Archive

Category Archives for "Lower Body, Quads, Thighs, Legs, Hips"
8

How Strong is Your Lower Body?

Best dog posing on tree stump, sitting

Sit!

Wonder whether your lower body is functionally strong? Find out with this easy and quick Sit to Stand Test. In under 10 minutes you will have read this post, taken the 30 second assessment, and discovered where you stand for your age and function for lower body strength. “Where you stand.” Get it? Stop me before I hurt myself. Oh, and this test was designed for the over 60 crowd, so if you are younger, you will have to estimate your results based on the score sheets below. Get ready to do a little math. Very little.

Balance and Strength Get Top Numbers

poser dog on fence

Stand!

Anyway, turns out that our post “How Good is Your Balance” leapt into position as one of our most popular. So we figured why not offer another assessment. Nothing like finding out where you are in order to get to where you want to go!

All you need is a helper person (preferably an encouraging one who brings you a refreshing beverage and heeds your beck and call. Barring that, get whomever is handy and can count and run a stopwatch simultaneously. You also need a chair, stopwatch, courage, brain, and heart. (Who said the latter three in what classic movie?) Get a standard height chair (seat at 17 inches) and place it against a wall so it does not slip.

Test Instructions

Now listen up peeeeples so you get the instructions right: Sit in the middle of the chair with your back nice and long, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms held to your chest and crossed to opposite shoulders. Your goal is to stand up as many times as possible in the 30 seconds. You need to fully stand for a rep to count. Only complete stand ups count, not some partway, hunched over gig. One exception – if you get more than halfway up when the clock runs out, you get to count that rep. Yup, we know — too generous.  Have your assistant cue you with “Ready, Set, Go!” Then jam on it! Don’t you want to score in the top percentile for your age group?

numbers for sit to stand test

So are you Ready, set, ….. wait. First, heed these tips so you can get the best, most accurate score possible:

Tips to Ace the Test

  • Keep your elbows close to your body throughout the test. No swinging your arms. No pinching, no fighting, no hitting, no biting.
  • Sit your behiney down each time. You should transfer your body weight to the seat with every repetition.
  • Either brace your chair against the wall or have your minion support person hold it steady for the test’s duration.
  • If you need to use your arms to stand, then you do not count those reps.
  • Try one or two practice stand ups before timing yourself so you can execute good form.

Ready? Hit it!

Sit to Stand Chart

How did you do? When I estimate based on being 56 and doing 19 reps, I fared okish- around 75% or so, I humbly confess. I wanted to be in the 99%. Is that asking too much?  Pffft. Time to retake this test now that my knee surgery is further in my past. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Getting Tested in Order to Conduct Tests

I practiced administering and analyzing this assessment when I attended the Functional Aging Summit as part of achieving my Functional Aging Specialist certification. Full credit and kudos to Cody Sipe, PhD and Dan Ritchie, PhD, who conducted that event and offer programs such as Never Grow Old. Click on this noozhawk article to read more about what my functional aging certification means and what is going on in the fitness world for people over 50.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

PS If you are looking for a great functional fitness program designed for people over 50 who want to move more easily and comfortably, check out Dan and Cody’s “Never Grow Old” program. You get 4 levels of exercises, videos, cues, oodles of moves to try, and the confidence that you are getting a program created by knowledgeable, credible, proven experts in the fitness industry. And yes, we would make a few dollars if you buy their program, but not enough to buy our way out of taking any fitness tests!  Check out their program as clicking the link costs nothing.

 

11

Too Tired To Start Exercising?

Hi Alexandra and Kymberly: I am frequently exhausted and ache. I don’t know where to start to build in a sane way. Weights, (brief) high intensity intervals, gentle cardiovascular like walking? Just getting through a work day wears me out and I usually need to nap after exercise. Anne from Olympia, WA

Dear Anne: We can say you are sane enough already to ask a great and common question. Actually you managed a three-in-one special deal as you actually have three separate issues:

  1. Why might you be too tired to exercise in the first place?
  2. Why is exercise making you more fatigued?
  3. What entry point exercises are good to build from?

And because we like package bonus deals, you get a four part answer to make you happy and zippy!

First, Consider What is Exhausting You

Problem: Are you dehydrated? Solution: Drink more water

Being underwatered will suck you dry! Even slight dehydration—as little as 2% of normal fluid loss—will reduce your energy levels. Dehydration reduces blood volume, thickening your blood. Then your heart pumps less efficiently, reducing the speed at which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs, thereby draining your energy.

Problem: Are you anemic? Solution: Get your blood tested

Anemia would cause your stated symptoms. Find out if you’re getting enough iron or losing more than you’re replacing.

Problem: Are you choosing energy-sapping foods? Solution: Check your eating habitsAlexandra drinking wine

Alexandra drinking wine

Wine, dine, and nap

Too much sugar? Not eating regular meals or skipping breakfast? Drinking wine late at night or starting the day with simple carbs? Powering through your day by relying on caffeine? Any of these habits will result in overall fatigue.

Next, Motivate Yourself Past Pre-Exercise Fatigue

Your work day is done and so are you! We totally get how tempting a nap sounds after a long, perhaps stressful work day. And maybe what you need is simply to sleep more or to revel in naps, guilt free. Most North American adults undersleep. But you asked about moving, and we are all about activity.

In fact, we bet you already know the counterintuitive reality that exercise increases energy. Studies indicate that as little as three bouts of cardio activity a week for 20 minutes per session boosts energy in as few as six weeks. Once you get past those first few weeks of starting to move more, you will enter that energizer bunny zone where exercise pumps you up rather than drags you down.

Sign to Happy Room

Which activity puts you into your Happy Room?

To get yourself doing something, the key is to commit to anything, not everything. What is the least you can do given your current exhaustion and ache levels? Determine what is achievable and head for the minimum. We really mean it. Take the mental pressure off yourself and head for the LEAST, not MOST you are willing to start with.

Rather than plunging into high intensity interval training or facing overload weight training, find something you enjoy and that comes easily to you. A resistance training fitness class where you are encouraged to go at your pace. A walk, brisk stroll, or march in place. A yoga, Pilates, stretch, or other mind/body class that combines movement with visualization, relaxation, or quiet time at the end. What about lunges during tv commercials or a few ab exercises before dinner? Just 5 minutes on an indoor bicycle?  Steps at home you can go up and down a few times. Water time if you have access to a pool or natural body of water- swimming, pool class, water jogging.

If you still find yourself needing a push to take the fork in the road towards activity, not lethargy, get a dog that likes walks. We might say “later” and “no” to ourselves, but who can deny a pet pooch whose daily walk is the day’s highlight? Wag wag, perky ears and out you go!Dog walk at More Mesa

Third, Reduce Being Worn Out Post Work Out

If exercise is wearing you out, most likely you need to drop the intensity of your workout. Another possibility is you are choosing stressful moves. Stress will wear you out even if the activity is low intensity.

  • Have you chosen activities you don’t enjoy?
  • Are you setting overly high expectations and demands on yourself?
  • Are you a perfectionist?

And of course, we have to interject that your post-exercise nap might be the best thing for you. But if you feel movement is wearing you down, then reduce the intensity or duration. You are either going too hard or too long at this phase of your re-entry program.

Which Bring Us to — Choose Moderate Moves

Try our Whole Body, No Equipment Needed, Easy as 3-2-1 Routine

K planking in ThailandBefore this post gets too long and tiresome (aha hah ha) let’s go with a simple, straightforward, “gee, we really don’t know your goals, limitations, time available” starting point program. If nothing else, do the following three moves that will address all major muscles of your body. Easy to perform; multi-joint so you get a lot of bang for your buck; and needing no equipment.

  1. Lunges or squats for the lower body
  2. Push ups on the wall, counter, knees, or toes for the upper body
  3. K planking in ThailandPlanks or reverse curls for the core

When you’re done, walk for 5 minutes.

You will feel so energized you’ll want more. Find that “more” in these posts that also answer your questions:

Tips to Get Your Butt to the Gym

I Want to Get Fit, but How Do I Start?

And of course, we have to mention our recent TransformAging Summit webinar session, “(Re)Starting Fitness Over 50,” which is sponsored by Rancho la Puerta Wellness Resort, a perfect place to ease into exercise. ,  For sale along with the other 5 presentations. Slides included. $34Sales image for TransformAging

15

Are These Boomer-Friendly Fitness Trends in Your Future?

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

IHRSA TRX booth

Hanging out at IHRSA 2015

Wonder which fitness products, trends, and exercises lie in your future active life? Then shoulder-shove your way down trade show aisles with us to catch highlights from the recent 2015 IHRSA Convention and Trade show (association for fitness club owners/ managers). Our mission? To ferret out and focus on the equipment and workouts suited for Boomers (or anyone who wants to age actively, yet has joint aches and pains and limitations, oh my). Yup, we’re both fitness trendsetters and trendspotters.

Alexandra: But first, a shout-out to ourselves, as it turns out we were both in the Top Ten for most socially engaged people at the convention.

We were beat out by keynote speaker Arianna Huffington, a popular conference speaker, and Dai Manuel (a fellow FitFluential ambassador). Maybe it’s time to raise our rates. Hmmmm.

20150311_175131

I’m sitting in the 4th Row Center where Arianna could see me and be inspired

Kymberly: Arianna can take first place as most influential online IHRSA “attendee” with no envy from me as she was so clever in her keynote. I almost thought Alexandra wrote her material, that’s how funny Mz Huff was. Please note that a certain Me was ranked higher than a certain Not Me twinster. Score!

Wearable Technology is IT (Get it?)

As for a key trend coming your way bigger than our hair and shoulder pads in the 80s — wearable technology is IT! Bands, apps, bracelets, watches, cords, equipment screens, club check-in software, online community connections, and more are infiltrating, permeating, hyperventilating our fitness future. Proof is coming in that tracking and measuring devices actually work! People who use technology are moving more.

Kila wearing the Skulpt AIm

No

Skulpt Aim measuring Kymberly's quad

Yes

We saw all kinds of amazing gadgets that gather your workout data, health profile, preferences, fat levels–you name it– in order to help you succeed with your health and fitness goals. Need accountability? Motivation? Feedback? Workout buddies? An exercise program to go? if you can conceive of it, you will find it at the IHRSA trade show which was loaded with ingenuity and visionary high techy thingies. Hey, I am currently testing out a handheld device that measures my body fat and muscle quality, courtesy of Skulpt Aim. I simply hold up to certain muscles the Skulpt Aim, which looks like a smart phone and voila — personalized data that I wish would lie to me. But it doesn’t.

You probably are contributing to the health and fitness tech trend right now. Have you ever used a pedometer? (Read our post on assessing pedometers) Slapped on a heart rate monitor? Synced a workout tracking device to your phone? Input info into a cardio machine that goes to a personal profile? Plead guilty to being a trend driver.

So you’re all fitted up with monitoring devices, but which workouts offer options for midlifers who may suffer from joint issues?

 

TRX Training for Midlifers
Alexandra: We have taken a few of the TRX suspension training classes before, but we wanted to know if they had a workout that would be suited for those of us with bad knees (Kymberly’s recent surgery), bad wrists (Alexandra’s recent fall), or other issues that make it necessary to modify so many other workout regimens.

pic of TRX training at IHRSA

Getting great instruction at the TRX booth

So many of our students have asked our opinion about suspension training, worried they might fall or embarrass themselves if they tried it, so we went straight to the top to find answers. By “top” we mean we had our very own personalized workout with Dan Mcdonogh, the TRX Training and Development Manager and 2012 IDEA (our professional association) Fitness Instructor of the Year.

With a focus on good form (we loved him for that), Dan took us through a myriad of options for some of the main moves: squats, lunges, planks, rows, push-ups. Every time we said, “that would be an issue for someone with knee problems,” or “how can I do this move if I’m worried about balance,” Dan had a solution. (Keep an eye out for our video of this workout coming soonish to our website. See Dan survive standing between us as we crack jokes and compliment his red hair).

End Result: We totally loved this workout, as it helped increase our strength, balance, core and flexibility, all of which are important for Boomers (well, anyone really). I will just mention that I was amazing. Kymberly might have been too, but I kept poking her in the surgery leg.

TRX with Dan O'Donough and Fraser Quelch

Two of the world’s top TRX trainers – Dan Mcdonogh and Fraser Quelch. We are Superstahhhs.

Kymberly: Poke, poke, no joke. I really kneed to find exercise options that offer intensity with minimal joint impact. After doing a pain free happy dance for TRX, I found my cardio nirvana on the Total Wave Fitness.

More than two months of no cardio (aside from mosey level dog walks) has left me desperate to get my sweat on. Where, oh where is a high intensity, low impact exercise mode right for knees in rehab? That is fun? With variety? And smooth comfort like a Tom Jones song? Oh my gosh, but gliding on the Wave machine is perfect for anyone who wants an aerobic heart rate with no bone pounding. If you want to go for a ride and slide from side to side, talk your club into getting one of these. Sore feet? Wonky knees? Try the Total Wave. No excuses or downtime for joint pain sufferers. Santa Barbara Spectrum are you listening? Buy this for me — and the other members too, of course.

This crazy looking contraption could be the answer to those of you for whom aches and pains keep you from taking cardio classes or getting on cardio equipment. If you send me one, I WILL find room for it in my house.

Here’s to finding ways to work out as we age.
Readers: How has an injury or chronic condition kept you from exercising? What solution(s) did you find? And … is your klout score higher than ours? Comment below. And subscribe if you have not already.

 

4

Solving Knee Pain: What Is and Isn’t Working

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

What You do vs WHo You AreI knew I was facing at least two knee surgeries. What I wasn’t sure of was when. My plan was to stave off the knife and downtime for sometime in the next decade. (Read part one of my knee saga via this link). Turns out my right knee– the formerly “good” one– and two orthopedists have a different, sooner, hustle up, and “get the surgery over with” plan.

All the knee rehab in Santa Barbara is not going to repair two torn menisci. (I tore them teaching my Forever Fit Cardio class. I think the left knee got fed up pulling the load for the right, arthritic one and fired itself from overachiever duty mid-mambo).

Bad Timing of Rest vs Action

However the knee rehab and other protocols I have been trying ARE helping address the osteoarthritis. I am learning more every day about what a lifetime of being active, teaching fitness, and having a high pain threshold can do to knee joints. That last aspect — having a high pain threshold — does not pair well with thinking I can tough out any pain or solve swelling with ice and movement then ice and movement then ice and movement. Did you see the word “rest” anywhere in there? I kinda skipped that phase. Yeah, that lying around, not doing cardio and not teaching exercise part is hard for me. I fear that rest will lead to lethargy and the start of the end. And I don’t want freedom of movement to end. Anyway, ……

If you are also suffering from knee pain or wanting to avoid having knee issues, then limp along with me through some 7 discoveries.

  1. Straighten KneesSimple habits may be making your knees worse. For example, when sitting, do you tuck your legs under your chair? Oops. According to Rick Kaselj’s Fix My Knee Pain program (which I am following and encourage you to buy and try as well), those of us with knee problems are better served to extend our legs when sitting. So simple, but I had not known that!
  2. Physical therapy really does help … if you actually do the exercises! When I am at the physical therapist’s I overhear other patients through the non-soundproof curtains. Almost everyone in the areas next to me confesses to not keeping up with their rehab homework. I have been super faithful about doing my PT every day. While PT cannot heal the menisci tears, it does help with all the surrounding structures. For sure it is helping both with the current symptoms AND the causes. Knowing the causes of my knee issues is critical as I don’t want to go through surgery to repeat bad patterns.
  3. The chondroitin powder I am taking does not seem to be doing much. Everyone else I talk to swears by some sort of glucosamine or chondroitin. I will give this approach another month, then reasses.
  4. Indoor cycling as a substitute for step class is hit and miss. Sometimes I can ride and ride with no downside. Other times, my knee starts to hurt in minutes and swells up. Yes, I keep the tension low both times. Staying motivated to cycle on my own is hard for me as I prefer to work out with people, cues, and group energy.
  5. 20140829_115158Pool activities are Sah-weeet! When Alexandra and I were presenting wellness sessions at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite last weekend, I put myself through my own aerobic workouts in their pool. I got to go for it without aggravating my joints. So happy! Note to world – aqua aerobics is not a little old lady workout! It’s a way to add intensity without impact. And thanks to a nice neighbor who has a pool and generous heart, I am going to implement more water works … once her pool is a leeetle warmer.
  6. Water is your joints’ friend. Drink lots.

Sitting By Choice or By Necessity

My hope is to get this arthroscopic procedure scheduled asap, so I can get back at it asap! (Do you hear me, insurance people. Get those approvals rolling, please!). When the doctor told me I could stand for only 10 minutes per hour, I had to rethink my whole mindset. As a fitness professional, I know our nation sits too much and moves too little. But we all tend to be around those who are like us – similar values, habits, activities. (Hot tip — if you want to be more active, hang around active people). So I don’t interact with too many sedentary people. I have to admit, these two weeks of limited, painful movement is not making me more compassionate. It’s making me more uncomprehending of those who can move but choose not to.

Oh, and tip 7strengthen both your core and your glutes if you want to help your knees. Thinking that quad strength alone will protect those needy knees is too limited.

Bonus Tip: Read our posts, “Knights Who Say “Knee” and “What Can You Do When Your Joints Ache and Holler” for more knee solutions.

22

Exercise and Arthritis

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Is it Possible to Exercise with an Arthritic Hip?

picture of dancing woman

Keep on Dancing

Dear Twins: I just found your site and already feel encouraged. I am 56 years old and have been an ‘off again…on again” exerciser!! When I was much younger I was very athletic. Four years ago I trained to walk a 1/2 marathon but the week before the race, I pulled ligaments in my ankle. Since then I haven’t done much of anything.

About 6 weeks ago I began going to Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. Three weeks ago I began to have a lot of pain in my hips. I went to the doctor and was told I have arthritis in my hips and I also had bursitis. My doctor told me to lay off Zumba for two weeks and gave me a prescription to help with inflammation. He told me that I will probably have to take the medication long term to help with the arthritis but the pain from the bursitis will go away after a week or so. I have tried to go back to the Zumba classes but I am concerned the pain will start back up or get worse. I am in really good health otherwise.

Can you advise me as to the risks I would take if I continued to do the Zumba? Also, what other cardio activities can I do that will be okay with my arthritis in my hips? I really feel my best when I am exercising and just started to feel good and have more energy when the pain started. Any suggestions you may have would help!!

Carla, Abilene, TX

x-ray picture of hipsYour question is an excellent one, and will resonate with many of our readers. You are right about the many benefits of exercise, including for arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis can be slowed or mitigated with exercise – the challenge is finding the right type.

Low Impact Cardio

If your doc has cleared you to return to Zumba, you may want to ease in and modify the lateral moves (sideways, such as grapevine). Are you able/ willing to add aqua classes to your workout plan? Zumba aqua dance classes exist. You do not need to be a good swimmer to join an aqua class. Shallow water classes are in water that’s generally hip deep. If your gym has only deep water classes, you can use swim lessons as your workout, then wear the buoyancy belts once you’re a more confident swimmer.
For other cardio options, try anything that is low impact (high intensity is fine, but NOT high impact) and more forward and back than side to side. One caveat – depending on where the arthritis is in your hips, spending a lot of time on a machine such as a stair-stepper could be contraindicated. Besides, you seem to be a person who enjoys group fitness classes, so try a variety of those. A varied exercise plan is more effective than a repetitive one for most people.

Strength Training

You might also consider some stretch and strengthen classes. Stretch to open up the hips and strengthen to give your muscles more  of the workload, which eases the load on your skeletal structure (bones). Since you mention a ligament injury to your ankle, I would think strengthening that area might be a priority, especially if compensations are affecting your hips. Have you worked with a physical therapist to strengthen that ankle, while considering the impact on your hips (such as an altered gait)? You can probably even find a therapist who is ALSO a personal trainer by searching at ideafit.com or acefitness.org.

Range of Motion (ROM)

In addition to low-impact cardio and strength training, you may want range of motion exercises too. This article from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center goes into more detail about everything mentioned above, including the need for tailored, specific range of motion activities.

Rest

Rest is an integral part of any exercise regimen, arthritis or no! Check with your doctor about creating the right combo of rest time, anti-inflammatory meds, ice, and possibly even meditation.

Partner with your Doctor

We’ve had good luck getting specific advice for our exercise-loving bodies by choosing primary care doctors who also value exercise. We’ve had some doctors who wanted to prescribe medicine for our arthritic knees. Their advice was to stop exercising. We switched to doctors who used medication as a last resort and aligned with our preference to keep moving. We are not advocating dumping your doc or ignoring his advice; we are advocating getting into a partnership with your doctor so that he can work WITH you to create a plan that includes exercise.

This quote is from Mayo: “Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Talk to your doctor about how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the best exercise plan to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.”

As women who are similar to you – arthritic joints, exercise-loving, youthful minds, mid-50s – we know it’s possible to keep moving. We just have to be pickier than we were 30 years ago. There IS a solution, and your positive attitude will be a big part of it! Please keep us posted. Happy dancing.

Please share this article via Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Thank you.

Photo credits / Morgue File: X-Ray of hips: xandert; Dancing woman: Earl53

10

Insider List of Resources to Help You Age Actively

by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Kymberly and Alexandra in the 80s

We started actively aging in the 80s, so we can point you in the right direction!

If you’re wanting to read some books and listen to some audio that will help guide you along the path to aging actively, we’ve got a few recommendations. Actually, we could probably make a really long list, but we’ll start with just a few for now! (Keep scrolling down to get to Kymberly’s list).

 

 

 

Alexandra:

Exercise

Anybody's Guide to Total Fitness by KravitzAnybody’s Guide to Total Fitness by Len Kravitz, PhD

If you read only one fitness book, this is the one. It includes answers to 125 of the most frequently asked fitness questions. Now in its 10th printing, this book combines up-to-date research with practical information for establishing an optimal health, fitness and wellness lifestyle. From exercise instruction and workouts, to wellness and nutrition, Kravitz has been writing,  researching and speaking about fitness for over 30 years. He takes complex topics and research results, and explains them in an easy-to-comprehend format.

Ultimate Booty Workout by Grand

Ultimate Booty Workouts by Tamara Grand, PhD

The title doesn’t do justice to the knowledge and science that Grand puts into her exercise selections. The book includes a 12-week progressive program that includes strength training, cardiovascular training, and nutrition to support fat loss and muscle gain, and the recommendations are realistic and achievable. This book has sound advice based on solid research. You can hear Tamara explain why we gain weight in midlife in our radio interview of her: What Can You Do About Hormones, Menopause, and Menopot.

 

Two books by Jack Witt

Tight, Tone & Trim/ Cut, Cool & Confident

by Jack Witt, MS

This companion set has one book aimed more toward men, the other toward women, with exercises in both applicable to all exercisers. Effective exercises, lifestyle information and recipes are the three parts to these books. As both a health and fitness coach, Witt is good at explaining the links between emotions, nutrition, humor, a social network, and physical activity. While I disagree with some of his slang terms, and feel the layout could be a bit more polished, the information is trustworthy and written in a way that is suitable for a complete beginner.

Nutrition

Omnivore's Dilemma by PollanFood Rules, In Defense of Food, and The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan

These three books cover just about cover everything you need to know in my (pescatarian) opinion! I love reading books about food and nutrition, yet keep coming back to Pollan’s because they make eating and food simple to understand. And he informs, where others preach. He’s also a very good writer, and I love good writing.

Food Politics, and Eat, Drink Vote by Marion NestleFood Politics Nestle

The titles of both these books let you know straight away that Nestle writes about the politics of food. If you are concerned about food advocacy and equality, plus food safety, read these. Her strong opinions are informed by research and statistics. In other words, facts! These books will help you become a more-informed decision-maker about what you eat.

Kymberly:

Body and Brain

Originally two girls, the Bobbsey Twins

Kymberly is on the left. Or right. Who knows? Who cares?

Growing up as redheaded, freckle-faced, glasses-wearing, intellectual and sporty identical twins in a family of 5 kids, we had a lot of nicknames as youngsters. Some of the names we actually liked, such as “Bobbsey Twins” and “brainiacs.” The latter appellation must have made an impression as all the neuroscience coming out about the brain’s “trainability” and plasticity really captures my fancy. The link between cognitive enhancement and exercise particularly motivates me to move, think, and try new activities.

After reading dozens of new books on the relationship between movement and the brain, I hope you are inspired to check out my suggestions. But only if you want to be more fit inside and out!

Spark author, Dr Ratey says to add play

When Spark author, Dr. John Ratey says add play, we work it!

Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John Ratey, MD

First up, read Spark. Actually, first read our posts about meeting Dr. Ratey, hearing him present highlights from his book, and sitting next to him at dinner without drooling. Ok, I did drool a wee bit as I handed him my book copy to sign. If you want to remodel and transform your brain for peak performance, this book is for you! Warning: You will be so sparked by the brain benefits of movement that you’ll disdain a sedentary life forever after.

Dr Hil and his book, State of Slim with Kymberly

What I’ll do to get an autograph

State of Slim, by Dr. James Hill and Holly Wyatt, MD

If you’ve listened to our radio show or been reading our posts for any duration (I really, really hope you answered “yes” to this “if”), then you’ll know I squee at the knowledge Dr. James Hill imparts with humor and facts galore. You’ll get proven, repeatable, long term weight loss and maintenance solutions when you listen to our recent radio show interview of him — Fat Loss: What Does and Doesn’t Work?

Prefer quick summaries of his talks on reducing obesity or knowing how your “why” affects your weight loss success? Read the write-ups we did after hearing him speak at two events. And of course, you will want to add State of Slim to both your library and cookbook collection. Don’t just add the book to your stacks. Actually read it. You’ll get recipes to unstick your metabolism; you’ll find out the 6 factors successful weight losers have in common, you’ll practically want to move to Colorado. Unless you are me and live in Santa Barbara, CA, in which case my butt is parked (not in “idle” mind you, but revved up).

Stay Sharp, Improve Memory, and Boost Creativity, Your Best Brain EverYour Best Brain Ever: A Complete Guide and Workout Michael S. Sweeney with 58 Brain Health Boosters by Cynthia Green, PhD.

And the book I am reading now? Glad you asked. See, my brain can make up creative conversations after tackling this list of super resources! After interviewing Dr. Cynthia Green for our radio episode, Your Best Brain Might Be Ahead of You I divebombed into Your Best Brain Ever. Michael Sweeney and Dr. Green give a lot of practical tips broken into short chapters with many examples. Not only will you easily find out what to do to enhance your brain health, but also why and how the brain functions. The two authors present the lowdown on your lobes in a super accessible, comprehensible manner. This book is a quick, easy read. Or I am just so much smarter reading it that it seems that way!

You can read while on cardio equipment; listen to our radio show interviews when on a walk, run, or drive; or simply kick back in the springtime sun and learn as you (don’t) burn (kcals or your skin). That’s a double wordplay for you. Fit brainiac status, here I come!

We make a few cents if you buy glasses from Warby Parker (see our “glasses” link above), which is great. Did we mention they have a Try Before You Buy program? 

Add more on target resources to your list by subscribing to our blog and listening to our radio show. Experience some of the best leaders in the health, wellness, and fitness world every Wednesday morning at 8:00 PT/ 11:00am ET. Listen in (better yet, call in to 866-472-5792) to our new radio show Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers with guests who offer practical advice and cutting edge solutions to your active aging challenges. You’ll find us at voiceamerica.com on the Health and Wellness channel.

20

Do You Fear Falling as You Age?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

TheraFit shoes, flying feetTurns out that fear of falling starts to haunt us as we hit middle age. Either directly or out of concern for our aging parents, we start seeing more risk of hitting the ground and adjust our lives accordingly. Unfortunately “adjust” usually means shrink our world. We baby boomers (and our parents) stop doing things we once enjoyed as we fear injury. Have you discontinued an activity you once considered fun and now look at as risky?

Kymberly: In our family, we no longer snowboard after my husband’s fall led to shoulder surgery and my spill hurt my back.

Alexandra: I haven’t exactly fallen, but I did a major wipeout playing soccer back in 1998. After a number of knee surgeries, I no longer play soccer.

Fortunately we baby boomers can take action to prevent falls and bolster our balance so we age as actively and confidently as possible. Let’s arm (and leg) ourselves with a few insights.

IDEA Personal Training WestKymberly: Recently Alexandra and I attended and spoke at the IDEA Personal Training Institute West conference. One of my favorite presentations (besides our own, of course!) was “Improving Balance and Mobility Skills.” This 6-hour session was offered by Karen Schlieter, MBA, MS whose expertise is in gerokinesiology, a new and specialized area of study that focuses on physical activity and aging. Some of her key points included the following:

Alexandra negotiates a hill without fallingOne: Did you know that one-third of older adults fall each year? Women tend to break their forearms and wrists; men tend to hit their heads and suffer traumatic brain injury. Hold it right there! That is not the future we baby boomers envision, is it?!

We need to work on our balance by controlling our center of mass, also known as our core. The stronger and more respondent our core is, the more we are able to shift our center of gravity safely, quickly, and comfortably.  Midlife and older is no time to ignore the core! So the first order of business is to strengthen our core.

Alexandra: Take advantage of the core exercises we present in our YouTube videos. We offer many, all under two minutes. You’ll find three links here so you can get to work right away!

Rotating Abs/ Core Move  Video

Kneeling Core and Abs Exercise Video

Obliques Exercise Safe for Lower Back  Video

Two: When something unexpected threatens to up-end us, we try to maintain balance using several strategies. In order of use, they are:
Ankle strategy: the first place to adjust in order to stay upright is at the ankle joint. Most people send their spine or shoulders into tilt and end up on the ground as a result. Start implementing a small amount of sway or bend at the ankle as a postural, or balance strategy. For example, if you are out walking your energetic dog, who then bangs into your legs at full run, bend at the ankle and knees, not the spine, to protect yourself from going down.Kymbelry fallen and getting up

Hip strategy: the bigger muscles around our pelvis help keep our center of gravity actually centered. If an ankle bend is not enough to keep us from a fall, we depend on the larger muscles that surround our hips. Again, keep the spine long and strength train the hamstrings, glutes, hip flexors, hip extensors, and abs so they can support with extra oomph when balance surprises come along.

Step out strategy: The final strategy to kick into fall-prevention gear is to step forward, backward, or laterally. If you’ve ever done the panic shuffle when tripped, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Taking a quick salvation step or many depends on our senses, overall strength, and ability to scale our movement to our environment.  While we can’t do much to train our eyesight or hearing, for instance, we can be proactive on the latter two functions.

Don't Fall!Three: The last big insight we want to share from Karen’s session is that we lose power ahead of strength. For reducing falls, we have to have power. To get back up quickly after a fall we need power. Yes, resistance training is important (twice a week seems to be the sweet spot between reaping benefits and being time/ life/ schedule efficient). However, power training tends to go by the wayside once we say good-bye to our 40s.

A quick definition of the difference between power and strength is that power has a speed and often an explosive element to it. Strength training is generally slow and controlled applied force. Bottom line — add some kind of jump to your life. Jump rope, perform squat jumps, do switch lunges, work in a few box jump ups.

Alexandra: I’ll add a few final comments. Fear of falling can actually contribute to a fall. Even if you haven’t fallen in the past, if you have a fear of falling, you are at more risk. As well, if you find yourself shuffling, you’ll want to work on lengthening your stride and picking up your feet, as a shuffling gait can lead to instability and decreased mobility.

Whether it’s Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall, be in season with a healthy, functional body that does Fall, but doesn’t fall!

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see short videos that will improve your fitness. Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please also follow us on google++Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click now on the icons above.

 

10

Exercises to Strengthen Your Hip Flexors: Guest Post by Tamara Grand

This is a Guest Post from Tamara Grand, our friend, colleague and personal trainer extraordinaire. Tamara lives in beautiful British Columbia, Canada, with her husband, three children, a ginger cat and a large stash of hand-dyed yarn. She works as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor and enjoys pushing her clients and class participants out of their comfort zones. She’s happiest when they text her the day after a workout complaining about sore arms and legs.

It’s never hip to trip: exercises to strengthen your hip flexors.

Alas, unlike wine, muscular strength does not improve with age. Vino Curls w/ Tamara
From about age 30 onward, we lose strength at a rate of approximately 10% each year. Recent studies suggest that not all muscle groups are equally affected. In women, the loss of hip flexor and hip abductor strength is significantly more pronounced than that in any other muscle group.

The iliopsoas, rectus femoris and tensor fasciae latae (collectively referred to as the “hip flexors”), connect the lower spine and pelvis to the thigh bone, thereby allowing you to bend at the hip (for example, during a sit-up) and to raise and lower your legs (while standing or lying flat on your back).HipFlexion_TGrand

While often the focus of intense stretching (most of us have chronically tight hip flexors from running, cycling, driving, sitting and heck, just engaging in 21st century life), the hip flexors are rarely targeted in strength training programs.

In fact, many of the courses I’ve attended as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor have specifically discouraged the inclusion of hip flexor strengthening movements in both group fitness and on-on-one training settings – “Stretch, not strengthen” being the main take home message.

Ironically, as we get older, the hip flexors are precisely the muscles we need to actively strengthen. They not only help with balance and postural stability, strong hip flexors can also keep us from tripping and falling. The stronger your hip flexors, the more likely you’ll be able to lift your leg to avoid tripping and the fewer the number of steps required to regain your balance during a fall.

Join me as I demonstrate my three favorite hip flexor strengthening exercises. Add them to your current strength training program, aiming for 12 to 15 repetitions of each move per side, two to three times per week.

Strengthen your hip flexors and I guarantee, the only trips you’ll be taking will be to warm, sunny climes!

Don’t forget to stretch when you’re done! Alexandra and Kymberly will be happy to show you the right and wrong way to perform a hip flexor stretch.

Tamara believes that exercise and healthy eating need to be part of everyone’s life and aims to inspire and motivate others by showing them that if she can do it, anyone can. She blogs about fitness, food, family and fiber (knitting fiber, that is) at fitknitchick.com and is always thrilled when you comment on her posts. Please follow her on Twitter @fitknitchick_1.

Photo Credits: Tamara Grand

13

3 Exercises You Never Have to Do Again after 2012

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Build that Bust

Build that Bust

Ready to leave behind certain moves, memories, and mad moments of 2012? Want to enter 2013 with exercises that are effective and efficient? Say sayonara to the following exercises that are useless at best, injurious at worst. Yes, you have the official Fun and Fit wand wave to refrain forever from certain moves!

Unweighted Arm Circles

We confess – we used to teach air circles ourselves back in the 80s. But they don’t actually work anything effectively. The arm circling exercise really just stresses the shoulder and wrist joints. If you want to target your biceps, triceps, or forearm, you have much better options. Comment below if you want us to make videos showing you those better upper body and arm exercises.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7HQjlbFzKM&feature=share&list=PLkNW77Cz_XKGdRnYXJn9V7TfuVH-Zbs-X[/youtube]

Standing Chest Squeezes, aka “Bust Builders”

We must, we must, we must build up our bust.
For fear, for fear, we won’t fill our brassiere.
Who recognizes that ditty from grade school PE? Did you also have to chant those words while doing chest squeezes, bust builders, or whatever you called them? As an adult have you tried standing pec work with free weights in your hands to strengthen your chest? One problem: the resistance factor is all wonky so there’s no significant pectoral work. All this exercise does is stress your shoulder joint.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ep7pTGJgC08&feature=share&list=PLkNW77Cz_XKGdRnYXJn9V7TfuVH-Zbs-X[/youtube]

Leg Lifts, Fire Hydrant Style

Don’t use this fire hydrant to put out any hot hiney flames! This so-called leg & butt exercise (it isn’t) is a useless exercise unless you want your hip to hurt. Mostly you are getting external hip rotation joint action, which has some value but not as a great glute move. You can do so many other, better exercises for your legs, and tush that don’t depend on low resistance, high repetition wafting through the air.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dSQubp4zB4&feature=share&list=PLkNW77Cz_XKGdRnYXJn9V7TfuVH-Zbs-X[/youtube]

Click to see more exercises that DON’T work in our YouTube Playlist: Exercise No No’s – Funny, Useless, Parodies and Otherwise

To see exercises that DO work, take a look at a few of our other YouTube Playlists:
Right and Wrong Way to do Exercises
Get Better Posture and Spinal Alignment
Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45

End 2012 with action that will propel you into a more fit 2013:  Subscribe now to our YouTube channel and blog. Please also follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Click now on the icons above or below. We make it easy to share and subscribe!

10

Lunges to Shape the Tush and Lower Body: Right & Wrong Way

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Lunges are the second-most popular exercise (after squats) for toning the glutes, lower body and core, plus they’re great for improving balance. What’s not to love?

 

Did we mention no equipment is necessary, except for gravity? For all their benefits, lunges are only effective if done with good form and technique. For whatever reasons, they are hard for most people to execute properly. After 30 years of teaching lunges, we thought we’d share some of the wrong and right ways to get a leg up on your lunges!
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zvJzhpI7BQU[/youtube]

 

 

Most common errors:
* front knee too far forward
* back knee too close to the ground
* back foot diagonal, putting it out of alignment
* upper body leaning forward
* feet too close together
* leading with toes (for moving lunges)

Correct form:
* knee, hip, toes and heel square to front (if there is knee torque, use the knee as the gauge)
* feet hip distance apart
* front knee directly above the ankle
* back knee at a 90 degree angle, several inches off the floor
* upper body lined up – head over heart over hips
* leading with heel (for moving lunges)

Don’t lurk. Don’t lurch. Lunge! While you’re at it, according to the American Council on Exercise, an excellent weight loss combination is lunges and walking uphill. Say, did we ever show you our video about uphill walking?

Which do you prefer, lunges or squats? Or lurches?

The Original Lurch – “You Rang?”

Lower your fingers over the keyboard, then lunge forward to hit “subscribe” on our YouTube channel and blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar.

Picture credit:  admiller, Unofficial Addams Family site

1 2 3