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
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
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!
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:
Example: Integrate Moves that Cross the Midline
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?
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Alexandra: Hi Mindy. The best protection is to take them off and put them in a gym bag while doing those intense activities. If your knees are still in their original packaging, this might be a challenge, so you should just give them a light buff and wax. That will protect them for sure, although Fun and Fit do not offer the extended warranty. And you are on your own if your knees get any scratches. Would you like me to go into detail about strengthening up and stretching the muscles that support your slacker knees, including the much-forgotten VMO? No, that is not an insurance plan, that is the Vastus Medialis Obliquus, and yes, it is spelled like that.
Do you recall the character played by Michael Palin in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” – and his friend Biggus Dickus? That, too, is spelled correctly, but is an entirely different issue. No body part with Latin in its description (that would apply to er, um, well, all of them) should have to live in pain. It’s all about balance.
Kymberly: Well, Mindy since you are asking a serious question, you deserve a serious answer. And, well…, how shall I put this. Fun and Fit is known for going on larks. But for YOU, we’ll pretend for a minute to be on point. Strengthen your quads. Perhaps even more important, strengthen and activate your glutes! Do the same for your inner thighs and hamstrings so you stay balanced muscularly. Strengthen your anterior tibialis (shins) while you’re at it. Why not since we’re on a workout roll?! Keep your knees tracking in line with your upper leg and lower leg, No turning your feet one way when your knees are pointing in another. And no turning your knees one way when your pelvic structure dictates something different. Got a compass so you can keep up with me and your top dog, top of the org chart pelvic structure?Have knee pain? Been told to strengthen your quads? Surprise! Another muscle group may be more important. Click To Tweet
The evidence that having activated, strong, balanced glutes to help with knee pain is growing. Some medical professionals now advise that the gluteals play a bigger role than the quadriceps in affecting knee problems.
When doing choreography that locomotes you forward or going down stairs, try to keep your knee above or behind your toes. Beware of all that forward and downward motion pushing your knees too far in front of your body and past the vertical plane of your feet. Otherwise you are putting a lot of pressure on the poor little kneecaps. Translation = knee pain. Also take a look at the exercises and solutions shown in the program “Fix My Knee Pain,” created by a colleague and qualified fitness pro we know and trust. For instance, did you know that tucking your feet under your seat when sitting (say, at a computer reading a great post like this one!) actually stresses your knee joints? Instead, extend your legs in front of you under your desk. This post gives you more ideas on how to address knee problems: Solving Knee Pain: What Is and Isn’t Working
Alexandra: Why don’t you just hire a proxy to do your cardio and stair activities? Save your knees for parties (the tried and true “barf in a plant” maneuver) and asking forgiveness.
Knights Who Say “Knee”
Kymberly: You know, I have to agree with Alexandra. All this serious advice leaves me out of humor. Where are Monty Python, Michael Palin and Biggus Dickus when I “kneed” them? Pfft, well in their absence, console yourself with other posts we have provided to knee pain sufferers:
Knee Pain: Just Say No … Didn’t Work
Alexandra: Ah, Mary Mary Mary, you have inadvertently asked several questions!
Let’s tackle these questions separately.
Stretching is excellent post-workout (not pre-workout) as it:
Sources: Thacker et al. 2004; Safran et al. 1988; Woods, Bishop & Jones 2007; Kerrigan et al. 2001; and Misner et al. 1992.What's the relationship between stretching and strength training? Click To Tweet
That is my diplomatic way of saying that stretching after your workout makes you healthy, wealthy, and wise, but doesn’t have a link to an increased metabolic rate. So how to increase metabolism? Not via stretching. You speed up your metabolic rate by following the suggestions in this post: How Can I Speed Up My Metabolism?How can you speed up your metabolism, especially if you're a woman over 50? Click To Tweet
I am going to make a wild leap into the Abyss of Assumption here, and say you are looking to burn calories at a higher rate for a longer time? If so, read How Do I Lose Weight but not Bulk Up . It will show how smart you are for doing strength training!
Kymberly: More good news about boosting your metabolic rate with exercise: Women who do 40 minutes of cardio exercise at 80 percent of maximum heart rate (fairly intense but not exceedingly so) increase their caloric expenditure for the next 19 hours. So both weight training AND cardio workouts metabolically zoom you up afterward. Sort of the caffeine of the workout world, eh? Whoa doggies, that’s pretty exciting stuff!
Alexandra: Is it possible you heard the water-cooler discussions about high-intensity interval training, increased metabolic rate and stretching? If so, that is referring to the recovery or “corrective” stretching that comes between short, intense bursts of cardio activity. But that’s not strength training, and the metabolic effect is from the cardio bursts.
Kymberly: As to why people do not stretch after weight training, we can only surmise that it’s lack of education sometimes disguised in their minds as lack of time. Saying they’re “flexibility losers” is just not in us. We can say we found nada, zip, bupkus about stretching helping metabolic rate. (Actually I can say Alexandra found nothing as she did all the research work this time around. Go twin sissie! I was busy watching soccer on tv. And the players did stretch afterwards. Go soccer!) We do advocate relengthening muscles shortened in training. And we’ve covered how to increase metabolic rate post workout. That’s a wrap here at F and F!
Alexandra: I think I’ll just get bossy and tell you to keep stretching cuz it’s good for ya, and keep at the strength training for the same reason.
Kymberly: Lastly, check out our post Stretch Before or After Running, Walking, Fighting?. Then when you do your stretches post-workout, stare at the others as if you are superior and know something they don’t …cuz’ it’s probably true.
ACTION: Subscribe (and strength train a wee bit) if you have not already. Click this link to see what awaits you on the other side. Hint: It’s a bonus that will help you be more capable, confident, and comfortable in your own body.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
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
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 the wrong way be you! 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
Your wishes are granted, as we pulled this video from our YouTube channel that shows the wrong and right way to do an oblique crunch.Do you perform oblique crunches the wrong or right way? Are you sure? Click To Tweet
Now you know the official terms for “I want my waist to be fit and trim, but don’t want to copy any of those lame exercises I see people do in the gym that are destined to hurt their back or neck.”
Did you do the oblique crunch along with us? Feel free to comment below between reps. 412, 413, 414, 415 ….
Want more abdominal exercises tailored and curated to YOU? Then check out our “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
ACTION: Say, have you subscribed to our posts yet? Just put your email address in and Voila!!! Not only do we come to you twice a week with fitness solutions, but also you get our bonus booklet: “5 Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.”
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
In any case, the perfect time to start a get-fit regimen is today. You know, right after you read this post. Or do your lunges while you read it. Then take a few sweaty selfies to prove your dedication.
1. People your age are starting to have health issues and you don’t want to join your peer group in this particular activity. You want to stay vibrant and energetic and independent and active and you know that it takes just a few new habits or changes to get where you want to be. You also want to stick around long enough to add commas and remove a few “ands” from the previous sentence.
2. Your high school reunion is coming up. Time to impress that person you always had a crush on. Time to make all the mean girls super envious of your vivacity. Have you noticed that fit people are attractive? It’s actually true. Exercise and healthy living give you confidence and energy. Confident, energetic people appear more attractive. Some weird evolutionary thing that makes sense. Notice we didn’t say “skinny” or “thin.” We said “fit” and “healthy.” Define your goal, baby.If you view yourself as an exerciser your habits will change to meet that self-image. Click To Tweet
3. Your stress levels will go down. Yup, exercise reduces stress. In fact, it’s the number two motivator for working out (We know you’re wondering, so click this link to read our post that gives the number one motivator). Making snow angels decreases stress too, FYI.
4. You will avoid the somewhat unrealistic expectation that you can get fit in time for a trip that starts on a Saturday if you start working out on the previous Wednesday. Much more realistic is to start a wee bit sooner. If your goal is weight loss, you can safely sustain a weight loss of 1 ½ to 2 pounds per week, so if you start today you will lose about 6 or 7 pounds in less than a month. If you’re thinking, “Hey, my goal is 35 pounds. What good is 6 or 7,” my answer is this – you’ll be 1/5th of the way there, if “there” is your weight loss goal.
But your outlook and how you feel will be 75% of the way there, because research says that you will start to view yourself as an exerciser, which means your habits will change to meet that self-image. In straight-talk, after a few weeks your self-perception will change. From there, your activities change to meet this new self-view. Four or 5 months may seem like a long time if you’re planning to lose 35 pounds, but how long did it take to put ON those 35 pounds? Give yourself a break, eh?!
5. Want to be smarter? Want to stave off memory loss, confusion, and dementia? Er, wait, I got distracted. More than anything else, exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. It gives better commands to your body. I always tell my university students that the best time for them to take a test is right after exercise class, NOT after staying up all night studying (while ingesting abnormal amounts of caffeine). We love the link between exercise and brainpower so much that we have written extensively on it. Exercise Can Train Your Brain, Spark Your Brain with Exercise, and Exercise Your Right to a Better Brain are three posts to get you started.Exercise makes you smarter. Your brain gets bigger. It works faster and more efficiently. Click To Tweet
6. You will have more energy. You will save money. You will look better. You will feel better. You will meet a lot of cool people. Your math skills will improve. You’ll get an end of year tax deduction… One of these may be false. Hint: As you now know, exercise makes you smarter, so it’s actually quite possible your math skills will improve. Definitely your energy levels will rise. For example, I was going to write 10 Reasons, but got bogged down when I carried the 1, multiplied the 0, subtracted the junk food, added the Lycra and Voila, ended up with 6 Reasons!The best time to take a test or give a presentation is right after you exercise. Click To Tweet
Text & photos by Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Ladies, your questions are so similar that they are now joined together in cellulite love. Let’s first give some definitions, yes? Cellulite originates in the subcutaneous fat beneath the dermis and epidermis (a “dermi” way of saying “skin”). It’s caused by small protrusions of fat into the dermis. Quiz later, so stay with me. And cellulite can be found on slender women; it’s just that weight gain exacerbates the condition.
So…the answer about specific exercise is “No” and “Yes.” Any eating and exercise regimen that includes a healthy diet (with fewer calories going in than being put out, since cellulite indicates a need to reduce some fat), plus cardio (aerobic movement) and resistance training will help you lose weight, which will reduce the visible “dimpling.” But (I didn’t say “butt” or you’d be reminded of the cellulite) since the fat where cellulite comes from is sitting on top of muscle, you can do specific resistance training for the tush (see, I didn’t say “butt” again), hips and thighs. Why? ‘Cause whimpery, weak, mushy muscles show the cellulite a lot more, whereas tight and toned muscles help smooth out that uneven look! Hello squats, lunges, and lower body workouts! (Go to our post, Wrong and Right Way to Do a Squat to know how to execute squat excellence!)
Kymberly: Gaby and Cristina, if you tell me that you are “Smokin’ hot babes, but not smokers,” then good on ya’ because cigarette smoking will weaken the formation of collagen, which may allow for easier protrusion of fat into the dermis. Yup indeedy, smoking can worsen the appearance of cellulite. If you do smoke, then STOP IT!
Alexandra: In case you have a wistful little voice in your head that asks, “can’t I just apply a cream or something?” the answer is 99% “No.” Surgery, injections, massage, creams/ointments, suction, heat application and herbals have NOT been found to have an effect on your cellulite. Both “shock wave” and laser therapy have shown some results in the improvement of the appearance of cellulite, but the study samples were small and so recent that more research is needed. I just mention it here so that you can kind of keep an eye out for further research on these two possible therapies. While you’re waiting, exercise more, eat less. That’s the bottom line on your bottom line!
Kymberly: Before I pontificate, let me contradict my sis. You can and may simply apply cream if you want. It just won’t work. Save your money for workout clothes. We have some baddish, badass news (unless you’re a man): cellulite is offered exclusively to women. Darn it! Right in the subcutaneous fat, where the fat protrusions occur, men are structured differently than women. Not only that, but men’s skin is thicker, and we aren’t speaking metaphorically; we mean literally– their skin is thicker in the thighs and butt. Women carry five times more fat cells in the thighs, hips, buttocks than in other sites of the body. Physiological rip-off, we’d say!
So get busy racking up cardio time, do those lower body exercises (check out our post for 5 more reasons to join a Group Strength Class), and eat fuel, not chubby grub. Or wear long pants the rest of your life and curse your ancestors for the genes you inherited. We prefer Action Plan A. Action Plan B could cut into your other inheritance.
Readers: If you have cellulite, have you remembered to text your parents to thank them for the genetic predisposition? Start pressing those tiny buttons!
ACTION: Comment below if you have tried strength training and seen it make a difference — with your strength and fat stores. Please tweet or share if you know someone who could benefit from this info.
Photo credits: Creative Commons
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 or stored carbohydrates 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
Health and beauty are inside jobs! Body image and a “perfect physique” are matters of perspective, culture, history, and whatever the mass media tells us.
Can you say “Mixed Messages?” Don’t believe us? Take a brief tour through past wistful wishes for va-va-voom figures. Look at what people were willing to do to achieve that “look du decade.”
Don’t make us talk about you years from now! Our gift to you as we wrap up — no, not gifts. We are not that organized! — Work the look you already have. Embrace it; Look it in the eye and say “Ell-bees – you and I are going into the New Year together baby, guilt- and stress-free!”
Whoa now you Vixens, Dashers, and Red Nosed sorts! Don’t go overboard — or is that “oversleigh?” We said give yourself some body-lovin’ self-acceptance while staying active, not plunk down your hiney so finey!
ACTION: Subscribe to get us to come to you twice a week with active aging solutions tailored to women over 50. Subscribing is self love! Simply enter your email in one of the boxes AND get your bonus free.
by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA