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How Do I Lose Weight But Not Bulk Up?

No Hulk! No Bulk!

Dear Fun and Fit: K and A–I want to lose weight, not bulk up and build muscle. I’ve recently joined a gym and started doing 40 minutes on the elliptical and walking five miles on the treadmill each day. Should I still do this daily elliptical routine to lose weight or just stick with the walking so I don’t bulk up and get too muscular? Thanks so much! Chelsey, Effingham, Illinois

Kymberly: Good news walking wonder woman. Not only can you tread the light fantastic, but also you can work the elliptical until you shrink so much you have to run around in the shower to get wet. Unless you are actually lifting the elliptical machine above your head until muscular fatigue sets in (probably around one repetition), you are in cardio land, not weight or strength training land.

How Do You Know if an Activity is “Cardio” or “Aerobic?”

An “aerobic” or “cardio” activity is defined as being:

  • systemic (using many muscles in the body, mostly the major ones in the lower body)
  • with elevated heart rate
  • at a pace you can sustain 20 minutes (even if you go longer or shorter, you COULD sustain it at least 20 minutes)
  • always able to breathe comfortably at a rate of 60-85% of your heart rate maximum
  • low resistance and many many many repetitions.

While aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, it will not really affect muscle mass.  In short, work out bulk-free with both the treadmill and elliptical as neither will build much more than the heart muscle.

Bodybuilding vs Strength Training: Build or Bust a Myth?Kymberly and Coco using TRX

Alexandra: There is a myth, that’s a mystery to me and misses the point about weight loss. That myth is that weight training will make you all bulked up like the Hulk. That is called bodybuilding. If you want to lose weight, you will have to add weight training to your regimen (see how it’s called “weight training?” That is because you are training your weight to bend to your will). With cardio, if you hustle your bustle (19th-century version of Spanx®), you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But, da da da da (those are trumpets), due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals for about an hour after you finish working out and are sitting on your Chelsey Tushy. So in the end, due to the wonders of higher math, you will actually have burned more kcals with the weight training added in.

Kymberly: If it reassures you even more, unless “Chelsey” is a fake name for “Carl” or “Charles” or “Manly Man,” as a female you do not have enough testosterone to accidentally bulk up. No sireee, I mean no misseee, you will not wake up one morning suddenly sproing boing, pop pop muscle-bound beyond belief and desire. Creating muscle definition is a process that takes time and deliberate weight training effort, so if you see yourself getting more muscular than you want, I’m pretty sure you’d notice and make changes to your program.

Alexandra: Because we like you so much, you get the bonus info that we haven’t told anyone (except in these other posts which we encourage you and everyone to read, then blab about):

Glam girls have curves5 Reasons to Attend a Strength Class

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

Weights or Cardio: Who’s on First?

By adding weight training, you will change your metabolism and be burning kcals at a higher rate all day and night. Even on vacation and during high fatty-intake sports matches and dates where you eat a lot because someone else is paying (oops, gave away my college financial solvency plan), you will be a little kcal-burning heater.

Dear hulkers and bulkers: What kind of weight training have you added to your exercise regimen? Did you even know there was a She-Hulk?

ACTION: Want guidance on exactly what to do to lose weight, get strong, boost your metabolism, and counteract the effects of menopause? Consider our TransformAging webinar summit package wherein leading experts offer practical strategies and up to date tips. Click to find out more and to be more (or less!)

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


Which is the “Best” Cardio Workout: Walking? Running? Machines?

Kymberly's walking feetWhich is a better cardio workout: stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical, rowing machine?  Tina, Lubbock, Texas

I heard walking is much better for you than running, especially for women over 50.  Is that true?  If so, why? Noel, St Joseph, MO

Walk, or Run to the Best Cardio Exercise

Kymberly: Dear aerobic ladies:  Since the same answer applies to both your questions, we are tackling them together. (Kind of like what guys said to us in our early dating lives, pre-hubbies. That “twin thing” again.)   The bottom line is that the “best” activity is the one you will actually do. Log time and intensity. Which activity do you find most comfortable on your body? Which one will you stick with the longest? Which one keeps you injury free? The goal is to go as long as you can, as hard as you can, as often as you can. What do you actually LIKE doing? Yes, it’s that simple and accessible!

Nashville bowling- Alexandra

Bowling is great cardio – as long as you jump for joy when you don’t bowl a gutter ball

We could give you heart rate formulas and a discussion about involved joints and high impact versus medium or low impact, but why get caught up in all that? “Log time; be happy” is the best advice we can give you for cardio. Your body will tell you what you prefer doing. If not, Alexandra will.

Alexandra: First of all, no-one ever tackled me. It was more like throwing themselves at my feet. Or running away – I can’t remember which. But it involved some sort of aerobic workout. Which is my point entirely – you need some sort of cardio exercise. The exact “right” one kind of depends on you. Tina, which machine do you like better? Noel, do you prefer running or walking?

You have to do the one that you will actually do! What? That sounds like a skanky date proposal!

Which is Better: 6 of One or Half Dozen of the Other?

Alexandra:”Log time,” by the way, means writing down the amount of time you are doing your chosen activity. You don’t get to count the time spent “standing in the shade” or “checking my phone messages,” which is what Kymberly always does when we walk together on a gentle, uphill slope! Me personally, I hate to run. I want to exercise, not sweat! Walking is my favorite non-work-related exercise because it allows me ample time to play with my iPod (which I still don’t quite understand), with time left over for calling my teenager for iPod advice. I can’t make those kinds of calls if I’m running!

Climbing the road

Who’s the best at getting down cardio hills?

Kymberly: Excuse me, but “gentle, uphill slope” my Cinnabuns!  Alexandra took me on a forced death march up a cliff with no end, under the raging sun, dangling the water bottle from her “busting my butt” hand. What I would have given for a nice, programmable, non-taunting piece of cardio equipment at that moment. So the new and best cardio activity for me now is to work my way downhill. Like what’s-her-twinnie, I am not a runner. The knees do not take well to all that pounding. The last time I did a running program was from my house to Alexandra’s back in the day when we were ahem, …younger. She lived a mile from me then and made pancakes for brekkie if I showed up on time. Then she would drive me home. So you can see where a running program really was not the best workout for me. The pancakes were the best though!

Again the “best” cardio workout is the one or ones you will actually engage in. Even “better” is to change up the activity.  If you always power walk, try a stair climber now and then. If you always run on a treadmill, get outdoors and walk.  Check out this article that proves Alexandra and I are geniuses with great advice when we tell you to do Interval Training and enjoy the process.

bicycling - AlexandraOther “Bests”:  Click, read, comment, be the best!

Which are the best foods to eat before a workout?

What is the best way to train your triceps?

What are the best ways to burn fat if you are a woman over 50?

ACTION: And finally, what’s the best way to get us to come to you twice a week with solutions to your active aging issues? SUBSCRIBE to our blog, of course. Simply enter your email in one of the handy dandy boxes. 

GO HERE TO CHECK OUT AN ARTICLE courtesy of ACE Fitness. They were kind enough to totally back up everything we are advising.    http://bit.ly/BESTcardioworkout
What is your favorite cardio activity?  What do you find “best” (besides our blog, of course)?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA


A 10K Walk is as Far as a 10K Run

What if you could participate in a running race by not running and not racing? Could such a thing be possible?

badge for Lexus LaceUp 10KWhen you hear about 5K, 10K and marathon races, you immediately think it’s a running race, right (especially as the words “running” and “race” are in the title)? And if you’re a Boomer woman who doesn’t actually enjoy running, you would probably then classify that race as “for someone else,” and move on to other things. But as I discovered a few years ago when I was invited to participate in a half marathon in San Francisco a few months after I’d had knee surgery, it IS possible to walk. As a matter of fact, lots of other participants will be walking too.

Lexus LaceUp Running Series Presented by Saucony

That half marathon was four years ago, and I still love walking, especially in scenic places. So when I was offered the chance to join the Lexus LaceUp Running Series in Palos Verdes, guess what I did? I ignored the “running” part of the title and signed up to walk the 10K. They have a 5K and half marathon too, but this time the 10K feels right for me.

the 10K course for Lexus LaceUp RaceIt’s good to get out of your comfort zone once in awhile and try something that’s challenging, yet achievable. The distance isn’t challenging, but I have to stay under a 16 minute per mile time limit, so THAT is the challenge. I haven’t timed myself in years. But the race is in Palos Verdes, which is near where I grew up, so I’m looking forward to the outstanding scenery – beaches and cliffs and gorgeous homes, oh my.

Many of our posts share tips about the benefits of cardio movement on the brain, stress levels, weight gain, and disease prevention (Read the links for definitive proof that a walk can be as good as a run for many health goals). Yet we Boomer women are still NOT aging healthfully.

pic of running uphill in San Luis Obispo

If you accept the importance of moving, yet reject the unpleasantness of running (the only running I ever enjoyed was when I played soccer), try walking the 10K with me on November 14. Or go for the 5K. Bring a group of friends and chat as you go. You can even sign up for the December 06 event in Riverside and do two (okay, you can do one or the other). The cost is quite low, especially when you factor in the 30% discount if you use my code: FunandFit30.

If you DO happen to enjoy running, you can still get the 30% discount, plus the pleasure of passing me early on in the race. Whether you run or walk, you’ll enjoy a Sierra Nevada beer toast, local food-truck brunch, and music. And if you’re a serious runner, you’ll be glad to know you get chip timing, real time results, tech T-shirt, sticker, and a high quality finisher’s medal. This link has all the info.

See you at Pelican Cove Park on November 14!

I was not compensated for this post. I did receive free entry, which is the perfect motivation for me to get my walking shoes on and drive down to the Lexus LaceUp in Palos Verdes. Besides, two charities are receiving monies from the registration fees, so that’s extra motivation right there.


How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?


What can I do to crank up my metabolism?
Donna, San Diego

Kymberly on a bike
Well, Donna not only are we going to tell you exactly what to do and how, but also stick around to discover one mistake exercisers make when trying to boost their metabolism. You are also going to learn which foods help you be a calorie burning heater even when you are not active. But first a word from our dictionary:

Basal metabolism:  The minimal energy expended to maintain respiration, circulation, peristalsis, muscle tonus, body temperature, glandular activity, and the other vegetative functions of the body.

zzzzzzz snork. What did that just say? In Fun and Fit translated style, that says, “If you want to burn kcals at a faster rate (helps with weight loss and maintenance), speed up your at-rest baseline usage of energy.”

Get Hip with HIIT

 Eleven variables affect your metabolic rate. According to the Oct. 2012 issue of ACE Certified News, “exercise is easily the most adjustable variable (of these 11) in total daily energy expenditure.” Current research indicates that High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most effective method for raising your metabolic rate and losing weight, so we’ll be super thoughtful and define it. Essentially, it means alternating your workout into two speeds – very intense, and rest. The intervals can vary, such as 60 seconds work/ 60 seconds rest, or the very popular Tabata style: 20 seconds work/ 10 seconds rest, which our colleague Tamara Grand explains in this Tabata Training post.

It’s Burpee Time!

High Intensity vs. High Impact

By the way, standard bodybuilding won’t work for your goals, as it doesn’t burn enough calories or have the required after-effects. What DOES work is sprinting, biking, boot-camp moves such as burpees, stair-climbing, weight-lifting, and many other moves where you can push yourself to a 9 or 10 level of intensity on a 1-10 scale. High intensity doesn’t have to be high impact, which is a mistake many exercisers make when choosing moves. In case you’re not into “jumpy” high impact moves, do low impact, high intensity moves instead, such as spiderman push-ups. They are very low impact, yet as you’ll see if you try a few, they are definitely high intensity.

Cardio + Weight Training = Faster Metabolism

We were once asked about “amping up my old ass metabolism”  by a reader, so you might like to read what we told her (hint: we didn’t call her “old”). In addition to HIIT, you definitely want a weight training component. Our post about the caloric benefits from the metabolic spike explains the advantages of combining cardio and weight training, but in case you’re too exhausted to click the link, it essentially says that “with cardio, you can burn 10-12 kcals a minute; with weight training it’s only 8-10 kcals per minute. But due to a magical thing called the metabolic spike (not a volleyball term), you will continue to burn kcals efficiently for about an hour after you finish working out, even if you’re sitting on your old ass donkey doing nothing.

push-up resistance trainingEat for a Speedier Metabolism

The term “metabolism” specifically refers to the breakdown of food and its subsequent transformation into energy your body needs. The best way to make sure you are breaking down and using the kcals/ energy from your food is to do two things: 1) eat food that’s a good balance of protein, complex carbs and healthy fats; and 2) eat at regular intervals. An abrupt calorie-reduction or starvation diet can severely reduce (i.e., slow down) your basal metabolic rate (BMR) by up to 30%, and a restrictive, low-calorie diet can decrease it by as much as 20%.
Basically, we just said, “Don’t skip meals. Don’t eat crap.” You’re welcome for that memorable translation!

We hope we’ve answered your question. If we have, go do 10 spiderman push-ups! If we haven’t, go do 20!

Readers: What high intensity, low impact moves have you discovered that we can share with other readers, especially those with bad knees?

Have you subscribed to our twice-weekly posts yet? So easy. Just enter your email over there —->

Photo credits: via CreativeCommons.org: cycloctopus (crank);  beingwell20 (burpee),

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


Use Weights While Walking: Yes or No?

Can tSilly Walks posterhe subject of walking with hand or ankle weights be humorous and informative? In looking back at old posts, we discovered some gems that are begging to see the light of day again and still au courant (since this French term is derived from the word for “running” we thought it word geek appropriate).  Below is a frequent question we get asked.  Yes or no, were we right to repost for your edu-tainment?

Dear Fun and Fit: Kymberly and Alexandra: Why do they say NOT to use hand weights while walking? Regards, Charlotte, CA

Kymberly: “They” who? Is someone following us? I am not paranoid, but why do “they” keep showing up and talking to me? “They” told me to tell you that adding weights at the end of a lever (hand or ankle, for example) that is moving rapidly is a good way to stress joints, tendons, and ligaments. Carrying hand weights risks raising your blood pressure, when it’s really your heart rate you want to elevate. If your goal is to get a good cardio workout (I think this is a safe assumption that will not make an ASS out of U and ME), then ditching the weights will allow you to walk faster and thereby ditch the body weight…… in a roadside ditch that you pass while out power walking!

Alexandra: Let me walk back through your question. Why do you want to use hand weights while walking? Are you trying to save time by doing your strength training while on the walk? Knock that off. Stand still – pick up biggish weights – be a better person. Unless, of course, your hand weight is a sword, umbrella or small dog: Woman walking with dog in armsMan walking with an umbrellaSoldiers walking with swords
In that case, go for it! Also, refer to some of our other posts on walking that will help you get more fit, less sore, and generally more awesome in every way.

Proper Form for Uphill Walking

Walk Briskly for More Calorie Burn

Kymberly walking with backpack

I’m walking with a BACKPACK, not weights. Big difference!

Kymberly: In brief — Not inserting a picture of husband in briefs here — use weights for your weight training; use your walk time to get your unhampered groove on! You will probably walk faster, at a higher intensity, with reduced injury risk, and higher caloric burn if you do NOT add ankle, hand, or wrist weights. If you really feel the need to add resistance or weight to your load, then wear a backpack that fits snugly against your back. (Um, not like what I’m doing in the photo). Then the added weight is centered on your body and close to your spine, rather than loaded at the end of a limb. There. We said it!

Alexandra: BTW, Unhampered groove looks like this:Man walking with unhampered groove

Kymberly: Say, I couldn’t help but notice that there are 7 walking men in the image my sister found. Makes me think of another post you neeeeeed to click to read if you want to get the most out of your walk. 7 Steps to Better Walking

Alexandra: A question for you, that we answer: Can Walking Get You Fit? Click to read and find out.

Dear Walkers: What do you hold while walking? And do NOT say “my breath.”

Photo credits: Creative Commons

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Hey, it’s our lucky day if you subscribe to our blog. We come to you but you get to count the calories burned and fitness info learned. Subscribe now and age more actively and attractively!



What is the Right Amount of Exercise?

Hi, So much advice is given about adding exercise to your day. I work on my feet all day. 6 1/2 to 7 hours a day. I stand and move around a lot. When I am busy waiting on customers, I am moving and walking and walking quickly to get their food, replace things used up, filling areas etc. When it is slower, I stand more but still walk around some and do other things job related. I get a 15 min. break. How much more exercise do I need? I do not get aerobic exercise. I occasionally do yoga and go for a walk. Plus I do minor yard work, weeding, trimming of bushes etc. Also, general cleaning in my house. My husband and I go out dancing once a week or so. I am 59 and wonder if I actually need more exercise. Thanks for any answers you can give me. Marie

walking is great for health
Hi Marie:
You have brought up a great point about the true definition of exercise, especially aerobic exercise.

One standard definition of aerobic exercise via the American College of Sports Medicine is “any activity that uses large muscle groups, can be maintained continuously, and is rhythmic in nature.” It should also cause the heart and lungs to work harder than at rest. In other words, surprise! You actually ARE getting aerobic exercise with all your walking and dancing, which is great for your heart, weight and cognition. That house cleaning you’re doing also burns calories. We actually charted out the calorie counts for many housekeeping chores in our post Lose Weight Doing House Cleaning.

picture of Lily weights from Bling Fitness
I AM going to say you need more exercise, though. Just not aerobic necessarily. You don’t mention any resistance training (though you do get flexibility and mind/body points for the yoga). At our age (we are right behind you by a few birthdays), it’s imperative to include resistance work into your life – both with light and heavy resistance (You can define what’s light and heavy for yourself, especially as they will change as you get stronger). Just a few of the benefits:

* weight loss / weight maintenance
* fall prevention / balance
* prevent or delay sarcopenia (muscle wasting)
* bone density
* posture
* functional strength (the ability to use your body in daily living activities)
* brain health
* fat burning
* recovery from injury / illness
* sexy good looks

push-up resistance trainingIn short, you need to continue with your cardio (aerobic) movement, which is probably no problem, since you are moving all day at work, and you need to add resistance (strength) training. To answer your “how much” question – start with 3 times a week for at least 20 minutes. Very quickly, I’m going to mention proper sleep and good nutrition too. <——- See how quickly I did that?

As you didn’t specify your goal – weight loss, general health, independence, fitness, brain power, looks – you’ll want to adjust the amount, frequency, duration and type of movement according to your goals. In case it gets confusing, we have another post for you to check out: Do THIS if you want to Get Fit, Lose Weight, Live Longer, DeStress .

A good place to start for resistance training might be at our colleague Tamara’s New To Strength Training? An At-Home Beginner Workout Just For You post.
We also have a number of relevant free videos on our YouTube channel, including our “Women Over 50” playlist.

Thank you for writing to us.

by Alexandra Williams, MA


One Way to Avoid Fainting During Cardio Workouts

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

heart shaped tomatoEver worry about fainting during a cardio workout? No doubt you have heard the advice to “keep your head above your heart” during and especially after aerobic activity. With Valentine’s Day coming up and February being American Heart month, we thought we’d focus on a question one of our group fitness members asked us: “Why do fitness instructors cue us not to drop our head below the heart when working out aerobically?”

Be Still My Beating (Cardio) Heart

Alexandra drumming at Tenaya

Alexandra makes more than hearts beat! Drum, drum, drum

Alexandra: We say this because we want to know exactly whom we will be giving rescue breathing to when you pass out. And why should we be in a position to provide rescue breathing? There you were, just exercising away, enjoying the heck out of the Paul McCartney, Rihanna, Kanye song “FourFive Seconds” being played on the sound system. “Hey you,” your personal wiring system says, “You are working hard. As a reward, your muscle cells shall now demand increased oxygen. Because your muscles are so bossy and demanding, we won’t argue. Instead, we will increase your heart rate and blood flow so your muscles will like us and continue to take us nice places.” Well, let’s say you drop your head below your heart. While your head is inverted, you don’t realize that you’ve just caused blood to pool along with that increased blood pressure.

Your Muscles, Heart, and Head Compete for Oxygen and with Gravity

Kymberly: Did anyone follow that? Twin translation provided here: Cardio exercise involves raising the heart rate. An uppity heart rate provides more oxygen to working muscles AND the brain. (We are hoping the brain is working during all that activity. Always makes exercise more interesting). Heart rate up, then head suddenly down puts gravity in charge. (See “Perky, Not Saggy” for more on overcoming the effects of gravity). Blood rush to head. Whoa, feeling dizzy. Lots of pressure from rapidly pumping blood and increased blood volume. Then you lift your head above your heart again and WHAM, gravity takes over once more leaving you lightheaded. Your heart pumped out the oxygen, but you just started a competition between gravity and your brain for the game of “who gets the oxygen?”  Need I say more?

K lying in snow

Stylish fainting

Alexandra: Don’t talk to me about pressure because it makes me want to dance in my inimitable 80s style to “Under Pressure.” That’s the song I used for my very first step class.

Fainting Does a Body Good-ish

Kymberly: Ok, I need to say more. First, fainting is your body’s way to restore normal blood flow to your brain. Dropping — or, as you may picture it, gracefully and delicately sliding to the ground, puts your head on the same level as your pumping, beating heart so that your oxygen rich blood can more easily get to your brain. No going uphill, just straight along.

Second, I have been CPR certified for more than 30 years. Fortunately, in all that time of teaching fitness, I have never had to rescue someone from the dreaded “head below heart- pass out” syndrome. Maybe this cue is really an excuse to see who’s listening and who is clock watching. ALWAYS listen to your instructor, especially if she looks like one of us.

Destress Your Heart for Valentine’s Day

Alexandra: Well, I am obviously more special as I have had to deal with the “Thar she blows” syndrome. Sadly, my university students have a habit of passing out lately. For about 3 years, they show up without having had a proper breakfast, then they put their heart and soul into their workout, with only the soul remaining intact. My theory? We need to provide more movement for students in the younger grades so their hearts are used to stress by the time they get to college. I use “stress” in its literal sense, though I remember having lots of “love stress” when I was an undergrad. As in – I was stressed because I wanted certain guys to notice me. Ah, my glorious youth.

ACTION ITEM: Help hearts, heads, and muscles by sharing this post with two friends and suggesting they subscribe to our blog. But only if they want to age actively and stay upright during cardio!

Photo credit for Alexandra with drumsticks – Tenaya Lodge


7 Movement Habits to Improve Your Memory Now

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Kymberly speaking at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Spa on Memory BoostingWant to have a better memory doing what comes inexpensively and immediately?

Take a look at the following images I used in the presentation I gave last week at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Spa located in Tecate, MX. The Ranch is so wonderful and special that I wanted to make sure my session was as valuable. If memory serves me right, the following 7 factors will improve your recall, memory, attention span, and focus.  ha ha ha Oh, and my presentation was well received too!

Before you get to those 7 things you can do to gain for the brain to the max, note that the key is to engage in CARDIO activity. While ALL exercise is thought to improve cognitive skills, cardio is top doggie. If you combine cardio with any of the 7 factors coming right up, you are getting exponential return on your exercise investment.


Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.07.53 PM

Yup, cardio has more benefit for your gray matter than crossword puzzles, learning a new language, sudoku, and international travel (though these are all helpful).  Say, click that link <—- to read about how smart Nepal made me.

Small Steps Lead to Big Changes

And we mean it. Steps as small as going left instead of right, or working out a different day or time than usual all register as new in the brain.


Habit #1

Build a Better Brain

Movement Habit #2

Movement Habit #3


Screen Shot 2014-12-03 at 8.38.06 PM

Movement Habit #4

Hmm, are you starting to get any ideas about what kind of cardio activity might be best if your priority is to boost your brain?

Obese at risk for Alzheimer's


Movement Habit #5

The midline is the the line that visually divides your body into a left and right side side. If your right arm reaches to your left side, you have crossed the midline, for example.


Movement Habit #6

Movement Habit #7

Want a summary image you can pin? So do we! Pin away my hearties!

7 Movement Habits to Iprove Your Brain

And on that final note, zzzzzzz. Or semi-final note. If you want to experience this presentation in its entirety, come to Tenaya Lodge’s Wellness and Spa Retreat Jan 16-18, 2015. That’s another smart move!

If you are not yet a subscriber, now is a great time to sign up, free! New subscribers get a holiday gift: 34 Guilt Free Strategies to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain.


Exercise and Arthritis

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Is it Possible to Exercise with an Arthritic Hip?

picture of dancing woman

Keep on Dancing

Dear Twins: I just found your site and already feel encouraged. I am 56 years old and have been an ‘off again…on again” exerciser!! When I was much younger I was very athletic. Four years ago I trained to walk a 1/2 marathon but the week before the race, I pulled ligaments in my ankle. Since then I haven’t done much of anything.

About 6 weeks ago I began going to Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. Three weeks ago I began to have a lot of pain in my hips. I went to the doctor and was told I have arthritis in my hips and I also had bursitis. My doctor told me to lay off Zumba for two weeks and gave me a prescription to help with inflammation. He told me that I will probably have to take the medication long term to help with the arthritis but the pain from the bursitis will go away after a week or so. I have tried to go back to the Zumba classes but I am concerned the pain will start back up or get worse. I am in really good health otherwise.

Can you advise me as to the risks I would take if I continued to do the Zumba? Also, what other cardio activities can I do that will be okay with my arthritis in my hips? I really feel my best when I am exercising and just started to feel good and have more energy when the pain started. Any suggestions you may have would help!!

Carla, Abilene, TX

x-ray picture of hipsYour question is an excellent one, and will resonate with many of our readers. You are right about the many benefits of exercise, including for arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis can be slowed or mitigated with exercise – the challenge is finding the right type.

Low Impact Cardio

If your doc has cleared you to return to Zumba, you may want to ease in and modify the lateral moves (sideways, such as grapevine). Are you able/ willing to add aqua classes to your workout plan? Zumba aqua dance classes exist. You do not need to be a good swimmer to join an aqua class. Shallow water classes are in water that’s generally hip deep. If your gym has only deep water classes, you can use swim lessons as your workout, then wear the buoyancy belts once you’re a more confident swimmer.
For other cardio options, try anything that is low impact (high intensity is fine, but NOT high impact) and more forward and back than side to side. One caveat – depending on where the arthritis is in your hips, spending a lot of time on a machine such as a stair-stepper could be contraindicated. Besides, you seem to be a person who enjoys group fitness classes, so try a variety of those. A varied exercise plan is more effective than a repetitive one for most people.

Strength Training

You might also consider some stretch and strengthen classes. Stretch to open up the hips and strengthen to give your muscles more  of the workload, which eases the load on your skeletal structure (bones). Since you mention a ligament injury to your ankle, I would think strengthening that area might be a priority, especially if compensations are affecting your hips. Have you worked with a physical therapist to strengthen that ankle, while considering the impact on your hips (such as an altered gait)? You can probably even find a therapist who is ALSO a personal trainer by searching at ideafit.com or acefitness.org.

Range of Motion (ROM)

In addition to low-impact cardio and strength training, you may want range of motion exercises too. This article from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center goes into more detail about everything mentioned above, including the need for tailored, specific range of motion activities.


Rest is an integral part of any exercise regimen, arthritis or no! Check with your doctor about creating the right combo of rest time, anti-inflammatory meds, ice, and possibly even meditation.

Partner with your Doctor

We’ve had good luck getting specific advice for our exercise-loving bodies by choosing primary care doctors who also value exercise. We’ve had some doctors who wanted to prescribe medicine for our arthritic knees. Their advice was to stop exercising. We switched to doctors who used medication as a last resort and aligned with our preference to keep moving. We are not advocating dumping your doc or ignoring his advice; we are advocating getting into a partnership with your doctor so that he can work WITH you to create a plan that includes exercise.

This quote is from Mayo: “Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Talk to your doctor about how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the best exercise plan to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.”

As women who are similar to you – arthritic joints, exercise-loving, youthful minds, mid-50s – we know it’s possible to keep moving. We just have to be pickier than we were 30 years ago. There IS a solution, and your positive attitude will be a big part of it! Please keep us posted. Happy dancing.

Please share this article via Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Thank you.

Photo credits / Morgue File: X-Ray of hips: xandert; Dancing woman: Earl53


Best Workouts to Burn Fat For Women Over 50

Be Low Fat or Burn Fat?

pic of running uphill in San Luis Obispo

Secret to Fat Burning: Run Up Hill. Let Rain Rinse off Fat Sweat. Walk Down Hill. Have a Beer. No, Don’t. Water Bottle is Best.

Do you have a goal to be lower fat? Did you know you don’t have to burn predominantly fat in order to lose fat? Whoa. What just happened there??!! Thanks to our recent radio show guest, Dr. Len Kravitz, you get the most accurate fat burning advice directly and subcutaneously!

In our recent episode, Fat Burning for Women Over 50: Be on Fire, Dr. Len walked us through the sometimes confusing realities of killing off kilocalories. Once we appreciate the role carbohydrates and fat both serve in providing fuel, then we can understand how to select the “best” workout programs.

Go Into Deficit to Win as a Loser

First, the goal is to have a caloric deficit to lose any weight. That deficit comes from the age old energy balance equation: take in fewer calories than we put out (eat less); put out more calories than we take in (move more). The entire weight loss picture is far more complex, affected by a myriad of other factors. For more on losing weight and fat, check out Burn a Myth to Burn More Calories (post) and Fat Loss; What Does and Doesn’t Work (radio episode) . Professional alert warning system activated – it’s not just about cals in and out, though you do have to start there!

Carbs vs Fats, Welcome the Relatives; Count the Absolutes

Second, is that we break down carbohydrates 40 times faster than fat, with carbos supplying most of the fuel (energy) to power our exercise. Distinguish between absolute and relative numbers when thinking of fat loss. When you exercise with some intensity, you use a higher percentage of carbos compared to fat as the fuel source. However, the highest total of burned calories is what you are going for. For that, you need to suck it up and add some effort.

picture from Pound workout

Drum that Fat Off Your Body with a Sweaty Workout. Don’t Poke Venus Williams with your Drumstick!

Higher intensity exercise burns more calories; however, a long, slow approach is better than what most of the adult population is doing — uh, as in better than not much or nuffink! But a workout with some oomph to it at a higher pace will use more total energy (calories) than the lower intensity plan. Absolutely!
So forget needing to be in a “fat burning zone” when making cardio equipment or fitness tech choices. Get in the calorie burning zone, which is also a high carbo burning zone.

4 Best Workout Programs for Fat Burning; This Girl is On Fire!

Third, thanks to Dr. Len’s practical tips, you now get led into the exciting, proven, no-magic-required realm of the four best training programs to maximize calorie burning and become lower fat! He recommends we try all 4 methods.

  1. High Intensity Tree Training

    HITT: High Intensity Tree Training

    High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
    Select a cardio activity you enjoy, such as cycling, running, walking, using a row machine. Go as hard as you can for about 30 seconds. Then recover at a self-selected, variable pace for about 3- 4 minutes. Complete 4-8 rounds for a total workout time of about 30-45 minutes. Dr. Len recommends changing up the mode workout to workout, especially if you have several favorite cardio activities.

  2. Tempo Training
    This fat burning workout has you going at your hardest, fastest tempo for 20 minutes max. Pick a pace you can sustain for this shortened duration and give it your all! Recovery is at the end for as long as you need. That’s it! Simple and hard at the same time.
  3. Split Training
    Ready, set, go for 10 minutes as hard as you can at a pace you can sustain for the time, but no longer. Take a recovery break for as long as you need, up to around 5 minutes-ish. While you can stick with one mode for this method (such as all jump roping), Dr. Len gives the high five to alternating between two activities: treadmill for the work interval; elliptical for recovery, for example.

    Listen to Lenny

    Listen to Lenny

  4. Steady State Training
    Go with this approach when you need a low- to moderate intensity recovery day. Walking is a great activity for the Steady State workout. You want to move comfortably for 30 minutes to one hour at a constant pace that allows you to sustain a conversation. If you launch into a long-winded monologue, pick it up a bit. If you are panting out a few words then having to grab your breath, ease up a bit.

And if you forget all this, simply recite the Kymberly mantra: “Go as hard as you can, as long as you can, as often as you can.” I hear the sizzle of calorie burning already!

Make it easy on yourself to get the best and latest fitness, movement, and active aging advice:

1) Subscribe today. Grab your freebie once you enter your email. We come to you twice a week.

2) Pick up the phone or email us to book us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA


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