Motivation to exercise needed?

Middle aged woman seeking motivation to exercise...

One of the things I am most struck by when I read health information for women at midlife and menopause is how much is written about the benefits of regular physical activity - read more.

Exhortations, persuasions, pleadings...

"Dear Middle Aged Woman... Please can you get a wee, just a teency, eency bit more active?...

For instance, we are often told about the benefits of swimming - read more.

So why aren't we impressed by all this motivation to exercise?

After all, on the whole we're a generation of obliging, obedient, keen to be responsible, female citizens.

Why on earth don't we get more active – if that's what we’re advised to do?


(and this is just my totally non-scientific, anecdotal theory)

...could it be because ... being and becoming active is something that we have a negative mindset about?

Perhaps it's because our generation associates "sport" with that double period slot in the school week when we had to put on our airtex shirts and gabardine hockey skirts and pile out onto the freezing cold, invariably wet and windy, school hockey pitch?

Red, chapped knees and cold noses. ... Happy memories, a motivation to exercise? - like heck!

Or even if it wasn’t hockey maybe it was netball. Or maybe it was tennis in the summer ... more time spent at the net gossiping than hitting any balls...

Been there?

Or maybe it's our allergy to public swimming pools – remember how they were? Tangled hair stuck in the shower plug hole, lockers that didn't close properly and that freezing spray shower and suspect foot dip that you had to pass through on your way to the pool.

Is it any wonder that we were put off being active?

And then what happened?

Along came puberty, with sprouting breasts, weight gain, body hair and periods – maybe on time, maybe not, sometimes painful, sometimes not. Too heavy and our sanitary towels leaked – after all, women our age were at the cusp of the tampon revolution...

So even if as young girls we had some motivation to exercise, all those pubescent changes caused havoc.

So we started making excuses to get out of double games. "It’s the wrong week, miss"... "I forgot my kit, miss", "I’ve got a tummy ache, miss".

Yeah. Excuses from pubescent teenage girls who can’t bear the thought of bearing all, getting wet and uncomfortable and all for really no apparent reason whatsoever. Because in those days we weren't given any reason for doing games.

It was just on the timetable so we were expected to comply.

In fact if anything, sport and glamour in those days seemed to be for the boys. Football teams (aka soccer), were our brothers' fascination (not to say obsession) and cricket kept them indoors, fixated to the telly, on a sunny summer's afternoon.

Sport – or so it seemed to our growing teenage awareness - was for boys.

Girls were into makeup, fashion and Radio Luxembourg beneath the blankets.

Fast forward 35 years.

We're still loathe to get wet, cold and uncomfortable. We're still that pubescent girl in a woman’s clothing.

But hey, we've grown up and we've lived. We’ve seen the aerobics revolution. Jane Fonda, power yoga and Pilates.

And lycra has dumped our airtex shirts in the museum - hmmmm...

But our mindsets and motivation to exercise are still on hold.

If we haven't embraced the exercise habit in our twenties, thirties, forties … and even our er ... fifties? … is it too late?


A Swedish study showed that men who took up the exercise habit after 50 had better long term survival rates than those who just let it all hang loose and did nothing(1).

Of course I hear you say … that was men. YEAH – surprise surprise, ladies. Yet another study on physical activity and only men were involved.

Times are changing but WE are the agents of change. Times will change the way we want them to, if we make them change.

If middle aged women are out there being counted as people who exercise, who take control, who are in charge of their lives - then the decisions about who gets studied will also include women.

So how to start?

Get some inspiration.

Buy yourself some cool kit and then take a look at some role models...

Role Models give motivation to exercise

Looking at role models helps because it's all too easy to think that women – at least middle aged and older women - don't "do" sport.

But that's because news about them doesn't hit our radar screens very often ... why? (need I repeat the mantra? see above).

But nothing could be further from the truth.

Because women of a "certain age" and above, are not only capable of being extremely active, but are active and are competing.

Here's some inspirational women to show you what's possible for middle aged and older women. Of course you don’t have to reach these women's heights, but I find that simply knowing about what is actually possible can be a great motivation to exercise.

For instance there's inspirational swimmer - Jane Asher, who set 75 FINA World Records for Masters swimming in the 55-59 age group through to the 70-74 age group.

Even after a hip replacement at the age of 71, her times were still continuing to drop. 

Changing the mind-set

So let's get positive - because women in their post menopausal years can be extremely active and fit.

And when you're looking for motivation to exercise, why not take a little trip down memory lane...

You may find that it's all those negative memories that are really dampening your natural, childlike motivation to exercise - to get out there in the fresh air and run around...

See you out on the hockey pitch!


1) Byberg L et al. Total mortality after changes in leisure time physical activity in 50 year old men: 35 year follow-up of population based cohort. BMJ 2009 March 5;338:b688

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