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Monthly Archives: March 2016
14

Live Better with Meditation, Menopause, and Memory

Longevity, Memory, and Mood Benefits of Meditation

Rancho la Puerta flowers and statues

Who wants a solution to reduce menopause symptoms, decrease stress, minimize weight gain, improve memory, and even boost longevity?

Kymberly: Those who know what a high energy, chatty, loquacious, interactive mover and groover I am will be surprised to hear the answer coming from me. (Or not, as you already saw this post’s title. Menopause might make us forgetful, but not stoopid.)

 Anyone else find menopause a little stressful? In the award winning category of  “Stating the Obvious,” menopause stress can contribute to memory loss and weight gain. As in, “I sure don’t remember gaining those 30 pounds.”

The “No Exercise Plan” to Live Longer, Leaner, and Kinder

Anyway… turns out Meditation can turn back the hands of time and pounds. Additionally meditation has even been proven to make us nicer, kinder, more compassionate people. (Hear that hubster? I’m not menopot moody. I’m meditation deprived). If you want to breathe more life into yourself, read our post on meditation lite). Also check out my Tip #3  in our post “10 Ways to Get Healthier in Under 10 Minutes.”

Just a few daily minutes of meditation can calm us, reduce stress, and slow our heart rate. Sounds a lot like the benefits of exercise, right? But without moving! Meditation may also reverse the effects of aging on the brain. It thickens the prefrontal cortex, the area of brain that helps with planning and attention. For people with memory loss, meditation helps increase memory via more blood flow to brain. But wait, there’s more! Meditation also decreases our body’s stress hormones, heals our wounds faster, and lowers our blood pressure.

Meditation may reverse the effects of aging on the brain Click To Tweet
Which twin has the longer telomeres? Not telling!

Which twin has the longer telomeres? Not telling!

Longer Telomeres = Longer Life; Tell It Telomeres!

Factor in recent studies that show meditation increases telomere length, and you have your longevity, happier life bonus plan! In the DNA world, telomeres are the little plastic pieces on the end of our chromosome shoelaces. The longer your telomeres, the longer your life span. Short telomeres accelerate aging and correlate to a shorter life. People who meditate daily for at least four years have longer telomeres than those who do not meditate. For ten added quality years of life, be the first to enter the word in the comments for that plastic shoelace piece without having to google it. Hint: It starts with an “a.”

I’ll take an order to go please of a young, long-living brain garnished with my years of experience. Since I have big plans to be around four years from now, I might as well get on that telomere lengthening program.

Meditation Room at Rancho la Puerta

Meditation Room at Rancho la Puerta

Meditation Options: From Silent to Guided

On when of my guest teaching trips to Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort, I decided to attend three meditation classes. Loved them! Not only did I stay still and quiet for record time (ok, half an hour for each), but also I have stuck with meditation since coming home. More on that later in this post. Remember to keep reading!

The sessions were totally different from each other: one was a guided visualization that the instructor talked us through from start to finish. Another was a silent meditation with the instructor giving directions and suggestions at the start, then setting a timer that lulled us back at the end. The third had verbal guidance that segued into soft music and nature sounds. All three meditations left me revved, calmed, and focused enough to learn more. One thing the Ranch teachers stressed — perhaps better to say “emphasized” — is that meditation comes in many forms and styles. Pick one or a few approaches that resonate with you, as there is no right or wrong way. We reap the active aging benefits regardless, in as short as seven hours in some cases.

Support Your New Habit with Meditation Apps

10 Minute Meditation App

Meditate Now App

Meditation App Calm

My current fave: Calm

Since I am a meditation novice I asked one teacher whether having phone apps would help. Cha Ching – Ohmmm! That got a resounding thumbs up, heart rates down as a good idea! As soon as I crossed the border back into the U.S. (also known as “covered rate plan for my cell phone”), I downloaded “Relax and Rest,” “Take a Break,” “Calm,” and “Meditate Now.” All are free. So far my favorite is “Calm” as it offers verbal guidance and a 7 day progressive program. My mind wanders less when I have a voice calling me back from my mental to-do lists, thoughts of the past and future, and sleep’s siren call. Try them if you have a smart phone and are wanting to reap meditation benefits. Heck, you may end up with a youthful, sleek, brainy phone once you download these apps!

I am on Day 6 of meditation, with some sessions lasting 5 minutes, others hitting an ambitious 13! So far I have noticed a bit more ability to focus and my creativity has been on the upswing. I thought of this post title after meditating, for one thing! Now to be nice to my sister. Might need those four years of meditative practice first. snarfle snark

Alexandra relaxing at Rancho la Puerta

Alexandra looking memorable if not meditative

Alexandra: I was going to meditate, but I forgot. Maybe next time.

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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

 

12

Why Is My Lower Body in Pain After Running & Walking?

Dear K and A:  How come I can run 10 miles Saturday morning with no soreness, but slowly walking 8 miles  leaves my entire lower body in pain? Sunday I rested. Monday I did a 5 mile easy run that felt great. Then Tuesday’s slow 8 mile walk made me sore again! Sherry, the Deep South, USA

2015 Solstice ParadeDear Sore Sherry:

Alexandra: Well, “Day-um” as my other southern friends would say! And “DOMS.” Which is not a way of cussing with a northern accent. It stands for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. We talked about it in  “How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness after Walking Hills,” (or as we are tempted to entitle it: “My Calves Have a Stiffy.” Can you tell we’re happy to talk about sore muscles and preventing exercise discomfort.)

Avoiding Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

K hamstring stretch on tree

Essentially, elevating your core temperature (and thereby henceforthwith and so forthy warming up the muscles) within 24 hours of the original cardio activity will help prevent muscle soreness later on. You don’t have to repeat the 10 mile run, but a walk of just ten minutes should do the trick.  It could be the running is making you sore, and that you simply aren’t feeling it until one or two days later. Then walking gets all the blame. Instead blame DOMS.

Walking and Running Powered by Opposite Muscle Groups

Kymberly: Running is powered primarily by calves and quads. Walking is powered by glutes and shins (and therefore a great cross training or complementary cardio activity). So if you are used to running and added the walking recently, then your body may simply have been adapting to using your muscles in a new or different way. I am not sure if the pace has anything to do with the soreness unless the slow pace dictated or created an unusual gait that did not work for you biomechanically.

Walking & Running Are Opposites, powered by complementary muscle pairs: quads and calves vs… Click To Tweet
graph of Q angle

Q Angle for Women & Men

Alexandra: Door #3 – If it’s not delayed muscle soreness, could your pain be caused from overuse? Is it standard for you to do 31 miles in a 4-day span? Somewhere in here I’ll throw out the concept of post-run stretching…oh, there, I just did! Could be you also need more recovery time between runs and walks.

With your entire lower body in pain, have you considered the pain might be due to shin splints or your Q-angle? (get solutions from our post, Prevent Shin Splints: Three Calf Stretches). If you have fairly wide hips and/or a narrow stance, then your knees might be the ones yelling “ouchy.”

Talking Muscle or Joint Pain?

Kymberly: When you feel better, run or walk over to our group fitness classes so you can let us know whether your pain and soreness are in your joints or muscles. If muscles, I’d say pull a Bobby McFerrin: “Don’t worry; Be happy.” Simply do 10 minutes of light cardio within 24 hours of a new, intensified, or added activity to give your muscles a chance to reheat and release. But if the pain is in your joints, then worry. … and change your gait or stride, as now we may be talking something biomechanical. In this case get a certified trainer or health professional to assess you. Do not light up those joints!

ACTION: No pain, all gain when you subscribe to our twice a week posts on ways to age actively.

Photo credit: Photobucket

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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

 

1

Benefits of Organic Food: Did You Know…?

Like many of you, I prefer organic food to industrial; made-from-scratch to processed. I will freely admit to being biased. Yet my preference is based on science and experience. Whether you have a strong opinion for or against organic, or just don’t care one way or the other, you may be interested in these tidbits I picked up at a meeting last week at the Natural Products Expo West.

organic milk photo: Milk milk.jpgOrganic milk has nutritional advantages over conventional – In a meta-analysis of 170 published studies, researchers found that organic milk had 56% higher healthy omega-3 fatty acid levels than conventional milk. The study, led by Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University, also found that organic dairy provides other health benefits such as higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (why do I always think of French verbs when I hear the word “conjugated”?), iron, carotenoids, and Vitamin E. The milk in this study is bovine, not plant-based.

Switching from a conventional 2 #organic diet reduced pesticides in children in just 7 days.… Click To Tweet

An organic diet can reduce exposure to some pesticides – According to a study run by UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (along with U of Maryland’s Institute for Applied Environmental Health & Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, 40 Mexican-American children living in agricultural and urban communities in California reduced their exposure to some pesticides by switching to an organic diet. The two highlights of this study are that a number of the children reside in agricultural communities, and that the improvements were seen after only a week. “An organic diet was significantly associated with reduced urinary concentrations of nonspecific dimethyl OP insecticide metabolites and the herbicide 2,4-D in children.”

honeybee flower photo: Honeybee DSC_7638.jpgNeonicotinoids pose a high risk to the bee population – Wonder what a neonicotinoid is? Notice how it seems like the word “nicotine” is in the middle of the word? From the Oxford Dictionary: “Any of a class of synthetic compounds having a chemical structure similar to that of nicotine and related alkaloids, used as systemic insecticides on plants and as topical or systemic insecticides on animals.” All you need to remember is BAD. The bee population has been decimated over the past few years, and a lot of scientific data suggest a link to neonicotinoid pesticides use. Want some GOOD? “The presence of native habitat in close proximity to farms may sfeguard wild bees from the negative effects of pesticide use.”

If you want to focus on a few veggies and fruits that are most affected by pesticide, these are the dirty dozen:

Apples
Celery
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Nectarines
Peaches
Potatoes
Snap peas
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet bell peppers

And if you are budget-conscious (aren’t we all?), this chart may help you see that the costs of organic vs conventional are quite similar.chart comparing organic and conventional

Alexandra Williams, MA

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25

Fit Over 50? Achieve it with These 6 Age Specific Tips

unlock these locks to be more fit over 50

Unlock 6 Secrets to Aging Well

Do you want to be fit at 50 (plus any bonus years)? The aging population is big and getting bigger as we baby boomers continue our march, hop, skip, and jump into the next decade. Is one of your goals to be fit over 50? Do you plan to continue working out while anticipating and minimizing stresses on your “not getting any younger” body? But how?

Based on 1) our group fitness teaching experience, 2) educational events we attend focused on serving the needs of women over 50, over 60,  and other active older adults, and 3) Kymberly’s certification as a Functional Aging Specialist, we suggest the following:

Exercise to slow down aging

Hang On a Sec, or a Dec…ade!

Minimize Ab Exercises that Depend on Head Lifting

1) Reduce ab work that requires forward spinal flexion such as crunches. Decades of hunched posture and rounded shoulders take a toll on the spine. Look for opportunities to strengthen your abs that do not require more forward curvature. So long “old lady” back hump; hello stronger abs and a more comfy neck! Reverse curls, planks, and abs exercises that keep your head on the floor and lower spine protected are great options.

Reverse curls and planks protect your spine while strengthening your abs. Click To Tweet

Want to see one of those options? Then head over to Abs and Core Exercises Safe for the Lower Back. Eager to get more for your core? Read this post as well: Get Ultimate Abs: Better Yet, a Strong Core.  In fact, if you want heaps of No Crunch moves designed for the young at heart, but older in body, click this link to a program we created: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50

The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
Try Side Planks with Stability Balls to be Fit over 50

Forward Looking, But No Forward Flexion

Create Instability to Increase Stability

2) Integrate stability ball activities into your exercise program. The ball is a great tool, as you can do both cardio and toning with it. For example, did you know you can lie on your back and relax your head while doing an exercise to strengthen your obliques?

Take a look at this video for ideas:

Obliques Side-to-Side Abs Exercise with the Stability Ball: Right and Wrong Way to “Trim the Waist.”

Here at Fun and Fit: Active Aging Answers for Boom Chicka Boomers, we love anything that combines lying down with exercise. No, we don’t mean what you just thought! Hmm, come to think of it, having sleek abs and a strong core can improve your sexy status. Again we suggest you take advantage of our “Ultimate Abs” digital product.Ultimate Abs binder image

Consider Your Transitions from Floor to Feet

3) Organize your workout from standing to sitting to kneeling to lying down or vice versa in order to minimize the times you get up and down from the floor. Having said that, do practice coming from lying to standing as part of your workout. You can even make this an exercise. Try going from standing to sitting to standing without putting a hand on the floor and you’ll see what we mean.

This ability is so important that we made a short video about it for you. Watch and test yourself with the: Sitting to Rising Test. Not so easy was it?

Add Power Back Into Your Day

4) Integrate two-footed take-offs and landings into your activities. The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Most people stop jumping and doing any power moves as they age. However, unless joint pain precludes even small jumps, having power becomes more important for injury prevention with age. Click this link to see more on power training and avoiding falls.

The ability to hop or jump minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
Flowers at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort

We Said “Boomin’ and With It,” not “Bloomin’ Idiots.”  Darn Hearing Issues!

Ask Yourself Whether Any Senses are Slowing or Going

5) Note any changes in your capabilities and account for them in your workout plan.  For instance, is your vision deteriorating? Could that be affecting your balance given the role sight plays in staying upright and balanced? If so, incorporate more balance training into your exercise program.

Tone Down Turns and Twists

6) For cardio training, maximize movements that take you forwards, backwards, and sideways. However, cut down on quick turns, pivots, and sharp direction changes. Such moves can throw you off balance and tax your knee joints if you cannot anticipate them to react with perfect form.

Doing power moves & 2 footed hops becomes more important for injury prevention with age Click To Tweet

If you are a fitness pro who wants to work with baby boomers and “matures”, this magazine article, What Older Adults Want  by Alexandra will tell you what older adults desire from their teacher.

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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

9

5 More Healthy Food Trends

In our recent post “5 Healthy Food Trends,”  I listed five of ten nutrition trends that are driven by consumer preferences. As promised in that post, you can now read the other five from my article “10 Nutrition Trends to Watch,” for IDEA Fitness Journal.

I’ve excerpted from that article below, and if you want access to the full piece, please contact IDEA – the health and fitness association – at 800 999-IDEA.

superfood hemp in cerealSuperfoods
What do moringa, hemp, algae, purple corn, red palm oil, reishi mushrooms, turmeric and maca root have in common? They have joined blueberries, cinnamon and ginger root as must-have superfoods.

High in antioxidant and vitamin content, these health-promoting foods have passed $130 billion in sales. At the recent Natural Products Expo it was common to find people at booths tasting moringa protein drinks, turmeric rice, ginger hummus, and purple corn cereal.

Gluten-Free
Twenty percent of Americans say they actively try to eat gluten-free foods in their diets, and sales of gluten-free foods increased by 63% between 2012 and 2014. According to the poll, “Far more U.S. adults say they actively try to include gluten-free foods in their diets than actually suffer from celiac disease.” People with celiac disease or wheat allergies have to eat a gluten-free diet, as they cannot tolerate gliadin and glutenin, the two proteins found in gluten.organic gluten free sprouted popcorn. member of Organic Trade Association

Sugar Substitutes
Sweets will probably never go out of style, but sweeteners sometimes do. The demand for “natural” plant–based sweeteners is currently driving the market, and a few have moved up to the front row lately. Monk fruit, stevia leaf, and erythritol are just three substitutes rocketing up in popularity.

Wine is 1 of 5 healthy food trends. Are the other 4 as intriguing? Click To Tweet

Wine
You might say wine has always been in style, yet recent research about resveratrol has made red wines even more popular. Some preliminary research also shows that resveratrol can prolong life for mice and pigs, although this benefit has not been tested in people. Other research shows that it can help prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes—all diseases of great importance to the market drivers, Boomers. Besides, WINE!!!

Other Beverages
Combinations that would have been considered “weird” a few years ago are now found in refrigerators everywhere. For example, Uncle Matt’s Organic Juice now has orange turmeric juice, while REBBL makes tonics and elixirs such as ashwagandha chai and reishi chocolate coconut milk. Bulletproof and nitro cold-brew coffee are amping people up, bone broth has moved from the soup bowl to the tea cup, drinks based on roots and trees (neem, anyone?) are vying with coconut milk for shelf space, and flavored kombucha is now mainstream. Bolthouse Farms has a new line of cold-pressed juices, and Orgain produces an organic cafe mocha nutritional shake with ingredients that include grass-fed milk proteins, brown rice syrup, sunflower oil, kale, beets and açai.

dandelion mocha teeccinoHaving just spent several days at the Natural Products Expo West, I am energized by the growth in demand for foods, products and services that help, not harm our health (both corporeal and environmental). Look for an upcoming post that focuses specifically on organic products. Some of the statistics will surprise (and alarm) you.

Alexandra Williams, MA

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8

5 Healthy Food Trends

Some say abs are made in the kitchen, others say they’re made in the gym. My abs were actually made by my parents, though I’ve managed to take good care of their creation through healthy food and exercise.

As I just had my article, “10 Nutrition Trends to Watch” published in IDEA Fitness Journal – the magazine for fitness professionals (you can call 800 999-IDEA to order a copy if you aren’t a member) – I thought I’d share five of those trends with you and a few excerpts from the feature.

plumsFoods for Healthy Aging and Brain Power
Confirmed links between food, aging and brain health have exploded over the past few years. In 2012, Americans spent about $30 billion on health supplements, so it’s obvious we want to improve (Lara 2014). Boomers are hitting retirement age and wanting to stay active, engaged and youthful, so it makes sense that this demographic superforce would look to food for help with that.

Local, Sustainable Foods
For many years, our access to food has been based on a global model in which food would travel long distances to arrive on our tables. Interestingly, as the world has become even more global thanks to the Internet, consumers have pushed for a system that returns to agrarian times—eating food that is grown and produced locally.

fruit and yogurt parfaitMilk Products
Weight-conscious consumers have shunned whole milk since the 1980s, so it may surprise some to learn that it’s making a comeback (Shanker 2015). Higher consumption of butter, cream and high-fat milk correlates to lower levels of central obesity (waist-to-hip ratio ?) (Kratz, Baars & Guyenet 2013). The resurgent interest in whole-milk products includes some staples and also some newcomers, such as creamy yogurt, savory yogurt (aka labneh), cheese, whey protein, quark and farmer’s cheese.

We're getting about 1/3 of our daily kcals from snacks. But are they healthy snacks? Click To Tweet

Rise of Online Healthy Food Boutique Memberships
From ready-made meals to single packages of paleo jerky treats, healthy foods are reaching consumers quickly from both national and local companies.
Thrive Market is a fairly new online marketplace that recruited more than 2 million registered users in 2015. It’s the fastest-?growing e-commerce company in the history of Los Angeles, and I myself shop at it. They give one free membership to a family in need for every paid membership, and I have a link for you in case you wish to join – you get 30 days for free.

logo for Thrive MarketHealthy Snacks
According to a recent survey, Americans are getting about one-quarter of their daily calories from snacks, and consumers are paying attention to the items they choose (USDA 2014). Not only are people more particular about their snacks; they’re also willing to try new things, including bottled, potable soups; meat snacks, especially if they bear the “grass-fed, hormone-free” label; and whole and sprouted grains in items ranging from hot cereals to raw protein bars. Cakes, candies, chips and cookies are still quite popular, yet a long-term shift toward healthier snacks has occurred (Conick 2015).

Stay tuned for a future post, when I’ll share the other five trends from the article. Till then, grab your turmeric and kale chips and go for a walk. Me, I’m off to make some popcorn with red palm oil, coconut oil, hemp seeds and salt. It’s really quite delicious.

Alexandra Williams, MA

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5

Sleep Better; Weigh Less; Prevent Weight Gain

I'm Tired- Madeline KahnTired of Feeling so Tired?

It’s National Sleep Awareness Week which brings me to a confession: I have been getting too little sleep and gaining weight because of it. Curses Netflix and your plethora of good British shows! And now I want to watch Blazing Saddles again with Madeline Kahn.

As a fitness professional and certified Functional Aging Specialist, I know that more sleep leads to a healthier weight, fresher skin, more creativity, better memory, and less snapping at my husband. Ooops. (Click here to read how to Sleep Your Way to A Better Brain and Body).  But the siren call to finish just a wee bit more work, answer one more email, and load the dishwasher before settling in for some late night entertainment gets me every time.

Weight Gain from too Little Sleep

An extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year Click To Tweet

What about you? How are your sleep habits? Did you know that an extra hour of sleep each night can help you drop 14 pounds per year, according to researcher Dr. Michael Sivak. Part of that is the 200 -2,000 fewer calories you’ll take in during that hour you’re now asleep, and part of that is the relationship between the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Those two appetite regulating hormones are taunting rascals. Being awake too long can throw them into flux, stimulating your appetite and inhibiting your ability to make good food choices. More than 35 percent of American adults are obese; more than 28 percent sleep less than six hours a night, and the authors of a 15-year study found these two to be correlated.

SleepInfographic

 

In our post about the 3 stealth saboteurs of weight loss, we mentioned how less than 6 hours of sleep can be correlated with weight gain. In the 1970s, U.S. adults averaged 7+ hours per night. We are now down to the low 6s. When we sleep too little (6 hours or fewer) we:

  • are awake longer and often therefore snacking more
  • create an imbalance of appetite-regulating hormones, with the hormone that stimulates hunger pangs taking over
  • are possibly dealing with sleep apnea, which shows a correlation between weight gain and lost, interrupted, or insufficient sleep. The cause and effect are still in question.
Less than 6 hours of sleep can be correlated with weight gain. Try for 8-9 hrs per night Click To Tweet

Weight Loss from Enough Sleep

A review of 15 years of research indicates an effect of partial sleep deprivation on body weight management. Partial sleep deprivation, an energy imbalance, and weight gain prevention and weight loss promotion are all linked.

What to Do to Snoozzzzzzze and Lose?

SleepTips

Sleep at least seven hours per night, preferably eight. More than eight is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze nine or ten hours. (Unless you’re a teen reading this midlife blog, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback).
Also take a look at the suggestions in this infographic courtesy of the National Sleep Foundation.

I will be implementing their tips this coming week.  And shutting down Netflix by 10:30pm. Want to sleep better with me for the next 7 days? You know what I mean….

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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA