2.3. Mental and Physical Fitness

“Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”

William Shakespeare, English playwright, poet, and actor

Let’s be honest, we all know that mental and physical fitness are among the most important factors for a long and happy life. And we are also aware that we shouldn’t wait too long to do something for ourselves – if there wasn’t our weaker self. So let´s talk about motivation and have a look at the GROW model!

GROW stands for

Goal 
Reality (current status) 
Options (or Obstacles) 
Will (or Way Forward)

How does the GROW-model work?

  1. Establish the Goal: First, you need to define what you want to change or to achieve as a Make sure that this is a SMART goal, one that is
    • Specific
    • Measurable
    • Attainable
    • Realistic / relevant
    • Time-bound
  2. Examine the Reality (or current status): This is an important step. Too often, people try to reach a goal without fully considering their starting point, and often they’re missing some information that they need in order to reach their goal Think about your current reality, the solution may start to emerge as well as the steps you need to take to reach it.
  3. Explore the Options and/or obstacles: Now determine what is possible—what are your options for reaching the goal?
  4. Establish the Will; Plan Your Way Forward: By examining the current reality and exploring the options, your will now have a good idea of how you can achieve this goal.

The final step is to commit to specific actions in order to move forward towards your goals. And then of course, review your progress.

So practically speaking, if you want to do something for your fitness, don’t start planning the next city run as an untrained person. Set yourself a realistic goal, such as running 5km by the end of summer. Start slowly, pay attention to your physical condition, make a schedule of how many times a week you will run and also be realistic that it fits in with your other commitments without causing extra stress. But then go for it!

By the way, the 21/90 rule states that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change. So take your time when trying to convince your weaker self!

Maintaining physical fitness is not as tricky as you might think at first. You do not need to join a gym and lift weights five times a week (if that is something you want to learn though, go for it!). Keeping an eye on your weight, choosing stairs over the elevator, eating healthy, and trying to include some exercise in your daily routine goes a very long way. Sometimes it’s easier to find someone to do something with: the yoga class (because then you really go), the healthy cooking (there was that exciting recipe!!), the bike ride around the lake (sure, even in drizzly weather). And of course, you can combine learning for your mental and exercise for your physical fitness: Why not take that dance class you have been thinking about for years or learn how to sail like you wanted to as a child? Or you might discover a passion for hiking while discovering local historical sites.

Do you know the English proverb “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks?” Well, quite the opposite: Lifelong learning is a great way to keep your mind active and fit. Be open to new experiences and things! You always wanted to learn how to ride a horse, speak French, play the piano, repair a car or build a chair? Great, try it!

I’m 45 and my plans is to go back to University and start doing all the things I didn’t have time to do! It is time to restart
(Comment by a Greek interviewee, March 2021)

Whether you attend University classes, go to your local community center or find a tutorial on the internet, exposing your brain to new input is beneficial regardless of age. And keep in mind: Learning to learn is also a process. Your school days are probably a bit behind you and so it might need some time getting used to learning again. But it gets easier!

Planning in the domain “Mental and physical health” involves finding ways of staying active but this is closely connected with other domains. For example, pursuing a hobby will influence your mental fitness positively which in turn will have positive long-term effects on your health. Staying physically active through exercise, working in the garden, and the like, is likely to improve your health through fitness. Also work and employment, leisure activities and lifestyle, and housing have an influence on one’s mental and physical fitness.

And here too, we are social beings, the exchange with others also keeps our brain fit and active. It makes us think, change perspectives, deal with new issues….

Ask yourself some questions when starting to work with this domain:

  • Why and how would you like to stay fit?
  • Can you start improving on your fitness now?
  • Are there any specific concerns you need to address, maybe with the help of a doctor?
  • What are the elements in your life that give you stability and help you to stay strong?
  • What interests you, what do you enjoy?

It´s never too late to start

A good practice example from Poland: Self-Assessment of Well-being

During the Erasmus+ project SEAL-Senior Education for Active Living, CKU Sopot developed a self-assessment table for seniors which helps to assess what improves or spoils their mood in order to see what habits they should avoid and what they should do more to increase their satisfaction with life. As the level of general satisfaction increases, it is assumed that the activity of seniors will increase, their independence will increase and their general health will improve. Additionally, the assessment fosters an increased ability to self-assess one’s own behaviors and emotional states, to plan a day and increase the level of general life activity.

The self-examination includes the keeping of a well-being diary for a period of 2 weeks. Every day in the evening before falling asleep, the user writes down the activities in which they participated during the day. On the basis of this observation, the senior is able to determine with which activities they feel better and which have a negative impact on them. Thus, they learn to plan each day to include as many activities as possible that improve their well-being and to avoid depression.

So what makes you happy? Reflect a bit on your life!

More information: https://sealproject.eu/en/results-en/

A good practice example from Slovenia: Morning Outdoor Exercise

The School of Health Association has 230 groups in 86 municipalities throughout Slovenia with over 4,000 members. The average age is 69. The morning exercise “1000 movements” starts at 7.30 in the open air, in various public areas (sports parks, sports fields, by the sea, rivers, lakes, in parks, parking lots, playgrounds, etc.). It is performed every day except Sundays and holidays. Exercise is performed outside, outdoors, in nature and near the home in all weather conditions and in all seasons.

Exercises are led by trained volunteers with the help of professionally trained staff. The exercises are not too demanding and do not require prior fitness or expensive sports equipment. The daily routine takes 30 minutes.

Exercises are performed in the morning, as this exercise improves the physical and mental condition of the individual, positively influences weight loss and other health issues. Additionally, due to movement in nature and pleasant socializing in a group, the mental state also improves, the feeling of loneliness, social exclusion and depression is reduced.

Performing the morning exercise in public helps to raise awareness of active ageing and the opportunities that residents have in the local environment to maintain their physical and mental fitness, encouraging people to take better care of their health and to connect with each other.

A great idea? Why don´t you start your own group?

More information: https://solazdravja.com/

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