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Fitness Influencer Joan MacDonald Shares Small Ways to Stay Active

The fitness guru gives her tips for seniors to stay motivated and stay moving. 

A senior couple running on a trail; Getty Images

We’ve all heard the saying, “Life slows down the older you get,” but that’s certainly not true for Joan MacDonald.

The 75-year-old fitness influencer has amassed an incredible following on social media, in part because she’s chosen to actively reject the idea that aging robs you of your energy, focus and drive. In fact, MacDonald looks at movement as a “gift,” and whether you’re hitting the gym five days a week, or just beginning your fitness journey—it’s never too late to take advantage of what your body was meant to do. Get moving.

“Just start with what you can,” MacDonald tells Guideposts.org when asked what her best piece of advice would be for seniors looking to get active again. “If you can only walk three blocks, start there. Over time aim to add another block.”

And just because you’re starting small, it doesn’t mean that a short bike ride or quick stretch session isn’t having an impact. The recommended amount of cardio each day for most adults is 30 minutes, although even short bursts of movement (five minutes or less) can have a huge impact on decreasing the risk of obesity, heart problems, diabetes and other debilitating conditions.

The key is consistency.

For MacDonald, finding activities she truly enjoyed doing helped keep her moving, even when she wasn’t hitting the gym. “Meditation and yoga are things I enjoy, and they really aid me with my health and wellness,” she says. But there are plenty of things you can do at home, on your own, to kickstart your fitness journey.

Cans in your cupboard can double as weights. A chair can aid in exercises meant to improve your balance and stability. Bike rides, pulling weeds in the garden, taking the stairs instead of the elevator at work, a quick walk to the mailbox th—ese are all easy ways to get moving that can be incredibly beneficial to your health if you start doing them every day.

But what about when that dreaded “plateau” hits?

There will be roadblocks when it comes to reaching a fitness goal. There will be days when you won’t feel motivated to work out, or when eating fast food seems easier than preparing a home-cooked meal. MacDonald says the best way to deal with those “off days” is to just acknowledge them and be patient with yourself.

“I think the best thing you can do is be vocal about how you are feeling—get it out into the open,” MacDonald says. “Weigh your pros and cons. Will going off-plan really serve you, yes or no? I find this lifestyle gives me so much. I think back to when I started this program how lost I was and I don’t want to go back.”

MacDonald thinks it’s also just as important to listen to your body when it tells you it needs rest. There’s a difference between simply feeling unmotivated and feeling tired. If you’re sick, sore or dealing with an injury, don’t push your body to do more than it’s ready for.

“I have been injured and sick,” MacDonald says. “In those times I have learned rest is key. I have also learned to continue to train, but just around the injury so I can keep progressing in other areas of my plan.”

MacDonald knows that the road to healthy isn’t easy and sometimes, the struggle can seem insurmountable. She had to battle against years of bad habits and recondition her body to push against her imagined limits. She tries to keep her social media channels focused on the positive aspects of working out and eating better, always encouraging and uplifting her followers, and never judging or critiquing their setbacks—or her own. It’s that mindset that she says is key to staying active.

“Focus on what is going right and well,” MacDonald says. “For me, I started my whole transformation because I wanted to feel better. I wanted energy to live my life! Now having my health, strength, and endurance is what keeps me committed.”

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