to avoid eating anything that has an ingredient you don’t recognize. If you need to snack, do it with something healthy. Or stretch the time between snacks slightly. If you want to indulge, do it on one day of the week. Eat dark chocolate & drink red wine. Cut down a bit on sugar and drink fewer fizzy soft drinks. Don’t drink alcohol every day. Don’t believe everything you read about diet as so little appears to have a scientific basis.

“Do something and something will happen”

Ideally, make your tweaks part of something you do daily and build it into a routine. Do something and something will happen; there will be beneficial knock-on effects. Ignoring the hype and the supposed science, squaring the fitness circle will aid sleep, mood, vitality, as well as weight control. In my experience, this does work virtuously (as well as in reverse when you don’t get it right!) and then maybe you’ll stop referring to the injury which led you into inactivity.

Ultimately, these are all choices. We’re making them all anyway, so in my mind, why not nudge a few of them in what we are pretty convinced is the right direction.

I know people who have made several small adjustments along these dimensions which made big differences to their lives. It seems people who were good at something physical in their younger years don’t lose the knack and are often very good when they take up something else, a little later in life.

Make some tweaks and who knows, it might be life-changing!

Sometimes small changes are the best ones.

My only qualification for expressing views on fitness for older people is that I am one. I’ve worked in the holiday industry for 45 years. This has necessitated constant attention to such matters in an attempt to ensure my own fitness. Also, my dad died of a heart attack at 50 and, as an ex-academic, I’ve formed a common-sense view of evidence-backed wellness common sense for older people that I want to share. My objective in life, business and wellness is to try and cut through the hype and nonsense that is so frequently peddled.

Richard Carrick currently holds several non-executive director roles, is an investor in a number of companies and acts as a consultant in the travel, leisure & hospitality sectors.


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