Category Archives for "Older Adult Activity Advice"

Grateful for What You DON’T Have

Take care of the baby peacockTime to Give Thanks — to Others Who Care for Others

It’s gratitude time, but not how you expect. The focus at Thanksgiving is usually on appreciating and giving thanks for what we have. This post looks at what you perhaps DON’T have. Stay with me as I explain.

Now that your children are older, do you enjoy having your schedule, time, and flexibility back? Is your life now one of more ease with fewer responsibilities? Do you find your energy lifting as you carve out a wee bit more “me” time?

Caregiving and Caregivers: We Are They, and They Are Us

Well fuggetaboutit if you are a caregiver! For the 40 million unpaid caregivers in the US, a moment of downtime, without demands or responsibilities is an elusive memory.

Many caregivers are boomer women, often sandwiched between the needs of their parents and their own kids. My sister is a prime example. She cares for her 19 year old special-needs son and orchestrates care for her husband who suffered several strokes this past year. What don’t you have that people like my sister and the women listed below do?

  • Constant worries about a loved one (in addition to usual worries);
  • Time demands that stretch the imagination and laws of physics;
  • Medical and other financial stresses that bombard daily;
  • Weariness caused by lack of sleep, high stress, and reduced freedom to exercise;
  • Unsupportive input from others who tell caregivers how to do a better caregiving job, but they aren’t actually doing the work.

Perform a Random Act of Kindness

Yup! Happy Thanksgiving, which comes at the end of National Family Caregivers month. In honor of the many caregivers in our nation, the Ad Council and AARP ask for your support of the Random Acts of Kindness initiative.  No, they’re not asking for funds, but for kindness – the kind that makes you feel good, while helping lift another. What can you do to give a caregiver a break? Glad you asked!

One other thing — read the following stories and random acts of kindness suggestions from women who have been in the trenches. Click on the title of each listed post. You’ll be inspired, uplifted, amazed, and — as is perfect for the season — grateful. For what your life does and does not have. And for who and what it does!

Looking for more insight into the lives, success strategies, and ways caregivers can stay healthy themselves? Perhaps you are also a caregiver deserving a kind deed! Then take a look at these posts from our site.

ACTION: Click on the links and listly posts above. Comment on the listly stories. Perform a random act of kindness for those who caregive. Let others know you are aware and care!

This is a sponsored post on behalf of Element Associates and Midlife Boulevard.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


What is the Best Way to Train My Triceps?

Dear Fun and Fit: Hi Twins, What is the best way to control tricep flap? Pati, Mountain View, CA

Alexandra: Another popular way people ask us this question is “How do I get Michelle Obama arms?” Either way, we have suggestions for you. The best way to control “tricep flap” is with long-sleeved shirts! Or do you mean a more permanent solution? Velcro, for example. We call the triceps the “bye-bye muscle.” You wave bye-bye. You stop. It doesn’t.

Kymberly: Just like Alexandra’s humormongering at a party. Ahh haaa haa Good one, eh? “Tricep flap” is so easy to address I am surprised it has run out of control in epidemic proportions (just like all those flappers who whirled themselves into a tizzy in the Twenties). Strength train the triceps. Then give a twirl and whirl to the single weight triceps extension Alexandra shows in our YouTube video. Feel encouraged to subscribe to our Fun and Fit channel if you’d like more moves designed for women over 50.

However, much as I love my sis, I actually prefer the following moves for triceps: tricep kickbacks–kind of like political life and funding flaps in certain countries; or triceps overhead extensions–what many people could use with their mortgages; or triceps push-ups– Similar to chest push ups, but with the arms narrower and elbows tucked next to the rib cage throughout the exercise. Yes, keep your arms parallel to your body. If you have not done this move before, start with the knees on the ground.

What if Fat is Covering Your Triceps?

And if, diplomatically saying that if you were carrying any extra fat globules in the arm area, well… time for some cardio and general strength training of the major muscles. You want to reduce fat with an overall exercise program while strength training the triceps. Let those triceps babies show their fulsomeness. No longer need they hide under any fat. Of course, no longer need they be ignored either. Kind of like what people might want to do to Alexandra’s jokes at that same party.

Alexandra: What party? Just because you left town and I got all the cute guys to myself. Yup, just me and my sleeveless shirt. And my lack of wingspan, as a friend calls the triceps (okay, my imaginary friend). Another way to control tricep flap is with an air-control tower. By this I mean, control the amount of air-speed created by those flappers. “What… is your quest?” “To seek the Holy Triceps.” “What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen tricep?” “What do you mean, an African or European tricep?” “Huh? I…I don’t know that.” (Bioioioioing, extra flap just thrown over). This Monty Python digression has been brought to you by an exercise called the “Skull Crusher,” which Fun and Fit feel is a very Pythonesque name. See, I did get around to the “bye-bye muscle” by and by.

Oh, and we also got around to another post that will give you more ideas to get great arms. Click to laugh and to access.

Readers: To whom and what would you love to say “bye-bye?”

Action Option: Ok, ok, so in the hundreds of videos we offer on our YouTube channel, we are pitifully scarce in the triceps department. So we know what our next shoot needs to focus on. Your task — subscribe to our channel. You’ll be the first to find out when our triceps videos get published.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


Women Over 50 – We Are NOT Aging Healthfully

Celebrate Healthy Aging Month

Kym at RanchThe last of the baby boomers turns 50 this month, which is also Health Aging Month. But are we baby boomers aging healthfully? Apparently not if dying from preventable diseases is any indicator. The number one cause of death in women is what most people think of as a men’s killer – cardiovascular disease. Yep, that’s what knocking women off their block. And we women die of strokes more often than men. Are you cheered up yet? Well you are still here, so that’s something to be cheery about, right?

Freak Out from these (Un)Fit Facts

What percentage of women in the US are inactive?  It’s not even Halloween, and the statistic should scare us all. 82%  This high number of sedentary women is particularly worrisome when you consider that “active” is defined as engaging in a mere 2.5 hours of exercise per week. Whaaaaat??!!  That’s an average of less than 22 minutes per day of movement.  So 82% of our nation’s women are struggling to work in even 22 minutes a day of activity.

Attain Superstar Statistics Status

Let’s hope you are a stat buster making up for the rest of the nation! If not, you can be by sneaking in at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. Need ideas how to start, restart, or up the ante? Check out some of our posts that will help you activate to health and super stats status:

How to Start an Exercise Program

I Want to Get Fit, but Where Do I Start?

How Do I Fit in Exercise When I Don’t Have Time to Exercise?

Have a good guess at the percentage of US women who are overweight? If you’ve ever been to a shopping mall in middle America, you may have a good idea.  67%. Was your guess close?

Take a gander at the Healthy Aging for Women infographic below from the University of Florida online, which offers some interesting and perhaps even motivating stats and scoop.

Call to Action: Once you’ve done that, take one more action to improve your health — subscribe to our site if you are not already part of our community. You can use either the pop-up box or the box in the sidebar.

UF Online Infographic: Health Aging for Women

by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


Oblique Ab Crunches: How to Do Them Properly

Tape measure on abs

One of our most popular post categories is Abs, especially workouts that show how to do them with good form. You want to avoid pain (and sweat), plus you want to get the most bang for your exercise buck (these posts are free), and the least waist for your workout. We are here to help you with the “muffin top / love handles” dilemma.

Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.

Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.

Internal & External ObliquesYour external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.

Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
Diagonal Reverse Abs
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!

Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!

Not yet a subscriber? Sign up by entering your email (to the right in the sidebar ———–> and you’ll receive our handy-dandy posts two times per week. Which is probably how often you do ab workouts, am I right?

Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org

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


Exercise and Fitness Trends for the Over Fifty Crowd

Test riding the Elliptigo

Drop the pedal and go, go, Elliptigo We goin’ ridin’ on the freeway of love

Are you over 50, one day hope to be, or have loved ones who are? Then the following quotes and key points from the recent IDEA World Health and Fitness Convention are for you! And you! And, yes, you too! All of yahs! And your parents, as well. But only if you want to live healthier, smarter, or better.

My prior post promised to share the good stuff from the trend setting sessions beyond Day 1 at IDEA. This year’s convention theme was “Inspire, Connect, Transform.” We hope the following quotes and highlights do that for you.

Think About Moving or Move to Think?

Day 2 started with one of my favorite subjects: the effects on the brain from movement. Who among you knows someone with Alzheimer’s or memory loss or slowing mental capacity? Of course such ravages will never happen to us, right?

Guess what? “A case of dementia is diagnosed every 4 seconds in the U.S. If our nation were to increase its activity by 25%, we would decrease dementia cases by 1 million per year! Over 10% of adults 65 and older, and more than 50% of those past 80 have some sort of cognitive impairment.” And with these stats that take one’s breath away faster than an elliptical machine on an incline,  expert presenter, Fabio Comana opened his talk, Brain Fitness.

If you want to live longer, work in 20 minutes daily of cardio activity.” And if you want to know what’s going on in those added years,  “a mere 8-12 minutes a day of aerobic exercise improves cognition.” You want to be smart and minimize dementia in your later years? Take Fabios’s advice. Don’t just think about moving. Move to think!

Falling, Falling, Falling for You

I've Fallen IDEA session with Shari Kalkstein

I’ve Fallen and I CAN get up, with Shari Kalkstein’s help

So I did. Over to the next session with one of my favorite presenters, Shari Kalkstein  who specializes in physical function for people 70 and older. Also known as “parents of baby boomers.” Am I right? If you want your parents (insert “yourself when older”) to be independent and active as long as possible, then Shari’s protocols and warnings are important. (Click on her links to see exercises, assessments, and practical tips).

Her session, I’ve Fallen, made a strong case for preventing falls and setting up the home to account for them when they happen. And they will. “More than 18,000 older adults died from injuries related to falls in 2007. In 2008, more than 2 million older adults were treated in emergency rooms due to fall injuries.” Wonder where most falls occur? In the home, where, as Shari says, “we have complete control over our environment.”  Like her, my sis and I have lots of practical moves and solutions to address this reality.

  • Check out our Fun and Fit YouTube channel, specifically our playlist, Exercises for Women Over 45;
  • Enter searches on our site;
  • Watch for our upcoming program for sale: Fitness Over 50.”

Wear and Share If You Dare

Kymberly won a Basis Fitness and Sleep Tracker

I Won a Basis Fitness and Sleep Tracker AND a Medal

After I’ve Fallen, I moseyed my way to The Future of Fitness Technology with Marco Della Torre. Spoiler alert – I earned an IDEA Fitness Inspiration Medal by correctly answering his stumper question. And talk about a coincidence, turns out Marco is one of the co-founders of Basis, now owned by Intel, the company from which I won a Basis fitness and sleep tracker. So I won two technology related prizes in a row! Yup, it’s always worthwhile to get to the IDEA Trade Show between and after educational sessions. Anyway, wearable technology is big and about to go humongous! Ready to take advantage of fun high tech fitness gear? Check out a few of our posts on the subject:

Accepting and agreeing that fitness technology will wield an ever growing impact on our workout lives, I loved how Marco ended his talk: “The biggest trend coming in wearable tech is that new ideas and products will bring people closer, rather than driving them apart.” Think about that for a sec. Instead of seeing the top of people’s heads as they bend over their phones and pedometers, you’ll be in a new world of gadgets that connect you with others more and more.

Imagine a community of like-minded, actively aging, high-functioning people who interact personally via stuff not yet invented. Might you already have something close to this? It’s coming, so be ready to Inspire, Connect, and Transform!  Or maybe you will Invent the next best thing that gets people to exercise and enjoy the benefits of lifelong movement. I’ll plug that!

By Kymberly Williams-Evans

IDEA World 2014 and Kymberly

Readers: What wearable tech do you already own? Use? What do you think of it? When is the last time you crawled?  Not pub crawled, but crawled like an infant?


Pssst! Want to Know Top Insider Fitness Trends and Quotes?

Recon Intel glasses tech wear on Alexandra

Looking Into the Future

Do you like to stay ahead of the curve? I mean besides the ones on our baby boomer, midlife bodies?  Then hold tight as we zoom through some of the key takeaways and quotables from the recent IDEA World Fitness Convention.  Alexandra and I just returned from the main industry event that draws fitness professionals from around the globe. By attending many sessions focused on the over fifty crowd (Wheee! that’s most of us), I gleaned some relevant Fun Fit Facts, exercise trends, and plain ole’ good quotes.

Now to lay some of those fitness pro insights on you, so you can revel in the workout fun that lies ahead. Or more specifically, get your trending fitness quotes now while they’re hot!

  1. From IDEA CEO and co-founder, Peter Davis: “ The future of our industry lies in survival of the wisest, not the fittest.”  I already like the tone he is setting at the welcome ceremony! Wise up masses! Or is that Rise Up? Heck, let’s do both.
  2. Jack la Lanne Inspiration Award recipient, Jenna Wolfe paraphrased the Jackmaster who used to whip crowds into action by telling us that “the only way to hurt your body is not to use it.”  Do you agree? We do. So get out there and be a big user!
  3. Next keynote speaker, Brendon Burchard took us for a twist and turn by stating that “we don’t HAVE energy; we GENERATE it.” Well pick me up and slap me down as I had to think about this one, having always thought I HAD the Big E! But Brendon’s point is well taken. Who’s with me to transform into an energy generator? Let’s call ourselves “Energeners.” Good, eh?IDEA notes, Blue Diamond almonds, Ahnu shoes
  4. From there, I power walked it over to the “Posture Improvement Workshop” led by Sarah Zahab, who had a lot of letters after her name AND loads of good posture assessments. She rightly reminded us that “even strength training 2-3 times a week, for 30-60 minutes per session won’t compete with 14 hours a day of poor posture.” Oops, was I slouching when I took that note? If you desire better stance, take a look at our posture series on making your mama proud by standing tall!
  5. Meg and Kymberly at IDEA Ketchum booth

    Stand Tall, Lie Long with friend and fitness pro, Meg

    Speaking of standing up, presenter Tomi Toles asked attendees at his “Walking Tall” session: “What muscles and structures do we walk from?” Most of us fell right into his trap — “Why, we walk from the legs, doncha know.” Wrong! After watching a video of a man with no legs “walk” on his ischial tuberosities (google it), we could see that great gait really comes from the abdominal wall muscles and spine. Want to be a better walker AND tone your abs at the same time? Check out our post on achieving great gait.

  6. Wrapping up Day One was Functional Aging Institute Co-founder, Cody Sipe, PhD. (Click this link to find out why My Main Man Cody told the whole room that everyone was to try to answer a certain question about Functional Aging activities, except Ms. Kymberly).  Uh, yeah, it’s cuz he knew that I already knew the answer as a recently certified Functional Aging Specialist.

    Dr Cody Sipe bringing us the POWAH

  7. Anyway, Cody grabbed us with a bold statement that “For people older than 50, POWER training may be the most important component of our exercise program. More important than strength training and cardio is the need to train for power, defined as the ability to move a load quickly.” We are not messing around here, fellow baby boomers. Time to add a little speed to our hop, skip, and jump. Did you know that with age (and lack of power training), we lose power even more than we lose strength? And with that we proceeded to learn a whole lotta cool exercises just right for our achy joints that brought back DA POWAH!

Come to my group fitness classes and look for our upcoming package of moves for “Fitness Over 50” if you want to try what we learned.

And that is it for quotes that “Inspire, Connect, and Transform” from the first day at IDEA. Subscribe, open your emails from us, and keep reading if you wonder how Day Two and Three managed to surpass the quality that was Day One. Coming soon to a blog near you. Near and dear, we hope.

Alexandra, ACE, IDEA

Celebrating Our Past, Planning Our Future

By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Readers: Which is your favorite fitness quote? One of the above? One to share from elsewhere?  Let us know in the comments below.


How Do I Go from “Stuck” to “Start” with My Fitness Plan

Boomers on the Loose graphic

Be Loose, Not Stuck!

Arrrrghhh! That’s the sound of you spending another day stuck in sedentary patterns stitched with good exercise intentions. Another day of you bartering with yourself in an Annie mood that “tomorrow, tomorrow, I love you tomorrow” the sun will come out and shine differently on your workout plans. But no actual exercise has occurred on a consistent (or even intermittent) basis. How many “tomorrows” have come and gone that you now admit, yup, you’re stuck and need a prod to get going. As in “today!”

From Nothing to Something; From Some to Some More

Good news. We are here to prod. Cajole and bribe even! Did you attend our recent TransformAging webinar session, (Re)Starting Fitness After 50? Have you noticed the new freebie checklist we offer subscribers, 16 Easy Ways to Get Unstuck and More Fit? Then you’ll know that we are on a roll to address one of the most common requests we get: how to go from park to cruise mode; from inactive to active; from nuffink much to sumpin. Note I did not say to zoom from 0 to 60 off the starting line. In fact, starting small is one of our key pieces of advice.

Old Fashioned Whoop Ass

Need a kick in the keester to get unstuck?

Say So Long Suckahs to Sedentary Stuckness

Kymberly: Today is a great day to kiss frustration, inertia, and negative self-talk good-bye and say hello to restarting more active habits.

Alexandra: Can I at least have some French Vanilla ice cream with my inertia? And I didn’t know his name was Frustration when I kissed him. But I’d do it all again anyway.

Kymberly: For you, sis, you may partake of the can of Whoop Ass included in this post. For the rest of you, forget fitness trends, celebrity endorsements, or what you used to do when you were younger. We are so committed to helping you undo the glue that’s stuck on you that we are sending all of our current subscribers our checklist. Look for that in a separate email. Be sure to open the email and the document if you want to move more– more happily, comfortably, and successfully.  If you are reading this and not a subscriber, then subscribe. (Look right. Yes, that sidebar just there). You’ll get your own copy of “16 Easy Ways to Get Unstuck and More Fit” that way.

In addition to the easy action items we offer in the checklist we’ll be emailing you, try any of the following, additional tips to get going. You can do it! Today and tomorrow and the day after and thereafter. A step at a time.

8 Bonus Easy Ways to Get Unstuck Starting … Now! When Else?

Consider this post your Bonus Checklist. Otherwise we have to rename the main checklist “A Whole Bunch of Ways to Get Unstuck” and I am waaay too busy sitting at the computer paddling, biking, taking step class, and walking the dog to do that. So “Bonus” it is.

  1. Identify a space in your home where you can work out, even if it’s just big enough to fit a mat or towel on the floor.
  2. Forget the all or nothing, “practice makes perfect” approach. Practice makes progress. Practice makes permanent. Practice creates habits. Perfection is overrated and unsustainable. Simply do a little bit more than the day before.
  3. Set your expectations low to start. What’s the least you can do and commit to today? Tomorrow?
  4. Drink water. Instead of sugary drinks or ones that have the word “latte,” or “fountain” in them, or whipped cream, or carbonation combined with a can. See where I am going with this?  Being well water-drated will also minimize muscle soreness and fatigue.  Thats’ a twofer special right there!
  5. Find moves and activities you enjoy. This has been a recording. Beeeeep. Ever wonder why we named our blog “Fun and Fit?” Because we believe that movement can be enjoyable; that an active life is more appealing than a sedentary one; AND that at least some of the exercise you do has to be fun so you will actually do it. Oh, and because my sister is actually pretty funny. Yes, those of us who have crossed over to the other side know that it is more fun to move and groove than it is to think about it. And it definitely is not fun to force ourselves to perform exercises we hate. Bleeeeech! (as Mad Magazine used to say).
  6. Find a community to support you or at least one that will hold you accountable. Whether you pick someone in person, online, or long distance, make a pact with at least one other support person with whom you will actually check in. Maybe you’ll even find a workout buddy.
  7. Use technology if that works for you. Don’t use the lack of a pedometer, wrist tracking device, calorie counter or any other wearable technology as an excuse NOT to start. We are not Waiting for Godot or Go Pro around here. Just get out there with or without the latest gear. The lack of a device is not an obstacle to movement. However, if the presence of any wearable technology helps you giddy up, why then use it! Strap on and keep on truckin’!
  8. Have a restart Plan B. You will not meet your goals each day. That’s no reason  to give up. And by “reason” I mean “excuse.” Get back to the mat or gym or trail. Be prepared for the common, usual, and totally human reality that you will have “fail” days. What is your contingency plan when you get off track? Let’s hope it at least includes forgiving yourself, and looking to the future rather than berating the past.
Himalayas from airplane

Fly My Pretties, Fly!

Does one of the above actions speak to you? Then listen. And go for it. Between the “16 Easy Ways to Get Unstuck and More Fit” checklist and the action items above, you now have um, hold on as I get my fingers out, 22 Easy Tips to Get Going. You need just one to get unstuck and on the path to new active aging habits.

Didn’t get to our TransformAging Summit, but wonder about it? Find out how our webinar expert presenters can youthify and enhancify your post 50 years. Click this TransformAging page.

Sales image for TransformAging

By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


How Strong is Your Lower Body?

Best dog posing on tree stump, sitting


Wonder whether your lower body is functionally strong? Find out with this easy and quick Sit to Stand Test. In under 10 minutes you will have read this post, taken the 30 second assessment, and discovered where you stand for your age and function for lower body strength. “Where you stand.” Get it? Stop me before I hurt myself. Oh, and this test was designed for the over 60 crowd, so if you are younger, you will have to estimate your results based on the score sheets below. Get ready to do a little math. Very little.

Balance and Strength Get Top Numbers

poser dog on fence


Anyway, turns out that our post “How Good is Your Balance” leapt into position as one of our most popular. So we figured why not offer another assessment. Nothing like finding out where you are in order to get to where you want to go!

All you need is a helper person (preferably an encouraging one who brings you a refreshing beverage and heeds your beck and call. Barring that, get whomever is handy and can count and run a stopwatch simultaneously. You also need a chair, stopwatch, courage, brain, and heart. (Who said the latter three in what classic movie?) Get a standard height chair (seat at 17 inches) and place it against a wall so it does not slip.

Test Instructions

Now listen up peeeeples so you get the instructions right: Sit in the middle of the chair with your back nice and long, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms held to your chest and crossed to opposite shoulders. Your goal is to stand up as many times as possible in the 30 seconds. You need to fully stand for a rep to count. Only complete stand ups count, not some partway, hunched over gig. One exception – if you get more than halfway up when the clock runs out, you get to count that rep. Yup, we know — too generous.  Have your assistant cue you with “Ready, Set, Go!” Then jam on it! Don’t you want to score in the top percentile for your age group?

numbers for sit to stand test

So are you Ready, set, ….. wait. First, heed these tips so you can get the best, most accurate score possible:

Tips to Ace the Test

  • Keep your elbows close to your body throughout the test. No swinging your arms. No pinching, no fighting, no hitting, no biting.
  • Sit your behiney down each time. You should transfer your body weight to the seat with every repetition.
  • Either brace your chair against the wall or have your minion support person hold it steady for the test’s duration.
  • If you need to use your arms to stand, then you do not count those reps.
  • Try one or two practice stand ups before timing yourself so you can execute good form.

Ready? Hit it!

Sit to Stand Chart

How did you do? When I estimate based on being 56 and doing 19 reps, I fared okish- around 75% or so, I humbly confess. I wanted to be in the 99%. Is that asking too much?  Pffft. Time to retake this test now that my knee surgery is further in my past. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

Getting Tested in Order to Conduct Tests

I practiced administering and analyzing this assessment when I attended the Functional Aging Summit as part of achieving my Functional Aging Specialist certification. Full credit and kudos to Cody Sipe, PhD and Dan Ritchie, PhD, who conducted that event and offer programs such as Never Grow Old. Click on this noozhawk article to read more about what my functional aging certification means and what is going on in the fitness world for people over 50.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

PS If you are looking for a great functional fitness program designed for people over 50 who want to move more easily and comfortably, check out Dan and Cody’s “Never Grow Old” program. You get 4 levels of exercises, videos, cues, oodles of moves to try, and the confidence that you are getting a program created by knowledgeable, credible, proven experts in the fitness industry. And yes, we would make a few dollars if you buy their program, but not enough to buy our way out of taking any fitness tests!  Check out their program as clicking the link costs nothing.



How Good is Your Balance?

balance on stable surface with eyes open

Alexandra pretending she is balanced. Eyes Wide Open

How good is your functional balance control? You can find out in under 2 minutes. You can also discover which of your three balancing systems is strongest.

I had fun trying the balance assessment below when I attended the first Functional Aging Summit in Phoenix this past week. Day one of the conference was dedicated to learning how to maximize physical function for the over 50 exerciser.  In order to know what to progress, we first need to establish baselines. It’s the ole’ “you don’t know where to go until you know where you are” approach. Ergo — Time to tackle fitness assessments that measure functional abilities such as static balance, dynamic strength, and dynamic balance. (What exactly is “functional fitness”? Click to our post with the answer once you have read this one).

Test Instructions

My fun gets to be your fun. Try the following test which assesses your ability to maintain static balance when one or more sensory systems are inhibited. Stand on both legs with your arms against your sides.  Perform each of the four conditions for 30 seconds with someone else timing you and keeping an eye out in case you fall or need a hand. Stop the test if you:

  1. Raise your arms from your sides
  2. Open your eyes in either of the two closed eyes tests
  3. Lose your balance and need help to prevent falling

Definitions of Sensory Systems

Before you begin, let’s define a few terms so you know which of your balance senses are fine and dandy or need development.

  • Visual System: helps us interpret visual images. Pretty straightforward;
  • Somatosensory System:  conveys information about the state of the body and objects in our external environment through touch. This system also gives us input about the position and movement of our body parts  through the stimulation of muscle and joints, aka proprioception;
  • Vestibular System:  senses spatial orientation for the purpose of coordinating movement with balance.

Ok, now to find out which of these three senses are your best friends, and which (if any) need better buddying up. Ready, set, time yourself!

Condition 1) Eyes Open, Stable Surface

– you are using your visual, somatosensory, and vestibular systems.

Condition 2) Eyes Closed, Stable Surface

balance on an unstable surface with eyes closed

Something in this picture is unstable. Or someone….

– you have pulled out your visual system, and are using just the vestibular and somatosensory systems.

Condition 3) Eyes, Open, Unstable Surface

(stand on a foam pad or BOSU ball, for example) – you are dependent on your visual and vestibular systems in this case.

Condition 4) Eyes Closed, Unstable Surface

(again using a foam pad or BOSU ball) – you are relying on the vestibular system alone.

How many seconds were you able to last for each condition? Under which conditions did you have troubles?

80 Years Old and Kicking Booty (of this 56 year old)

I’ll tell you who aced these tests when we tried them at the Functional Aging Summit — my new pal and inspiration, Marliene, an 80 year old teacher/ trainer from northern California. Not only did she have amazing balance and get to 30 seconds for all four conditions, but also she beat me in the Sit to Stand assessment test. I managed only 19 ups and downs to her 20, which put her above the 90 percentile for her age group and me in the 75% for mine. She is THE example of what active aging and functional training can do for a person. Yeah, I wish I had taken her picture, but we were too busy learning cool, functional exercises.

Doing a side plank on the Ranch bridge

A different kind of balance

Side (plank)  note: I just became the first fitness pro in my county to achieve the Functional Aging Specialist certification. You can read about it here on noozhawk.

The write up means I have a chance to be as incredible as Marliene one day — IF I put all my functional training knowledge into action! How about you?

Take the balance test. Record your results. Which of your balance senses were strongest? Weakest? Let us know in the comments below.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


PS If you want to assess your leg strength, then check out this companion post, How Strong is Your Lower Body?



Do You Have to Work Harder and Faster as You Age, Just to Stay the Same?

Dear Twins:
At age 71, I find that fitness is a race between the body’s downward slope and the effort to work faster to stay fit. I’d love to have help with how to stay fit at this age. What I find is that all the fitness professionals are addressing younger people. My goal is to be able to continue to walk long distances effortlessly for the rest of my life. Unfortunately sciatica has gotten in my way. So I’d like ways to conquer this and keep my lumbar spine in order. I walked my first half marathon in February, by the way!
Wendy, San Francisco

More Mesa walk

Do Walk Away! And walk this way. Click on the picture for tips on walking.

First of all Wendy, if you just did a half marathon, you are probably more fit than most of the young people I teach at the university. Congratulations on your achievement.

Let’s help you point by point:

Downward Slope, Effort & Staying Fit: I’ll focus on muscle loss, as you don’t mention a strength training component to your workout. Sarcopenia is the progressive decline in skeletal muscle mass that may lead to decreased strength and functionality. When people talk about the race against time, they are usually talking about sarcopenia.
I wrote an article for The Journal on Active Aging about ways to deal with this that might interest you. Summarized in two words – Resistance Training. If you add some resistance training to your regimen, you’ll be amazed at the results. A 70-year-old who does some form of strength/ resistance training can be more fit than a 20-year-old who doesn’t. Isn’t THAT good news?
I’ll start you with our YouTube playlists, “Healthy Aging Exercises for Women Over 45” and “Women Over 50.”
You’ll also want to check out two of our TransformAging webinar colleagues’ websites – Tamara Grand and Debra Atkinson.

cover page for sarcopenia article

Sarcopenia – Fancy word for “muscle wasting”

Effortless Walking: Since it sounds like your stamina and heart are chugging along, future effortless walking can be assisted by – you guessed it – resistance training, and balance work to prevent falls. Cody and Dan (our other co-presenters) specialize in this area, so here’s a link to some of their posts on balance.

Sciatica: Most research studies have shown stretching, yoga and low intensity movement (that doesn’t involve twisting) to be most effective in controlling the symptoms. For this we recommend you look locally for instructors who specialize in yoga or Pilates. You’ll want to ask about their certifications, speciality training (for both older adults and back care), and experience. Don’t be shy about asking for references. If you search for exercises online, check the source. For example, we trust the info on this link from the National Institutes of Health.
Final suggestion for now – strengthen your core so your back takes less of the load. We’ll get you started with our post “Abs and Core Exercises That Are Safe for the Lower Back.”

Of course, you can always come to Santa Barbara and join us in one of our classes for older adults. We’ll take good care of you!

by Alexandra Williams, MA


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