Before deciding whether or not to partner with Omron Healthcare, I hopped on a phone call with Jeff Ray, their executive director of business and technology. Both Kymberly and I wear fitness trackers, plus we like to know our BP readings, so the monitors looked to be interesting for you and us.
Let me describe the two monitors, then share the answers Jeff gave to a few questions I asked.
Wrist – Somewhat bigger than a fitness tracker, it looks like a giant watch. You can wear it all day or just for taking your BP reading; whichever you prefer. Me, I’d probably wear it all day in order to take advantage of the fitness tracking aspects. You set it, wait for it to inflate, then Boom, you have the info right at your fingertips (or wrist, as the case may be). No wires, no cuff. You can even send the info to your physician via the OMRON Connect App. It can also remind you to take any necessary medications, and track your compliance.
Upper Arm – Free of tubes and wires, this monitor can track hypertension levels and and detect irregular heartbeats. It also syncs to your smartphone or tablet with the OMRON Connect App. Instead of having the fitness tracker add-ons, the upper arm monitor can precisely measure more data points.
Especially as we age, Kymberly and I like knowing our stats. Since we’re healthy and fit, we don’t go to the doctor’s very often, so having an easy-to-use monitor at home would be a good way to get information more than once or twice a year.
On your behalf, I asked questions that I thought you would have. Let us know in the comments what other questions you’d ask.
Where and when can I get one? – They’ll be available in most drugstores nationwide in late 2016.
What will it cost? – Under $200
How accurate is the wrist monitor, compared to the standard medical upper arm one at the doctor’s office? – There is no difference in accuracy. As a matter of fact, the designers at Omron tried to make the wrist monitor smaller so that it would be closer in size to a standard fitness tracker, but the accuracy was compromised, so they have kept it slightly bigger to retain its accuracy. The one caveat – you must hold your wrist up near your heart.
How often do you have to recharge the battery? – Every two weeks, give or take, depending on the number of hours you wear it, and how often you download the stats. The two week estimate is based on a 2-per-day BP reading.
Are these monitors only for people who are required to check their BP? – Anyone can buy one. (I was curious, because I’d love to have the wrist monitor, but I have no medical issues. My purpose would be to track my stats as part of my plan to PREVENT medical issues)
I was pretty excited, as the wrist monitor in particular seems to be at the crossroads between medicine (both monitors ARE medical devices) and fitness trackers; tertiary care meets preventive care.
This video that Verge did gives even more information.
Bet you didn’t know that one-third of (U.S.) Americans have high blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart disease. As someone who has gone through the trauma of a loved one having two strokes and two TIAs, I can say with 100% conviction that these portable, super cool, app-connected, easy-to-use monitors can help prevent that from happening to you. And if you want to know how to improve your heart’s health, read our recent post, “Healthy Heart: Improve Your Circulation and Flexibility.”
When the monitors DO come out later this year, I’ll be one of the first people in line to try out the wrist monitor. Physical activity, sleep data and accurate BP readings – I’m into knowing those.
Of course, you’ll still have to get a mneumonic device to help you remember the difference between systolic and diastolic. Or is that just me?
Alexandra Williams, MA
This post is sponsored by Omron Healthcare, as part of their #HeartHealthMonth outreach. All thoughts and opinions are our own. Wish we could say the same about the monitors 🙂
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
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
We want to start our first blog post of the year with some ooomph, which is actually more like the sound my body makes when I sit down quickly. So while I’m seated, let’s see if I can hold your interest. Better yet, I hope to inspire you to continue to be…. YOU. In all your glory. Why reinvent yourself when the current you has all you need?
Rather than make any resolutions, I have simply picked a word for the year. It’s “consolidate.” What word would you pick and why? We want to know, so please tell us in the comments. I want to consolidate my gains – recognition for my photo skills, making new friends, joining a dance troupe, getting out and about in downtown where I now live. I also want to consolidate my stressors – financial in particular. Of course, if I can increase my photography work, then my money worries will definitely decrease. Don’t get me started on the $1,900 monthly health insurance bill. Sigh….Why reinvent yourself when the current you has all you need? Continue to be YOU. Click To Tweet
Lately my sis and I have been posting pics of things we enjoy doing, and we get comments about our energy and youthfulness. Which means many people have a mental construct about how Boomer women such as ourselves “should” look and act. Maybe the preconceived Boomer notion comes from memories of our own parents, or perhaps how we view ourselves, but for all of you in our demographic, do you see yourselves as lacking energy and youthfulness?
Maybe for 2016 all of us Boomer ladies need to join hands (preferably to disco music) and pinky swear to take on Carrie Fisher’s reminder that youth and beauty are NOT accomplishments. How we live is an accomplishment.
So my exhortation, advice, suggestion, hope, admonition, and reminder is this – Go live. Live in a way that prevents you from saying “I wish I had done X or Y in 2016” when 2017 rolls around. If you love the outdoors, get out there. If you want to make friends, go make some. If you want to shed people who hold you down or back, shed them. If you want to sell your possessions and go around the world with your kids, do so. Take a chance, or a leap, or a dare. Or just say yes to a few new things. And no to a few others.
My sis said yes to a second dog. She said yes to taking beat-up furniture and making it pretty again. I said yes to being part of a dance group. And even though I was scared of being laughed at by true photo pros, I made note cards from some of my photos and now am selling them. I have even been hired as a photographer for a few ventures. I decided I was more scared of not trying (and of the medical bills). Put your energy where it creates more energy.Put your energy where it creates more energy. Click To Tweet
Of course, we know that we get much of our energy and youthfulness (whatever that actually is) from our love of movement and exercise, and we hope you do too (great chance for me to plug my sister’s upcoming Ultimate Abs ebook), but you know best what gives you energy. That’s a benefit of being older; we know what works for and against us.
Let 2016 be one of many years where you are yourself, but MORE. Happy New Year. And if you haven’t yet subscribed to our twice-weekly posts, this is a perfect time. Just add your email to the bar on the right.
Except where noted, all photos are by me, Alexandra, and are for sale.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
We’ve gone for the past two years as presenters, and know that this year’s event will be the best one yet.
Want a few teasers?
Oh, yeah, you’ll also have four chances to get your fit on with Kymberly and me. Sis is teaching Abs, Butt, Core, plus hosting a seminar, How Fit Are You, while I’m teaching Drums Alive and speaking about Diet Saboteurs.
Once you’re done looking at those, hop over to the Tenaya Lodge site and register.
It’s just a month away, and we are already doing anticipatory relaxing. Join us. You can even have our whiskey.
All photos courtesy of Tenaya Lodge. And this post is not sponsored. We just want you to join us.
We invite you to subscribe to all our posts, which come out twice a week. Sign up to the right ———->
2. Eat your usual breakfast and lunch. Don’t skip a meal thinking you will then be free to make up for lost calories when dinner is served. By the time that occurs, you’re likely to be so hungry that you’ll overeat or choose whatever is closest.
3. Sort foods into 3 categories:
Planning and paying attention have a definite effect on how much you pile on your plate.
4. Use a salad plate instead of dinner plate. You’ll be inclined to eat less. Most of us are visually triggered, so we stop adding food once our plate looks full, regardless of plate size.
5. Get up from the table when done. Do not sit with food in front of you once you’re done. Also, put food away right after you’ve finished dinner or you could end up eating an entire meal’s worth just from picking at the stuff that’s in front of you. If you feel you’re being impolite, just say, “I’m putting stuff in the fridge now so I don’t feel tempted to overeat. Anyone who’s still hungry is more than welcome to help themselves.” Not only are you letting people know why you’re putting food away quickly, you’re also making yourself accountable by stating your goal to not overeat.
6. Use your mind to decide what matters. When loading your plate, ask yourself this question: “Am I choosing this because I’m hungry or because it tastes good?” No right or wrong answer exists; it’s simply that the awareness of your choices will help you make a considered decision as you realize that you are in control, not the food.
7. Go for a walk. What better way to spend quality time with your family or friends than by putting on a jacket and getting outside?
8. Invite guests to your meal whom you admire and respect. Or who wouldn’t otherwise have a friendly place to go celebrate. When the focus is on the guests rather than the food, we tend to eat less. If you have no-one outside of your usual circle to invite over, cook all your food, then take half of it to your local homeless shelter (if they accept outside meals).
9. Put reminders in places where you’ll actually see them – on the stove, in the fridge, on the storage containers, on your placemat. These reminders need to be positive in nature, not negative or they will only make you feel bad. For example, “You can do this” and “Remember your long term goals” are positive reminders. “Don’t even think about eating this” and “oink oink” are definitely negative. I don’t know anyone who responds well to negativity, do you?
10. Be kind to yourself. Maybe eating a few huge meals is what you want to do, and is no reflection on your usual habits. Maybe you are fine with doing extra cardio and weights as a balance. And maybe, just maybe, you are healthy and your weight is irrelevant. If you start feeling guilty, ask yourself if it’s for your own sake or because you feel you’ll be judged. At the end of the day (and the season), it’s your normal patterns and habits that matter, not a few meals. So be kind.
What tips would you add to this list?
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Alexandra: Why would I faint? I’m not the one who overdid it! I only go for walks on surfaces that are FLAT. Why would I want to sweat during my nice walk? If you want to get rid of stiffness, have your muscles practice public speaking. Or learn to become a better stretcher! Or ask to be carried down those hills on one! And what do you mean by “really hilly?” Is that a reference to a television reality show in which everyone must fend for themselves in a mountainous region (I define “mountainous” as anything rising above sea level)?
Kymberly: Well, as you probably noticed, we did not get the huge bribe gift for getting to your question via the super express rush deluxe insta-answer service. So let’s answer as if you were going to hike the hills again and wonder what to do next time. Hope you survived in the meantime.
Alexandra: Miss Lizzie, when you walk downhill, your shin muscles (let’s call them Aunty Tibby – formal name is anterior tibialis) lengthen and your calves (let’s call them Bessie & Bossy – formal names are gastrocnemius & soleus) shorten. Shorten is nature’s way of saying “contract.” If you had gone for a flat, or even mildly hilly walk, your bleating calves wouldn’t be crying so much for Mama. But you have admitted, under no oath whatsoever, that your walk was “very hilly.” For the record, I too go for really long walks. I call it “going outside and getting lost, then accosting strangers to ask for a ride home.” Your brain said, “Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day,” while your calves said, “shorten, lengthen, shorten, lengthen.” See how stiff your calves are in conversation?
Kymberly: Concerning stretching, Alexandra is onto something. Post walking, stretch your calves and imagination by holding a position whereby your toes are higher than your ankle. aka dorsiflexion. Hold it, hold it, hold it. Now switch legs. To make this successfully simple, Try the three calf stretches we show in our post, Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf Stretches.
Next, pay attention to your foot action as you go uphill. Did you bend at the ankle getting your heel to the ground with each stride? Good form going uphill means keeping your body vertical and accounting for the hill angle at the ankle joint by allowing your heel to make contact with the ground with each step. Pick that answer. Or did you basically head uphill on the balls of your feet, bending forward from the hip or spine, and having your heel hanging in space? If so, your calves were in contraction throughout the walk and transforming into steers of steel. No bull. And no wonder they are bellowing. (Check out “Proper Form for Uphill Walking” here).
To make this super simple: walk, walk, stretch, drink water, head home, sleep my pretty, sleep, wake, walk again until warm, stretch, call us in the morning. With that gift.
Alexandra: Kymberly is right; I am fresh. And onto something. Known as my stretched butt. DOMS – Don’t Offer Money to Sis.
Dear Readers: Have you ever experienced muscle soreness? What did you do about it? What do you wish DOMS stood for?
Action: Please share this post on twitter, Facebook or Pinterest. Simply click on the icons in the left column. Thanks!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
A year ago I took a photography class at Santa Barbara City College. This month I won two separate small photo awards. No money or worldwide acclaim (or any acclaim, actually), but quite a boost to my self-esteem.
From last year to this has been quite a change, hasn’t it? Most of the past year was terrible, due to medical family issues that led to me being in charge of two people, but some of it was enjoyable and fulfilling because I took my camera with me everywhere I went.
As a fitness pro, much of my writing and advice is geared toward the physical aspect of fitness, yet I also have my MA in systemic counseling because I find emotional fitness to be just as important and deserving of attention.
Technically, I’m at the beginning stages of my photo skills. I only last month learned how to use an external flash so I could start taking pictures at night. But that isn’t as important as the feeling I get from seeing myself as a photographer.
At the age of 26 (I actually remember the specific moment), I decided to become a more optimistic person. I had always had a low opinion of myself, especially my looks, yet when I look back at photos of my younger self, I don’t understand how I could have been so hard on myself.
I researched the ways that CHOOSING how to view events shapes our health. It seems obvious, yet it really is true that where you focus is how you see the world. For example, if one bad thing happens in the day, do you think, “What a bad day,” or do you think, “What a bad PART of my day?”
The young me wouldn’t have taken up photography because I would have been afraid to fail at it. Words have always been my comfort zone, not pictures. But the middle-aged me didn’t mind being uncomfortable because I had a bigger goal – do something that might be fun, would be just mine, and could possibly help improve our blog. Instead of focusing on the fact that I was one of the oldest people in the class, or that many of the students knew how to use a DSLR (I didn’t even know what DSLR meant), or even that I had no idea whether my photos were good or terrible, I chose to focus on the fact that I was doing something that was mine, all mine.
For countless hours over the past year, I walked around taking pictures while waiting to give rides to family members who had doctor, therapy, job, rehab, school and all other manner of appointments. And I have gotten better from the practice. Not just better as a photographer, but better in a “zen” way. Having something that’s just mine, and some time that’s just mine is so important. Even more so during times of prolonged stress. Passive activities such as watching TV or reading a book don’t give me the same feeling of accomplishing or creating something tangible.
Oh, as to the two photos that were noticed, the shopping cart was taken with my Canon, while the stairs at Hendry’s Beach was my iPhone. And the photo of me wearing my Tamrac Anvil photo gear backpack was taken by my photo professor Say Dempsay. See how she knows how to use lighting perfectly? I’m working on that. I want to give a shoutout to Tamrac because they were the first photo brand to recognize me as a professional photographer (I have my photos for sale in Alamy Stockhouse, FYI). I will stick with Tamrac because they valued my photo skills enough to send me the Anvil backpack for all my gear (including the zoom and macro lenses on my Christmas wish list).
by Alexandra Williams, MA
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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
So this post is about some of the things I’ve recently done that make life easier and more enjoyable. And yes, much happier and healthier. See if any of these resonate with you.
Attend ShiftCon – This social media conference focuses on wellness, health, and the environment. Bloggers, brands and non-governmental organizations come together to share information about living our values through our food, skin care, household products, activism, and how we treat the environment. Keep a particular eye out for Orgain, Thrive Market, and Stonyfield Organics. They are game-changing companies.
I support organic, non-GMO, labelled products. I want to know what I’m eating and putting on and in my body. Eighteen years ago I had to learn to cook from scratch and read labels due to my son’s allergies and delays, and his health is extremely important to me. Being unaware is an excuse, not an explanation, so I like to stay aware. And I know that my money is my vote.
Visit My Hometown – ShiftCon was held in Manhattan Beach, which is next to Hermosa Beach, where I grew up. So I spent some time walking and taking pictures. In some ways the visits back to Hermosa make me sad, and I’m not sure why, yet overall I feel at peace and can focus on the arc of my life. I don’t want to move back there, but I sure do love the emotional attachment, history, and memories.
Move Into Downtown Santa Barbara – For the past ten years, we’ve lived at the top of a mountain, with driving being the only travel option. Taking all the other chores out of the equation (and they are overwhelming on their own), just the chauffeuring was taking up hours and hours of my time, as I was the only driver in the house. Now my younger son and I are living in a place where he can walk or take the bus (he is blind at night, so I’ll be doing some driving, which is way better than constant driving).
Since I’m not driving as much, I’m using the time to pick up more writing and social media jobs. And put more of my photos up for sale. Feel free to hire me. I’m very good. The cat is all settled in (no more barfing or peeing on my bed), and the dog is now here too.
Block Out People Who Add Stress – If you get into a situation where you are the caretaker for someone, shed yourself of the idea that you have to answer to anyone except those who are directly impacted. Heck, even if you’re not a caretaker, do this. Opinions are stressful; solutions are helpful. Answer every inappropriate or judgmental question with “May I tell you how you can be helpful?” That usually works.
If I had tried to solve all my big problems over the past year, I would have been stuck because I was too overwhelmed. So I am solving one thing at a time. I cannot help others if I don’t stay healthy and happy. The martyr thing is overmarketed. Now, who wants to come over and help me plant hedges and a garden?
What do you do to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy and happy?
by Alexandra Williams, MA
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