Let’s walk 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.
But first, when speaking of “the best” programs, we have to mention our recently created “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50.” (Go for it — click that link!) Even if you’re carrying extra ell-bees around the middle, you can still achieve a strong core. Why not feel more confident, capable, and comfortable in your body as you burn fat and gain amazo abs? Read more here as well: Get Ultimate Abs (Better Yet, A Strong Core)
And, we’re back …. Stick with us to the end where you’ll get 4 fat burning programs to try.
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 To Burn Fat, Do I Go Faster or Slower? Professional alert warning system activated — it’s not just about cals in and out, though you do have to start there! (Then continue with this post on another surprising factor that affects weight: Is Stress Making You Fat? )
Second, is that we break down carbohydrates 40 times faster than fat, with carbs 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 carbohydrates 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.
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!
Third, thanks to international fitness expert, professor, and colleague of ours, Dr. Len Kravitz you get top level practical tips. He shared with us 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.
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.
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!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Hard to make that sound sexy and exciting. However, having a strong circulatory system and being flexible should be on the top of your “gotta have” list if you want to live a full, healthy life. If you are a woman over 45 (keep those genetic predispositions in mind too) you will especially need to focus on circulating better than a politician at a fundraiser!Sure, you have a heart. But is it strong, flexible, and a good circulator? Click To Tweet
Circulation is the movement of fluid through the vessels of the body in a regular or circuitous course induced by the pumping action of the heart. Say what? When you have good circulation, blood can move to every cell in your body in less than 60 seconds. (And you can learn foods to eat to help your heart in fewer than 60 more seconds by checking out our post, “5 Age Defying Tips to ‘Youthen’ Your Heart and Improve Circulation.”)How can you improve your circulation? Click To Tweet
Thinking of which, did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US? Or that the symptoms of a woman’s heart attack can differ drastically from men’s, so those signs often go unrecognized? We need to do better at spotting heart attacks in women AND take action to minimize heart disease in the first place. In other words, having good circulation not only can improve your life, but possibly also save it!
Notice how Bob Hoskins ends up at the ER in the Bonnie Raitt video clip? Did you notice what he was eating? Exactly!
The three main ways you can help your circulatory system are to:
2) Achieve good flexibility
Researchers have established a correlation between flexible bodies and flexible arteries in people older than 40. Can you touch your toes? If so, you probably have flexible arteries. Arterial stiffness indicates an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. Being fit seems to delay the development of age-associated artery stiffening.
3) Intake healthy food and drink
One of our favorite ways people can support their circulation is via cocoa flavanols. What can be better than finding out that a regular, small dose of dark chocolate helps your health. We’re all over that good news!
In other, more expected news, you probably guessed that a diet rich in plant-based foods is also heart healthy. This infographic has some specific foods to choose if you want a stronger heart and better circulation. (We differ on just two small points: 1) tomato has no “e” at the end and 2) egg yolks are no longer considered problematic.)
ACTION: Improve your heart when you subscribe (and then read and follow our tips). Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes and claim your bonus while you’re at it.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Yet that is what we see from treadmillers and stairsteppers of all ages – not just baby boomers. Ouch and WTH?! (“What the Heck” – we don’t cuss ‘round these parts much).
At any given moment we can go into the cardio equipment area of a gym and see people working super hard. Yet their form denies them cardio benefits while stressing joints. Don’t let this be you! (If you do want a good workout on a treadmill, read our post “Treadmill Walking Workout.”)What are the 3 biggest mistakes exercisers make on the treadmill & stairclimber? Don't let… Click To Tweet
Three major treadmill and stairclimber no-nos we see involve:
Take a look at our priceless video demo.
Then check your form next time you hit the climber, treadmill, and even the elliptical machine. Go for natural arm swing, not death grip on the machine. If you can let go of the side or front bars and stay vertical you are probably doing it right! If your hair looks good when you are done, you are probably doing it light! Ahh ahha.
Dear Climber-Stepper buddies: Are you a wrist leaner? Horse reins grabber? What’s your best piece of advice for cardio exercisers? Besides reading our posts, of course.
ACTION: Want a stronger core and better abs? Check out our newly released program: “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: The appropriate heart rate for a 56 year old woman is to have one! Yup, now that you’re officially in the “second half,” how much does it matter if your heart is beating like a rabbit? Mine goes shooting sky high when I see actor Clive Owen, and you don’t see me slowing down as I stalk him in Hollywood!
Kymberly: How shall I put this diplomatically and professionally?? Umm, get a new trainer. This one fell for a long time myth and does not understand the diff between burning calories to lose fat and using fat vs carbos as the energy source for activity. Do you hear me tearing out my low fat hair? Read our post on how you don’t have to burn fat in order to be low fat: Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50.To reduce fat, you must get to caloric deficit whether those calories are fueled by stored fat… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Ah, I thought that sound was you burning some fat. On the stove. In a frying pan. With an empty bacon wrapper on the counter. When you’re done setting off the smoke alarms, Kymberly, please tell Diane the difference between burning fat calories and using energetic fat!
Kymberly: Alexandra is jealous of my cooking abilities and my superior fitness knowledge. So sad, so obvious. Here’s the deal. To reduce body fat you need to:
Alexandra: As a true professional (“professional what?” you may ask) I want to add this little caveat. Do you take any meds that would cause your (shall we call him or her “former”?) trainer to worry about your heart rate? If so, you had better talk to a real doctor instead of we two fitness weenies about your walking pace. Otherwise, here is the deal. If you walk faster, you lose weight faster. How soon is your next high school reunion? If it’s really soon, you had better walk so fast that it comes to resemble a heavy, panting trot. And will someone please let Kymberly know that my close personal friend Clive was not in a James Bond movie.
Kymberly: Hey running rabbit sis, slow down! But Diane – speed up your heart rate. Last time Alexandra panted as hard as her advice suggests, Clive Owen was….. Oh never mind. As I was saying, get to caloric deficit. The trap your trainer got caught in is that low intensity activity relies on stored body fat to fuel the casual stroll. High intensity activity uses mostly carbohydrates as fuel, also known as “energy,” also known as “calories.” And while low intensity exercise might use a higher relative percentage of fat instead of carbos, you need not care about relative percentages in this case. You care about total, absolute number of burned cals. To lose one pound of weight you must burn 3,500 more calories than you take in, ie, caloric deficit. Therefore, do what it takes to burn as many calories as you can, need, or want. You can either go longer, go with more intensity, or go more often if you have a weight loss goal.
Alexandra: Can you really walk your way to a more fit you? Click that <—— link and read our post on how to pace yourself depending whether you are walking to be healthy, avoid weight gain, or lose weight. Can Walking Really Get You to Your Fit Destination? Also take a look at this great guest post from Jody Goldenfield: Managing Your Weight As You Age . She’s one of the most fit 50+ women we know and is over at Truth2BeingFit.com.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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.
An “aerobic” or “cardio” activity is defined as being:
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.
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.While aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, it will not really affect muscle mass. Click To Tweet
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):
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?
Also take a look at this spiffy gifographic:
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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!
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!
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!The best cardio workout is the one you will actually do. Click To Tweet
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.
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.
When 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.
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.It’s good to get out of your comfort zone and try something challenging, yet achievable. Click To Tweet
It’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.
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.
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.”
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.High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the most effective method for raising your metabolic… Click To Tweet
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.
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 —->
Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Can the 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?
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:
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.
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!
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
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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.
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
* functional strength (the ability to use your body in daily living activities)
* brain health
* fat burning
* recovery from injury / illness
* sexy good looks
In 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