Author Archives: Fun and Fit
Author Archives: Fun and Fit
While contemplating the many things for which I’m grateful, I got a brain flash (like a brain fart, but good), and realized that the most obvious answer is sometimes hidden in plain sight because it’s so normal, standard and everyday. Even you, dear readers, see the “thing” for which I’m especially grateful for every time you come to our site. Have you guessed yet? It’s my co-blogger, aka my sister Kymberly.I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life.… Click To Tweet
When people are mean to me, she’s got my back. When I want something, she wants it for me too. When I want to talk about my boys, including my hopes and worries, she lets me ramble on.
She has taken on the huge task of managing our mom’s affairs as our mom ages; all without pay or thanks. On the contrary, sometimes she gets a lot of grief for doing what’s best for our mom.
She has kept herself up to date on research that’s relevant to active aging, and she shares that information in her classes, seminars, conferences, and articles (including this blog). Even when the places she works for take her for granted and consistently fail to recognize her contributions, she keeps doing her best.
We argue a lot (well, a lot less than we used to), yet any of you with siblings know that’s how it works. Yet I know 100% that I can trust her. Not everyone can trust a sibling the way I can trust mine, so it’s worth a shout out to her. And you know what she does behind my back? She talks me up. She lets people know she’s proud of me.
She’s a warrior, and she uses that trait to protect my back (or whatever metaphor you prefer).
And she’s fun. We went on an AmaWaterways cruise together in October, and had a blast. We hiked, biked, ate, made friends, laughed, climbed hills, descended stairs (castles have a LOT of those), stood in the rain, and even shared a cabin and got along famously (except for one argument about her snoring – shhhh).
I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life that’s so obvious you missed it. Sunsets, your dog, a car that works, the best parking spot in your complex, food security, a high credit score… you get the picture.
And now that I’ve written this post, I hope my sis doesn’t expect me to suck up to her. Though I do still hold out hope that she’ll suck up to me by giving me her red KitchenAid mixer.
Text and photos by Alexandra Williams, MA
Uh, hold on while I jog my memory.
Did you see the hint I embedded in that prior sentence? Based on the last 10 years of what is now overwhelming evidence, the BEST activity you can do to improve your memory is anything aerobic. You even get a double bonus in that your memory is enhanced both immediately and long term through aerobic, aka cardio exercise.
More than strength training, more than brain games, better than travel, or learning a new skill — the powerhouse, champion way to improve memory is to exercise aerobically. The above listed activities are certainly helpful, though runners up. Ha ha aha Worked in another word play.
What does “aerobic” really mean? How do you know if you are performing cardio activity?The best exercise you can do to improve memory is .... #activeaging Click To Tweet
Aerobic exercise is defined as all of the following occurring simultaneously:
If you like etymology then you’ll enjoy knowing that the word “aerobic” is derived from the Greek word “aero” for air or oxygen and “bio” indicating “life.” In short, aerobic exercise is life giving. Back in the day, our ancestors had to run to eat or avoid being eaten. Our bodies and brains were made to move aerobically. We ran to survive. We aerobicise to thrive!
So what are some types of aerobic exercise? And does any cardio activity improve memory or just certain kinds?
Great news — any cardio exercise will improve your memory, recall, attention span, and focus. You can take a step class, walk your dog, hike trails, swim, dance, cavort (we baby boomers are good cavorters, right?). Other aerobic activities include kickboxing, indoor cycling, outdoor bike riding, getting on treadmills, elliptical machines, the stairclimber. Lots of options.
I often get asked whether playing sports is aerobic. Generally if you are very good or very bad at the sport, you will be in your aerobic zone. Picture being pretty unskilled at tennis, for instance. You are chasing the ball all over the place; your opponent is trying to send the ball where you haven’t anticipated; you have to run a lot. Pant pant. Heart rate up, etc.
Or you are very good at tennis, so you constantly shift your position to send your opponent off guard; you run to return hits; you keep in athletic stance, and the game moves quickly. Bingo – cardio!
Certainly a looooooong list of benefits comes with aerobic training. The relative newcomer to the plethora of reasons to get up and boogie is aerobic exercise is numero uno, way out in front as the best way to improve memory. Forget dementia (ok, not a very good word play, but it works). Start NOW to stave off memory loss or to halt its progress. The aerobic movement you do today will give you memory enhancements benefits starting today
ACTION: Learn more motivating ways to improve your memory when you read the two posts below. Comment, share, tweet. THANKS!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
One of the highlights of our October AmaWaterways cruise was the 11-mile, 2 1/2 hour guided bike ride along both the west and east sides of the river. We had two fluent English-speaking guides who took about 8 of us on an easily-managed bike adventure (everyone else was either part of the walking or beer tasting tour). We started our ride along the Rheingarten, a riverside park where pedestrians and bicyclists were out in force on a sunny (yet cold) weekend day. At first, we were riding fairly quickly, but when I said I wanted to stop for more photos, the guides were quite amenable. This I appreciated, or I would have gotten cranky.
We pedaled past the Chocolate Museum, which my sister noticed. Yes, we went back later to learn the history of chocolate, though we didn’t stop in the museum café to eat any of their 9,866 chocolate items. Um, I have no idea of the exact number, but I sure saw lots of options.
Cologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with over 1 million people, 45,000 of whom are university students. One fact I really liked was discovering that 18% of the inhabitants come from over 180 nations. Hmmm, probably easy to find a correlation between that and the reputation Cologne has for being a major cultural center.You can take a bike tour of Cologne, Germany as part of a Rhein River cruise w/ @AmaWaterways?… Click To Tweet
Though I prefer old buildings (castles are my thing, perhaps related to my Medieval Studies BA), I found the three “cranes” interesting. Two of them are office buildings, while the one with the balconies is apartments. Who wouldn’t want riverfront living, even if it’s shaped like a giant piece of machinery, eh?
Our guides stopped for a while on the Rodenkirchener Bridge so we could take pictures and drink water. When you’re on a bike, it feels like the vista is really expansive. We could see barges and pleasure boats going north and south beneath us. When we were onboard our ship, the Ama Prima, it always felt like we were moving at a leisurely pace, yet when standing on a bridge above the ships, they appeared to be speeding along.
On the east side, away from the main part of the city, we felt like we were in the woods for a bit, as we rode by a fairly extensive campground. It’s probably jam-packed in summer, though we saw just a few campers in October. Perfect time to travel if you own a jacket and like to go when the city is not so crowded. From the east side, with its tennis and soccer (call it football if you want to sound truly cosmopolitan) fields, we had unimpeded views of St. Martin’s Church, the Cathedral, the Innenstadt, and Hohenzollern Bridge, which is where the Locks of Love are, and which leads to the Dom Platz.
After we crossed the bridge, our guides asked if we could figure out why security guards were preventing people from walking on the plaza. We had no idea. As it turns out, the Cologne Philharmonic is just below the plaza, and when they are performing, they keep people off the plaza to prevent extraneous sounds. So the floor is also the roof.
Near the end of the ride we stopped to admire the Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visible from fairly high up, which presented some issues during World War II. According to our guides, the Allies respected the history and cultural significance of it, so they intentionally avoided bombing it to ruins. Another story is that the pilots left it (for the most part) intact because it was an easy landmark for bombers to use to calculate their various targets. As well, the guides said that church representatives removed all the glass from the windows, which lessened the destruction from the bombs. On a cheerier note, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower came along in 1887.
We got back to the Ama Prima just in time to change for dinner (and an impromptu performance of “Thriller” by moi for all the passengers). No muscle soreness after 11 miles, either. Or should I say 18 kilometers, as that sounds even more impressive?!
Alexandra Williams, MA
photos by me
Have you read our post about all the castles and riesling in Rüdesheim yet? Better yet, have you subscribed to us?
Gluten – Gluten-sensitive and gluten-free foods are mainstream now, to the tune of a predicted sales volume of $24 billion by 2020. This market growth is driven by those who identify as “health conscious” rather than those who suffer “from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.”
Paleo – More than just meat and caveman-centric meals, those who follow a Paleo diet can choose items such as nutrition nut bars or freeze-dried beets. And of course, meat. In 2015, Paleo was the most-Googled search food term.
Plant-based – Danone (makers of Dannon yogurt) just purchased WhiteWave for $12.5 billion. Obviously, they believe plant-based foods to be a growing part of our diet, as WhiteWave comes with brands such as Silk, So Delicious, Earthbound Farm, Horizon Organic milk, and Vega. Are you ready to try one of the 3,500 types of seaweed?
Healthy Oils – Start reading up on smoke points, as you’ll be wanting to try avocado, coconut, safflower, almond, macadamia nut, rice bran, sesame seed, sunflower, peanut, hazelnut, grapeseed, and of course, olive oil. Less concerned with cost than a desire for organic, healthy, non-GMO, locally sourced (or traceable) ingredients, plus a wish to replicate recipes seen on cooking shows, people are demanding a variety of oil choices.12 Healthy Food Trends. How many of them do you follow? #FitFluential #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet
Breakfast – We still love our cereal, but now we also love smoothies, breakfast bars, and yogurt. Oh, and overnight oats. Pinterest searches for overnight oat recipes climbed 35% in 2016 over 2015 numbers.
Non-Dairy Milk – Look past all those Facebook posts about almond milk for a moment, and you’ll discover that milks are now made out of a variety of nut, grain and seed. Who’s up for a shot of camel’s milk? In many ways, it’s good to consider plant-based milks over animal-based, yet take care, as not all non-dairy milks are created equally nutritious.
Healthy Snacks – Kale chips may be considered old hat by now, but have you tried caffeinated jerky or roasted chickpeas yet? Snacking accounts for over 50% of our “eating occasions,” so stock up on maple sugar pumpkin seeds and grilled watermelon with honey, mint and cayenne while you can.
Protein – It’s time we sat down and had a talk about the bugs and the bees. Well, just the bugs. The rest of the world is already crunching on spicy roasted grasshoppers and cricket chips, so maybe it’s time we gave them a try. If you want to skip the bugs, go with kalamata olive cottage cheese, washed down with a shot of protein coffee.
Energy Bars – Have you roamed the grocery store aisles lately? Shelves upon shelves of energy bars are lying there, just waiting for you to give them some love.
Seeds and Nuts – Okay, Boomers, who remembers Euell Gibbons? “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.” Peanuts, pistachios, chia, hemp seeds, and watermelon seeds are all hot commodiites nowadays.
Natural Beverages – Is bulletproof coffee yesterday’s news? Maybe, maybe not. But cold brew coffee, yerba mate, guayasa, matcha, maca, chicory- or dandelion-root, fermented, sparkling, vegan, naturally flavored water, and kefir drinks are certainly today’s news. One result of the interest in more natural choices? Soda sales have dropped in the past few years by billions of gallons.
Greek Yogurt/ Probiotics/ Quark – Whether you’re Bulgarian, Greek, Icelandic or none of the above, chances are you’ve noticed that these products have displaced the “standard” yogurts of just 5 years ago.
If you want to know what quark is, or the differences between Icelandic skyr and Bulgarian unstrained yogurt, you’ll have to join IDEA, which will entitle you to a free copy of the full, 4,000-word article. Well, it will entitle you to the entire magazine, plus all their other magazines, many of which I write for. Did you know I had a secret life as a writer? Yeah, it’s not really a secret. Neither is the fact that food is medicine, so pick a trend or two from this list and give it a go.
By Alexandra Williams, MA
Photos are all by me, taken during our AmaWaterways cruise.
As part of our Rhein River cruise with AmaWaterways, we had an evening tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum (itself situated in the remains of the 12th century Brömserburg castle), followed by a 3-hour morning hike through family-owned vineyards that produce Riesling so popular it can command over 1,000 Euros per bottle.
One thing that is appealing about going on a river cruise with AmaWaterways is that you get loads of activity choices, all geared toward a variety of fitness levels and personal interests. When we docked in Rüdesheim after dinner, we had a choice of touring the music museum (which we discovered means the instruments are all self-playing) or relaxing in a cafe that serves Rüdesheimer coffee, known for its cream and brandy. AmaWaterways included a short sightseeing train ride from the ship into town, and if it’s raining, as it was when we arrived, you’ll be glad to hop aboard. In fine weather, it’s a short 10-minute walk.Rüdesheim w/ @AmaWaterways: wine, castles and a musical cabinet museum Click To Tweet
In the morning, the rain was no longer pouring, though it was still cloudy, so we stuck with our plan to hike to the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle via the vineyards. During the hike, we passed under the gondolas that took most of the group to the top of the hill to view the town and river. On our way back to our ship, the Ama Prima, we were passed by the people who took the third option – a 13-mile bike ride. One advantage (of many) of the hike is that the vintners keep a small fridge stocked with free wine along the hiking trail. So thoughtful. If it’s sunny, bring water and sunblock, as there’s little shade. We hiked in cloudy weather, and it was perfect, as we stayed warm without getting hot. Our tour guide was a retired civil engineer who owns a potato farm in Wiesbaden. Not only was his English fluent (as are all the local guides), he knew the history of all the families who owned the vines. He also admitted to being a bit of a snob who only buys Rüdesheim Riesling, not the Riesling made on the Bingen side of the river.
Part of what made the meals served on the Ama Prima extra special is that the meal is based on the local specialties. So besides wine, those of us who huddled under blankets up on the sun deck (it was cold and rainy) to get pictures of the many castles we passed after leaving Rüdesheim were offered some of the Rüdesheim coffee. Remember how it has brandy? That helped keep me warm enough to stay up top to get pictures of every single castle we passed as we cruised downstream along the UNESCO World Heritage designated gorge. Those pictures will be in an upcoming post, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.
We were guests of AmaWaterways on the 8-day “Enchanting Rhine” cruise. They made no requirements of us, except to enjoy ourselves, which we did, oh so much.
You want to get in better shape? Return your post-menopause weight to pre-menopause levels? Have you heard the oh-so-true true rumors that strength training is very important especially for women over 50? Maybe you’re ready to get going with a new resistance routine. But dang if that weight training equipment out on the gym floor looks intimidating and perhaps a little confusing.
What to do? What to do? Why, get into strength training classes led by a qualified group fitness instructor.
But first let’s cover what NOT to do: imitate the moves you see other people doing out on the gym floor. We have seen some seriously crazy stuff and wacky technique performed by exercisers on their own. Even if the moves you see around you are done safely and make sense for THAT exerciser, they may not be right for YOU.Strength exercises you see others do may not be right for YOU. How can you choose the right… Click To Tweet
Let’s also take a moment to wave good-bye to the exercises you may be digging up from school PE class memory. Odds are good those exercises need to be left back there. (No Mr. Hammond, duck walks across the playground do not strengthen the lower body. I don’t care how many 5th graders you quack and bark at).
Why go it alone when trying to figure out which exercises are best for you to increase your strength? IF you want to embark on a weight training program that will:
THEN go with the pros. In strength training classes. Where you reap the benefits of moves led by a professional.
Think of group strength training classes as a place to draft off the instructor’s knowledge and skills. You can then take that information and experience and apply it to your solo workouts outside the class environment.
If you have a qualified instructor, you can trust the exercises s/he is demonstrating. You get moves that offer a stamp of approval. Listen for comments from the instructor that tell you the how, why, what, and how much for each exercise. Take mental notes so you have a toolbox to pull from when on your own.
Even the best strength move offers little benefit if it’s not executed well. A class setting with a good teacher offers something no solo workout can — external feedback and correction. Learn what to do in step one; Improve on how with this step.New to strength training? Get into a class led by a qualified fitness teacher before going solo. Click To Tweet
Why did or didn’t you feel an exercise as expected? How can you adapt a move to your particular condition? What’s another option with the same goal? Most group fitness teachers are happy to give a few minutes of their time and expertise after class.
Especially for beginning weight trainers (like yourself, perhaps?), a class can be a welcoming place with like-minded people. If you’re like many of our past participants, you want to hide when first starting a new program. It’s easier to blend in within a class than to face the intimidation of the machines and rows of free weights outside the classroom doors.
Maybe you’ll enjoy your class and new strength so much you’ll decide to train forever and ever in a group setting. But if not, you now have a community to venture onto the gym floor “armed” and ready!
When you come to Santa Barbara, my sister and I invite you to come to our classes! We promise to load you up with weights and good ideas! If you aren’t sure whether group fitness classes are for you, read this and be prepped for happiness and success: All Sizes Welcome: Fitness Pros Want You! /Now get out there and resist, resist, resist!
ACTION: But don’t resist the opportunity to get active aging answers twice a week when you subscribe. Enter your email in any of the boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Well, sort of. We probably couldn’t afford to buy back into Hermosa Beach real estate prices, but we could definitely enjoy living there and rekindling many of our high school friendships.Would you ever return to your hometown for a visit? #FitFluential #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet
Whether it’s a high school reunion or something else that draws you back to your hometown, I definitely recommend it if you have positive memories of the place, especially after 40 years. Prior to going to the evening reunion, we wandered around town a bit, taking a few pictures, and reminiscing about our past. Mostly I think we bored my niece with our “that’s where our dentist used to be,” and “this is the hill where I learned to skateboard” kind of narrative.
In any case, enjoy these pictures from our stroll down Hermosa Beach Memory Lane. And let us know a memory or two from your high school days.
Alexandra Williams, MA
Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder. Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.
Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.
Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.
ACTION: The best stretch of all is the one your fingers make when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog. Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes to get access to fitness advice tailored to midlife women.
Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch?
Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Have you ever considered where your powers excel? When guest instructing recently at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, another guest posed the super power question to our tablemates and me at dinner. Pretty interesting conversation starter, n’est-ce pas? Nicht wahr? Si, como no? (You’ll find out in a minute why foreign phrases play out in this context).What is your Super Power? Think you don't have one? Read this. Click To Tweet
The first respondent said she had no super power. Was that also your first mental reply? If so, reconsider once you hear the examples that came up. I’ll bet you are able to select at least one super power by the time you finish reading this post.
The next tablemate said her super power was being of service to others. She went on to clarify that she particularly excelled at caregiving. Turns out she was caring for both her aging mother and father and relishing the time with her father more than she’d expected.
The guest across from her decided her super power was a willingness to try new things. Being at Rancho la Puerta for the first time was an example she gave to back up her claim.
When it became my turn, I’d had time to think about the answer. Still, it was hard to refine my choice so I went with paired powers: Teaching and Learning. (Claiming two answers as one could be a secret power). After 35 years teaching fitness, English, writing, and more, I feel gifted with teaching skills. It’s always nice to have a match between what we love and what we do well, don’t you think? I thoroughly enjoy leading learners of all ages and types.
Which brings me to the Learning Super Power: I love acquiring new knowledge, skills, and experiences. Turns out I am pretty good at it too, which is quite fortunate since I am keen to keep my body and brain active and agile as I entrench myself in midlife. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, three of the top ten ways to keep your brain in shape include:
Most dramatically, learning a foreign language not only boosts brain plasticity, but also makes us better at learning across the board. As a Medical News Today article summarizing this new research from Finland and Russia puts it: “The more foreign languages we learn, the faster the brain responds and processes the data it absorbs during learning. In other words, the study suggests loading the mind with more knowledge boosts its ability to acquire more.” Language learners have an easier time learning altogether. Need more reason to travel if you want to age actively?
Why am I particularly excited about this confluence of Learning, Boosting my Brain, and Being Physically Active? Because my sister and I are about to embark on our first river cruise, thanks to Amawaterways. After we ply the Rhein River from Basel to Amsterdam, we both decided to extend our stay and visit European friends and former stomping grounds. (DISCLOSURE ALERT: Yes, we are VERY fortunate that Amawaterways is sponsoring our adventure on the AmaPrima, though they did not ask us to write this post or any. We just want to take you with us on our journey in the ways we can!)
Talk about the ultimate in active aging! We will be taking advantage of the many hike, bike, and explore options the Amawaterways cruise offers. I will be able to relearn German (after living in Berlin for two years back in the 80’s teaching at the very first aerobics studio in Europe), practice my French which I studied for 11 years, AND gain new experiences. Nothing like building memories while boosting my memory!
Three decades from now I want to remember these adventures and languages and still have my Learning and Teaching super powers. What about you? What is your super power? Heck, make it plural and go for the gusto — what super powers do you claim? Tell us in the comments.
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Photo Credit for all three images goes to AmaWaterways.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Be prepared to disbelieve my next sentence: “If the U.S. continues its current weight gain trends, within the next 2 decades 100 percent of our adult population is projected to be obese. Not just overweight, obese!”
That Freak Out Fit Fact comes straight from the founder of the National Weight Loss Registry, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center located at the University of Colorado Medical Center, and professor of pediatrics and medicine, James O. Hill, PhD. That’s some serious chops. (For more eye-opening weight loss info from Dr. Hill, read Reducing Obesity: What Does and Doesn’t Work?
If you are at all like me, you are thinking “no way that projected statistic can be right as I have no plan to be in that category and I do plan to be alive in 20 years.”
Consider that already 2/3 of our population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in the minority.
So what can we – you and I – do to reverse that trend and stay at a healthy weight? If you are running to the answer of “eat a healthy diet and exercise” you are mostly right. But exercise and diet are not enough. We must also recognize other factors that cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.2/3 of US population is overweight or obese. That means normal weight people are in minority… Click To Tweet
If you suspect that stress is affecting your weight, once you are done reading this post, click to find out more about what’s going on:
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:
Reduce stress by building in activities or habits that soothe you. Meditate, perform some kind of cardio workout, take a bath, play with your pet. RELAX ALREADY!
Sleep at least 7 hours per night, preferably 8. More than 8 is not necessarily better though, so don’t feel compelled to snooze 9 or 10 hours. Unless you’re a teen reading this, then 9-10 hours might be a cutback.
Reduce sugar intake. Focus on ingredient labels to know what sugars are in packaged foods. Worry less about the sugar in fruits or sugar you put in your coffee. Where sugar adds up is as an ingredient in other foods. And it’s cleverly disguised too so check for any words ending in “lose” and starting with “something Latin sounding.” Examples: sucrose, lactose, dextrose.Having trouble losing weight? Could be 3 sneaky saboteurs that have nothing to do w/ exercise or… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Great. Now I’m hungry, cranky, tired and stressed out. I do not wish to be a statistic, unless it’s in the category of “Woman who is 20 years older and has perfect curves.” I also want to be able to run high and jump tall buildings in a single bound. I think I’ll go take a nap. I already did the cardio. A steam bath sounds good too. With aromatherapy so I can smell my bright, fit future!!
What if you are still having trouble losing weight and suspect it’s your metabolism? Find out if your theory is right by clicking below:
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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA