Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
To live more comfortably in your body, what can you do (besides whine, whimper, act curmudgeonly, and grab the stairwell when going down)?
Hang onto your bandage wraps and therapeutic creams as we dispense fit pro advice about ways to exercise cardiovascularly when your joints are HOLLERING!
Kymberly: Hey, I said it first!
Alexandra: I thought it first!
K and A: We thought it at the same time. Whoa! Twin telepathy. ……. Ahh haa haaa made you look.
K: Now that you wonder whether we really do have twin telepathy, I can tell you what Alexandra was thinking. Nada. But I am thinking that getting into a pool and doing laps or taking aqua classes are the best options. The more of your body that is under water, the less stress on your joints. If pools are not a realistic option for whatever reason – no pool handy, hate to get wet, you only wear a bathing suit in the privacy of your bathtub–whatever–then we have to come up with more clever solutions.
A: Try cardio machines that take some of the load off your lower body joints, such as indoor cycling, rowing, elliptical machines (as opposed to stair steppers or treadmills). Take advantage of a group spin or row class. For one, you can have the instructor fit the equipment to you, so you are in protective alignment. You want to be sure that the seat of your cycle is set high enough for your leg length, for example. Nag, nag, nag.
K: Add in some resistance training or Pilates twice a week. Strengthen the muscles around painful joints so that the muscles bear the brunt of the load.
Perhaps invest in a certified personal trainer or one-on-one licensed body worker (such as a Feldenkreis teacher, CranioSacral therapist, or MELT trainer). Get your form, equipment settings, shoes, stretching plan all checked by a professional. And I don’t mean us. We’re way too busy bickering about who suggested the pool first.
A: Find a local gym with a “seniors” program (a euphemism for “anyone older than myself”) and take a group low-impact class. The variety of movement will decrease the potential for pain from repetitive stress. Unless you take my sister’s class – in which case your pain will increase tremendously. Got the last word.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I was soaking in the tub after teaching two exercise classes, turning the pages of my Spring 2014 issue of National Parks magazine, when what do I come across? A motivating article by Dr. Daphne Miller, entitled “A Prescription for Nature,” all about how going outdoors enhances your health.
“Pfffftt,” you say. “Where’s the news in that?” Well, when was the last time your doctor prescribed an outdoor jaunt?
According to the article, “…exposure to green space can affect (y)our health just as much as other lifestyle factors traditionally covered in a medical visit.” Living close to a park or garden is associated with reduced body mass and lowered stress. Also, older adults in greener neighborhoods have greater longevity. As Dr. Miller states, “our collective open spaces, from our vast national parks to our tiny city parks, act as a giant health reservoir.”
I’m all for diving into that reservoir. How about you? How about my sister, who announced (after being bitten by a ground wasp during a lake walk a few years ago) that she planned to “visit nature in a museum from now on!” Uh oh! i(Note from Alexandra: It’s all true. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a ground wasp. I still walk outside every day, but I bring along a flamethrower in case of wasps)
As a group fitness instructor, I advocate and adore indoor workouts. Yet, the idea of living longer and leaner with less stress by being a nature champion is also enticing! Ok, I also love being outdoors, and walk my dog almost every day.
Imagine checking in for your annual physical to get minutes spent exercising outdoors and in- noted on your chart along with your pulse, blood pressure, smoking and drinking habits, height, and weight.
Research convincingly shows that nature has a significant beneficial influence on our well-being. Need more back-up to get up and out? Cast your eye on these Fun Fit Facts. (please also pin them!)
Go outside this post by clicking on the pictures. Where will they take you?
Of course you’ll need something to wear on your walks. Via our affiliate links from Adidas (we will receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on the link), today through August 10th, you can get $20 off all orders over $100 + free shipping! Now’s your chance to stock up on all of your favorites on adidas.com without the guilt of loading up your cart since it all ships free! Sale ends August 10. Promo Code: ADIDAS20
Then journey our way:
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Photos Credits: taken by my fine self with my cell phone.
READERS: Where’s your favorite outdoor place or activity? When did you last go there or do that? Huh? huh?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
In our recent episode, Fat Burning for Women Over 50: Be on Fire, Dr. Len walked us through the sometimes confusing realities of killing off kilocalories. Once we appreciate the role carbohydrates and fat both serve in providing fuel, then we can understand how to select the “best” workout programs.
First, the goal is to have a caloric deficit to lose any weight. That deficit comes from the age old energy balance equation: take in fewer calories than we put out (eat less); put out more calories than we take in (move more). The entire weight loss picture is far more complex, affected by a myriad of other factors. For more on losing weight and fat, check out Burn a Myth to Burn More Calories (post) and Fat Loss; What Does and Doesn’t Work (radio episode) . Professional alert warning system activated – it’s not just about cals in and out, though you do have to start there!
Second, is that we break down carbohydrates 40 times faster than fat, with carbos supplying most of the fuel (energy) to power our exercise. Distinguish between absolute and relative numbers when thinking of fat loss. When you exercise with some intensity, you use a higher percentage of carbos compared to fat as the fuel source. However, the highest total of burned calories is what you are going for. For that, you need to suck it up and add some effort.
Higher intensity exercise burns more calories; however, a long, slow approach is better than what most of the adult population is doing — uh, as in better than not much or nuffink! But a workout with some oomph to it at a higher pace will use more total energy (calories) than the lower intensity plan. Absolutely!
So forget needing to be in a “fat burning zone” when making cardio equipment or fitness tech choices. Get in the calorie burning zone, which is also a high carbo burning zone.
Third, thanks to Dr. Len’s practical tips, you now get led into the exciting, proven, no-magic-required realm of the four best training programs to maximize calorie burning and become lower fat! He recommends we try all 4 methods.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
Select a cardio activity you enjoy, such as cycling, running, walking, using a row machine. Go as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Then recover at a self-selected, variable pace for about 3- 4 minutes. Complete 4-8 rounds for a total workout time of about 30-45 minutes. Dr. Len recommends changing up the mode workout to workout, especially if you have several favorite cardio activities.
And if you forget all this, simply recite the Kymberly mantra: “Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can.” I hear the sizzle of calorie burning already!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Cardio exercise has officially moved into the number one spot for “the best thing you can do for your brain.” (AARP Bulletin, Get Moving for a Healthy Brain, Sept 2013, pgs 12-13). Take that crossword puzzles, foreign languages, and musical instruments! (Also touted as great vehicles to boost brain power, but downshifted out of first place given the latest research).
If you want to keep smart, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half, repair brain cell damage, and basically grow a bigger brain, you’ve got to Move Like Jagger! Face facts midlifers and baby boomers — if you do not eke out at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, your brain actually shrinks every year post 40, year after sedentary year.
But if you want to increase your brain size and capability — cue harps and trumpets — then find a way to work in about 22 aerobic minutes each day. Or 50 minutes three times a week. Or 75 minutes twice a week. I can do this math for you because I boosted my brain teaching step class and walking my young, energetic dog. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful. Walking for brain gain is even more powerful and impactful! Or try dancing, swimming, getting on a treadmill, biking, hiking, gardening even (could this be any easier? No I am not going to include watching Dancing With the Stars on this list even though I admit total fanaticism for the show.) It really does not take much time or effort to succeed with a brain fitness program.
Let me stress again how powerful movement is for your brain — each and every time you exercise, you get a bigger hippocampus (that’s sexy talk for the post 50 crowd); you stimulate the growth of new neurons; you cut your risk of dementia by 60 percent. Can I get a rah rah here with a pom pom thrown in please?
As Dr. Michael Luan, an expert on Conscious Movement puts it, “We exercise to become better humans. Conscious Movement evolves your brain. The body is your ultimate tool for success, and we all have the potential for greatness. Success with your body creates success with your career, relationships, and ultimately, your life.” The better your brain, the better your life, wouldn’t you say?
You will be amazed at how foresightul Dr. Michael is in this interview we did with him for our radio show.
Click on the link above or play button below to access the complete episode.
Dr. Michael will motivate you to get moving. And that movement will improve your focus, increase your mood, enhance your decision-making processes, help your ability to plan, regenerate brain cells, help your memory, and basically outsmart all those young people who can’t believe how sharp you are for a person your age.
Go for more conscious brain and body development when you
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
So what news about boosting your brain through exercise did we glean from our brush with an intellectual celebrity?
(Ok, Dr. Ratey actually said “anti-aging,” but we are not against aging. We are for aging as actively as possible, so I reworded the phrase. Literary license, people!). Dr. Ratey stressed this heavily in his book and presentation: nothing compares to the effect of movement when it comes to living life “younger” as nothing makes our brain cells work harder than exercise.
While we may not see results right away from our workouts, we reap MENTAL benefits within moments. The super important neurotransmitter is BDNF — Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. BDNF activates learning when we perform cardio. As Dr. Ratey (aka, my BFF and dinner buddy “John”) says, “BDNF is a crucial biological link between thought, emotions, and movement. Our neurotransmitters offer ‘cerebellum training’ during and after each aerobic bout.” That clear-headed feeling we get from working out is literally a head full of enhanced brain power and activity. Dr. Ratey offered this “insta-result” fact as a way to motivate ourselves to move more.
New experiences and challenges enhance our cognitive skills (be smarter, stave off the odds of dementia, keep our memory strong, add brain matter and circuitry throughout life). Maybe we take a walk that goes left instead of right; or we change up our morning routine somehow. Perhaps we add intensity or complexity to an action we are already performing. Apparently the experiences we can create for ourselves to stay mentally strong do not have to be huge or entirely new. Even small challenges rewire our brains for the better. If you are in a workout rut, snap out of it (to quote Cher’s character in Moonstruck).
All mammals play, so the more we can bring joy and playfulness into our workouts, the better off our brains will be. At the very least, play reduces stress. Lower chronic stress levels are related to a healthier life and stronger brain. In short, make exercise fun. Does this mantra from Fun and Fit sound familiar? If your current routine A) doesn’t exist; B) is not fun; C) is ho-hum routine, then challenge yourself to try new activities until you find the ones you enjoy. Like how you can combine tips 3 and 4 here?
Those were the highlights from Dr. Ratey’s talk. If you are keen to get even more keen, read Spark, ideally right after working out… at Rancho la Puerta! That would be a really smart move!
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Kymberly: Not liking to stab in the dark–poke, poke, scream of pain!– I will say I must guess into the wilderness as to the reasons for the different effects. One guess as to what happened was you powered your downstroke of the bike with your quads and your upstroke with your glutes and hamstrings. Most likely you also had your toes closer to your body than your heel (flexed foot or dorsiflexion), especially on the downstroke. That means your calf was not involved that much as it was in slight extension. Your friend most likely had her toes pointed away from her (plantarflexion) throughout the work, which is very common, though not ideal. Therefore her calf was in slight contraction. Is one way wrong? Depends on your goal. But generally it is considered good form and far more powerful to work as you did and NOT to put the load into the calf.
Alexandra: I’m not sure if you’re saying it was a recumbent bike or if you just like to lower the heck out of your seat on the indoor cycle, but we’ll start at recumbent;
Was your friend’s seat farther back than yours, relative to leg length? Because if her seat was way back, she might have had to point her toes a lot (back to plantarflexion) to reach the pedals, which would put her into a calf contraction – and not the kind that leads to cute little baby moos.
If you were on an upright bike with a really low seat, that could also contribute to the different results, depending on whether your toes were up or down.
Were you a good witch or a bad witch? But then, if your seat was too low, your knees will hurt soon anyway, so who cares about the calf ache?
What has been your experience with indoor cycles and your muscles? How pointy are your toes when you cycle?
Photo credits: Creative Commons