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 dance, baby, dance! 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 dogs. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful (read our post on what walking can do for you). 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, a friend and 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?
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.
ACTION: Improve your brain and body at least twice a week when you subscribe to our blog. Enter your email and claim your free bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.”
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
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.
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.
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: I was going to meditate, but I forgot. Maybe next time.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
1. People your age are starting to have health issues and you don’t want to join your peer group in this particular activity. You want to stay vibrant and energetic and independent and active and you know that it takes just a few new habits or changes to get where you want to be. You also want to stick around long enough to add commas and remove a few “ands” from the previous sentence.
2. Your high school reunion is coming up. Time to impress that person you always had a crush on. Time to make all the mean girls super envious of your vivacity. Have you noticed that fit people are attractive? It’s actually true. Exercise and healthy living give you confidence and energy. Confident, energetic people appear more attractive. Some weird evolutionary thing that makes sense. Notice we didn’t say “skinny” or “thin.” We said “fit” and “healthy.” Define your goal, baby.If you view yourself as an exerciser your habits will change to meet that self-image. Click To Tweet
3. Your stress levels will go down. Yup, exercise reduces stress. In fact, it’s the number two motivator for working out (We know you’re wondering, so click this link to read our post that gives the number one motivator). Making snow angels decreases stress too, FYI.
4. You will avoid the somewhat unrealistic expectation that you can get fit in time for a trip that starts on a Saturday if you start working out on the previous Wednesday. Much more realistic is to start a wee bit sooner. If your goal is weight loss, you can safely sustain a weight loss of 1 ½ to 2 pounds per week, so if you start today you will lose about 6 or 7 pounds in less than a month. If you’re thinking, “Hey, my goal is 35 pounds. What good is 6 or 7,” my answer is this – you’ll be 1/5th of the way there, if “there” is your weight loss goal. But your outlook and how you feel will be 75% of the way there, because research says that you will start to view yourself as an exerciser, which means your habits will change to meet that self-image. In straight-talk, after a few weeks your self-perception will change. From there, your activities change to meet this new self-view. Four or 5 months may seem like a long time if you’re planning to lose 35 pounds, but how long did it take to put ON those 35 pounds? Give yourself a break, eh?!
5. Want to be smarter? Want to stave off memory loss, confusion, and dementia? Er, wait, I got distracted. More than anything else, exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. It gives better commands to your body. I always tell my university students that the best time for them to take a test is right after exercise class, NOT after staying up all night studying (while ingesting abnormal amounts of caffeine). We love the link between exercise and brainpower so much that we have written extensively on it. Exercise Can Train Your Brain, Spark Your Brain with Exercise, and Exercise Your Right to a Better Brain are three posts to get you started.Exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. Click To Tweet
6. You will save money. You will have more energy. You will look better. You will feel better. You will meet a lot of cool people. Your math skills will improve. You’ll get an end of year tax deduction…One of these may be false. Hint: As you now know, exercise makes you smarter, so it’s actually quite possible your math skills will improve. For example, I was going to write 10 Reasons, but got bogged down when I carried the 1, multiplied the 0, subtracted the junk food, added the Lycra and Voila, ended up with 6 Reasons!The best time to take a test or give a presentation is right after you exercise. Click To Tweet
Text & photos by Alexandra Williams, MA
Brush your teeth before sitting down to watch a TV show. You’ll be less likely to eat those high-calorie, no nutritional benefit snacks.
Write out your grocery list, then stick to it. If marshmallow caramel chocolate double-dipped snack-a-doodles aren’t on your list, they don’t go in the basket. You can’t eat what isn’t in the house.
Whenever you have to wait for someone (a child at school, spouse at an appointment, friend at the movies), walk while you wait instead of sitting. If you have to stay in one place, then stand and move about the room (or fidget). If it’s a 10-minute appointment, go for a 10-minute walk. You’d be amazed at the number of steps you can add to your day just by NOT sitting.
Buy foods in bulk. If your rice is in a 5-pound bag, then you are lifting a 5-pound weight when you carry it. Do a few bicep curls before you use up all the rice! You don’t need fancy weights to work out. An overhead press with a 5-pound bag of flour works… and leaves you with a nice powdery dusting in your hair.
1. Get up during tv commercials and either walk or jog in place or grab a broom and sweep the floor. Yup, do a chore; it’s not a bore; you can reap more… when you move during ads.
2. Set a timer to remind you to stand up and walk at least 100 steps every 20-30 minutes. Takes just 2 minutes and prevents the physical and mental atrophy that comes with sitting too long at a stretch.
3. Meditate to relieve stress, increase cognitive skills, enhance compassion, reduce blood pressure, and send more blood and oxygen to your brain. Take advantage of free phone apps to build in a 5-8 minute meditation. Longer is great; but even a short meditation session will bring benefits. For suggestions on apps you can download, click to our post Meditation, Menopause, and Memory.
4. Repeat Yourself Yourself. When you go to sit down, sit, then stand, then sit. Then when you are ready to get up again (see my second tip), stand, then sit down, then stand and go! Congrats! You have just completed two squats. If you repeat this down-up-down up-down-up pattern a few times a day, you’ll have easily and quickly worked in a full squat set. Hello easy lower body strengthener!
5. Swap out your computer, office, or tv watching chair for a stability ball. At least you will get some core activation while sitting. Takes fewer than 10 minutes to switch the chair for the ball, but you’ll reap the rewards the entire time you are on the ball. Yes, get on the ball people!
Action: Reading and exercising make you smarter, which also leads to brain health, right? So subscribe to our twice-weekly posts. They’ll get you all smartened up. And first crack at our upcoming Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 program.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Active Aging: Making frequent small choices that enable you to move as freely as possible throughout your world.
Say what?! Well, I could have said “Move a lot and exercise,” but it’s not really that. Besides, that sounds like one or two choices per day. The truth is that it is NOT so much the choice to go to an exercise class or do an activity that works up a sweat. It is the repeated small choices we make every day.
I’ll give you an example that illustrates the “Use it or Lose it” principle. I was at an event this past weekend where we had access to a pool, which was at the bottom of a hill. After swimming, we had lunch at the top of the hill. It was very hot, so the 3-minute walk up and down the hill wasn’t fun. A ride was provided for those who didn’t want to walk. Nearly everyone took the ride, saying they didn’t like to walk uphill. That was a choice. Yet if we play this out, look what happens:
Many older people we know (and a few younger ones too, sadly) are no longer able to walk at all, due entirely to the many small choices they made over the years to NOT move. They didn’t use their legs, so they lost the ability to use their legs. They aged inactively.
What do you think might have happened if they had chosen the stairs instead of the elevator? Those were repeated, small choices. What if they had gone for a 10-minute walk around the block while waiting for their loved one to come out from an appointment or school? What if they had gone in the pool with their kids instead of sitting on the chaise longue? Or stood up to change the TV channel instead of using the remote control? All small choices that lead to active aging.
You don’t need to get sweaty and exhausted. You don’t need to climb a steep hill … today. You just need to make small, incremental choices every single day that lead you toward doing the things you want to do five, ten and twenty years from now. What you don’t use, you’ll lose. Once you’re in the habit of walking, you’ll find that sitting for long periods of time is actually physically uncomfortable. And you want that. You want to be more comfortable moving than not moving.
This is my plea to you – Make small choices
And this is my wish for you – Live a long, active, healthy, enjoyable life that ends abruptly, not slowly
by Alexandra Williams, MA
What are some of the small choices you make every day that lead you toward or away from activity? What do you want to be doing when you’re 65, 75, 85, 95?
Make one small choice right now and subscribe to our fantabulous posts by entering your email right over there to the right.———> They will magically arrive in your inbox two times per week. Also, subscribe to me, AlexandraFunFit on Periscope, and watch my amazing travel and fitness scopes (videos).
As children, we learned about Ponce de León and the mythical Fountain of Youth. But did you know it actually exists? Not in a creepy, Dorian Gray way either. Every town, every home, and every person has access to the fountain; it’s just known under a different name now. The Fountain of Youth’s true name is …
Ah, ah, ah, don’t get discouraged by that word. You probably thought “easy” when you read “fountain of youth,” and “hard” when you read “exercise.” But what if the path to exercise was much easier than you thought? What if moving and eating better and more appropriately for our midlife years were as easy as the not-so-helpful habits you currently have?
Our TransformAging Webinar Summit is ready to go, and you’re invited to join our 8 experts for this 6-video series that will get you slapping your forehead and saying, “Gee, I could’ve
had a V8 restarted my fitness years ago if I’d realized it wouldn’t be so overwhelming.”
Look below for a few hot tips in the ol’ town tonight that come from the various TransformAging sessions. You’ll get solutions and antidotes for all the Fit Facts below. But first, a few quiz questions to whet your Fountain of Youthiness thirst and appetite:
If you don’t want to be that person spending the last 8 to 9 years of your life ill and in pain, then register for this TransformAging Summit. (If you don’t want to be the caretaker for that person then our webinar series is for you and your loved one). The sooner you take the steps to age actively, the better your upcoming years will be.
So step up to some more of those Fit Facts from the Summit, we say!
In case you didn’t have a chance to read our post giving all the info about the TransformAging Webinar, we’ll list the six video titles again so you can see just how tremendous this FREE (on 6/03 & 6/04) summit is:
Register Right Here – It Costs you $000000 (that’s zero multiplied) for the live broadcast this Wednesday and Thursday at 2:30 pm PDT. And don’t worry – if you cannot watch all six at their original broadcast times, you can get them later for a teeny, tiny payment that’s lower than you’d pay for just one of the workouts Debra Atkinson provides in her session. And put all the money you just saved into the vacation kitty for your future dream trip to Rancho la Puerta spa, a health and wellness retreat just east of San Diego. The Perfect Place for People who want to age actively!
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
You SAY you want to start again with a fitness program that is tailored to your midlife body; that you intend to move more often, though comfortably; that you’d love to be strong enough to enjoy the second half of life even more than the first. You now have the chance to put your money where your menopot is!
We recently told you about our TransformAging Webinar Summit for Women Over 45, which is only a week away, on June 3 and 4 starting at 5:30 pm EST/2:30pm PT and accessible for 48 hours at no cost.A Fountain of Youth really does exist, and it’s free to you. Just like this TransformAging Summit that’s sponsored by our long-time friends, Rancho la Puerta Resort. Registration is now open, so sign-up here to join us. So easy. Just like many of the active aging secrets we and 5 other fitness experts will share with you.
Have you thought back to movement you used to do and decided “I need something more attainable and less intense now that I am in my second half of life”? Yet you still want to enjoy all that life has to offer, in a comfortable, sensible way? So have we. As a matter of fact, so many of you have contacted us asking for exactly these sessions, that we gathered up the BEST presenters just for you.
Why stay in one of the 7 circles of hormone and weight gain hell, when you can stroll the labyrinth of a comfortable life? This six-video collection offers practical strategies to make the second half of life as rewarding as the first. Take at gander at the session titles:
If you’re like Chris O’Dowd in Bridesmaids (love that movie), you’re probably saying, “Really? Really?” by now in a sexy Irish accent because you cannot believe we said you could get all 6 videos for free. But we cannot tell a lie (a different movie altogether) – you get them FREE for 48 hours. That’s 2 days (June 3 & 4), 6 videos, 8 experts, and 1 YOU, gaining access to interviews, practical tips, and easy-to-follow strategies geared specifically toward Over-45 Women.
See the picture just below? That’s Alexandra at Rancho la Puerta a few weeks ago. Does that look like strength training? It is. Does it look fun? It was. Movement is fun. Climbing stuff is fun. Eating well is fun. Going to a spa resort with friends is fun. Hiking through the grove shown below is fun. And all of this liveli-fun-ness is accessible to you too, once you make a few simple changes to your daily habits.
Oh excuse me, but isn’t that Kymberly doing an even livelier version of the post-hike, archway hang? And she’ll hang there until you register for our TransformAging Summit. Please hurry and do so as those rocks can be slippery!
Did you Register Right Here yet?
Now you get some lovely pictures taken at Rancho la Puerta, which is about an hour’s drive east of San Diego. We partnered with them because they are the ideal fitness and health resort for Boomer women. Even if you spend all your time lounging at the pool and getting massages, you’ll still get more fit, thanks to two other key components of active aging that the Ranch offers that have nothing to do with exercise or food. .
Let your Inner Fabulosity Bloom. And in case you’re too tired to scroll back up, here is the registration link once again. We invite you to join us on June 3 and 4.
By Alexandra Williams-MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
You SAY you want to be more fit and active. You really MEAN to work out more. But somehow the days, weeks, months, dare we say “years” slip by and there you are — still intending to finally be more active but not actually doing much about it. Forget guilt, self-beratement, and worrying about having excuses that last longer than your most recent resolution.
(Like the chart I made? Please feel free to pin the heck out of it.)
If you could take a magic pill (yes, one that tastes good, has no side effect, costs nothing, and is small) that instantly gave you the body measurements you want for the rest of your life, would you swallow it if it meant never being able to exercise again?
Non-exercisers grab for the gusto with a hearty “heck yeah, I’d swig that pill down! And what do you mean when you say ‘able to exercise?’ Don’t you mean ‘HAVE to exercise’?”
Exercisers break into two camps: most say “hmmm, tough choice, but ultimately I’d pass as the other benefits of exercise outweigh simply looking good. No magic pill for me, gracias”
The second camp of exercisers tries to negotiate: “any chance I could take that magic pill AND still work out regularly? Then I’d get the best of all options.”
Alexandra Williams, MA
We talked about the cognitive benefits of change in Train Your Brain. We even discussed how to make a chart for getting from A to Z, or 0 to 10, or from here to there (okay, Seuss lovers, what book is that from?) – however you want to put it.
Today I am going to talk about how small steps led me to possibly making more money. Yup, financial benefits come from change. *rubs checkbook between fingers*
I love exercise, as it does so much for me. But (contrary to what some people believe) exercise isn’t my whole life. Though I’ve never considered myself creative, I do like to bake, write and travel. But never have I been able to take a good picture. The whole concept of photography totally overwhelmed me, just as I’m sure it’s overwhelming for some of you to consider adding movement to your life.
But I went from barely understanding my iPhone camera to becoming a pro photographer, as of today. All by incremental steps and with encouragement. Essentially, I asked for a camera for my birthday, signed up for classes at the community college, did the homework, practiced and practiced, asked for and took advice to improve, then submitted my photos to a stockhouse that licenses out the rights for usage, and today I got accepted. I may never sell a single photo (I will work at it, though), but I have become competent, and confident that I can and will improve and succeed. The steps I took to learn photography aren’t of interest; my mental process is what might resonate with you.
See if you’ve ever had similar thoughts, substituting movement for photography.
“I want to become a photographer, but I have no idea where to start”
“I’ll ask for a camera for my birthday because then I’ll HAVE to do something”
“Okay, now that I have a camera, I at least should read the manual”
”Hm, this is intimidating, and I want to do it right, without wrecking my camera”
“I signed up for a class, so that I can learn to do it right, AND because now I’ll have to go since I paid”
“Aargh, this is so confusing. I just KNOW that everyone here knows more than I do”
“Wow, the teacher noticed how hard I’m working. That’s cool”
“Another student in class asked me for help today. Haha. She must think I know something”
“Now that I’ve taken my camera with me nearly every day, and taken thousands of pictures, I’m starting to understand a bit more”
“The teacher encouraged me (okay, and everyone else) to submit my photos to a stockhouse that licenses photos for MONEY. I just might try. The worst is that they’ll say no”
“I submitted my photos, and they were all accepted on the very first try. I can stop feeling like a poseur. Poseurs don’t get accepted to a professional stockhouse”
“I feel really happy with myself. I had a goal and I did it. Time for a new goal – learn nighttime photography”
Does this process sound familiar? Even me, with all my confidence, had so many doubts. But I wanted to be successful badly enough to keep at it and risk being… what? The same as I was? Worse? The only way to be worse was if I had berated myself for not trying. It’s not like I would have become a worse photographer after trying. I might have just had no talent for it. But I would have still been successful because I tried instead of dithering (I just like to say “dithering.” Probably from an overdose of BBC shows).
These four photos are the ones I submitted as my test for approval at Alamy Photo Stockhouse. The pictures have things I could have done better, and things I did well. The main thing is that I did them. Me, a non-photographer. Nope, me, a professional photographer.
Go out there and take steps toward your goals. The feeling when you do is really tremendous. It feels so good to be happy. Even if I never make more than enough money for a cup of vanilla chai, I still get to call myself a pro. So worth every crappy photo I took (and will continue to take) on my journey.
By the way, if you’re in the U.S. you might like to enter our giveaway for Cold-EEZE natural cold remedies. They have six different types, and you might win one of the 5 sets they’re offering.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Thanks and sweaty hugs to those who participated. You burned two calories just by clicking away. Of the roughly 135 entries recorded, the top vote getters of the surveys are below. The answers are listed with most popular leading off.
What Does “Age Gracefully” Mean to You?
We confess that we offered the option “Age Gracefully” because so many midlife women identify with the phrase. As you’ll read in our post on getting older in a positive way, we don’t use this term too much ourselves.
But we really don’t know what aging gracefully means to you as it’s such a subjective phrase. So we asked online baby boomers to tell us their interpretation. (Yes, we did a highly subjective survey in Facebook. Worked for our purposes! We even got a few replies from men).
Forget Aging Gracefully; Go For Gratefully
What do you think of this reworking of the phrase from Gigi Schilling, over at Over Fifty & Irresistible! in Facebook?
Gigi prefers to age gratefully instead of gracefully. “Aging gracefully is a bit demeaning to me. I prefer to age GRATEFULLY even though I also believe that GRACE is a must in everyone’s life at any age.”
Alexandra here to say that no-one told me I was supposed to age “gracefully.” In fact, I wasn’t even aware that I was “supposed” to age in any manner at all. Whatever the expectations were for my parents, they no longer apply. We are the generation that grew up being called “Foxy Ladies,” so I’m sticking with that self-concept and being clever as a fox. In other words, I’m using my mind every day to motivate my body to move so that all the Silver Foxes will be motivated to call me Foxy Lady when I’m 80. All it takes is a smile and confidence (and some knee surgery here and there). Survey that!!
Overall, the results indicate that we boomers most fear losing our faculties and function. We are motivated by how we feel and function much more than how we look. Being hale and hearty ranks the highest. Now that’s what we call “Active Aging!”
Now please stay active and comment below. What’s your TOP numero uno reason for exercising?