Q: I’ve had bad health habits for so long. Can my efforts to get healthier now make any difference at this point?


A: Absolutely! You’re never too old (or too young) to start taking better care of yourself. My favorite example of this is a study that offered weight training to residents in a nursing home, including many who were in their 90s. In general, mobility at all levels improved. Many who were in wheelchairs transitioned to walkers; those who had used walkers could walk with canes; and those who had been using canes walked unassisted1

 

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You probably have ideas about what you could do to improve your health, but you might be struggling to implement your good intentions. It can be challenging to create new habits. With the right strategies, you can develop new health-promoting habits.

 

Studies of behavior change have shown that success is most likely when we:

  • Connect our new habit to a broader positive goal.
  • Identify the obstacles that make the new behavior difficult (temptations, situations, people, thoughts, feelings).
  • Develop specific plans to address the obstacles to clear the path so that the new habit becomes easier2.

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1M.A. Fiatarone, et al., “Exercise Training and Nutritional Supplementation for Physical Frailty in Very Elderly People,” New England Journal of Medicine, 330, no. 25 (1994): 1769-75.

2P.M. Gollwitzer and P. Sheeran, “Implementation Intentions and Goal Achievement: A Meta-Analysis of Effects and Processes,” Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 38 (2006): 69-109.