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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6

What’s Wrong with Your Workout?

What's wrong with your workoutWhat do you suspect is wrong with your workout? I’m talking the numero uno problem when it comes to most adults and exercise routines. Any guesses?

In thinking about why most U.S. adults do not succeed with their exercise program, I asked participants in my fitness classes for their input. (If you are from another country don’t think you are off the hook. Most English speaking countries are rife with inactivity and sedentary behavior. You are getting U.S. statistics, but the workout problem is worldwide.)  The irony is that by definition, people in fitness classes are least likely to be the ones falling into the category of “problematic” or “wrong workouts.”  Nevertheless they have the experience and interest to have insightful answers.

Good Guesses on What Can Go Wrong with Workouts

  • “Not enough variety,” said one of my active 66 year olds. “If people do the same thing all the time, their workout results will suffer.”
  • “Workouts can be wrong if they are not intense enough or too intense,” replied a front row 58 year old with a long history of exercise.
  • “The program is not right for that person’s goals, body, or capabilities,” piped up my feisty and fit 80 year old.

All of those answers are correct insofar as they address common problems with exercise programs. But they have yet to hit on the MAIN problem with most workouts. My class respondents all assume one thing — that people are actually exercising in the first place.

What's wrong w/your workout? And 80% of the US adult population's workouts? Click To Tweet

What's wrong with your workout?

The Wrong Workout is the One Not Done

Yup – what’s wrong with most workouts is that people aren’t doing actually doing them. Do you have this same problem? And  by “you” I mean your friends, relatives, and compatriots. Not you, of course.

150 Minutes to Be “Right”

Sure enough, the not done workout is all wrong. The most “right” workout in the world is bupkus nada zippity doo dah if you aren’t actually working it. Only 20% of US adults meet the minimum guidelines for exercise. Governmental guidelines recommend 150 minutes of moderately intense cardio activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two. For strength, adults should also engage in muscle-strengthening activities like resistance training at least twice per week. You can knock out such muscle training in 30 minutes per session if you have a well-designed program or attend a group strength training class. At most, you need to spend two more hours per week for a whopping total of under five hours spread over seven days to get both aerobic and strength benefits.

Only 20% of US adults meet the minimum guidelines for exercise. Join that elite and Move More Click To Tweet

 

Kymbelry fallen and getting upThink about the above statistics for a mighty-minute — almost 80% of US adults do not devote even two and a half hours in a week to aerobic movement. Walking counts, so that makes these inactivity numbers even more staggering. Even fewer adults spend two hours a week strength training. Enter the elite 20% and be a stats changer!

The Right Workout is the One You Will Actually Do

As we enter a new year, let’s focus on doing the right workout. And what is that?

One answer is to check out these posts that offer BEST workouts for specific needs.

Whats wrong with your workout?

Strive for Progress, not Perfection

An even more accessible answer is that unless you are competing, performing, or striving for total peak fitness — in which case you need specific protocols — the right workout is the one you will actually do; the exercises you enjoy; the movement you will adhere to.  Let this year be the one you add movement to. A little bit of imperfect sumpin’ sumpin’ is better than perfect nuttin’ nuttin’. Forget perfection. Go for progress. A little more than the day before. Let’s do this!

Action: Subscribe to our site and get your workouts right! Enter your email in any of the box options and we’ll come to you once or twice a week. Pinky promise.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

11

A Focus On Gratitude Can Improve Your Health

With the Thanksgiving frenzy just past, I decided to take a quiet, post-holiday moment to contemplate what I’m thankful for. I want to stay healthy, even through stressful, uncertain times, and know that a focus on gratitude can help improve my health.

Rainbow over Breisach

Rainbow over the German town of Breisach, taken from the hilltop church above the town.

While contemplating the many things for which I’m grateful, I got a brain flash (like a brain fart, but good), and realized that the most obvious answer is sometimes hidden in plain sight because it’s so normal, standard and everyday. Even you, dear readers, see the “thing” for which I’m especially grateful for every time you come to our site. Have you guessed yet? It’s my co-blogger, aka my sister Kymberly.

Rainy day in Heidelberg

Visiting Heidelberg Castle during our AmaWaterways cruise. Kymberly had the most colorful umbrella.

I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life.… Click To Tweet

When people are mean to me, she’s got my back. When I want something, she wants it for me too. When I want to talk about my boys, including my hopes and worries, she lets me ramble on.

Griffin fountain in Basel

Don’t make her have to chew you up and spit you out! Griffin fountain in Basel, Switzerland.

She has taken on the huge task of managing our mom’s affairs as our mom ages; all without pay or thanks. On the contrary, sometimes she gets a lot of grief for doing what’s best for our mom.

open air market in Strasbourg

Kymberly bought a few old maps at this open air market in Strasbourg, France. Shop, shop, shop.

She has kept herself up to date on research that’s relevant to active aging, and she shares that information in her classes, seminars, conferences, and articles (including this blog). Even when the places she works for take her for granted and consistently fail to recognize her contributions, she keeps doing her best.

We argue a lot (well, a lot less than we used to), yet any of you with siblings know that’s how it works. Yet I know 100% that I can trust her. Not everyone can trust a sibling the way I can trust mine, so it’s worth a shout out to her. And you know what she does behind my back? She talks me up. She lets people know she’s proud of me.

She’s a warrior, and she uses that trait to protect my back (or whatever metaphor you prefer).

church statue, Hamburg

This is a true-to-life photo of Kymberly the last time someone tried to mess with me. Just a friendly warning.

And she’s fun. We went on an AmaWaterways cruise together in October, and had a blast. We hiked, biked, ate, made friends, laughed, climbed hills, descended stairs (castles have a LOT of those), stood in the rain, and even shared a cabin and got along famously (except for one argument about her snoring – shhhh).

Bike riding in Köln

Taking a water break during our 11-mile bike ride in Köln (which is free to all AmaWaterways cruise passengers).

I challenge you to improve your health by showing gratitude for something in your life that’s so obvious you missed it. Sunsets, your dog, a car that works, the best parking spot in your complex, food security, a high credit score… you get the picture.

AmaPrima double cabin

We shared this cabin for our 8-day cruise on the AmaPrima with AmaWaterways.

And now that I’ve written this post, I hope my sis doesn’t expect me to suck up to her. Though I do still hold out hope that she’ll suck up to me by giving me her red KitchenAid mixer.

Text and photos by Alexandra Williams, MA

If you want more travel pictures, follow my Instagram account. If you like beach and dog photos, subscribe to my sister’s. Be daring – follow both.

6

Best Exercise to Improve Memory

kayaking on Whiskeytown Improve Memory via cardioLake An older adult aging activelyThe best exercise you can do to improve memory is ….

Uh, hold on while I jog my memory.
Did you see the hint I embedded in that prior sentence? Based on the last 10 years of what is now overwhelming evidence, the BEST activity you can do to improve your memory is anything aerobic. You even get a double bonus in that your memory is enhanced both immediately and long term through aerobic, aka cardio exercise.

More than strength training, more than brain games, better than travel, or learning a new skill — the powerhouse, champion way to improve memory is to exercise aerobically. The above listed activities are certainly helpful, though runners up. Ha ha aha Worked in another word play.

What Makes an Activity “Aerobic?”

What does “aerobic” really mean? How do you know if you are performing cardio activity?

The best exercise you can do to improve memory is .... #activeaging Click To Tweet

Aerobic exercise is defined as all of the following occurring simultaneously:

  • Systemic, meaning most of your body is involved. Waving your arms while sitting otherwise inert would not be aerobic as your whole system is not moving. The lower body could be taking a nap while the arms party up and down.  If you are using most or all of your major muscles, you are probably moving aerobically.
  • Sustainable, meaning you could sustain the activity at least 20 minutes without hating the world and wondering when you can get off. You don’t HAVE to sustain the activity 20 minutes to get cardio benefit, but if you are working at a level where you COULD keep going at least 20 minutes, then you meet this criteria. For instance, I could not do airjacks or jump tucks for 20 minutes. Who wants to anyway? But I could power walk or hit the elliptical machine for that long.
What does “aerobic” really mean? How do you know if you are in your aerobic zone? Click To Tweet
  • Having an elevated heart rate. You smarty pants out there probably read the criteria above and thought “I can sustain couch lounging for 20 minutes ergo I am in my cardio zone.” Yeah, but is your heart rate also going higher? You have to meet ALL the criteria I am sharing with you to be aerobic.
  • Elevated or heavy breathing. Having to catch your breath every 3- 5 words is a good indicator that you are working aerobically. If you could spill your life story, then sip a little air, you are below aerobic threshold (fancy talk for “you need to work harder.”). If you get out one word, gasp for breath, get out another word, gasp again, you are above threshold. Lower your intensity IF you want to stay aerobic. Being anaerobic, above threshold has benefits, but for brain boosting purposes, stick with the heavy, not heaving breath elevation.
    Kymberly and Alexandra post bike ride Fitness trends for boomers

    We remember loving this bike ride.

Where Does the Word “Aerobic” Come From?

If you like etymology then you’ll enjoy knowing that the word “aerobic” is derived from the Greek word “aero” for air or oxygen and “bio” indicating “life.” In short, aerobic exercise is life giving.  Back in the day, our ancestors had to run to eat or avoid being eaten. Our bodies and brains were made to move aerobically. We ran to survive. We aerobicise to thrive!

Gimme Some Examples Purty Please

So what are some types of aerobic exercise? And does any cardio activity improve memory or just certain kinds?

Great news — any cardio exercise will improve your memory, recall, attention span, and focus. You can take a step class, walk your dog, hike trails, swim, dance, cavort (we baby boomers are good cavorters, right?). Other aerobic activities include kickboxing, indoor cycling, outdoor bike riding, getting on treadmills, elliptical machines, the stairclimber. Lots of options.

Kymberly on step to Imprpve Memory

Stepping up to cardio and better memory.

I often get asked whether playing sports is aerobic. Generally if you are very good or very bad at the sport, you will be in your aerobic zone. Picture being pretty unskilled at tennis, for instance. You are chasing the ball all over the place; your opponent is trying to send the ball where you haven’t anticipated; you have to run a lot. Pant pant. Heart rate up, etc.

Or you are very good at tennis, so you constantly shift your position to send your opponent off guard; you run to return hits; you keep in athletic stance, and the game moves quickly. Bingo – cardio!

Improve Memory Here and Now

Certainly a looooooong list of benefits comes with aerobic training. The relative newcomer to the plethora of reasons to get up and boogie is aerobic exercise is numero uno, way out in front as the best way to improve memory.  Forget dementia (ok, not a very good word play, but it works). Start NOW to stave off memory loss or to halt its progress. The aerobic movement you do today will give you memory enhancements benefits starting today

ACTION: Learn more motivating ways to improve your memory when you read the two posts below. Comment, share, tweet. THANKS!

 

7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now

Want a Better Memory? Why? How?

By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

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4

Bike Riding in Cologne Along the Rhein River

The Romans probably settled in Cologne (Köln in German) in 50 BC because they’d heard about the fantastic bike riding views along the Rhein River. Or because of its natural harbor. Either way.

Hohenzollern Bridge, CologneOne of the highlights of our October AmaWaterways cruise was the 11-mile, 2 1/2 hour guided bike ride along both the west and east sides of the river. We had two fluent English-speaking guides who took about 8 of us on an easily-managed bike adventure (everyone else was either part of the walking or beer tasting tour). We started our ride along the Rheingarten, a riverside park where pedestrians and bicyclists were out in force on a sunny (yet cold) weekend day. At first, we were riding fairly quickly, but when I said I wanted to stop for more photos, the guides were quite amenable. This I appreciated, or I would have gotten cranky.

We pedaled past the Chocolate Museum, which my sister noticed. Yes, we went back later to learn the history of chocolate, though we didn’t stop in the museum café to eat any of their 9,866 chocolate items. Um, I have no idea of the exact number, but I sure saw lots of options.

Cologne castle towerCologne is Germany’s fourth largest city, with over 1 million people, 45,000 of whom are university students. One fact I really liked was discovering that 18% of the inhabitants come from over 180 nations. Hmmm, probably easy to find a correlation between that and the reputation Cologne has for being a major cultural center.

You can take a bike tour of Cologne, Germany as part of a Rhein River cruise w/ @AmaWaterways?… Click To Tweet

crane buildings, CologneThough I prefer old buildings (castles are my thing, perhaps related to my Medieval Studies BA), I found the three “cranes” interesting. Two of them are office buildings, while the one with the balconies is apartments. Who wouldn’t want riverfront living, even if it’s shaped like a giant piece of machinery, eh?

Our guides stopped for a while on the Rodenkirchener Bridge so we could take pictures and drink water. When you’re on a bike, it feels like the vista is really expansive. We could see barges and pleasure boats going north and south beneath us. When we were onboard our ship, the Ama Prima, it always felt like we were moving at a leisurely pace, yet when standing on a bridge above the ships, they appeared to be speeding along.

locks of love, CologneOn the east side, away from the main part of the city, we felt like we were in the woods for a bit, as we rode by a fairly extensive campground. It’s probably jam-packed in summer, though we saw just a few campers in October. Perfect time to travel if you own a jacket and like to go when the city is not so crowded. From the east side, with its tennis and soccer (call it football if you want to sound truly cosmopolitan) fields, we had unimpeded views of St. Martin’s Church, the Cathedral, the Innenstadt, and Hohenzollern Bridge, which is where the Locks of Love are, and which leads to the Dom Platz.

St. Martin's, CologneAfter we crossed the bridge, our guides asked if we could figure out why security guards were preventing people from walking on the plaza. We had no idea. As it turns out, the Cologne Philharmonic is just below the plaza, and when they are performing, they keep people off the plaza to prevent extraneous sounds. So the floor is also the roof.

Cologne Cathedral interiorNear the end of the ride we stopped to admire the Cathedral. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is visible from fairly high up, which presented some issues during World War II. According to our guides, the Allies respected the history and cultural significance of it, so they intentionally avoided bombing it to ruins. Another story is that the pilots left it (for the most part) intact because it was an easy landmark for bombers to use to calculate their various targets. As well, the guides said that church representatives removed all the glass from the windows, which lessened the destruction from the bombs. On a cheerier note, the Cathedral was the tallest building in the world until the Eiffel Tower came along in 1887.

Bike riding, CologneThriller dance on Ama PrimaWe got back to the Ama Prima just in time to change for dinner (and an impromptu performance of “Thriller” by moi for all the passengers). No muscle soreness after 11 miles, either. Or should I say 18 kilometers, as that sounds even more impressive?!

 

 

 

 

 

Alexandra Williams, MA

photos by me

Have you read our post about all the castles and riesling in Rüdesheim yet? Better yet, have you subscribed to us?

 

7

12 Healthy Food Trends

Recently IDEA Food and Nutrition Tips, a magazine for fitness industry professionals, published an article I wrote for them about twelve healthy food trends. For this post, I thought I’d share a few notes on the healthy dozen.

grapes for Riesling healthy foodGluten – Gluten-sensitive and gluten-free foods are mainstream now, to the tune of a predicted sales volume of $24 billion by 2020. This market growth is driven by those who identify as “health conscious” rather than those who suffer “from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.”

Paleo – More than just meat and caveman-centric meals, those who follow a Paleo diet can choose items such as nutrition nut bars or freeze-dried beets. And of course, meat. In 2015, Paleo was the most-Googled search food term.

Plant-based – Danone (makers of Dannon yogurt) just purchased WhiteWave for $12.5 billion. Obviously, they believe plant-based foods to be a growing part of our diet, as WhiteWave comes with brands such as Silk, So Delicious, Earthbound Farm, Horizon Organic milk, and Vega. Are you ready to try one of the 3,500 types of seaweed?

German bread in Heidelberg healthy foodHealthy Oils – Start reading up on smoke points, as you’ll be wanting to try avocado, coconut, safflower, almond, macadamia nut, rice bran, sesame seed, sunflower, peanut, hazelnut, grapeseed, and of course, olive oil. Less concerned with cost than a desire for organic, healthy, non-GMO, locally sourced (or traceable) ingredients, plus a wish to replicate recipes seen on cooking shows, people are demanding a variety of oil choices.

12 Healthy Food Trends. How many of them do you follow? #FitFluential #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet

Breakfast – We still love our cereal, but now we also love smoothies, breakfast bars, and yogurt. Oh, and overnight oats. Pinterest searches for overnight oat recipes climbed 35% in 2016 over 2015 numbers.

Non-Dairy Milk – Look past all those Facebook posts about almond milk for a moment, and you’ll discover that milks are now made out of a variety of nut, grain and seed. Who’s up for a shot of camel’s milk? In many ways, it’s good to consider plant-based milks over animal-based, yet take care, as not all non-dairy milks are created equally nutritious.

fruit tart, Germany, healthy foodHealthy Snacks – Kale chips may be considered old hat by now, but have you tried caffeinated jerky or roasted chickpeas yet? Snacking accounts for over 50% of our “eating occasions,” so stock up on maple sugar pumpkin seeds and grilled watermelon with honey, mint and cayenne while you can.

Protein – It’s time we sat down and had a talk about the bugs and the bees. Well, just the bugs. The rest of the world is already crunching on spicy roasted grasshoppers and cricket chips, so maybe it’s time we gave them a try. If you want to skip the bugs, go with kalamata olive cottage cheese, washed down with a shot of protein coffee.

Energy Bars – Have you roamed the grocery store aisles lately? Shelves upon shelves of energy bars are lying there, just waiting for you to give them some love.

nougat bread healthy foodSeeds and Nuts – Okay, Boomers, who remembers Euell Gibbons? “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.” Peanuts, pistachios, chia, hemp seeds, and watermelon seeds are all hot commodiites nowadays.

Natural Beverages – Is bulletproof coffee yesterday’s news? Maybe, maybe not. But cold brew coffee, yerba mate, guayasa, matcha, maca, chicory- or dandelion-root, fermented, sparkling, vegan, naturally flavored water, and kefir drinks are certainly today’s news. One result of the interest in more natural choices? Soda sales have dropped in the past few years by billions of gallons.

Greek Yogurt/ Probiotics/ Quark – Whether you’re Bulgarian, Greek, Icelandic or none of the above, chances are you’ve noticed that these products have displaced the “standard” yogurts of just 5 years ago.

If you want to know what quark is, or the differences between Icelandic skyr and Bulgarian unstrained yogurt, you’ll have to join IDEA, which will entitle you to a free copy of the full, 4,000-word article. Well, it will entitle you to the entire magazine, plus all their other magazines, many of which I write for. Did you know I had a secret life as a writer? Yeah, it’s not really a secret. Neither is the fact that food is medicine, so pick a trend or two from this list and give it a go.

By Alexandra Williams, MA

Photos are all by me, taken during our AmaWaterways cruise.

4

Rüdesheim with AmaWaterways: Riesling, Castles and a Musical Cabinet Museum

Even if you cannot pronounce “Rüdesheim,” you’ll want to visit this picturesque German town that sits at the south end of the Rhein Gorge, a 41-mile section of the river that has the world’s greatest concentration of castles. A town of 7,000 people, all of whom apparently grow wine grapes, Rüdesheim’s history dates back to Roman times, as evidenced by some of the ruins in town.

Rudesheim on the Rhine

The medieval town of Rüdesheim on the Rhein

As part of our Rhein River cruise with AmaWaterways, we had an evening tour of Siegfried’s Mechanical Music Cabinet Museum (itself situated in the remains of the 12th century Brömserburg castle), followed by a 3-hour morning hike through family-owned vineyards that produce Riesling so popular it can command over 1,000 Euros per bottle.

Viola music instrument

These cabinets opened up and the violins began to play of their own accord. No other instrument in the museum was similar to this one.

One thing that is appealing about going on a river cruise with AmaWaterways is that you get loads of activity choices, all geared toward a variety of fitness levels and personal interests. When we docked in Rüdesheim after dinner, we had a choice of touring the music museum (which we discovered means the instruments are all self-playing) or relaxing in a cafe that serves Rüdesheimer coffee, known for its cream and brandy. AmaWaterways included a short sightseeing train ride from the ship into town, and if it’s raining, as it was when we arrived, you’ll be glad to hop aboard. In fine weather, it’s a short 10-minute walk.

Rüdesheim w/ @AmaWaterways: wine, castles and a musical cabinet museum Click To Tweet
Clown musical instrument in Rudesheim

One of my favorite instruments at the Mechanical Musical Instruments Museum

doll carousel music box, Rudesheim

This is a very small doll carousel music box at Siegfried’s Museum in Rüdesheim

door and wall at Siegfried's, Rudesheim

A well-preserved, colorful door and wall in the museum, built in 1542.

Arabian musical instrument, Rudesheim

Housed in the cellar, this wonderful floor-to-celing music box still works. All tours are guided, as the tour guide plays these instruments for guests.

Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Kabinet

Siegfried’s Mechanisches Musikkabinett on a rainy night in Rüdesheim

In the morning, the rain was no longer pouring, though it was still cloudy, so we stuck with our plan to hike to the ruins of Ehrenfels Castle via the vineyards. During the hike, we passed under the gondolas that took most of the group to the top of the hill to view the town and river. On our way back to our ship, the Ama Prima, we were passed by the people who took the third option – a 13-mile bike ride. One advantage (of many) of the hike is that the vintners keep a small fridge stocked with free wine along the hiking trail. So thoughtful. If it’s sunny, bring water and sunblock, as there’s little shade. We hiked in cloudy weather, and it was perfect, as we stayed warm without getting hot. Our tour guide was a retired civil engineer who owns a potato farm in Wiesbaden. Not only was his English fluent (as are all the local guides), he knew the history of all the families who owned the vines. He also admitted to being a bit of a snob who only buys Rüdesheim Riesling, not the Riesling made on the Bingen side of the river.

hills of vineyards in Rudesheim

Yup, we hiked up hill and over dale, through the vineyards of Rüdesheim.

grapes for Riesling

Riesling grapes in Rüdesheim

Riesling producers in Rudesheim

One of the families that owns wine grapes in Rüdesheim. Sadly, the bottle was empty.

bird in vineyards

This lovely bird was supervising us as we hiked through the vineyards. If you know what type of bird (falcon?) it is, please let me know.

Ehrenfels castle, Rudesheim

The ruins of Ehrenfels Castle, Rüdesheim, on a rainy day

Part of what made the meals served on the Ama Prima extra special is that the meal is based on the local specialties. So besides wine, those of us who huddled under blankets up on the sun deck (it was cold and rainy) to get pictures of the many castles we passed after leaving Rüdesheim were offered some of the Rüdesheim coffee. Remember how it has brandy? That helped keep me warm enough to stay up top to get pictures of every single castle we passed as we cruised downstream along the UNESCO World Heritage designated gorge. Those pictures will be in an upcoming post, so be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already.

We were guests of AmaWaterways on the 8-day “Enchanting Rhine” cruise. They made no requirements of us, except to enjoy ourselves, which we did, oh so much.

 

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