teleos – arriving at a goal or an inescapable conclusion

Archive for the ‘Behavior Change’ Category

The Lifestyle Habits of Successful Aging: Be Positive!

Posted by telos on June 30, 2011

The forecast is Positive!

For the past several months I have been writing about the concept of “Successful Aging”, beginning with a brief overview of 9 “Habits of Successful Aging”. My subsequent posts have described and explained these habits in greater detail and suggested some avenues and options to more successfully include them in your lifestyle. This month’s habit for discussion is “Be Positive”.

Kicking yourself up the assets

Taking an ‘asset-based’ or positive approach to life has been a cardinal focus in the growing field of Positive Psychology. This research has demonstrated time and again that viewing life in a positive way is a far cry from the shallow philosophy espoused by Stuart Smalley, late of Saturday Night Live ”I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”

As long ago as the 1980’s, educational research out of Stanford analyzing teaching performance reported that an approach focusing and building on a teacher’s ‘assets’ (i.e. their strengths, and what they did well) promoted high quality learning, while an approach focusing on a teacher’s ‘deficits’ (i.e. their weakness, and correcting what they were doing ‘wrong’) was far less effective. This ‘deficit-based’ approach however is still out there not only in education, but also in health, wellness and even Successful Aging!

Back in 2000 when I was an assistant professor at Arizona State University, I authored a book chapter in a major publication called “The Handbook of Health Psychology”. The title of the chapter was “Effects of physical activity on physical and psychological health:  Implications for exercise adherence and psychophysiological mechanisms” (A pretty long and involved title I admit, but then this was a pretty long and involved book – I was actually Chapter 38 out of 51!). The reason I bring this up here is that in my research for writing this chapter I was struck by the fact that almost everything I found on ‘psychological health’ in the scientific literature was about ‘getting less bad’.

Some 10 years later I am still seeing and reading much the same thing. The rationale(s) for setting and achieving wellness goals such as ‘getting active’, ‘getting fit’, or ‘eating healthy’ are still too often stated in terms of either reducing your actual bad stuff (e.g. losing weight) or on reducing your risk of bad stuff (e.g. risk of dying). With just a moment’s thought you could probably come up with your own list of the usual ‘bad stuff’ culprits: obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, stress, depression, anxiety, risk of a heart attack, risk of a stroke, etc.

I suspect this is a consequence of our long acquaintance with the ‘Medical Model’ of health – uniquely designed to kick in and fix the ‘bad stuff’, but with no designs at all on improving the ’good stuff’. The result of this is that we tend to view our wellbeing more in terms of how bad we aren’t rather than how good we are. When we try to improve our wellness behaviors we tend to focus more on overcoming obstacles rather than achieving goals, to focus on what we are not ‘going to get’ rather on what we will ‘be getting’.

One of the best known hypotheses in the field of Successful Aging is “The Compression of Morbidity”. This refers to the idea that the period of sickness (morbidity) at the end of life may be reduced (compressed) by adopting healthier lifestyles. This hypothesis has received much attention in the field of gerontology, and as a professor I have spoken about, and referred to it myself on many occasions. With my ‘Thinking differently’ hat on however, I see that, although this hypothesis was clearly aimed at doing good, it actually represented the ’getting less bad’ approach. Not much asset-kicking going on here! There is an obvious dichotomy between “Successful Aging” – a positive, asset-based concept, and “The Compression of Morbidity” a negative, deficit-based concept. So reframing this from a ‘Be Positive’ perspective, instead of “Compression” – why not “Expansion”? Instead of “Morbidity” – why not “Mobility”? And so we have “The Expansion of Mobility”. In other words ‘being better, longer’ instead of ‘being worse, shorter’.  Think about it.

What I have learned over the years both as a scientist and Intrinsic Coach® is that focusing on the positive aspects of pursuing an active lifestyle will bring you a host of positive benefits – you’ll look better and feel better about your self and your life, be more alert, have more energy, clearer thinking, better quality of life, better sleep, more independence.

And there’s more ….!

That old clichéd differentiation of people who either view ’the glass half empty or the glass half full’ reveals a pathway to some major (and positive!) consequences. You can learn to see the glass as ‘half full’ – you can learn to be optimistic! Check out Learned Optimism a landmark book by Dr. Martin Seligman, acknowledged as the founder of “Positive Psychology. The book is a decade old now but still relevant.

So as you think about the situations and goals in your life – what assets are kicking up for you?


Posted in Behavior Change, Goal setting, Successful Aging, Wellness | Leave a Comment »

The Lifestyle Habits of Successful Aging – It’s all about Behavior

Posted by telos on December 13, 2010

The book!

Having recently returned from the excellent International Council on Active Aging Annual Conference in San Diego, I have been thinking about and talking even more than usual about lifestyle ‘behavior’ and how it relates to independence and quality of life in our ‘Second Fifty. Here’s the result of all that pondering!

Back in 2004 the then Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Richard Cardoma was quoted as saying

“In the next 10 years one of the major issues in Health Care will be moving from receiving health care to embracing health prevention and wellness.”

More relevant to the topic of this article he also said

“Being physically active with a good diet and an active healthy lifestyle will not only do us good as individuals but will also dramatically reduce health care costs.”

These statements, while undeniably true, await more action and commitment from both government and population for their full benefits to be gained, perhaps in part because words like ‘action’ and ‘commitment’ sound like they are hard to do. Whatever the real reasons, the fact is that most seniors – just like other segments of the population – are relatively inactive. The good news, however – and contrary to conventional wisdom – is that adopting a more active, healthy lifestyle does not have to be hard, and is within the grasp of virtually anyone, as I will explain below.

I don’t think many people would argue with the statement that the most important thing for all of us as we age is to remain independent and healthy as long as possible. People know this instinctively, of course, and they certainly don’t need research to back up this feeling. However, as someone who has always been curious about such things I am always interested in the ‘how’ ‘what’ and ‘why’. Because of this, I have compiled a series of posts that I hope will act as a sort of mini-primer of lifestyle habits that research has shown to be strongly connected to active, healthy aging. This first post provides a brief overview of ‘Successful Aging’ and nine ‘habits‘ that are correlated with this concept.  Future posts will feature each one of the nine listed below. I am however providing one or two links to get you interested – or maybe get you started!

Successful Aging: The term “Successful Aging” was first used by two researchers Drs. John Rowe and Robert Kahn in their 1998 book of the same name. It summarized, in non-scientific terms, the findings of the decades-long MacArthur Foundation Study on Aging. This study looked at thousands of individuals who (in the author’s words) were ‘aging well.” We all know people like this of course: they look and act much younger than their chronological age, and seem to be far healthier and more active than their peers. The Study on Aging was designed to identify any factors which were common to these ‘Successful Agers’ and which separated them from the majority who were “Usual Agers’. As the authors so succinctly put it

“We were trying to pinpoint the many factors that conspire to put one octogenarian on cross-country skis and another in a wheelchair”

This landmark study identified three overarching elements of Successful Aging: (i) higher mental and physical function (ii) lower risk of disease and disability and (iii) more active engagement with life. In lifestyle terms these three components of Successful Aging can be broken down into specific lifestyle behaviors.

  1. Stay strong: Start a regular resistance training program to increase your strength and endurance. You can use free weights (dumbbells and barbells), weight training machines, or elastic tubing. You are never too old to benefit from this kind of training, and you can see and feel these benefits in as little as 20 minutes twice per week. Begin with four to six exercises that work your major muscle groups. Increase your resistance gradually as you get stronger. The important thing to know is that strength training is safe and effective for the great majority of older adults. Check out this link from the CDC for more details .
  2. Stay physically active: Way back in 1996, The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health told us that walking briskly for a minimum of 30 minutes on most, preferably all days of the week, would provide great health benefits. If 30 minutes sounds like a long time to walk – no problem – you can accumulate this time throughout the day. So, for example, instead of ‘doing the 30’ all at once, you could walk 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch and 10 minutes in the evening. How easy is that?
  3. Maintain normal weight: Easier to say than to do? Not really, if you combine regular moderate intensity physical activity with strength training and a balanced diet you will have the optimal approach to weight management. As a good start to  the ‘what should I eat’ question, check out Michael Pollan’s “Food Rules: an eaters manual.“ Lots of great information as well as entertaining to read! His general advice is “Eat Food, not too much, mainly plants.” Read his book to find out what he means! Find it @
  4. Adopt good sleep habits: Establish a regular bed- and wake-time schedule that will improve your sleep quality. Avoid coffee or other drinks with stimulants at least 2 hours before sleep. Make your sleep area cool, dark and quiet. Check out the National Sleep Foundations “Sleeping Well Leads to Aging Well” @
  5. Maintain social contacts: Keep in touch with friends and family. Turn off the TV. Have conversations over meals, write letters, email or connect via the internet.  Attend social events and introduce yourself. Start or continue a hobby and search for similar groups in your area. Own a pet and meet people in the dog park! Give and receive hugs! Check out my blog post “With a little help from your friends” @
  6. Keep an alert and curious mind: Learn a new skill. Expand your horizons. Participate in classes and conversations, keep up with the news, have an opinion – and share it.
  7. Be self vigilant: Regularly check your overall physical, mental and medical condition. Ask yourself “How do I feel?” and listen to the answer. Establish a good relationship with your doctor and follow up with him or her if your self-check reveals something of concern.
  8. Engage with your environment: Look for ways to contribute. Volunteer for services such as “Meals on Wheels,” senior center programs, church groups and civic, or intergenerational organizations. Become involved with social or community programs that are interesting to you. Be a provider as well as a receiver of support.
  9. Be Positive: Research has shown that focussing on the positive aspects of being active is far more beneficial than focussing on the negative aspects of not being active. The new field of “Positive Psychology” has also shown that people who have a more optimistic view of things do better in life: they earn more money, are more successful, have more friends and even live longer. And as this wasn’t positive enough, you can even learn to be optimistic. Check out my blog post “Getting Less Bad” @

NOTE: This post is based on “Lifestyle Habits of Successful Aging” an article which appeared in my ”Energize your Aging!” column for the November Newsletter of “Aging with Grace” a nationally renowned aging services company whose mission is to educate, coordinate, and facilitate individualized eldercare options one family at a time. Check out the Newsletter @

Posted in Behavior Change, Goal setting, Physical Activity, Successful Aging, Wellness | Leave a Comment »

Asking the Expert – making your own difference

Posted by telos on October 15, 2009

Ask the ExpertWhen we want to ‘make a difference’ in our lives (get more active, get fit, lose weight, reduce stress etc), we go to an ‘expert’ for advice, guidance and, often, motivation. After all, an expert is usually someone who is highly trained and highly knowledgeable. This means that they know what to do. More importantly they know what YOU should do, what you ought to do (and of course what you have been meaning to do for some time!). When you meet with your expert what happens typically follows a common path – an approach that I call “Show and Tell”.

In simple terms here’s what these interactions usually look like:

Step 1. You meet with, and talk to an ‘expert’ about what your goal is (“I want to lose weight, get fit, reduce stress etc”)

Step 2. Then, after a conversation that varies in length from person to person, the expert first shows you what to do “Just follow these steps (and/or directions and/or advice”, and then tells you how to do it. “Make  sure you do it like this (and then this, and then this…”)

Step 3. The expert keeps showing you and telling you in different ways until you do it ‘properly’. If you do not succeed in making your goal, the typical expert response is something like

“Ok why do you think you didn’t make it?” or maybe “Ok let’s try (something different) this time”

By the way, the other thing to mention here is that if you don’t ‘make it’, the fault is almost always assumed to be yours (both by you and by the expert). Maybe you just didn’t try hard enough, or have enough will power, or enough commitment etc. Sound familiar?

Here’s the thing about this ‘Show and Tell’ approach. It is at its most effective only in Kindergarten! My children loved their Show and Tell sessions but have long since outgrown them and moved on to more appropriate learning methods. However, in my field of exercise, wellness and physical activity, Show and Tell still reigns supreme. The kind of three-step approach I describe above, is based on the assumption that if you simply provide intelligent people with important and understandable information about the benefits of healthy behaviors (or, more frequently, the risks of unhealthy behaviors) then they will take this to heart and ‘just do it’ (with apologies to Nike!). There is no question that, assuming the information and instruction provided is accurate, this really would be a highly effective approach

if only people would do it!

However history has shown us that, even with the ever-increasing availability of health and wellness information in the media and on the internet, more people are overweight and sedentary than ever before. It is clear that knowing what to do, or having an expert show and tell us what to do simply does not work – but we continue to ask them anyway!

This is not the fault of the expert, who has been through some highly demanding academic training that prepares them to offer their own thinking and expertise to the client as to what they ‘should’ do. It’s also not the fault of the client – who is prepared to believe that the expert knows best – after all that’s why they are an expert! The tendency is therefore that the expert will think (indeed, are trained to think) they know best for the client and the client will think that the expert knows best for them – that is, after all, why they went to him/her in the first place. No-one is ‘at fault’ here – it is fault neutral! However …..

It is time for a new way of thinking

Making your own difference: You are a singular and unique individual on this planet, you have your own goals and aspirations, your own motivations and inspirations, your own wants and your own needs your own ‘angels’ and your own ‘demons’. Here’s that new thinking – try this on for size!

YOU are the expert on you

No-one knows you better than you – no-one! You know instinctively this must be true, so think about what logically follows. If you pass over responsibility for yourself to someone else – to someone who knows only what they see of you, maybe has only just met you for the first time – to someone who can only work with what is merely apparent to them – how can you realistically expect something important and lasting to happen for you?

If you ask someone to ‘prescribe a program’ for you – and you take responsibility for doing the program. What you are actually doing is taking responsibility for THAT person’s program – for someone else’s stuff! After all they made it up FOR you. If and when you start, or – like so many others before, re-start such a program – you do so more in hope than expectation. This is no way to achieve a goal. Experts know all about ‘cause and effect’ – this is their training, this is their knowledge. They know that “If you do ‘this’, then ‘this’ will happen”. However they don’t know YOU – they haven’t been educated in YOU – the don’t have a degree in YOU.

We hear a lot these days about ‘personal responsibility’ – for health, for being active etc, and we hear about how it’s all down to us. At base, this is true of course – responsibility for our health is, in the main, ours. Taking responsibility is a good and desirable thing, but if you do take it, you’d better make sure it’s responsibility for something that’s yours – not someone else’s idea of what you should or shouldn’t do.

This is the new thinking – where you go from here is all about what’s important to YOU

I have also written about the related concept of  “Thinking Different” in a series of  previous posts – check out

More later

Posted in Behavior Change, Goal setting, Physical Activity, Wellness | Leave a Comment »

With a little help from your friends

Posted by telos on April 23, 2009

surround yourself with friends

surround yourself with friends

On the Beatles legendary ‘Sergeant Pepper’ Album, Ringo sings …

I get by with a little help from my friends …

Leaving to one side for the moment the quality of his singing voice (or lack thereof) I am here to tell you that John, Paul George and Ringo may have hit on something with that sentiment. It appears that ‘The Fab Four’ were way ahead of their time with their philosophy regarding the relationship between friendship, health and even longevity! The reason I make this bold statement (and an even bolder attempt at singing a few bars of this song while waiting in line at Starbucks) was because I spotted something in the newspaper I picked up which caught my attention.

An article in the Tuesday April 21st issue of Science Times (The New York Times) reported on the rapidly increasing amount of research into the importance of friendships and social networks to overall health. Here’s the lead paragraph in full

In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends. 

The article cites an Australian study which reported that older people with a large circle of friends were “… 22 percent less likely to die” during the study period than those with fewer friends. Also a large US study that reported ” … an increase of almost 60% in the risk of obesity among people whose friends had gained weight”. In the June 17, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Public Health, a  Harvard research team followed 16,000 men and women over age 50 for six years. The results showed a clear connection between being socially active and involved, and preserving memory and cognitive abilities.  There is increasing evidence to suggest that friendship has an even greater effect on health than a spouse or family member.


This is all highly interesting and valuable information, and more research of course will bring even greater clarity to these connections. In the meantime however I want to comment on the way this kind of research is conducted and the way it is reported. In my ongoing quest of pursuing an ‘assett-based’ approach to health and wellness, I continually find that ‘benefits’ are almost always reported as ‘reductions in risk’ – or as I have written in previous posts ‘Getting less bad’ (See


Take the results of the Australian study reported above. The other way of viewing these results is that older people with larger circles of friends were (some percentage)  more likely to live  – and so continue to enjoy life. Now, which would you prefer to experience – being less likely to die – or being more likely to live? Of course it’s all in the way you think about it, but for me, positive is always preferable to negative. I’d rather ‘get more good’  than ‘get less bad’.  I view the US study in the same way. What about the group who had friends that were of normal weight? What positive things happened to them? What is the message being sent when research results are reported in this way? Avoid your friends, or avoid making friends if they are overweight? The point I am trying to make here is that there are many benefits to be gained from building and keeping friendships, perhaps more than we ever realized. More importantly these benefits are positive experiences, best ‘recieved’  (and most effectively recieved) when expressed in a positive fashion. While the research on friendship is still embryonic, there is a large, and still growing body of research in ‘Positive Psychology’ that confirms the relationship between positivity and health. So I say – take this to heart and choose to be ‘positively good’!

getting more good!

positively good!

Speaking of ‘positively good’ I wanted to add something else that struck me even more powerfully as I was reading this article. I was really taken by the fact that I have actually seen and experienced – in real life – the positive friendship- and socially- inspired benefits that the research in this article talks about through my involvement with STRIVE – the group-based strength and wellness program conducted by my other company The STRIVE Wellness Corporation (

STRIVE is a fun, socially active, group strength training and wellness program, specifically designed for older adults. STRIVE uniquely combines an ongoing, comprehensive wellness assessment with personalized, expert attention, from highly qualified professionals. STRIVE members experience dramatic improvements not only in their functional fitness but also in their physical, social and mental health. Regular STRIVE members have a positively infectious outlook on life and approach getting older with a youthful enthusiasm. But STRIVE isn’t just a place to get fit… it’s a place to make new friends, share experiences, find support, dream new dreams…


Thats what we say about STRIVE – and that’s what we have discovered with STRIVE. You can read and view testimonials from dozens of participants supporting these claims @ As far as the research in the above newspaper article is concerned, very often life preceeds research – or maybe it’s more appropriate to say that life sometimes prompts research to investigate things that people have ‘known’ for years!

To paraphrase the newspaper quote above

In the quest for better health, many older adults turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements. But some are also discovering  a powerful weapon that increases their strength, independence, vitality, energy and quality of life: STRIVE! 

With a little help from STRIVE, our members are activating their aging as well as activating their engagement with life

– and their engagement with friends –

Posted in Behavior Change | 3 Comments »

Windmills of the mind

Posted by telos on April 15, 2009

blowing in the mindmill

ever spinning ...

As we think about what we ‘should’ do in our quest for health and wellness (and, too often, ‘why’ we don’t do it!) we frequently find our thoughts blowing around and around inside our head just like those child’s colored windmills. As I was writing this, it reminded me of the words of that Michel Legrand song of the late 60’s, “Windmills of your Mind”

“Like a circle in a spiral, Like a wheel within a wheel, Never ending or beginning, On an ever-spinning reel …”

That’s what those kind of ‘should’ thoughts mostly feel like – “I know I should do this because … but if I don’t do it, then what? …and if I .. ? etc etc?” Or those ‘why’ thoughts – “Why do I always do this? … why can’t I succeed? … why do I always fail?” I’m sure we’ve all had those kind of thoughts before – “round and round and round they go and where they stop nobody knows!”

Let’s use exercise as an example. You want to become more active and you have done it for a few days or even a few weeks … but then you just stop. What’s the problem here? You know that you should exercise and you know why you should do it – but you just stop. Each time you ‘fail’, you go round and around in your head wondering why you always do this and ultimately deciding that maybe you just didn’t try hard enough.

What is going on here? Does this happen to everyone all the time? Are we all just lazy (because we just can’t be bothered to do it) or stupid (because we know what is ‘good for us’ but don’t do it anyway?). Of course not! It’s something much more basic than this. Very often it’s the kind of question you ask (yourself or others) that ‘pre-selects’ not only the way you set your goal, but also your response to making (or, especially, not making) the goal, and also your next attempt at the goal. Here’s my take on this based on current research in behavioral science and my training as an Intrinsic Coach.

‘Why?” questions are almost always the first ones to be asked post-goal setting. If you set yourself a goal and you don’t make that goal, I can almost guarantee the first thing your trainer will ask (or you will ask yourself) is some variation of ‘Why do you think you didn’t make that goal?” But here’s the thing, ‘why’ questions (however nicely asked) are hardly ever productive. If asked of another person, they tend to produce defensiveness (e.g. I just got too busy, I just didn’t feel like it etc). If asked of yourself, they tend to produce some variation of ‘I don’t know’, followed by ‘maybe I could do this or maybe I could have done that or next time maybe, maybe, maybe …’ … never ending or beginning like an ever spinning reel!

More productive and far less circular are ‘What?’ questions – but not a ‘What should I do?’ question, since that’s really the same thing we just talked about above. A different and more clarifying question is “What is important to me (about this goal)?” It is essential to say here that this is not the same as ‘what is best for me’, or ‘what is good for me’, or ‘what will benefit me’, or even ‘what will I get out of this’. No – we are thinking here only about “What is important to me”. Incidentally, if for some reason you don’t make that initial goal, the other ‘What?’ question to ask is “What did I learn from this?” (rather than ‘Why did I mess up?” or similar). I have written about this in earlier posts – check out and it is worth repeating that for many people this initially is a funny question to be asked (funny ‘peculiar’ not funny ‘ha ha’), and almost always takes some time to elicit a clear answer.  For more details – and more thinking – on this check my earlier post

If you clarify the ‘What is important’ part, everything else follows, step by step, with each step informing the next

 “As the images unwind, Like the circles that you find, In the windmills of your mind”

Unwind the images – you are outside the circular – what is important to you?

Posted in Behavior Change | Leave a Comment »

Nothing happens until something moves

Posted by telos on March 29, 2009


Thought move!

As I do most mornings before anyone else is up, I was listening to an audio book of the Tao Te Ching (Wayne Dyer’s Change your thoughts, change your life – I recommend it to anyone). Verse 59 was about ‘Living untroubled by good or bad fortune’, and in his analysis of this verse he mentioned the Albert Einstein quote which is the title of this post “Nothing happens until something moves”. As I meditated after this verse it came to me that although Einstein was talking mainly through the medium of physics, this quote also applies to lifestyle change – and to meaningful goal setting (Also maybe a kind of physics (physical-ics?).

So here’s my Tao-inspired thinking about this

Meaningful health related behavior change is all about setting ‘action oriented goals’ – which involves two sets of ‘movements’

the thinking and the action

While it is true that ‘nothing happens unless something moves’, it is also true that nothing happens unless someone thinks, and so (stay with me here Albert) no different movement (or behavior) can result without different thinking. Ok, take a deep breath and read that again slowly, I know I’m going to!

The point I am making here is that the first ‘movement’ has to be one that starts inside your head – a ‘thought move’ away from your usual thinking – an ‘aha’ moment, however small.  Without this first ‘different thinking’ there will be no different movement, and even though ‘something may move’ physically, there will be no lasting change in behavior – just a return to, or a continuation of, ‘the usual’. Nothing different happens without different thinking. Usual continues Usual, Different produces Different.

 So … two questions

  1. If you are doing ‘the usual’ what does ‘the different’ look like to you?
  2. What thought is happening to move you?

Think (differently) about it – make a thought move

Posted in Behavior Change | Leave a Comment »

Options, Actions, Directions

Posted by telos on March 3, 2009


options actions directions

If history is any judge, telling people what to do is not a great way of eliciting behavior change. As I have commented many times in different ways on this blog, goals are best achieved when they are truly/intrinsically important to the individual involved and when they have ‘ownership’ of the goal and the actions and directions leading to its achievement.

However, offering ‘options’ rather than ‘instructions’ or ‘tips’ can be one way of eliciting this kind of ‘intrinsic thinking’. So … here are some great options that have worked for many people who were ready to become more active. Some of these may work for you and some may not. Some may not even be possible or desirable  for you – but prompt a thought that takes you in a direction you realize that you value but just hadn’t anticipated.

So as you think about these options below, what options, actions and directions are coming up for you?

The ‘doc’ Option:  Actually, this first one is a recommendation! Although for the great majority of people, exercise is both safe and beneficial, we recommend that you first talk to your doctor about your ideas and options for becoming active before you start any kind of activity program. Include him or her in your options – they will definitely be interested! The American Medical Association and the American College of Sports Medicine have recently collaborated on an initiative called “Exercise is Medicine”. This recommends that physicians become more knowledgeable about, and involved in, the physical activity goals of their patients.  If you have questions about being active that your doctor can’t answer – or even if he/she can –  ask to be referred to a qualified wellness educator or trainer. You can also refer your physician to the “Exercise is Medicine” website – they’ll thank you for it! Here it is

The ‘family’ Option:  Research has shown that one option for activity is ‘social support’. In other word people are more likely to start and continue to be active if they have the support of others. So ….e.g. ask a family member, or a friend, to join you on your regular walks. This then becomes more of a social event than ‘exercise’ or ‘a workout’. Perhaps you can find someone who enjoys – or would like to enjoy spending some active time with you – from grandchildren to grandparents. Think about and talk to your family about ‘energy using’ ideas around the house or outside the house and incorporate them into your active lifestyle plan. Make it a game for you and/or your children. See “The F Word” for a different kind of thinking about exercise or physical activity

The ‘do a little more’ Option: Shopping, doing errands and even housework or chores can also be a way to add activity into your life. The great thing here is that to elicit any benefits, these ‘exercise that isn’t really exercise’ options only have to be at ‘moderate intensity’. For more details on doing ‘a little bit more’, see . Once you get the idea from this information, then you have endless options to be a higher energy user rather than a lower energy user!

The ‘extra steps’ Option:  A simple and inexpensive pedometer can keep count of your daily activity in terms of the number of steps you take each day. However here’s something to make a note of. When you read about pedometers, you will no doubt discover that you ‘need’ to do 10,000 steps per day to receive any health benefits. This is really oversimplifying things, so don’t get discouraged by this enormous number – physical activity is not solely about arithmetic. Look back at our 3rd option above and simply ‘do a little more’. In other words use your pedometer to track how many steps you usually take in a day (record 2 or 3 days and take the average) and then look for ways to add more steps to this total. Progress one step at a time! Here’s a great article on pedometers written by one of my old Exercise and Wellness buddies Dr. Catrine Tudor-Locke @     

The ‘get stronger’ Option: I have left the ‘best’ until last here (my opinion!). Strength training has developed a bad ‘rep’ over the years – at least for older adults. Myths abound about how it is ‘too dangerous at my age’, or ‘it’s only for younger people’, or ‘it’s only for women – younger women’. The reality – supported by more than a decade of scientific research – is that individuals of any age can benefit from an appropriate program of progressive strength training. At the STRIVE Wellness Corporation we have been conducting strength training programs with adults as old as 92 for more than a decade. The results are astonishing and the benefits remarkable. Check out our STRIVE Stories @ to see what older adults are saying about us, about STRIVE, and about how they feel as they get stronger. Also check out our blog @ for an (ever increasing)  series of short articles/posts about the many benefits of strength training. Getting stronger is so much easier – and the benefits so much greater than you may think!

So, again, as you think about these options above …

what action oriented options are coming up that are important to you?

Posted in Behavior Change, Physical Activity | Leave a Comment »

Well, Well, Well,

Posted by telos on February 8, 2009

body mind spirit

body mind spirit


Building ‘Wellness Cultures’  in Senior communities

In recent years ‘Wellness’ has received much attention and the benefits of adopting what has come to be known as a ‘wellness lifestyle’ has been confirmed and reconfirmed from a wide variety of ‘evidence-based’ research. There can be little doubt that for senior residential and retirement communities a wellness program, appropriately designed, can elicit a whole range of behavioral, health and even economic benefits for the facility, the residents and the facility staff.

Wellness, however is not just about ‘exercising’, ‘eating right’ or taking your medications. It is also, in its fullest expression, not a single ‘program’, or even a collection of separate ‘programs’. Wellness is actually a very broad and somewhat indefinable concept which can be thought of as a journey rather than a destination, a process rather than a product. It is also often described as consisting a number of diverse but linked ‘dimensions’, including physical, emotional, social, vocational, spiritual and intellectual.  I will be writing more about these later but suffice to say that when these dimensions are appropriately implemented, merged and developed, a comprehensive evidence-based Wellness ‘Program’ evolves into a Wellness ‘Culture’, something that becomes an integral and positive part of the community in which it resides.

For any successful senior residential facility manager, resident quality of life is surely at the top of their goals list. Increased quality of life means greater resident satisfaction, morale and consequently less resident turnover (plus, it makes management both feel and look good!). From a ‘bottom line’ perspective, a successfully implemented, values-based wellness program will reduce operating costs, reduce health care costs and be a major PR focus for attracting new residents.

Quality of life is the key to a successful community

Quality of life however depends on more than just bricks and mortar, more than providing fine accommodation, meals and services – it even depends on more than good health care provision, which traditionally has a ‘deficit-based’ or ‘reactive’ approach to health (fix the bad stuff). Our Intrinsic WellnessTM approach is founded on an ‘asset based’ or ‘proactive’ philosophy (increase the good stuff). It is build, developed and guided in great part on participants choosing and becoming involved in activities that are important to them, that are intrinsically meaningful to them, and in which they have ‘ownership’.

I well remember many years ago as a young man being ‘the wellness bloke’ (it was in the UK and they use strange words like ‘bloke’ over there. In the US I would have been the wellness ‘guy’). Anyway to continue with my story – I would go into the facility or residence, do my ‘wellness program’ (usually an exercise class of some kind) and then leave – taking my ‘wellness’ with me! Before my arrival – and after my departure – things went on much as they did before! These days the awareness of wellness is certainly much greater (as, I am glad to tell you, is mine!), but it is still a word – and an approach much misunderstood and I could say also, much maligned, or at least underestimated. For example, I have experienced ‘wellness programs’ that consist only of medically oriented activities such as blood pressure screenings, or ‘taking your medication’ or ‘regular medical checkups’. Or wellness programs that consist only of ‘brown bag’ talks on various aspects of health. Of course these factors are important – but are not of themselves the whole of wellness or of a ‘wellness program’.

True wellness is determined by the informed choices or decisions a person makes about how they live their lives with vitality, meaning and purpose. A successful intrinsically derived wellness program appropriately integrated into a senior community can offer these choices to residents, and management alike. This will enable the community to become a place where quality of life is enhanced, a place of rejuvenation rather than a place where the attitude is one of ‘making the best of things’, of inevitable decline and deterioration. In effect a ‘true’ wellness approach is integral to the community rather than simply a ‘program’ that consists of set classes conducted at set times.

The AgeWELL Initiatives philosophy is to cooperatively partner with residents, facility management and staff so that we can collaboratively initiate and develop a wellness culture that becomes part of the fabric of their community, and that they are a part of.

For more details on establishing and developing an Intrinsic WellnessTM culture in your facility, either leave a comment on this post or check out our website . You may also call Dr. Wayne T Phillips @ (602) 793-0752

Posted in Behavior Change, Senior Housing, Wellness | Leave a Comment »

Think different – do different – be different

Posted by telos on January 29, 2009

There ain't no Sanity Clause!

The Sanity Clause

We have known for several decades now that simply providing people with accurate, easy to understand information about exercise and wellness is no guarantee that they will actually act on this information. Never before, on the web and in the media have we had such a wealth of easily accessible information about paths to active, healthy living, and simultaneously never before have we had such a prevalence of inactivity and obesity/overweight in the US.

Clearly knowledge and education are not sufficient agents for behavior change and yet much of the approach in this area continues to provide the same information over and over again and continues to expect a different result.

Hold on a minute …. That reminds me of something

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  Albert Einstein

Hmmm …time for a different way of thinking

I have posted some ‘thinking’ below which could perhaps be the start of a ‘different direction’. This is not an exhaustive list by any means but hopefully serves as starting point ‘options’. They are not meant to be guidelines or instructions. Some of these ‘options’ have been part of my thinking for a while and some came to me as I was thinking about and writing this article. They all have an evidence-based background. 

Different thinking vs usual thinking

  • Different: Adopt a positive attitude and approach to exercise and physical activity by emphasizing the achievement of goals. Usual: Once you have set your goal, think of all the obstacles that can get in your way and then think of ways to avoid or overcome them (HUH?). Research has shown that an “asset-based” (goal oriented) approach is consistently more effective than a “deficit-based” (obstacle overcoming) approach


  • Different: Focus on getting “more good” i.e. the positive benefits of exercise and activity (more energy, more alertness, greater self confidence). Usual: focus on getting “less bad” (reduce high blood pressure, reduce anxiety, stress etc). Was it Frank Sinatra that sang “Ac-centuate the Pos-itive… E-liminate the Negative”? That gentleman was ahead of his (wellness) time!


  • Different: Provide opportunities for clients to think about and clarify what is important to them about exercise. Usual: Expert stresses what is “good for them” about exercise. NOTE: this is not the same thing – think about it! 


  • Different: Consistently emphasize that heath related physical activity is easy to achieve and far easier than most people realize. It’s never been as easy as this to get active! Usual: typically “just do it” or “I just have to do it” or “I should do it”


  • Different: Consistently “reframe” exercise and physical activity (with lots of examples, case studies and research) so it is presented and viewed as an integral part of a normal enjoyable life. Usual: the approach and attitude to exercise is something that is external to the person and not particularly enjoyable. Something necessary that just has to be endured. What a drag!

Think about it

Posted in Behavior Change | Leave a Comment »

Thinking S.M.A.R.T., timely

Posted by telos on January 5, 2009

Time passes

Time passes

NOTE: The SMART series of posts is best read from the first post. Start with and read from there.


Effective goal setting is conducted and expected to be completed within a specific time frame i.e. “How long will you give yourself to achieve this goal?”

While research has shown that a definable, pre-determined time frame is necessary for effective goal achievement , from an Intrinsic Coaching® perspective there are really two time frames

What is important to you RIGHT NOW (Timeframe #1) 

When will you commit to achieving that goal? (Timeframe #2)

An Intrinsic Coaching® approach to Time takes the goal setting process to a whole new level of  involvement.  Anchoring the goal commitment to a time frame allows the coach to ask something far more meaningful and far reaching than just “How’s it going?” A coaching approach to Time provides a valuable context for learning …

You didn’t make the goal in the time frame? What did you learn? What will you do differently? 

You did make the goal in the time frame? What did you learn? What will you do differently?

Applying a coaching approach to Time frames can also be an important part of Accountability (another ‘A’ that could perhaps have been included in this acronym – SMAART?) . For example by asking “How do you want to be accountable for the actions you have committed to over this period? or “How do you want to keep track of your progress?” In this way the Time aspect enables the goal setter to take ownership of the goal he/she has set. Any number of options could be appropriate for this – email, phone call, etc. Research has shown that when goal setters take ownership of the goals they set, such goals are far more likely to be achieved. The important thing here is that whatever the goal setter commits to will continue to elicit the all important ‘i’ response. This circles right back to where we started this whole series.


Posted in Behavior Change, Goal setting | Leave a Comment »