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Category Archives for "I Want to Reduce Pain"
8

Practically Painfree with Pets and Purina

Kymberly holding Kila Pets

Having a pet makes us stronger

Not gonna lie. I am so OVER discomfort in my own body given my recent total knee replacement. However I am grateful that I have not been in much pain since my surgery several weeks ago. In fact I was able to come off pain meds while still in the hospital. While I attribute my nearly pain-free recovery to eating well and exercising regularly, one other unusual and surprising reason comes into play. Any guesses what allowed me to skip (ok limp and hobble) past pain and straight to its lesser cousin, discomfort? Hint – fur and bad breath are involved.

Apparently having a pet, especially a dog reduces pain in owners. Don’t have a dog? Well go get a furever friend aka “pain reducer” from your local shelter. Or not, as even non-owners can reap the benefits of interacting with a dog according to this study from Pain Medicine.

In my case, the desire to resume walking my dogs daily continues to be a big motivator to do my #^*$&(@#$ physical therapy.  I admit that the whimpering coming from my house is NOT my animals. (Flex, extend, hold. Gaaaahh!!)

Are there more overweight dogs, cats, or people in the US? #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet
Peppermint Patty pets

Peppermint Fatty – Living Life Large (and statistically in the majority)

Between therapy, dog walks, and working to get back to step, indoor cycling, and low impact aerobics classes, I had the fortune to attend a live chat on pet health and active aging. Hosted by Dr. Kurt Venator, a vet and fellow dog lover who works for Purina, he shared two Fido Fit Facts that caught my attention:

  1. An estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese (Don’t believe me about cats? Take a look at Peppermint Patty, who was deemed unadoptable given her obesity. My daughter found this out, adopted her and put PP on a vet-directed exercise and nutrition program).
  2. A whopping 85% of pet owners find exercising more enjoyable with a pet at their side.

Do you consider exercise a pain in the keester? Then isn’t this good news that you might actually like exercise just by adding fur and four legs?

Want less pain, especially post surgery? Get a pet or at least pet one #PurinaPartner Click To Tweet

Yes, pets can improve our comfort, health, and happiness in many ways, including:

  • Decreasing emotional distress during a painful medical procedure (I attest to this for sure)
  • Improving mood, which may secondarily improve pain
  • Enhancing cognitive functioning such as increased attention and memory
  • Reducing stress hormones like cortisol, norepinephrine, and epinephrine
  • Increasing endorphin levels (the body’s natural opiates)
  • Reducing blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increasing levels of oxytocin, a hormone that can change your stress response and pain experience
  • Improving self-esteem and motivation

Bow wow WOW to all those benefits! Dr. Kurt did NOT mention increasing guilt if I don’t walk my dogs. He did comment on the fact that he and Purina are committed to the health and well-being of pets and their owners so both pets and humans can live bigger, healthier, tail-waggier lives together. (By the way, this post is sponsored by Purina. My dogs are sponsored by my husband and me until they can find employment.) To be entertained and uplifted even more, read Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from my Dog.

Midlife Fitness and Health Lessons from My Dog


If it weren’t for my pup pups, I can guarantee I would not have donned a raincoat, iced my knee, and set out in yesterday’s rain for a 40 minute walk. Pleading, trusting eyes are the ultimate motivators to move. Sure, we all came home wet. But I was pain free afterwards. Dog chow and treats all around! Uh, just the latter for me, of course.

Eager for you and your pets to be smarter as well as healthier? Chase this link:

Exercise, Nutrition, and Brain Games Make Your Dog Smarter. You Too!

ACTION: Get more scoop on ways you can improve your health and the health of your pet when you check out both this nifty infographic and run over to purina.com.  Seriously, the infographic is worth taking a look at.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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4

Create Great Baby Boomer Workouts: Part 4

Kymberly Balance Exercises Rancho la PuertaOver 50 and looking for ways to make your workouts the best ones possible? Welcome to Part 4 of a series sharing principles you can use to enhance your exercise program and life.  These principles are specifically helpful for baby boomers, whether newcomers to exercise or long time “activists.”

Before revealing Principle 5, let’s briefly recap the insider strategies I shared in Parts 1-3. Click on each link to access the relevant post. Just be sure to come back!

Principle 1: Activate Your Back

Principle 2: Train Using Functional Options

Principle 3:  Activate from the Middle to Extremities; from Inside, Out

Principle 4: Offer Movement Patterns that Enhance Cognitive Skills

And now for today’s peak performance principle:

Principle 5: Incorporate Dynamic and Static Balance Exercises

When you hear “balance options” do you think solely of static balance moves? “Stand still and lift one leg.” If so, time to add dynamic balance to your repertoire.  Coming up — lots of practical balance exercises you can play with.

Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up Click To Tweet

Walk This Way … and That

Kymberly Walking - Balance Exercises

Walking – the Ultimate Balance Exercise

Walking is the ultimate and primary functional balance move.  Use variations on walking as a fun and functional balance warm up. Try walking forward, backward, quickly with direction changes, slowly, super slowly. Then walk in one line as if on a balance beam going forward and back while lifting a knee up and over with each step. Also challenge yourself to go forward and in reverse toe to heel; heel to toe.

Another dynamic balance move that is also functional is heel walking. With toes lifted, walk around the room both forward and in reverse. Or take two steps up to an imaginary line with the heels down, toes up, then two steps back to start. Watch that you don’t hinge at the hips to counterbalance; keep your hips open and glutes under your shoulders, not behind them.

Improving Static Balance as Primary Goal

When selecting static balance exercises you have a range of moves to choose from. Assuredly, you’ll want to include a few options whereby you support on one leg while lifting, holding, moving the other (half static, half dynamic). In such cases, the balance exercise itself is the focus.

Balance Exercises KymberlyFor example, stand on the left leg while making figure eight loops in front and behind the body, clockwise and counterclockwise with the right leg.

Improving Static Balance as Secondary, Two-for-One Goal

You can create a time efficient, two-for-one coupon special by combining static balance challenges with upper body exercises.  In essence, any time you stand in place while doing another exercise, you have an opportunity to add a balance component.  Simply take advantage of varying stance options, progressing from a wide to narrow base of support.

For instance, if you are doing lat pulldowns with resistance tubing, rather than always default to a wide, parallel stance (feet about shoulder width apart in the same plane), narrow or stagger your feet. While your primary goal is to strengthen the lats, you are retraining your body and brain to account for a different base of support as a secondary benefit.

Stance Progression to Add to Balance Exercises

Your stance options in order of most secure to most challenging are as follows:

  1. Wide Stance Parallel (Most Common and offers Most Control)
  2. Wide Stance Staggered (one foot forward of the other, though not lined up)
  3. Narrow Stance Staggered
  4. Narrow Stance Parallel (Feet and Inner Thighs touching)
  5. Feet in one line but not heel to toe (ie, space between front and back foot)
  6. Tandem Stance (feet lined up one in front of the other, heel to toe (More Challenge)
  7. One foot resting on top of the other or 1 leg lifted (Most Challenge)
Stretching is also a great place and time to work in balance work Click To Tweet

Stagger or narrow the feet during upper body stretches. Stretching is also a great place and time to work in more balance work. Gently dropping your ear side to side while your feet are in tandem position requires new attention and adaptation.

Kymberly Balance Exercises Rancho la puerta

Really Stretching My Limits While Balancing

As you see, this principle is accessible and straightforward. Use it and any of the other principles to stimulate your creativity and rethink your workout content. Your body will thank you — your future, functional, energetic body!

ACTION: Principle #8 – Subscribe to get active aging insights written to help you enjoy the second half of life as energetically and comfortably as possible.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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3

Over 50? Create the Best Workouts Possible: Part 3

Over 50; Alexandra in poppy fields

The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Moving

Key Exercise Principles to Consider if You’re Over 50

Over 50 and wanting workouts designed specifically for your active aging goals and body? Whether you are a fitness elite or novice, your approach to training needs to shift in the second half of life. Take into account 6 principles that will help you select the most effective, life enhancing exercises possible. This week you get two principles in one post.

This is part 3 of a several part series that offers you insider fitness strategies you can take advantage of. Check out Part 1: Best Workouts for Your Over 50 Body: Part 1

You can find Part 2 here: Create the Best Possible Over 50 Workouts: Part 2

If you recall (or hop over and back to read Part 1) you’ll know you can apply the 6 principles in any combination or separately. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.

Over 50? Do you apply any of these 6 principles to your midlife workouts? Click To Tweet

Principle 3: Activate from the Middle to Extremities; from Inside, Out

Quality movement originates from the center, then translates outward. Whether moving or holding still, ideal movement has us first activating the core, then putting the arms and legs in motion. Ab work is the perfect example of this principle. We compress the abs, then shift the arms, spine, legs into position. Having good posture also requires central activation as the “base.”

Example: Move from Proximal to Distal, from Core to Hands and Feet

Over 50, move from Inside, Out

Use Your Core to Get More

When putting weights or resistance into hands or onto legs, it’s even more important to first make sure you have activated your core. You don’t want your weighted arms and legs waving about distally until proximal muscles are stabilizing or contributing.

Decades of good and poor body mechanics leave evidence. A 60 year old who turns on her core, then adds resistance will be able to train longer in life and with less risk of injury. Let this be you! Compare this scenario to someone who has a lot going on in the limbs (resistance added, no less), but very little in the core. Don’t let this be you!

Principle 4: Offer Movement Patterns that Enhance Cognitive Skills

No doubt you have heard a lot about exercise’s effect on the brain. This is an exciting time to be a midlifer given the research about how much we can train our brains via movement.  We still have time and opportunity to make a difference in how well our brains work as we age. Our exercise choices will serve us well throughout our life if we put Principle 4 into play now.

Take advantage of the latest findings and overlay cognitive tasks and moves into your programs. We baby boomers are of an age and awareness level that we can greatly benefit from brain stimulating exercise.

Curious for more on this inspiring, exciting subject? Read the following posts:

Exercise Can Train Your Brain | Key Points from the IDEA World Fitness Convention

Best Exercise to Improve Memory

Spark Your Brain with Exercise

 

Exercise Your Right to a Better Brain

Example: Integrate Moves that Cross the Midline

Over 50: Crossing midline

One of Our BoomChickaBoomers Crossing her Midline at Midlife

Many options exist to bring cognitive activities into your workouts. For example, when you cross the midline with an arm, leg, or both, you stimulate the brain and further integrate the left and right hemispheres. Why not bring in moves that accomplish multiple goals simultaneously?

Example: Squat to Rotating Knee Lift

For example, instead of doing a squat to a straight ahead knee lift with a slight hold in the knee lifted position (balance and strength move), replace the sagittal plane knee lift with one that rotates inward and draws to the opposite elbow? Think of this as a standing cross crawl with cues to rotate enough to have a knee or elbow come across the midline.

Example: Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross

Another midline crossing balance move is the Standing Long Arm, Long Leg Diagonal Cross. Stand on the right leg, extend the left leg to the side (in the frontal plane), toes lightly touching the ground (or not, if you want to add more balance challenge). Extend the right arm above the shoulder and to the right at about a 45 degree angle. (Basically continue the diagonal line created by the opposite leg).  Your right arm and left leg reach in opposite directions and form one, long, angled line. Simultaneously adduct the leg across the front midline of the body and slice your right arm towards the thigh, also crossing the midline, though in the opposite direction. The long arm and leg pass each other.

Especially if you're over 50, group fitness classes can help with memory, focus, retention Click To Tweet

Switch out one of your cardio equipment workouts for a cardio class with choreography.  Give yourself opportunities to move in more than one direction and with the challenge of following cues. Try arm patterns that cross your midline instead of working bilaterally and parallel. Take a look at 7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now for more ideas on how and why group classes can help with memory, focus, retention and more. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily you can implement these insider tips.

Happy program design! Putting even one of these principles into action will make your workouts serve you better. And doesn’t your body deserve to be served?

ACTION:Not yet a subscriber? What are you waiting for. Parts 4 and 5? Subscribe now to get all 6 principles delivered to your fingertips.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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3

Create the Best Possible Over 50 Workouts: Part 2

Step, Kymberly Best baby boomer workouts

I (K)need to Step Aside

Baby Boomer Workouts

Do you have great things planned for your second half of  life?  Having said that, do you find yourself working around added aches and pains?  Are you making changes to your exercise program based on aging realities? I know I phased out kickboxing, high impact aerobics, and snowboarding based on ever worsening knee arthritis. (More at the end of the post on what’s about to happen with my knee in less than a week. Not a sob story, but some solutions so keep reading).  Yet I don’t want to give up my beloved step classes. Nor do I want any more injuries, limitations, or bad body mechanics.

Once we hit midlife, we need to create workouts that take into account principles that are targeted to our specific needs. Principles that inhibit bad body habits and encourage physical comfort and ability. Exercise design principles that I’ll be sharing with you in a short series.  Using even one of these principles will bring you to better, long term, wiser workouts. And you’ll catapult yourself to the insider, fitness pro mindset.

2nd of 6 Principles for Creating Great Baby Boomer Workouts

This post shares the second of six principles for creating outstanding workouts for baby boomers. Initially, I put together this list in a a cover feature for the leading fitness professional journal. Then I realized you active agers might want this helpful info as well.  To take advantage of the first principle go here:

Create the Best Workout Programs for Your Over 50 Body

Principle 2: Train Using Functional Options

More than any other age group, we midlife and older exercisers appreciate and need functional movement.

What Does “Functional Exercise” Really Mean?

Many definitions exist for functional movement, so let’s start with wikipedia’s: “Functional movements are based on real-world situational biomechanics. They usually involve multi-planar, multi-joint movements which place demand on the body’s core musculature and innervation.”  Come back. Don’t let me lose you.  In simple terms — choose exercises that involve several muscles and joints all-in-one.

Another common way to define functional exercise is to ascertain whether you can apply a given move to activities of daily living (ADLs). What moves do you perform in real life? Train for those. For example, do you need to get up and down from the ground? Do you pick up groceries from the floor and turn to put them away in an overhead cabinet?  Contrast this to single joint, isolated strength and muscular endurance training such as calf raises or triceps kickbacks. Instead, for example, perform an exercise that lifts a free weight left to right with rotation from low to high/ floor to overhead. Or perform squats that mimic ducking sideways under a rope or bar.

What Do You Want to DO with Your Fit Self?Planking in Australia

Like me, are you a boomer who is more interested in continuing activities you enjoy rather than worry about hypertrophy? Are you motivated to gain strength, power, and endurance so you can travel, take up new hobbies, keep up with grown children and grandchildren? If you value having energy over having a six-pack you are part of a trend. A majority of midlife exercisers are looking at their parents and making decisions about their own aging. We want to retain our physical and mental capabilities to the same or greater degree than our parents – and why not? Even more critical – let’s make sure fitness habits that might have worked in our youth aren’t causing pain in our middle years.

If you're more interested in continuing activities you enjoy rather than solely hypertrophy,… Click To Tweet

Will the exercises you choose help you climb steps, get up and down from chairs and the floor, prevent falls, turn to see behind you while driving? Do your moves help you continue surfing, hiking, camping? Think in terms of adding rotation, level changes (low to high and high to low), or working in opposition. Approach your workout design with the idea to help keep your world from shrinking. What are you worried about having to give up? What do you enjoy doing that you’d love to continue as long as possible? Train from that perspective and you will have better results and fewer physical challenges.

Good Riddance to Pain, Hello to Renewed Function

Speaking of physical challenges, I am heading into knee replacement surgery in a few days. Dealing with arthritic keen pain is one thing. Seeing my function diminish significantly these past months is another.  Part of my surgery prep plan involved:

  • Seeing how Alexandra fared with her replacement surgery last year. Helps to have an identical twin sister who moonlights as a mine canary. She came out both alive and with better, almost pain free function;
  • Biking more both indoors and out. In fact, I just completed my second Schwinn certificate training to teach indoor cycling;
  • Taking advantage of a timely offer from Omron to try their new HEAT Pain Pro TENS unit (yes they compensated me for this post. Disclosure Done!).

omron-tens-device

Give Me Some TENS, or Twenties or Fifties….

First I finally learned what TENS stands for:  transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. I knew medical professionals for years have used TENS to treat pain. Now reliable, affordable products are becoming available for use at home. So home I went jiggity jog, packing heat. Without the jog. And with more than heat!

The Omron HEAT Pain Pro combines TENS and heat to help alleviate chronic pain and aching muscles. Warms and zaps all in one. Omron is calling my number on this one. Number TENS. (Insert laugh track here). My muscles and joints have made too many compensations serving the demands of my curmudgeonly knee. This new device was easy to use and did relieve muscle tension.  It didn’t eradicate my osteoarthritis. Ok, that might have been asking too much. Maybe Omron will  come out with a TWENTIES or FIFTIES device to handle that big of a job.

Anyway, my point is that this lightweight, portable device helped reduce muscle tension. Between teaching my fitness classes despite increasing knee pain (not recommended), walking my dogs every day, and wanting to enter surgery as relaxed as possible, I’ll take all the help I can get!

How Did the Canary in the Mine Fare?

Alexandra also tried the Omron HEAT Pain Pro, and found it definitely decreased some of the stiffness and discomfort from her knee replacement surgery. Even though the surgery was back in June, 2016, she still has some occasional swelling and stiffness after hard workouts. After undergoing electrical stimulation during physical therapy that could be quite uncomfortable, Alexandra was expecting this to be the same. Luckily, she discovered that the TENS was fairly mild. Her favorite setting is Combo 2- short session of alternating heat and TENS. She offers one suggestion: make the heat setting just a bit warmer. Overall, Alexandra was pleased with the pain relief that the HEAT Pain Pro provided to her knee.

There you have it. Ready to stick on the Omron device, reduce pain, plus create the best baby boomer workouts ever? Me too, right after knee surgery. See you on the other side.

ACTION: Usually we suggest you subscribe if you have not yet done so. This time we hope you click on the Omron link to check out whether the unit might help you. No aches, pains, or tension involved when you window shop.

Kymberly Williams-Evans

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Create the Best Workout Programs for Your Over 50 Body

This is My Year Best Workout ProgramsLet’s start the year successfully by designing the best workout programs for your bodacious baby boomer body!

How would you like to make your workouts even more effective, time-efficient, and specific to your midlife needs? Notice I did not say “harder” or “longer.” Are you with me?

Benefits of Designing the Best Workout Programs for Boomers

You can create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness programs that are low risk, yet high reward by taking into account any of 6 principles honed for the over 50 exerciser. Maintain function and expand, not shrink your capabilities as you age actively with smarter exercises.

Boomers: want to make your workouts more effective, time-efficient, and specific to midlife needs Click To Tweet

We boomers — who range from 53-71 years old — want to enjoy the second half of life actively, comfortably, and energetically. Yet we have five to seven decades of accumulated aches and pains. Joint issues may limit your ability to do high impact activities. I know my arthritic knees definitely affect my movement choices.

1st of 6 Principles

Over the course of the next few weeks and blog posts, I will share 6 of 7 principles I’ve devised based on research, experience, and training that are particularly helpful to our age group. You are getting the professional insider advice from a cover feature article I just had published in IDEA Fitness Journal, the industry publication for fitness pros.

20161230_143942

The 6 principles can be used in any combination or as standalones. Apply one, two, or all six to a given exercise; use three principles total in one session and a different three in another; focus on one principle one day and another the next. Regardless of how you mix and match the principles, you will reap the benefits.

Over 50? Create cutting edge, life-enhancing fitness pgms that R low risk, high reward using… Click To Tweet

Principle 1: Activate Your Back

Have years of sitting, driving — of living life in front of your body — produced forward head misalignment, rounded shoulders, hunched posture, overly stretched or a weak back?

Best workout Programs

Hip Extension in another dimension

The “Activate Your Back” principle reminds us to prioritize actions behind us. Incorporate exercises that require glutes, hamstrings, any and all back muscles. Look for every opportunity to open or extend the pectorals (chest), anterior deltoids (front of shoulder), and hip flexors.

A focus on dorsal or backside moves counteracts prior decades of movement patterns that close off the front of the body. If you take cardio classes, think of this principle as a chance to give your heart and lungs more room to pump and breathe. Even if your teacher is cueing arm patterns in front of your body, try arm movements such as rows, hand to heel lifts behind the back, or any move than puts the arms behind you.

For strength, balance, or stretch classes, choose exercises with hip extension (open hip, leg reaching behind you) over ones promoting hip flexion (closed hip, leg in front of you). For instance, if doing balance work, have your lifted leg start and stay in hip extension. Then slightly raise and lower that leg using the glutes. Add in small loops, counter- and clockwise, all in the dorsal plane — that is, behind you. Or lift your leg only a few inches from the start position to the left and right, tapping lightly side to side, again always with hip extension. Not only do you use your core muscles to compress and stabilize to hold your upper body position, but also you reinforce good posture.

Any time you have a chance to open the front of your body and use the back, go for that choice! Time to put more behind us! Life metaphor, right?

For more on how you can pursue the best workout programs for yourself, check out these posts:

Best Workouts for Women Over 50: 7 Age-Relevant Training Principles

Women Over 50 – We Are NOT Aging Healthfully

Fit Over 50? Achieve it with These 6 Age Specific Tips

Action: Subscribe to receive pro tips to stay fit as you age actively. Need we say more. 

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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16

Stretch Hamstrings Correctly: 3 Doofus & 3 Expert Ways

Stretch Hamstrings the Right Way

stretch hamstrings Want more benefit from your hamstring stretches? (You are devoting some of your workout time to stretching, right?) Avoid the most common form faults. Be uncommon, just like us! Flexible hamstrings reduce tension on the lower back, allow for good alignment and posture, and enhance your physical performance.

Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder.  Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.

Stretch Hamstrings and Elsewhere

Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.

Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.

Most hamstring stretch mistakes are related to:

  1. Knee joint bent too much
  2. Hips and buttocks up in the air
  3. Neck and shoulder hunching

Fit-tastic, ham-tacular form involves:

  1. Holding the leg at muscles, not joints
  2. Relaxing the head and neck
  3. Lengthening the leg, even if it means moving the leg away from your body

stretch hamstrings Flexibility Fast

ACTION: The best stretch of all is the one your fingers make when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog.  Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes to get access to fitness advice tailored to midlife women.

Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch? 

Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.

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

13

Protect Your Vision as You Age

At breakfast I told a friend how sad I will be if (or when) my 19-year-old son fully loses his vision. He has Retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which refers to a group of inherited diseases causing retinal degeneration. People with RP experience a gradual decline in their vision because photoreceptor cells (rods and cones) die. At present, my kid is blind in the dark or low lighting, and has trouble locating things on the floor.

(no pics of him are in this post, as he doesn’t prefer it)

kymberly williams-evans in glasses

Twin sis Kymberly can no longer wear contact lenses due to an eye infection she got years ago. Cute glasses, though! Almost as cute as the ones at the top of our blog.

As my side of the family is the side with terrible vision, I assume I’m the parent who passed this along to him. I could write about my desire to take his suffering onto myself, or the times I’ve cried for all he’s gone through (and the things he’s missed), or my huge fear of him one day sitting at home, alone in the dark. But that doesn’t help him or anyone else with vision issues. Luckily, I expect a cure to be found in his lifetime, as scientists are getting closer and closer to finding a way to get energy to the dying photoreceptors.

Brian Williams

My brother wears contacts and had a detached retina a few years ago.

It's easier than you might think to help protect your vision as you age. #FitFluential… Click To Tweet
Megan Williams

My sister Megan is the only one of 7 family members who doesn’t have to wear glasses or contacts full time, the stinker.

I’m not a scientist, so I cannot hurry along the research, but I AM an expert in health and exercise, so am constantly on the lookout for links between lifestyle and eye health improvements. A few months ago, via the PR rep from Visionworks, I sent along some questions to Dr. Robert Pretli, their Director of Professional Services. As this blog is geared toward Boomer women, I asked questions that would be helpful to my son AND to those of us who are on the right side of 50. In the spirit of a mom who wants to live long enough to SEE her son SEE, I offer these eye health suggestions  from Dr. Pretli to help you with your long term vision.

  • Healthy eating, nutrition and exercise are all factors that benefit eye health. Poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise are risk factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, the leading cause of blindness in working-age Americans is diabetes. Healthy habits, including annual eye exams, are essential in preserving your sight
  • A diet rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids such as green leafy vegetables and fish have been known to help prevent AMD
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20 second break to view something 20 feet away every 20 minutes. This helps avoid the headaches, fatigue, dry eyes and blurred vision that come with staring at a computer for prolonged periods of time
  • Wear polarized sunglasses when in the sun to help protect your eyelids and tissues around the eyes from the sun’s damaging rays
  • Two-thirds of blindness and other visual impairments worldwide occur in women. In addition to annual eye exams, we should also be careful about our eye makeup use, especially those of us who wear contact lenses.
Alexandra Williams

I got my first pair of glasses at the age of 7. They were the the cat-eyes you see at the top of this page. I’ve worn contacts since college. Dry eye syndrome is definitely an issue for me, and I’ve had several tear duct surgeries.

That last one motivates the heck out of me, as I wear both makeup and contacts. Now, if only I could figure out a way to convince my son to wear his prescription sunglasses.

Zann in Marciano sunglasses

Thanks Visionworks, for these cute Guess by Marciano sunglasses

Alexandra Williams, MA

Are you subscribed to our twice-weekly posts yet? If not, hop aboard, as we’ll be sharing pics and posts from our upcoming “Enchanting Rhein” cruise through Switzerland, Germany, France and Netherlands with AmaWaterways.

 

7

Get Rid of Fat Knees

Dear Fun and Fit – K and A:  How do I get rid of bulgy, fat knees? Are there special exercises that focus on that area, especially ones that are right for women over 50?  Nancy, Goleta, CA

Knee bulge, fat knees

Fight the Battle of the Bulge, especially if it’s Knee Bulge

Battle of the Knee Bulge

Kymberly: First and foremost, the answer is “Yes” you can have trimmer, slimmer looking knees by focusing elsewhere – not on the knee joint. We’ll get to that in a minute. Next, you need to sit down, get the remote, and watch the 1965 movie, Battle of the Bulge. All the secrets for winning bulgy battles are covered in the film. For $19.95 we will reveal those secrets (see post “Take One Deep Breath – Lose 5 Pounds. Myth or My Ohmmmm My? for the secret to my “Secret” comment, which is actually a joke as we’re not selling anything in that post).

Get Rid of Fat Knees or Reduce Fat Above, Behind, Around the Knee?

Third, I am going to go on a wild guess here that by “bulgy knees” you mean knees that have fat above and behind them in the thigh area. Cuz’ last I checked, joints themselves cannot be slimmed down. But my oh my, the areas around the knee can store some pretty nice lipose padding, eh? Therefore we are back to the eternal and infernal question of how to reduce fat and “tone up” surrounding muscles. Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically. Apparently your parents were upper thigh, knee area storage types. Bummer for you. However they probably gave you a nice waist or great hair or a car – something to make up for the genetic predisposition to knee (aka “thigh”) fat.

Alexandra: So true, so cardio, so in need of de-bulgifying. I must contradict Kymberly. Well, I don’t have to, but it’s a quick thrill for me, and I say that you should NOT sit down with the remote. You need to watch the movie while walking on a cardio machine that has a television screen on it. You’re okay with watching Henry Fonda for about 90 minutes aren’t you? Robert Shaw – we could understand a 30 minute commitment. If that sounds inconvenient, or you don’t wish to be spotted on the treadmill eating your popcorn, just do ten 9-minute spurts, broken up with trips to the fridge for Wee-Knees on tiny little Buns. Which is what you will have if you get moving. Poof! De-Bulgified.

Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically #activeaging Click To Tweet

Lower Body/ Upper Thigh Strength Training is the Shhhhh … Not Secret

Kymberly presses up in CO/ fat knees

Do these boulders make my knees look rock hard?

Kymberly: Well not quite yet de-bulgified though I did like Alexandra’s bun puns. And I think Robert Shaw deserves at least 60 minutes. Nancy, you are well served to engage in lower body strength training along with that cardio workout. After all, having strong quad, inner thigh, and hamstring muscles underneath any stored fat will add to the tighter, toned, leaner look your upper thighs will have as you work off additional calories through cardio. You also can benefit from getting stronger and boosting your metabolic rate via strength training.

Two separate actions needed: 1) burn off stored fat through cardio and 2) contract the muscles underneath with strength training. Hey, we did not say this would be easy! But aren’t Wee-knees with tiny buns worth it?

Read this post on how to burn fat while you sleep, watch tv, and read more posts. Hint: you need to increase your metabolic rate.

How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?

Also get busy with the Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50 (click the link to access that post).

Strength training is critical to achieve lean looking legs and to say good-bye to fat knees. Get suggestions and ways to access exercises to meet your goal here:

5 Reasons to Attend a Strength Class

What if You Have Knee Pain?

While we’re on the subject of knees, if you have knee joint pain (whether or not your knees are bulgy) then check out Fix My Knee Pain, by Rick Kaselj, a fitness colleague of ours. Just click. We’ve used this program ourselves, which is why we are affiliates, though this costs you nothing extra.

Knee Pain Program

Readers: Do you battle your bulge or did you wave the surrender flag? What wonderful attribute did you genetically inherit?

ACTION: Subscribe to receive our posts twice a week. Enter your email; claim your bonus. Kneed we say more?

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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6

Healthy Habits: Small Changes Lead to Big Changes

A recurring theme in our business of fitness and active aging is how to get from A to B – where you are now and where you want to be. Whether it’s weight loss, better nutrition, more energy, injury prevention, disease reduction or any of the many other reasons people have, the secret to success lies in using your mind to make small changes that add up and lead to the desired big changes as you create new, healthy habits.

Walk on beach, KymberlyInstead of speaking generally, I’ll give a specific case example. I have a 65-year-old friend, Barbara*. She has diabetes, insomnia, low arm muscle tone (related to a shoulder injury & surgery), is overweight by about 20 pounds, and has forward head thrust. Oh, she also complains of snoring, but wants to avoid wearing a CPAP machine to bed (recommended by her doctors after a sleep study for the insomnia). Her eating habits consist mostly of fast food and restaurant food.

For two months, she has talked about the things she “should” do, yet not much has changed. When she started talking to me, I listened for any recent relevant successes. As it turned out, she had lost about 35 pounds over the past few years. With a background in fitness, food and counseling, you’d think I could just say, “do X, Y, and Z and you’ll be fine.” Well, I COULD say that, but would she listen? Would you?

Keeping in mind she’s my friend, NOT my client, I’m somewhat limited, yet she truly is motivated. So I think like a pro and friend, by staying as non-judgmental as possible (that’s diplomatic talk for me trying to keep my mouth shut regarding unsolicited advice).

When trying to lead a healthier life, small changes are best because... Click To Tweet

Do’s:
Focus on one issue at a time
Put related issues together
Mention possible small changes
Create an environment that leads to success
Go small
Pat, Slap, Pat (totally non-counselorish phrase for Compliment, Correct, Compliment)
Find opportunities to celebrate small successes
Lay out a clear picture of what success looks like – can’t reach a goal if you don’t know what it is

Dont’s:
Try to solve all the issues at once
Nag
Be a saboteur
Expect the person to do what YOU would do

to do listI realized fairly quickly that Barbara’s main focus is the insomnia and snoring, even more than getting off the diabetes medicine. Me, I’d want to be off the daily shots for the diabetes, but that’s ME, not her. She doesn’t like being reminded about pulling her head back, so the forward head thrust is out of the equation for now. She also has shown little inclination to work out, so the arm strength is also set aside. The good news for her is that the cure for the insomnia and snoring is going to help her diabetes and weight too.

These are a few of the changes that she’s made:

She said she wanted to walk her dog, yet that wasn’t happening. Instead of nagging her to walk the dog, I asked what it was she didn’t like about walking the dog. She said it was boring to walk the same neighborhood day after day. Solution: We meet at different places in town and walk the dog. Side benefit: She is discovering places in town that she had never visited, and her dog barks less at night because he’s sleeping better too.

Kila and Liberty on rockShe said she wanted to eat better by eating fewer meals (skipping breakfast, to be specific). Research doesn’t back up this plan, but I know very few people who change their habits when they read research, so instead I went shopping with her and helped her pick out foods she would actually eat. Solution: She found cereals she liked and has taught herself to read labels to watch for the sugar content (for the diabetes). Side benefit: She is no longer driving through fast food places mid-morning to satiate her hunger, so the type and amount of calories she’s eating have changed for the better.

She knows that exercise leads to weight loss, which leads to a decrease in snoring and helps her sleep better, yet she wasn’t doing any exercise. She’s a social person, so I invite her to join me on dog walks and other walking opportunities. For example, she’s so used to driving everywhere, that’s it’s a habit for her to jump into her car for even a short distance. We were headed somewhere that’s about a quarter mile from my house, so I suggested we walk. Solution: She’s starting to look at walking as a way to get from place to place, rather than as forced exercise. By simply “interrupting” her unconscious habit of jumping into the car, she now sees walking as an alternative mode of transport. Side benefit: She has noticed the correlation between the exercise and how she sleeps, and has come to realize that it’s actually cause and effect.

She is a kindhearted person who likes to be a good friend. We were going out to restaurants far more than is my usual style, and I found I was eating more than I normally would. When I expressed concern about this, she wanted to be helpful to me. She isn’t a doggie bag person; her mindset is more toward “clean your plate.” Thinking of “Pat, Slap, Pat,” I said, “I love going out to eat and trying new foods. This lifestyle won’t work for me in the long run, as I’m sitting too long and eating too much” (way better than saying, “You eat out way too often,” which sounds judgy). “Could we swing by the ready-made section of the grocery store and pick up some lunch there instead?” If I had suggested cooking at home, she would not have been successful at reducing her restaurant visits, since she doesn’t cook. Solution: She is looking more to the grocery store as a place for portion control and choice. Side benefit: She now has more time for those dog walks, as she’s spending less time sitting in a restaurant.

nutrition at IDEA WorldI gave her a card for her wallet that lists her goals, but that was a total bust, as she never looks at it. And I discovered that chocolate shakes are non-negotiable for her, so I stopped rolling my eyes. She has a sweet tooth, so I have to work WITH, not AGAINST it. How? I offer fruit in vanilla yogurt to her, which sometimes (not always) satisfies her sugar craving. And isn’t fruit two times out of ten better than candy bars ten out of ten? Maybe she’ll get to five times fruit and five times chocolate bars. But that might be enough to beat the diabetes.

Oh, I got her hooked on Bolthouse Vanilla Chai instead of the caffeinated energy drinks and sodas she was drinking. THAT is a big success.

What is the one small thing you can do? Write it in the comments below so we can steal your ideas.

Alexandra Williams, MA

One very small thing you can do is subscribe to our twice-weekly posts, just by entering your email right over there ——->

Photo credit for “To Do” –  Courtney Dirks

3

3 Exercises to Strengthen & Support the Knee

If you need to strengthen the muscles that support the knee, you’ll want to try these three knee exercises. No equipment is needed except your own determination. And possibly a mat or bed.

seated knee extensionI had a knee replaced a month ago, so need to retrain my muscles and knee to work together. Our mom is wary of falling, so she needs to keep her legs strong in order to get up and down safely. And some of our students are new to exercise and need some basic exercises that don’t require weights or a machine. Voila! These will help.


Straight Leg Raise
Tighten muscles on front of thigh, then lift leg 8-10 inches from the bed or mat, keeping knee locked. Note: For most exercises that we teach, we encourage our students to have a “soft,” slightly bent knee. This particular exercise does require the locked knee.

Terminal Knee Extension
In the video I am lying supine (on my back), but you can also prop yourself up on your elbows, as long as you lift the chest and lengthen the neck.
With the knee bent over a bolster (or pillows), straighten the knee by tightening the muscles on top of the thigh. Move only from the knee down, keeping the hips on the bed or mat, and the back of the knee on the bolster. Hold for 3 seconds if possible before lowering.

Seated Knee Extension
Sit with legs hanging off the side of a bed or chair, preferably without feet touching the floor. Tighten the muscles of the thigh, then bend at the knee to lift the lower leg up to a straight leg position. Keep the hips down.

Try to do 10 repetitions of each exercise. Once you’ve gotten that, add a second set of ten, with a short break in between sets.

3 Exercises to help strengthen & support the knee. #Exercise #FitFluential Click To Tweet

If you are recovering from knee replacement surgery as I am, you will promptly ice your knee and take a nap after these exercises. Oh, yes indeed.

Alexandra Williams, MA

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