Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Certainly walking isn’t as intense as running. However, both activities target similar muscle groups, which may be why results in improving heart health are so similar. Research suggests that the type of exercise may not be as important as how much you go, go go. So move forward; locomote; get your gait on!
Walking for at least 30 minutes a day can help you:
Want some easy, practical walking tips to get you started or rev you up more? Watch our short video on Walking for Weight Loss (and More). Then bust a move to our post Great Gait: 7 Steps to Better Walking to really get the most out of your walks.
Walk For Weight Loss (video)
Another Fun Fit Fact about walking is that for every hour you perambulate (just had to use that jaunty word), your life expectancy may increase by two hours. Not only that, but a faster stride may also be a predictor of a longer life. (Convinced yet? Read our post Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination?)
Of all the cardio exercise options out there, walking has the lowest dropout rate! It’s the easiest, most accessible, positive change you can make to improve your heart health. And the benefits are exponential. The more you walk, the greater your odds of lowering heart disease risk. What are you walking for?
Would you like fab posts like this one to magically arrive in your inbox twice a week? Subscribe in that nice little box on the right side of this post, and you’ll even receive a free copy of “Look 5 Pounds Thinner in 5 Minutes.”
Alexandra Williams, MA
Hey Rena. My first inclination was to recommend aqua workouts, which are perfect for achy joints, but I already know that you don’t have a pool, so we’ll have to think of other options. Read the linked post anyway, as it also mentions other options that reduce joint stress, such as the elliptical trainer, Pilates and resistance training. As you cannot get to a gym (or beach), I’ll focus on in-home suggestions.
For those unfamiliar with RA and Felty’s, classic symptoms include painful, stiff, swollen joints, most commonly the hands, arms and feet. White blood cell counts are very low, and fatigue is common, as is anemia (low red blood cell count).
Before giving suggestions for dealing with exercise and arthritis, I have a few questions.
* Has your doctor cleared you to work out, even at a minimal level
* What kind of range of motion do you have around your affected joints
* Do you have any equipment at home, such as tubes with handles, a recumbent bike, a mat, stability ball
* Is there a certain time of day, such as morning, when you are more comfortable
* Have you consulted with a nutrition expert to see which foods you might want to decrease or increase
Seated Elliptical Machine
Generally speaking, people with painful joints do well with equipment such as a seated elliptical machine (you can even get ones with gloves, in case your hands can’t grip well). Of course, these might be cost-prohibitive for you, so I’ll give you other options too.
If you have enough grip strength to hold a tube handle, you can do a lot of resistance exercises with a tube. The yellow one provides the least resistance, so is the best place to start. The different colors indicate different levels of resistance, so choose accordingly. A colleague wrote a post for us a few years ago about exercising with tubes, which you might want to read.
I’ll also link you to two tube videos I did when I was recovering from foot surgery that might be helpful (and before I knew to turn my iPhone sideways when filming):
Seated Mid-Back Exercise
Seated on the Ball or Mat
As you don’t mention hip joint pain, maybe you can try some seated exercises. Our video post Seated Abs Exercise: Obliques Circle will help your core strength and possibly get you to work up a sweat too.
These are just a few of the many directions you can head as you look for comfortable exercises. And because I trust our own advice, I’ll encourage you to wander through our YouTube exercise videos (we have over 100), as they are designed for women our age, though not for any specific diagnosis, so choose the ones that resonate with you.
In the long run, I hope you can get to a pool. When I taught at the Rochester Athletic Club in Minnesota, they had an Aqua Joints program that was certified by the Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program (AFAP). It was non-impact exercises in a warm water pool that helped improve range of motion, increase strength, and challenge endurance with low-level cardio conditioning. Maybe the AFAP has a similar class near you.
The true answer to your question is “It depends.” But these exercises should get you started in the right direction. One last post you might like to check out is “Six Practical Fitness Tips for Older Adults,” which shares some ways to modify for your specific needs.
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
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.
— Steve Groves (@SteveatGoodLife) March 12, 2015
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Ah, well, it’s super obvious that you are not exactly thrilled about the idea of exercise, judging by your word choices. You say you “need,” not “want,” to begin a program. Do you know that Rolling Stones song?
When I was in grad school we were taught that we have to start from where the client is. In other words, we are NOT going to assign you any specific exercises, because you are not likely to do them.
I actually believe the best place for you to start is with your concept of Exercise. Methinks (maybe that word comes from my BA in Medieval History; maybe I just like the word) you need a new word and concept. So let’s just say Movement is what you need, as a solution and concept. And a decrease in your stress.
Some questions to ask yourself, with some examples to get you started:
Kymberly: Let me interject here with non-counseling, fitness pro suggestions based on experience. Methinks you should start small and quickly taper off. Just kidding, In part. Do start with a little step in the movement direction. Maybe do one or two exercises during a tv commercial. Get up and down from your chair 10 times. That’s a squat series. Plop down on the floor and whip out some reverse curls or a plank and a few push-ups for just 60 seconds. Take a walk around the block after a morning of computer time. Think of it as your reward for working so long and hard at writing.
However, don’t start with an exercise program or full routine. Staring at a big, long term, ongoing commitment may be too overwhelming. Start today with something lasting fewer than 5 minutes as that will be more enticing and achievable.
Build more movement into your day instead of considering exercise something separate from, or added to your schedule. Once you have the habit of moving consistently, you will more easily transition from the “getting started” phase to the “active living every day” phase. This latter phase would transition to an exercise program you’ll be ready for. Eagerly. With Enthusiasm. Or at least with Enduring Habit.
Alexandra: Without overwhelming you (and tacitly giving you permission to sit in your chair reading instead of moving), I’m going to link to a few of our previous posts to help you answer the four questions I posed above.
As soon as you’re done reading this post, close your eyes and recall a time you had fun moving. How did you feel–in your body, in your emotions, in your energy, in your sense of enjoyment? Focus on those feelings as you choose movement you will enjoy. Once you’ve gotten yourself more in the habit of moving in an enjoyable way, even for 5 minutes, you can start to add strength training or longer duration cardio. The good news? After you’ve gotten into the movement habit, and associated it with those good feelings from above, you will Want to move. Then you can add Exercise to your routine.
Kymberly: Like my sis, I found a few more posts to help you get started. Guilt-free! Read them AFTER getting up from your computer. Or at least march in place while reading them.
And with your name, who could resist the saying: No Pain, All Gane, It’s Kim Possible!
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
In fact, we just got asked that again in this radio interview with nationally known fitness pro, Debra Atkinson. Better Sex, Arms, and Knees as You Age. For sure go listen to the podcast. Not only will you find out how to put the best shoes on your feet, but also you will get some laughs.
Kymberly: When it comes to picking appropriate shoewear, I advocate wearing a pair specific to each activity. For instance, when I walk on paved or smooth paths, I choose Therafit walking shoes. When tackling hikes or trails with uneven terrain, I prefer my trail shoes. And for teaching my indoor fitness classes, I select shoes from yet a different company that makes indoor studio shoes solely for women.
Are You Ready to Get Picky?
I rarely wear my indoor fitness shoes outdoors as I want them to offer top performance as long as possible. I switch to a sandal, clog, or slip on shoe once I leave the gym. Your feet are your first line of defense so put your focus and funds into giving them activity-specific shoes.
Since Therafit sent us several pair of shoes to test out, we thought we’d share a few comments on their newest style, the Austin. (Consider this the official disclosure that we received free shoes). Given my knee injury and upcoming surgery, I am wearing comfort shoes more these days than usual. Ever since I was in my twenties, my family has teased me for always choosing “sensible shoes” over heels. This slip on clog definitely keeps my reputation intact for preferring cute, comfortable shoes over fancy, dress-up footwear. Because I can get the clog on and off without bending my knees much, they are coming with me to the surgical center. A girl has to mosey with style and a decent gait when walking off anesthesia you know! Or more to the point – I’ll be glad not to have to lace up anything at that point.
Want to Win Your Own Pair of Comfy Shoes?
One big tip if you decide to get your own pair of the Austin clogs or if you win the giveaway Therafit is offering one of our readers — order a half size up. You’ll want to be sure your heel sits inside, and not on the slight lip at the back of the shoe.
Alexandra: For picking exercise, we always say the best is the one you’ll do. For shoes, I say the best is the one that feels comfortable right away (needs no breaking in), and supports you in a way that helps protect your joints, muscles and ligaments.
Why Not Go Barefoot?
I know that the barefoot slippers had a lot of positive research a few years ago, but then it turned out that the major brands selling those shoes got sued (and lost) for false claims and research. So I continue to be in favor of actual shoes, especially for the university students I teach, as they have not had a strong history of movement, and their body awareness isn’t the same as it was for their parents’ generation. (I’ll save my opinion about the lack of budget support in elementary and secondary schools for P.E. for another post).
I wrote a long article about choosing fitness shoes for IDEA Fitness Journal a few years ago, and am hoping this link will get you to the article. Sometimes I’m able to get access without logging in (it’s a fitness professional membership site), so am hoping you can too.
As you can see by my picture, my blue Therafit Austin clogs are so comfy, even the dog feels happy. I’ve found they are perfect to wear to the gym, as I can switch to my cardio shoes quickly and easily.
Kymberly: We admit — it’s all about our dogs! And our doggies, aka toes! Other factors to take into account when choosing shoes for action and movement have to do with your foot patterns:
In Which Directions Will You Be Traveling?
Will you be going forward and backward, such as in an aerobic class (Step, Zumba, Low Impact, Dance, Cardio Kickboxing, for example). Or forward only such as when on a treadmill, elliptical machine or other cardio equipment.
If you are walking or running, then you will have more of a heel strike with a toe roll off. Contrast that to jogging in place, which has a toe, ball, heel landing. Choose a shoe that cushions and supports where your feel will be absorbing the most impact.
Do you count on your shoes to shift you side to side? Then find shoes that offer lateral support — the opposite of a running or walking shoe, for instance.
Will you be pivoting, twisting, and turning as you exercise? Then make sure the tread is designed to release grip so your shoe doesn’t grab ahold in one place, while your body rotates in a different direction. We call that “making your orthopedist rich.”
The giveaway is only open to U.S. mailing addresses. When the giveaway ends, one winner will be picked and notified. That person has 48 hours to respond or another winner will be randomly drawn.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Have you subscribed yet? Do so now if you want to Age Actively.
Get Out of Here, Ya Hear?
A related Fun Fit Fact: People who live near or on coasts tend to be more physically active compared to inland dwellers. Those fortunate to have ocean views (actually any blue water works), also report being happier than people without access to blue spaces. One theory is that gazing at the ocean triggers the brain to release dopamine, endorphins, and oxytocin. We post-menopausal women know all about hormones, especially the mood elevating ones, right?
Remember to Laugh; Laugh to Remember
2. Add humor to your workout. Another great natural life source is laughter. Not only does laughter act as self-produced medicine, but also it is proving to help memory. The stress hormone, cortisol can cause brain damage. Cortisol negatively affects both memory and learning ability, especially in older adults. This raises the question, “can laughter, which reduces stress, therefore improve memory?”
Turns out that, yup — lower stress leads to better memory. You saw that coming.
Breathe Right with the Left
3. Take half breaths for a whole life. Really looking to keep your memory in high drive, and not idle as you age? Then try a special breathing technique just after your humor boost. When you forgot which aisle you parked your car in, or why you entered a room, kick into left nostril breathing. That’s right, just the left! Block or press shut your right nostril and inhale through the left. Exhale. Repeat. 27 times. Let’s hope this works as you have to remember to count as you breathe!
For you smarties and thinkers who are always a step ahead (and that would be all of you who subscribe to our blog), you probably already thought of something. What if you combine all three activities? Run, walk, jog, mosey outdoors with a person who makes you laugh as you count up 27 left nostril breaths. Then get back to us in the comments to report what happened. Join the nature movement; free membership!
And take a look at this very short animation.
You got this far, so why not add a comment?
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?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
I 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.
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 7 — strengthen 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.
Which is such a good way to segue into an invitation to those of you who will be in Santa Barbara this weekend, Jan 31, 2015. Alexandra and I are leading a free ABC: Abs, Butt, Core workout 10:00am at the Paseo Nuevo mall, sponsored by Lorna Jane activewear. Not only will you get to do a fun, effective, knee happy workout with us, but also you get a discount on LJ wear, and healthy snacks. And someone is going home with a prize!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Therefore we are embarking on a course culminating in us becoming certified Functional Aging Specialists. Hard to make that certification sound sexaaaay, but it is! And you may increase your sexy sass too if you take our advice based on what we learn. This credential is designed to be the “ultimate mark of distinction for fitness professionals” wanting to work with the over 50
gang, crowd, party people! The goal of the curriculum is to maximize physical function for mature adults. We already know how to handle immature adults. Ah ha ha aha.
You may be asking “What is Functional Training and how is it different from traditional workouts?” Um, you were asking, right? Just say “yes.”
Functional fitness trains your body for the activities of daily life. Another way to think of it is focusing your exercise efforts on Movement, NOT Muscles. How does your workout translate to making your work, hobbies, daily tasks, leisure activities, and occupation easier, better, and more comfortable?
Bicep curls, triceps extensions, and bicycle crunches certainly have a place in the exercise world. But as we age, moves that allow us to maintain (maybe expand?) our physical capabilities become more relevant. Enticing even! We’re talking Quality of Life here, Boom Chicka Boomers and cohorts! Let’s avoid “boomeritis” and move in ways that support the life we’d like to become accustomed to. Can you step over big obstacles on the ground, for example?
Is National Celebrity Status as Baby Boomer Fitness Pros Too Much to Ask?
We energetically share that we want to be the IT girls when you think of fitness and baby boomers. Nationally, globally, intergalactically.: K and A = top fitness sources for over 50 active aging advice pros. Please wish us luck and good study habits as we launch into the 18 module program that has a timed test and a spiffy looking piece of paper with a gold stamp on it at the end. The certification program — offered by Drs. Cody Sipe and Dan Ritchie of the Functional Aging Institute (FAI) — takes up to 6 months to complete. Since we are overachievers who make the top 10ish percent possible, we plan to finish in halfish that time. (Read our About Us page if you want to peel back the curtain on our other qualifications).
Are You Joining Us As We Go From Special to Specialized?
Functional fitness fanatics (and the FAI) declare that If you move better, you feel better. And when you feel better, you look better. And, Daaaahlinks, You Look Marvelous! Or you will when we’re finished with you … and our certification program! Yup, we are going from being Special to Specialized Functional Aging Pros and you are coming with us. Right?
PS Comment below if you know whom we are paraphrasing about looking Maah-vah-lous! Reveal your true midlife status.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
According to two doctors, I need three separate joint surgeries in 2015. My plan is to have zero. And there you have one of my primary New Year’s goals: to try all non-invasive options to rehab both knees and my foot. (Yes, for those of you who have been reading our blog for awhile, that identical twis sis of mine had left toe surgery for the same issue I now have on the right).
Any other baby boomers out there with knee, toe, or other joint-related issues? Is osteoarthritis interfering with your life plan for active aging? This was not supposed to happen to me!! I want my life to expand with age, time, income, and experience, not contract. After depositing in the exercise bank for more than 35 years, I was looking forward to withdrawing more movement, action, and adventure!
After a physically challenging year with chronic pain and the ability to move less and less, it’s time to face reality: ignoring my knee and foot problems and powering through painful workouts just isn’t working any more. Maybe it never was, but I did keep teaching group exercise classes and walking my dog every day! Until a few weeks ago when I tore two menisci in my right knee — the “good” knee. The one that did not have two replacement surgeries already.
Do You Kneed This? I Do, Dang It!
Sooo, I am now starting several new approaches to get my athletic, energetic, comfortable giddy up gait back. These programs and methods include:
Doctor, Doctor, I Declare
Whew! That’s a lot to take on. But I am determined and frankly, scared enough to try whatever it takes to get my walking and exercising juju back. My doctors have been great about listening to me and working with me to develop protocols to push off surgeries. Yet, my goal is to do MORE once I can walk again pain- and swelling-free. They keep trying to talk me into doing LESS, both now and post any surgery.
Other methods I have tried over the last two years have helped to a degree. I think those efforts gained me extra workouts and managed the pain. But not enough to prevent the recent downturns and tears. Read what I already implemented as you might want in on some o’ dat! Pain Free Movement in 2013
So strap in if you are interested to find out what works and what does not in my 2015 knee and foot joint reclamation project.
Affiliate disclosure: If you buy the Skinnylicious recipe book or Knee Rehab program through our links, we earn a few dollars at no added cost to you. Of course our main motive is to find, test, and curate the products and services best for active women over 50.