Fit Midlifers Mentality
‘Our ability to live a healthier, longer life will be our greatest achievement’
Fit Midlifers are people with the physical and mental capability of somebody much younger. Their mobility, gait and posture make them appear more balanced, and they breathe with self-recognition that directly influences cognitive state and ability.
This article focuses on peoples mental aspects and less on physical exercise. I am fascinated by theories explaining processes of changes in the mind. And when I discovered 'TTM', a 35-year empirical study that conceptualises the process of intentional behavioural change, I was sure that this mind-changing precept was the one for me.
Ageing is a natural and inevitable process, but how we age is different for everyone. There is a growing body of research on preserving and protecting our brain structure to shine even more brightly and extend our golden years.
Midlife is when people evaluate who they are, what they are and where they are going. In their 20s, people take their bodies for granted. In their 30s, they started to know their body better and what it is capable of. In their 40s, gravity, hormones, slowing metabolism, decreased lean muscle mass, and increased body fat. Now is the time to start re-wiring the mind toward a fitness lifestyle. Incorporating the TTM model can lead to successful change because we can improve ourselves through self-belief; to develop a mental strategy for a more disciplined approach to change.
The TTM Theory – The Stages of Change
Scientists have done numerous behavioural studies and come up with a logical set of stages that each person passes through on their way to making positive changes to their behaviour – losing weight, increasing exercise or stopping smoking.
The Stages of Change lie at the heart of the TTM. Studies of change have found that the amount of time it takes to pass from one stage to the next varies, depending on the change in question and the individual undertaking it – but the factors or things to be completed to pass from one stage to another remain fixed. Certain principles and processes of change work best at each stage to reduce resistance, facilitate progress, and prevent relapse. These include decisional balance, self-efficacy, and processes of change. Only a minority (usually less than 20%) of a population at risk is prepared to take action at any given time.
Thus, action-oriented guidance (the traditional change tool) mis-serves individuals in the early stages. Advice based on TTM results in increased participation in the change process because it appeals to the whole population rather than the minority ready to take action. One critical acknowledgement behind TTM is that change is occurring over some time. Traditionally, behaviour change was an event, such as quitting smoking, drinking, or overeating. TTM recognises change as a process that unfolds over time. The Stages of Change can occur linearly, one after the other, though individuals often retrace their steps, falling back to earlier stages from later ones.
So, change is not a one-off event: it is a process, a series of small movements and slight adjustments. Those small changes can ultimately get you from where you are now to where you want to be. This scientific study fixed the stages we go through as we give up a bad habit or take on board a new one, as follows:
Pre-contemplation (Not Ready)
People in the Pre-contemplation stage don't recognise a need for change. They are often unaware (either un-informed or under-informed) that their behaviour or situation is problematic or has negative consequences. They do not intend to take action in the foreseeable future, usually measured as the next six months.
Contemplation (Getting Ready)
Contemplation is when people know they need to alter but are not committed to taking action. They intend to change in the next six months and are aware of the action's pros and cons. If they consider them more or less equal, people can stay at this stage for an extended period.
A point where 'I should' changes to 'I will'. Preparation is the stage in which people intend to take action in the immediate future, usually measured as the next month. Typically, they already have a plan of action, such as checking out a yoga class, consulting a yoga teacher, personal trainer, or life coach, talking to their physician, buying a self-help book, or relying on a self-change approach.
Action is when people have changed their behaviour or modified their lifestyles – attending a workshop, joining a gym, starting an exercise programme, and making specific overt modifications in their lifestyles within the past six months.
Maintenance (Keeping it up)
People in this stage have made specific lifestyle modifications and are working to prevent relapse. While in this stage (defined as when people have kept up their new habits for more than six months), people grow increasingly more confident that they can sustain the changes they have made and will work hard to avoid relapse.
They have become SUPER-A – the new habits are a lifestyle, and the individual will continue with their behaviour regardless of what life throws at them. Whether depressed, anxious, bored, lonely, angry, or stressed, individuals in this stage are sure they will not return to unhealthy habits as a coping mechanism. They have developed a behavioural expectation, an intrinsic motivation. In reality, this stage – 100% self-efficacy, where nothing can shake their new habits – is seldom reached, and people tend to stay in 'maintenance'.
Each stage can be seen as a benchmark to measure against and creates accountability. It acts as a tool to outline and develop a strategy specific to that person's needs. In the same way, it can help them individually to assess where they are, why they are there, and where they are going next.
The stages of change must be embedded if they are to be achievable, no matter who, what or where you currently are, because it provides the physical tools, positive mindset and motivation to achieve a better you, for now, and your future. Midlife Fitness serves as an essential guide in the process of behavioural change. In stark contrast to many popular fitness activities (including yoga) that can have an aggressive approach, often leading to muscle strain, joint pain, ligament tears, or a negative exercise experience.
These encounters or injuries can, in turn, cause emotional distress, depression, and anxiety, which are primary triggers for weight gain and ageing – the very things people are battling against when they exercise!