Couch Potato

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I need to get off the sofa. I’ve been in a long-term vacation from
exercise after some very traumatic surgery a year ago. I’m finally off
the pain meds but I can’t seem to motivate myself. I pay for a gym
membership dutifully every month. I make dates to go on walks with
friends. I swear to my children every week that I will get back to being
the active senior that I was before the surgery. But when I go to get
ready to exercise, it is simply too easy to pick up the remote or the
phone. What can I do to motivate myself that will work. It’s not my
weight I am worried about, but my overall health, physical and

Couch Potato

Dear Couch Potato:

Start with a general physical and visit with your doctor. Get reassured
that all your vitals are healthy. If there’s a concern about depression
being the cause of your inactivity, a doctor’s the best person to assess
it. S/he can develop an overall fitness plan for you. Because you’ll
probably have to wait for an appointment, at least a few weeks, start
by some gentle walking. Literally, walk out your front door after
breakfast and walk for, say, fifteen minutes the first day. As you walk
around your neighborhood, don’t forget to talk to people: other
walkers, dogwalkers, gardeners, shop owners. Just a Hi and a nod, a
Good morning, or just a wave will get you in the habit of connecting
with people again. You’ll even start to look forward to the walks which
you can extend for a couple minutes or blocks as you develop the

Another motivating tool is a pedometer. You can buy simple ones for
about $50 that you can wear around your neck. They track every step
(especially if you take it off last thing at night and put it on first thing
in the morning) and will inspire your inner competitor. (I attest that
this is true, she said proudly .) Setting a goal is very useful and
watching yourself get closer to it will inspire you. The traditional model
is 10,000 steps a day for weight loss. But just monitoring your daily
total will help you get closer to that goal. Bonus points if you can
inspire a friend to get one too and to compare notes and progress.
It takes time get back into exercise, especially after medical issues and
a long vacation. But as you begin to generate endorphins from moving
off the sofa, you will find yourself quickly looking forward to your time
on your feet.