Turns 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? Then it’s time for some Fall Prevention.
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. Plus take a look at Stability, Balance, and Age once you’re done reading this post.Worried about falling? Increase core strength and apply any of 3 key strategies Click To Tweet
Kymberly: When Alexandra and I attended and spoke at an IDEA Personal Training Institute 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:
One: 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 as part of fall prevention! So the first order of business is to strengthen our core.
Alexandra: Take advantage of the core exercises we present in our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50. Below are two selections from that collection. Give them a whirl. Then consider getting all the videos and content.
Rotating Abs/ Core Move 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.
Before getting to the next two strategies, find out how good your balance is via this post:
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.
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.
Action: Do check out our Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50 if you want to become more fall proof.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
You want to get in better shape? Return your post-menopause weight to pre-menopause levels? Have you heard the oh-so-true true rumors that strength training is very important especially for women over 50? Maybe you’re ready to get going with a new resistance routine. But dang if that weight training equipment out on the gym floor looks intimidating and perhaps a little confusing.
What to do? What to do? Why, get into strength training classes led by a qualified group fitness instructor.
But first let’s cover what NOT to do: imitate the moves you see other people doing out on the gym floor. We have seen some seriously crazy stuff and wacky technique performed by exercisers on their own. Even if the moves you see around you are done safely and make sense for THAT exerciser, they may not be right for YOU.Strength exercises you see others do may not be right for YOU. How can you choose the right… Click To Tweet
Let’s also take a moment to wave good-bye to the exercises you may be digging up from school PE class memory. Odds are good those exercises need to be left back there. (No Mr. Hammond, duck walks across the playground do not strengthen the lower body. I don’t care how many 5th graders you quack and bark at).
Why go it alone when trying to figure out which exercises are best for you to increase your strength? IF you want to embark on a weight training program that will:
THEN go with the pros. In strength training classes. Where you reap the benefits of moves led by a professional.
Think of group strength training classes as a place to draft off the instructor’s knowledge and skills. You can then take that information and experience and apply it to your solo workouts outside the class environment.
If you have a qualified instructor, you can trust the exercises s/he is demonstrating. You get moves that offer a stamp of approval. Listen for comments from the instructor that tell you the how, why, what, and how much for each exercise. Take mental notes so you have a toolbox to pull from when on your own.
Even the best strength move offers little benefit if it’s not executed well. A class setting with a good teacher offers something no solo workout can — external feedback and correction. Learn what to do in step one; Improve on how with this step.New to strength training? Get into a class led by a qualified fitness teacher before going solo. Click To Tweet
Why did or didn’t you feel an exercise as expected? How can you adapt a move to your particular condition? What’s another option with the same goal? Most group fitness teachers are happy to give a few minutes of their time and expertise after class.
Especially for beginning weight trainers (like yourself, perhaps?), a class can be a welcoming place with like-minded people. If you’re like many of our past participants, you want to hide when first starting a new program. It’s easier to blend in within a class than to face the intimidation of the machines and rows of free weights outside the classroom doors.
Maybe you’ll enjoy your class and new strength so much you’ll decide to train forever and ever in a group setting. But if not, you now have a community to venture onto the gym floor “armed” and ready!
When you come to Santa Barbara, my sister and I invite you to come to our classes! We promise to load you up with weights and good ideas! If you aren’t sure whether group fitness classes are for you, read this and be prepped for happiness and success: All Sizes Welcome: Fitness Pros Want You! /Now get out there and resist, resist, resist!
ACTION: But don’t resist the opportunity to get active aging answers twice a week when you subscribe. Enter your email in any of the boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
How many times have you thought, “I want to improve my fitness program, but NOT the hard core one I did when I was younger?” As a baby boomer or older adult are you looking for intelligent, effective, yet comfortable exercise options? Do you worry about losing cognitive skills, getting hurt, gaining weight, losing strength, and not being able to do activities you love? At the same time, do you like to know that your workout and exercise choices are smart ones? Perhaps even cutting edge and trending?
Then the themes and trends I experienced (and contributed to) at the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention will help you meet your goals. (For my sister’s take on overall fitness trends, take a peek at “5 Trends from the Annual IDEA Convention.”)
My focus was first on doing well in my own session as a presenter. I shared 7 principles for creating outstanding group programs for baby boomers. You get 3 of them here! Then I attended every other session devoted to the over 50 exerciser, especially the more active movers and groovers (as opposed to sessions devoted to the frail and elderly).
The biggest trend I saw was the very fact that fitness pros from around the world are FINALLY interested in serving the over 50 exerciser – specifically, in a targeted way. My session, “Fitness Over 50: Getting ReStarted” was filled to capacity. Yay! And the other presentations devoted to our age group were also packed. Heck, this year IDEA offered the most sessions ever devoted to the midlifer and older adult. That’s related to trend #2 – IDEA and the various presenters for this age group finally separated the “older exerciser” into two distinct groups: the baby boomers (ages 52-70) and the seniors or “matures” who are 70+. Prior to this year anyone 50-100 was lumped into one category.
If you are curious about other trends for our age group, read my take on the Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2016
Trend #1 - fitness focus on the over 50 exerciser is finally cool and Hawt! #activeaging Click To Tweet
What were some key fitness themes and workout design principles for older adults as evidenced at the IDEA Convention? How can you incorporate them into your workouts? The following 3 themes, or guiding principles will help you create the best workouts for your midlife body. These principles are adapted from my session, which must have been trendy as all the other “older adult” presenters alluded to them as well.
If you weave in even one or two of these themes, you will be able to:
Why not get a two-fer benefit with each exercise choice? Look for opportunities to cross the midline of your body with an arm, leg or both at once.
Move to music that has polyrhythms or beats that are more complex than straight count.
Attend workout classes where the instructor cues patterns. The brain work involved in interpreting verbal commands and following choreography literally increases your dendrites, ganglia, and axons.
Ask yourself whether the moves you are choosing relate to activities of daily living (ADL). For instance, incorporate dynamic balance moves, not solely static ones since we normally need to balance while moving, not holding still. Recognize walking as the ultimate and primary balance and functional move. So take walks. And when you do, test your balance by intermittently slowing your stride. Super slow. Then speed up. Super fast.
Let’s say you have a plan to travel. Keep in mind that especially in foreign countries you’ll be climbing stairs; walking on uneven terrain; navigating unfamiliar environments; carrying loads, dealing with fatigue and time changes. Plan to be your active best when traveling by making stepping up and down part of your workout program. Or lifting your legs up and over things so you’ll be ready for those low walls abroad.Practice twisting and turning while carrying weights (luggage, souvenirs, small grandchildren).
Do you include posture work in your routine? If not, it’s tiiiiime. Which do you think will have a bigger impact on your ability to age actively — having popping fresh biceps (single joint strength training isolation move) or having a strong core and back that keep you lifted and long? (Yeah, the opposite of stooped with rounded shoulders).
Use balance work as a move itself or as a stance option for any standing move. Not only could you incorporate balance moves into your workout, but also you can improve your balance while working your upper body or doing standing stretches. How? But narrowing your stance. Don’t always set your feet shoulder width apart and parallel. Instead, place one foot directly in front of the other in what’s called “tandem” position. Now try those tricep kickbacks or upper body stretch. Trickier right? Whenever possible choose a narrow vs wide base of support.
Are you already rethinking your program? Less working one muscle at a time and more enhancing your overall ability to move and continue doing the activities you enjoy?
QUESTION: Would you be interested in a digital product that offered moves and workout programs that follow the themes listed here? If we created videos and support text that allowed you to mix and match effective programs with balance, posture, and functional exercises, would you value that?
ACTION: While pondering the above, why not subscribe if you aren’t already part of our community? Enter your email in any of the opt-in boxes plus claim your bonus booklet.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
It’s that time of year again when we track down workout, exercise, and fitness trends and fill you in. Why? So you can be your best, most actively aging, up-to-date you. Is that too much to ask?Who loves spotting fitness trends? Especially for active women over 50 and baby boomers? Top 10… Click To Tweet
In prepping for a presentation on fitness trends for the North Atlantic Club Athletic Director Association’s conference held in Seattle at the Washington Athletic Club (WAC), I discovered a slew of predictions. The following promise to be of particular interest to actively aging midlife women:
Besides the fad that may become a trend of me trying to hold my abs engaged, you get five more fitness trends for 2016:
If you did your brain boosting exercises, which you monitored on your wearable technology outdoors at a resort after a healthy meal, then you’d see that the above 5 + 5 trends get us to the promised 10. Ta dum! Over and out — to move and look for more trends.
If you wonder which prior years’ trend predictions came true or fizzled, go here: Want to Know Top Insider Fitness Trends and Quotes?
and here: 5 Healthy Food Trends
and also here: Exercise Trends for the Over 50 Crowd
Heck, why not be the most informed trendtracker EVAH and also go here: I’m Spa-tacus and Other Spa Industry Trends
ACTION: Subscribe to get more, be more, live more. Need we say more? Enter your email and name in any of the boxes.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Have you heard you have to hold a long-lever plank for 5 minutes in order to be “cool” or to achieve results? Are you reluctant to attempt this classic ab exercise because that goal seems out of reach? Good news! As few as 20 seconds doing planks with good form will strengthen your core and work your abs. As well, you don’t need to crunch, flex your neck, or lift up your head. Check out the benefit of dropping down after 20 seconds and restarting in this post we wrote on short duration planking: Interval Planks Will Activate Your Abs
Planks are accessible to nearly everyone, as many versions exist. If you are a beginner planker, start on your knees. If you want a bit more challenge, but are not yet ready for a parallel plank on your toes, place your feet wide apart. If you want a ton more ideas to improve your abs, then take advantage of the program we created specifically for baby boomers: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.
Good question. Even better answer is to keep reading as we offer bullets below and a video demo. AAAAaaand, pop over to our post that has another video going over dos and don’ts.
If you’re considering adding planks to your fitness regimen, watch our video. You’ll see four different modifications, and instructions for good form.
As few as 20 seconds doing planks w/ good form will strengthen your core & work your abs Click To Tweet
One caveat: We mention holding for 30 seconds in the video, but research also indicates you can hold for as little as 20, take a short break, then get back into plank position. Whether you choose 20 or 30 second intervals, stick with the plank position that gives you the best form.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Based on 1) our group fitness teaching experience, 2) educational events we attend focused on serving the needs of women over 50, over 60, and other active older adults, and 3) Kymberly’s certification as a Functional Aging Specialist, we suggest the following:
1) Reduce ab work that requires forward spinal flexion such as crunches. Decades of hunched posture and rounded shoulders take a toll on the spine. Look for opportunities to strengthen your abs that do not require more forward curvature. So long “old lady” back hump; hello stronger abs and a more comfy neck! Reverse curls, planks, and abs exercises that keep your head on the floor and lower spine protected are great options.Reverse curls and planks protect your spine while strengthening your abs. Click To Tweet
Want to see one of those options? Then head over to Abs and Core Exercises Safe for the Lower Back. Eager to get more for your core? Read this post as well: Get Ultimate Abs: Better Yet, a Strong Core. In fact, if you want heaps of No Crunch moves designed for the young at heart, but older in body, click this link to a program we created: The Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
2) Integrate stability ball activities into your exercise program. The ball is a great tool, as you can do both cardio and toning with it. For example, did you know you can lie on your back and relax your head while doing an exercise to strengthen your obliques?
Take a look at this video for ideas:
Here at Fun and Fit: Active Aging Answers for Boom Chicka Boomers, we love anything that combines lying down with exercise. No, we don’t mean what you just thought! Hmm, come to think of it, having sleek abs and a strong core can improve your sexy status. Again we suggest you take advantage of our “Ultimate Abs” digital product.
3) Organize your workout from standing to sitting to kneeling to lying down or vice versa in order to minimize the times you get up and down from the floor. Having said that, do practice coming from lying to standing as part of your workout. You can even make this an exercise. Try going from standing to sitting to standing without putting a hand on the floor and you’ll see what we mean.
This ability is so important that we made a short video about it for you. Watch and test yourself with the: Sitting to Rising Test. Not so easy was it?
4) Integrate two-footed take-offs and landings into your activities. The ability to hop or jump, even if low and close minimizes risk of falling. Most people stop jumping and doing any power moves as they age. However, unless joint pain precludes even small jumps, having power becomes more important for injury prevention with age. Click this link to see more on power training and avoiding falls.The ability to hop or jump minimizes risk of falling. Click To Tweet
5) Note any changes in your capabilities and account for them in your workout plan. For instance, is your vision deteriorating? Could that be affecting your balance given the role sight plays in staying upright and balanced? If so, incorporate more balance training into your exercise program.
6) For cardio training, maximize movements that take you forwards, backwards, and sideways. However, cut down on quick turns, pivots, and sharp direction changes. Such moves can throw you off balance and tax your knee joints if you cannot anticipate them to react with perfect form.Doing power moves & 2 footed hops becomes more important for injury prevention with age Click To Tweet
If you are a fitness pro who wants to work with baby boomers and “matures”, this magazine article, What Older Adults Want by Alexandra will tell you what older adults desire from their teacher.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
If all goes well, you will age. HOW you grow older is largely under your control and a result of choices you make. Don’t watch your waist expand and your world shrink with each passing year.
Like you, Alexandra and I are baby boomers who know that added years often means added weight, more aches and pains, and reduced strength. But this decline is not inevitable and can be reversed —- if you take certain, critical actions. Some of those actions involve cutting out crunches and adding tailored core exercises that minimize flexing the spine at the neck. You are also well served to perform abdominal moves that require no head lifting.HOW you grow old is largely under your control and a result of choices you make Click To Tweet
Take advantage of Alexandra’s and my combined 70 years’ experience as certified fitness professionals to transform your core and more. You can move from weak and (dare we say, perhaps “flabby”) to strong and Fab-Abby! How? By taking a look at our our newly created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” program.
Bust the myth that a 6-pack indicates a strong, age-defying core. A 6-pack certainly looks good. Yeah, we gotta admit that! And it does indicate low body fat. But it says nothing about the ability to function well in daily life, do fun physical activities, or maintain amazing posture.Don’t watch your waist expand & your world shrink with each passing year Click To Tweet
Enjoy some of these photos of me (Kymberly) reaping the benefits of having a strong core even if I don’t sport a 6-pack. Not only do I get to guest teach classes such as “Abs, Balance, and Core” at Rancho la Puerta fitness resort, but also I get to goof off in the oak grove.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to work as hard as it takes to get back the 6-pack of my youth (that I may or may not ever have had in the first place). More to the point, it’s totally possible to have a youthful, functional set of abs even if your 6-pack could be described as a 10-pack.
But you do need core strength to beat the aging odds.You need core strength to beat the aging odds. Click To Tweet
For one, your body grows old faster than your mind. For another, your risk of injury and falling increases. Then there’s that fashion seduction of elastic waistband pants.
Forget that! Gain core power galore! Take a look at our program to see whether it might be right for you.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
No surprise that one of the biggest habits we get asked about as group fitness instructors is how to make exercise a regular part of life. And of course, it’s not just about STARTING a fitness program (especially in the new year), but also STICKING with it.
One of the key ways to successfully put more movement into your life this month, next, and throughout the year is to resist temptation to get fit all at once. Overdoing it and trying to progress too quickly is a sure way to set your new or improved habit up for failure. No one wants to face next year and say “last year I wanted to lose 20 pounds. Only 25 to go.”
Ok, seriously, the trick is to progress at a pace that allows you to convert desire into habit. What often happens:
Every year eager baby boomers, active agers, mid lifers, and others take on too much, too fast, too intensely. They get hard hit, instead of a habit.
When you are looking to improve your movement habits, keep in mind the FIT principle:
Change only ONE of these elements at a time, about every two to three weeks. Going harder and longer and more often all at once is a statistical road to failure. Up the ante one letter at a time – more F or I or T. No ands.
Let me repeat this as it’s so critical and so overlooked: As you progress into your new life of improved movement habits, change only the Frequency, Intensity, or Time of your workouts when you uptick. Stick with the revised version another 2-3 weeks. Then consider whether you need to adjust upward again by going more often, harder, or longer. Pick one. Add. Keep. Adapt. Repeat. A little bit more than the week before.
Sustainable and better for you! Sounds like a new food or vitamin. The FIT principle will help get and KEEP you fit. Next thing you know, you’ll have created a new, healthy, successful exercise habit.
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).
But first, take a look at our recently released program, “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50,” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.
Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.
Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.
Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!
Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!
Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA