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It's how we roll: Forward momentum is key to success for middle-age exercisers

It's easier to keep the fitness ball moving forward than it is to play stop-and-start with your New Year's resolutions. Newton's First Law of Motion drives home the point.
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Research from the University of Scranton suggests that about 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, but about 75 percent have little or no success in achieving them. Not surprising, fitness goals are among Americans' top 10 resolutions.

If you’re pushing age 40, getting serious about keeping fitness resolutions and making them a permanent lifestyle choice become increasingly important. Why? Because true to the “use it or lose it” mantra, it is more difficult to recover fitness after 40 because of physiological changes in the body.

Back in the Saddle to Fit: 10 Steps to Reclaiming Athletic Fitness for the Busy Professional uses Sir Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion to emphasize the point. The First Law of Motion states that an object at rest will remain at rest until a force acts upon it to make it move. For sedentary adults, the “force” required will be much greater if we haven’t worked out in years.

Most people reach a physical performance spike around age 25, with a performance plateau between age 35-40, research shows. But the rate of change is not the same for everyone. Sedentary individuals experience the greatest declines in fitness, such a loss of peak force, which can drop about 25 percent by the time a person reaches retirement, research shows. There also are declines in cardio-respiratory fitness and flexibility.

Average life expectancy is increasing as health care improves, with the average life expectancy in the U.S. at 78. If we want to live out those extra years in retirement with excellent mobility and agility, we have to get the boulder moving now in middle age and earlier.

Those tempted to quit early on fitness resolutions by proclaiming “Well, maybe next year,” should remember to balance that decision with the First Law of Motion. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to get the sedentary boulder moving forward again.

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