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How Fit Can You Be Over 50?


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This question may come to mind when fitness and healthcare professionals strongly encourage various forms of exercise. How much “in shape” or “fit” do I need to be?  Many articles and studies highlight the numerous physical, neurological and cellular benefits to exercise.

The best answer is to turn the question back on you…how fit do you need to be to carry out the physical demands of your everyday life? What can that entail?

  • Sitting down.
  • Getting up.
  • Stepping to the side and reaching for something.
  • Reaching up to get something.
  • Carrying heavy items on one side while walking.
  • Turning to see what is around you.
  • Walking up stairs or on uneven ground.
  • Conditioned enough not to be winded at the top of the stairs.
  • Clothing and bathing yourself.

The list goes on…

This physical ability to carry out everyday tasks is also called your functional capacity.

Another way of phrasing this is – what do you enjoy doing and what do you need to do physically to be able to do it? Vacations? Visiting and playing with grandkids? Hiking trips? Running marathons? Enjoying the sites at a national park? Everything that brings you joy incorporates some sort of movement, regardless if that just means walking across the floor to open the door for a family member.

To answer the question one way: You should be as fit as your life demands.

This idea means you should not structure your life around your bodies limitations especially if they include your functional capacity. Instead, you should practice, exercise, and “train” to be able to do what you want to do easier and with less thought about how your body is moving.

Another way to answer the question is: Be as fit as you can possibly be.

Striving to be fit is a lifelong journey. As we age we may have to adapt and change the ways that we do exercise, but that does not mean we stop challenging ourselves. The more you move better every day you are rewarded with independence, confidence, and peace of mind that you don’t let your age determine what you can or cannot do.

To be clear, being “fit” is more than strength (although it is important, as especially leg strength is associated with morality).

It is also the power to move quickly if necessary.

It is also the agility to be able to walk over and around objects.

It is also the balance to be able to walk, bend, carry things and do things simultaneously.

It is also the mobility and flexibility to move your ankles, knees, hips, wrists, neck, and shoulders.

It is also the ability to be able to get to the ground and stand back up.

 

You CAN be fit over 50. You deserve to live the life you want to live!

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10 Articles of 2017 That Promote Healthy Aging


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As we welcome the new year being mindful of moving better and other aspects of healthy aging have to be a part of our goals. Even if this is not directly a goal of yours…often we all reflect upon what we are thankful for. The health of our loved ones and yourself is often at the top of the list. With that in mind to continue being thankful, we must strive to choose the option to be able to do what we want to do and live the life that we want to live.  A result of choosing that path includes learning how to move better every day to improve if not maintain your physical capacity to perform everyday life activities with ease. Thus, here are 10 articles in no particular order from 2017 that you can use as your foundation for the new year.

Have a great start to 2018!

1.

Mobility is an important aspect of everyday life activities. There does not have to be a prescribed age where one is unable to do what they need to do. This article touches upon the mobility benefits that exercise can provide. Click here to read.

2.

Brain Health is often a concern as we get older and we want to know how to keep our brain sharp. This article speaks to how aerobic exercise and the lifestyle that you live can positively affect your brain health. Click here to read.

3.

Fitness Apps can make your life easier. Yes, you don’t have to be in your 20s to get hip to using a phone application to improve your fitness level. Click here to read.

4.

Flexibility and whole body coordination are absolutely important to be able to do what we want to do and like to do in life. The practice of Tai Chi is not only great exercise but also can prevent the risks of falls. Perhaps some may think that moving so slowly is easy and more intense movement could be more beneficial. I challenge you to take a Tai Chi class. Click here to read.

5.

The physical benefits of dancing reach far beyond the happiness it can bring (which is great in and of itself!). This article discusses a study by the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases in Germany. They found neurological benefits to dancing, along with balance improvement among other things. Click here to read.

6.

Move it or lose it is a saying that rings true every day and the anniversary of our birthday. This article highlights a study done by researchers from multiple schools which included University at Buffalo and Stanford University. Click here to read.

7.

Striving to be physically fit keeps your brain in good shape too. In a study by Boston University School of Medicine researchers found those physically fit performed better on memory tests than their less in shape counterparts. Click here to read.

8.

Misconceptions about exercise and older adults will lead you astray from where you should be.  In this article Dan O’Brien, Olympic athlete dispels the myths of exercise and other adults. You may not be a former Olympian but you can still benefit from his advice…because this pertains to anyone over 50!  Click here to read.

9.

What you eat plays a substantial part in how you age. My friends at IDEA Health and Fitness Association here in San Diego published a comprehensive article about what has changed and stayed the same in regards to the Dietary Guidelines of Americans. Click here to read.

10.

The intensity of how you exercise can play an important part in your physical fitness. This article discusses a study that found that exercise of an intense pace can positively affect you even at a cellular level. Such a type of exercise is not only for an individual of a certain age as the level of intensity is adjusted to someone’s fitness level. Click here to read.

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How You Can Re-Define What Aging Means


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Think about your average commercials or the way in which individuals over 60 are depicted. Often in society “old people” are depicted as hunched over, frail and as if their best days are behind them.  This stereotype of a lack of mobility or range of motion, fragile nature, inability to do want to do in life does not have to be the quality of life for you. I urge you not to internalize this…or if you are a family member don’t allow that to affect how you view your loved ones and their potential.

In reality, that picture described above is and can be different. People are going on trips of a lifetime, running marathons, in the best shape of their life, continuing to move better and training to be stronger…all of the above and more. That can be you.

There is no mold, you can train for the life that you want to live.

How can you re-define what aging means to you?

  • Move better every day. Strive for progress in your movement, think of getting better at exercising as practice to do better over time.
  • Tap into what motivates you to move your body. Join a dance class, join an exercise class at the YMCA, join a hiking club..the possibilities are endless!
  • Be consistent about moving every week…but embrace variation.
  • Challenge your balance and agility. These are key to having a quality of life that you can enjoy and independence you deserve. Just being strong is not enough. Be a better walker, stair climber, better movement in your life.
  • If you have fallen, don’t let that define you. Find qualified professionals that can help you improve your balance and agility so you can decrease your chances of falling again.
  • If you have a disability you can still find ways to move better to improve your quality of life. Exercise is a flexible and adaptable way of moving and it comes in many, many forms.
  • Change your mindset that your best days are behind you. If you strive to move better every day you can continue to do what you want to do and like to do…or lead your life with more independence and confidence. You choose!
  • Take ownership of any chronic conditions that you have and discuss with your doctor how to reduce symptoms and how certain types of exercise can help.
  • Reach out to allies in your community that are experienced, qualified and excited to work with you and help you move towards your goals.
  • Never think that you are too old to learn something. Often exercise, especially when trying something new is a learning process. Be patient with the process. Also, that learning aspect along with exercise is great for your brain!

Choose the path that leads to a lifestyle and quality of life leads to you being able to do what you like and want to do!

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The Joy of Movement


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Forget the term exercise. Forget doing a certain number of reps. Forget cardio classes or lifting weights. Forget counting calories or walking on a treadmill. Forget exercise classes, Pilates, glute bridges, personal trainers or strength training. Forget dumbbells, resistance bands or balance training. Forget toning, sculpting or planks.

I want you to instead think about how you live your life now. At this moment in time when you are going about your day are you thinking about your body? Do you have to focus to do some physical things because they are becoming difficult? Are you beginning to plan your vacations or even everyday life actives around what you cannot do or find painful?

The things in life that bring you joy involve moving your body in some way. Even if you are not moving at the time, you have to get to point A to point B to do what you want to do.  Yes, we can enjoy life in our homes or apartments…but I bet you find some joy traveling somewhere – regardless the distance.

I will even go deeper – before you step outside you will do this and more: you will get out of bed, clothe yourself, bathe yourself, pick up after yourself, open doors, pick things up, possibly drive, get in and out of the car…the list goes on. You have to move to prepare to do the things that bring you joy.

This is where moving better can improve your daily life. There is a vast sea of many ways to improve the way you move every day. The list is as thick as a phone book. Think about how athletes prepare for their events. When you watch or hear about Olympic athletes you hear and learn about their physical struggles and mental struggles that got them to the Olympics. Even if you are not much of a sports fan you probably have an idea of what cross training means.

Why should you approach how you move any differently?

You may say that you are not an athlete, and have no desire to compete in the Olympics. Sure, you may not have any interest. However, we all have an event that we should be training for. Life is a physical event. Life entails movement. Our ancestor’s way before cell phones, cars, buildings and the civilization we know now had to move literally to live. These hunter-gatherers had to run, jump, squat, sprint and more to stay alive. These days we can pick up the phone to get many things…but putting on your clothes, feeding yourself and going about your day still entails movement. Our bodies are meant to move, get stronger, and stay active. We have to have the conditioning to walk upstairs, to do multiple squats, to lift and carry things too.

Approach life as your event. Age is not an indicator or measurement of when one should stop moving. Approach your event with the desire to move better. Even if you have chronic pain, disease or disability you can still strive to move better within your restriction so your everyday life is more enjoyable and reduce the chance of injury or falls.

If you are reading this and don’t have to think about your body during your day…good. What are you doing to make sure that this continues? What are you doing to sustain this? Are you doing more than just standing and lifting weights or walking on the treadmill? Are you thinking that any form of movement that you “have to do” won’t be fun or enjoyable? Step away from that thought and change your mindset – you can practice moving better in a way that will challenge you but won’t be a process that you dread.

Wherever you find yourself in this range of movement – I challenge you to train for the life that you want to live. Seek out those that want to help you on your journey. As a Functional Aging Specialist, I am qualified to help those in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s 80’s and up train for the life that they want to live.

Hold on to that joy and don’t give up on it.

Don’t change your life around your inability to continue doing things you enjoy doing. Move better every day so you can continue finding your joy and creating more moments to reminisce about.

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Don’t Ignore The Elephant In The Room – Move Better Now To Keep Your Independence


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There are things that we can count on one hand that we fear as we age. These fears include disease, disability, and dementia. Exercise can reduce the chances of these, ease the symptoms or improve the overall quality of life and health while living with them. Thus, even if you are living with something like Parkinson’s you should still be exercising! Instead of resigning to the idea that all of these just come with age or that there is nothing you can do – I challenge you to take a firm grasp of what you can do and empower yourself.

Below I share some resources and articles that speak to each of these.

Chronic Disease

Dementia

Disability

I encourage you to do your research within and outside these resources. There are fitness professionals like me out there that are looking for people like you to improve your quality of life – whatever quality that means to you! Whatever you do, push yourself to move better so you can better do what you like to do and want to do, easier, better and with less discomfort.

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Hack Your Mindset About Exercise: Six tips for the 40 and up crowd.


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If you are over 40, you may get some reminders from your doctor or friends and family that have had health problems about being more attentive to your health. Perhaps you believe that you won’t have health problems, or that you will deal with it if the time comes… Or you may believe that things just stop working as well as they used to as you get older. This and other ways of thinking need to be hacked. Below are six tips on how to hack that mindset.

  1. Think about a time when you were the most physically active. What was the activity that you enjoyed doing? Everyone has something, it does not necessarily mean that you played organized sports. How can you tap into that feeling of excitement and motivation? Find a gym, studio or adult intermural league to join. Or if it is other endeavors find a hiking club or a community garden that you can not only get you moving but stimulate your mind.

 

  1. You don’t have to wear gym clothes to move better in life. If the gym is too much for you and the great outdoors is your mecca then go for what makes you happy. Make sure you have some suitable footwear for the terrain that you will be hiking on. If you enjoy company then make it a time to catch up with friends while exploring the trails.

 

  1. If you are having health problems, thinking that exercise won’t really help much is the wrong attitude. The benefits of increased blood circulation, maintaining muscle tone and pushing your cardiovascular limits not only contribute to positive effects in your body but also you mind. If anything, a sense of accomplishment that you stuck to your schedule of whatever you enjoy doing while being physically active is important.

 

  1. Contemplating something more physical than a walk does not have to be a mind over matter battle. Investing in your health by seeking out qualified allies can help dipping your foot back in the water easier. If you suffer from chronic injury then talk to your doctor or look to a physical therapist or corrective exercise specialist. If the doctor gives you a green light to exercise and that is not enough then find a personal trainer. Any of these allies are a supplement to what you do. You will see them a few hours out of the week. Use that as your motivation to start changing the other hours of the day that you spend at work or retired.

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  1. Stop holding yourself back from being physically active because of discomfort or you are always tired. Use that opportunity to improve your health so you can do what you want and like to do. Perhaps there is a trip you have always imagined would be so much fun. Regardless how close or far the location is use that as your goal. Speak with your doctor about any chronic conditions and look at your options. Sometimes water aerobics is a great low impact way to improve things like cardiovascular health or strength and it is low impact at the same time. There are often many services that are inexpensive if not free for older adults. Check with your county government or agency.

 

  1. Doubting your physical capabilities leads to a path of a sedentary lifestyle that is riddled with a lack of mobility, strength and balance. Instead of thinking of exercise as something you cannot do – think of it as an opportunity to learn. Why learn? This is a chance to learn about your body and how it adapts and changes. As you introduce the right kind and right amount of exercise you will see that you can regain important physical functions. Also, the confidence level will also improve especially when it comes to what you can more easily do with less thought about your body.

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Squashing The Myths About Exercise for Older Adults-Part 3


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.
Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

#3 Okay…exercise, but just take it easy…
To counter this myth, Fred Devito summed it up with his quote “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”
Progress in fitness will only occur over time when you are challenged. Sure, it is important to start off light when you begin a new fitness program, but soon your body will become used to the exercise and a plateau will happen. Progressions should be incorporated that continue to challenge you to move forward. My clients trust that I will push them just enough so they continue to see the results of their hard work, but not to a point of injury or exhaustion. The key to maintaining the right balance of challenge versus safe progression does not require a steep incline, instead the magic word is variability.
For example, if you enjoy walking on the treadmill, instead of going at the same pace for an hour – do intervals. Try 5 minutes at a comfortable pace then 2 minutes at a challenging pace. Keep coming back to the comfortable pace to recover, then ramp up again to stay challenged. Another simple variation to stay challenged is to vary your foot pattern if you enjoy working with dumbbells. Instead of standing neutral (i.e. feet hip-width distance apart) try a staggered stance as thought you’re midway through a walking step with one foot ahead of the other. Not only are you doing your curls but also you are testing your balance and core strength.

We move throughout life engaging multiple body parts simultaneously – so why isolate just one when we are exercising? Train for life!
Don’t let these myths hold you back from living with the quality of life you want! There’s no such thing as too old to exercise. Especially as we age, exercise may become but more about what you can DO rather than just how you look. A healthy fitness program means being able to play with the kids/grandkids, enjoy a good golf game, take that trip of a lifetime, or maybe just get around easily.
It is never too late to train to move better in your everyday life!

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 2


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

2. It is too late to exercise or You’re too old for that

This myth seems to be based on a limited and subjective definition of “exercise.” Exercise does not have to happen in a big box gym, nor do you necessarily have to be wearing fancy exercise clothes. (You don’t have to wear leg warmers, tights and a headband unless that’s what motivates you!)

Consider all the activities that can contribute to exercise and fitness. For example, building and tending to a garden incorporates squatting, lunging, digging, pulling, dragging, pushing, core strength, carrying objects, and more. If you don’t have the space (or interest) to be a neighborhood farmer, then going for hikes, joining a rec league, pilates, enjoying the social, mental and physical benefits of Tai Chi, or trying out some group exercise classes at a gym/pool are all great ideas.

If you have a favorite park or enjoy walking in your neighborhood? Start there! Finally, if you do want a gym, shop around and find one that you are comfortable at. Independent gyms vary greatly. Find one that you’ll enjoy and will continue going to rather than paying for a membership that you are not using.

Find the exercise that fits your preference and lifestyle. Do something that YOU enjoy doing!

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Squashing the Myths About Exercise for Older Adults – Part 1


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Despite our cultural depictions of aging, we all have the ability to age well with the strength, agility and balance to maintain our quality of life and the activities we enjoy. Traditional exercise programs, and even many fitness professionals, often disregard the ability of mature adults and seniors to maintain and gain qualities like strength and agility.

Regardless of age, we should all make the time to move, exercise, or play. Let’s squash one of the myths that hold mature adults and seniors back from moving better:

  1. You will hurt yourself

This myth implies that mature adults and seniors are too frail and weak to exercise and moving will just lead to injury.

That is a just plain wrong. Yes, anyone starting a new exercise program should start off slow and set a foundation based on their current fitness level. Yes, consulting your doctor, getting your eyesight checked, being aware of the effects of medicines, etc. are important considerations. Lastly, yes, it is important to recognize any physical restrictions based on past injuries or current mobility challenges. These are factors to be considered at any age when changing lifestyle or starting a new fitness program.

The key is to recognize these factors and develop exercise options based on this awareness. For example, if walking places too much strain on joints, Nordic walking (i.e. with walking/hiking poles) is an excellent option. These poles actually facilitate an increase in oxygen consumption and energy expenditure by engaging the upper body instead of just the legs.

Contrary to this myth, improved fitness levels actually reduce the chance of injury. People with reduced mobility, tend to modify their movement based on fear or discomfort. Imagine walking on a narrow bridge over a swamp of alligators. How are you walking? Probably with shuffling steps in a hunched position. In this position you have a narrow base of support, walking is difficult and uncomfortable, and catching yourself if you trip will be difficult. Now, imagine a beautiful walk on the beach. You are relaxed with a more comfortable and confident gait. With a better range of motion, posture, and gait there is less of chance of injury or falls. Gait and balance issues are a major cause of injury in older adults.

One of the key contributing factors to reducing falls is exercise. Everyday life takes mobility, flexibility, balance, coordination, agility and power. Testing and training those functions in a proper fashion will lead to more confidence and ability to move throughout life with more ease.

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Exercise Without Assumptions – Train For Balance


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We rarely enjoy it when individuals make assumptions about us based on our beliefs, how we look or our age. When it comes to moving better and exercise don’t let assumptions about your potential hinder you. Regardless of your age, you should be training for a physical experience – life.  I strongly believe that age should not restrict someone from moving better. You can read more about it here.

Balance

When you walk, run, climb stairs, get in and out of a car you use balance. It doesn’t take actually standing on one leg during your day for your balance to be tested. Merely shifting your weight can be difficult if your balance has eroded. If you don’t take the time to test your balance regardless of your age – your ability to use your balance over time will decrease.

The good news is that you can re-train to improve your balance.

Consider changing your stance when you are doing some upper body movement that you enjoy doing. For example – curls or presses with two dumbbells are often done in a neutral stance. Your feet are about shoulder width apart and you are doing all the work in your upper body.

Consider changing where your feet are at next time you do curls or presses. A staggered stance – with one foot back will test your balance. Or an individual could do the exercise with a narrow footprint – feet close together. In both instances, your balance will be tested.  Often I have clients do is a rear lunge and then a press. Thus, I ask them to perform a rear lunge and stick it and stabilize before pressing the weights. Very quickly they will see how challenging it can be especially since they have to do it in steps and not just throwing the weight up. An option is to instead step back instead of a full lunge and driving the back knee down.

Especially as we age having good balance will keep you out of the hospital and greatly reducing the risk of falls. It is one thing to be able to do a 350 lb double leg press on a machine. This feat does not translate if the person has difficulty walking upstairs or stepping up onto a curb because their balance is not good.

What is good balance? Generally, good balance is being able to shift your weight, walk and do everyday life activities without an unsteady or unstable gait. Of course conditions like arthritis can affect how you shift your weight. If you do enjoy going for walks and feel as if you can’t anymore consider getting some walking poles.  You can still move better within your chronic conditions.

Test your balance in however you choose to exercise. It can be done by seeing how long you can hold a leg up. Just remember our bodies move in life as a unit. When you want to really test your balance you should be moving. This movement can include lunging or moving with weights. Just remember to mix things up and change your foot pattern.

Of course, consult your physician before starting an exercise program. Medications can affect balance so it is important to understand what the side effects can be from a qualified professional.

 

Train for life!