Being flexible in general helps reduce injury, enhance movement capability, and increase physical comfort. Flexibility is joint specific, meaning you might have gumby range of motion at the hip, but be tight as a new pair of shoes at the shoulder. Maybe you can do the splits, but barely bend over to pick up something off the floor. Different joints; different muscles; different range of motion.
Try this hamstring stretch as one part of a complete set of stretching exercises. If you need ideas and great stretches to achieve more of your flexibility goals, try our friend and colleague, Aileen Sheron’s program Flexibility Fast. Trust us that you can trust what she offers and knows how to help you reach your goals.
Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video on the hamstrings. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires. After that, click on the link to Flexibility Fast.
ACTION: The best stretch of all is the one your fingers make when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog. Enter your email in any of the subscription boxes to get access to fitness advice tailored to midlife women.
Readers: Do you have a favorite stretch?
Photo credit: Us. Yeah, we took a screen shot from our video. Bet you could tell. Real credit goes to Rancho la Puerta fitness resort in Tecate, Mexico for allowing us to shoot this video while visiting as guest instructors.
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
Kymberly: First and foremost, the answer is “Yes” you can have trimmer, slimmer looking knees by focusing elsewhere – not on the knee joint. We’ll get to that in a minute. Next, you need to sit down, get the remote, and watch the 1965 movie, Battle of the Bulge. All the secrets for winning bulgy battles are covered in the film. For $19.95 we will reveal those secrets (see post “Take One Deep Breath – Lose 5 Pounds. Myth or My Ohmmmm My? for the secret to my “Secret” comment, which is actually a joke as we’re not selling anything in that post).
Third, I am going to go on a wild guess here that by “bulgy knees” you mean knees that have fat above and behind them in the thigh area. Cuz’ last I checked, joints themselves cannot be slimmed down. But my oh my, the areas around the knee can store some pretty nice lipose padding, eh? Therefore we are back to the eternal and infernal question of how to reduce fat and “tone up” surrounding muscles. Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically. Apparently your parents were upper thigh, knee area storage types. Bummer for you. However they probably gave you a nice waist or great hair or a car – something to make up for the genetic predisposition to knee (aka “thigh”) fat.
Alexandra: So true, so cardio, so in need of de-bulgifying. I must contradict Kymberly. Well, I don’t have to, but it’s a quick thrill for me, and I say that you should NOT sit down with the remote. You need to watch the movie while walking on a cardio machine that has a television screen on it. You’re okay with watching Henry Fonda for about 90 minutes aren’t you? Robert Shaw – we could understand a 30 minute commitment. If that sounds inconvenient, or you don’t wish to be spotted on the treadmill eating your popcorn, just do ten 9-minute spurts, broken up with trips to the fridge for Wee-Knees on tiny little Buns. Which is what you will have if you get moving. Poof! De-Bulgified.Where we store extra fat is largely determined genetically #activeaging Click To Tweet
Kymberly: Well not quite yet de-bulgified though I did like Alexandra’s bun puns. And I think Robert Shaw deserves at least 60 minutes. Nancy, you are well served to engage in lower body strength training along with that cardio workout. After all, having strong quad, inner thigh, and hamstring muscles underneath any stored fat will add to the tighter, toned, leaner look your upper thighs will have as you work off additional calories through cardio. You also can benefit from getting stronger and boosting your metabolic rate via strength training.
Two separate actions needed: 1) burn off stored fat through cardio and 2) contract the muscles underneath with strength training. Hey, we did not say this would be easy! But aren’t Wee-knees with tiny buns worth it?
Read this post on how to burn fat while you sleep, watch tv, and read more posts. Hint: you need to increase your metabolic rate.
Also get busy with the Best Workouts to Burn Fat for Women Over 50 (click the link to access that post).
Strength training is critical to achieve lean looking legs and to say good-bye to fat knees. Get suggestions and ways to access exercises to meet your goal here:
While we’re on the subject of knees, if you have knee joint pain (whether or not your knees are bulgy) then check out Fix My Knee Pain, by Rick Kaselj, a fitness colleague of ours. Just click. We’ve used this program ourselves, which is why we are affiliates, though this costs you nothing extra.
Readers: Do you battle your bulge or did you wave the surrender flag? What wonderful attribute did you genetically inherit?
ACTION: Subscribe to receive our posts twice a week. Enter your email; claim your bonus. Kneed we say more?
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
By now you know that exercise is good for a lot more than weight maintenance. It acts as inexpensive medicine, positively affects the aging process, and makes us better people all around. Every year new studies reveal more ways movement increases happiness, healthiness, and longevity. We baby boomers continue to redefine aging as we take advantage of increased awareness of the benefits of activity.
Let’s skim through a few fun fitness facts culled from recent research to get our motivation and life quality up, up, up! Nothing like some quick, practical hits to renew our “commit to be fit!”
I don’t know about you, but I love Fun Fit Facts and Stats. You are seeing here just a few of the many I collect. What do you think? Do fitness facts, stats, and quotes motivate you as well?
If so, layer some Motivational Quotes with your Fun Fit Facts to keep yourself active and on track. Get more quick hits in our posts, Motivational Quotes to Move You and Motivation, Fun Fit Facts, and Pretty Pictures for Boomers.
ACTION: Subscribe. Get motivation with your movement advice twice a week. Enter your email; claim your bonus; exit a more vibrant you!
By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
It’s easy to get started. No special skills or equipment are required, though we do suggest good walking shoes, especially for women over 50. Anyone else notice more feet issues with each passing mile? Also, walking can stave off many diseases, especially depression just by strolling or striding out. You can be social (walking with friends or family) or contemplative (when walking alone). The risk of injury is low low low so go go go. We also mentioned “FREE,” right?
Walking as exercise, power walking, dog walking, even moseying can all help you to:
The rumors are true that you can lose weight with a consistent, well planned walking program. Take a look at our post “Can Walking Really Get You Fit?” which answers the question “how can you lose weight by walking?” You’ll get super clear specifics that will help you determine your pace and duration depending on your goals.
Also watch our short video on ways to amp up your walking. You’ll get some surprising tips, progression methods, and pretty scenery (plus a peek at the world’s cutest dog EVER in the universe for all entirety. Feel free to totally agree or leave a comment below).
Become an even MORE proficient walker when you consider these 7 Steps to Walk Better. Read this companion piece if you want to discover more about yourself.
What if you don’t walk to lose weight? What if you simply want to age actively, move comfortably, travel and explore the world by improving your walking abilities? Perfect!
Did you know that people who enjoy life have faster walking speeds than their more pessimistic counterparts? Or that walking can be as effective as running? Good thing, as my knees put a moratorium on me running, but I walk every day. (Thanks to my motivators, Kila and Sydney. Barkalicious).
For a few motivating Fun Fit Facts about walking, take a look at our post Sneak in Stats When Walking Briskly for Calorie Burn.
If all this walking for exercise gets you sore, find out how to minimize muscle aches in our post on preventing calf soreness after walking, especially uphill.
If you are wondering about the best and most effective technique for getting started on cardio equipment, take a look at our post and video on the Right and Wrong Ways to Work Out on Treadmills and Stairclimbers.
Lastly, are you among the many who consider strapping on light wrist or ankle weights when you head out for a power walk? Then FOR SURE find out about the pros and cons here: Use Weights While Walking: Yes or No?
Small steps lead to big changes! Even a 5 minute walk triggers a bunch of benefits. That’s partly why we’ve written so many posts on this subject. So open up your front door and get your groove on as you move on!
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
ACTION: Walk the Talk by subscribing to our blog and accessing your bonus “5 Fitness Myths that Weaken Your Abs.” Click this link to see what’s on the other side that will help you be more confident, capable, and comfortable in your midlife body.
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… 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
Ever wonder if house cleaning burns enough calories to make a difference? I got to wondering how many calories one burns after I did a bunch of house chores.
As we’ve mentioned before, if you incorporate more movement into your daily activities, you can successfully lose weight (or keep weight from jumping on to your body in the first place). So it sure would be nice if house cleaning fell into the “watch those kcals just fall off my body” category, wouldn’t it? (PS It’s also nice if you want to subscribe and get active aging answers from certified fitness pros twice a week).
Good news for all of us who have worked up a sweat changing the bed sheets, vacuuming the rugs, and dusting the ceilings (please don’t say I’m the only person who does this) – according to a recent study in the U.K., a good spring cleaning can burn more calories than running a marathon. Since I hate to run marathons, this is welcome news indeed!A good house cleaning can burn more calories than running a marathon. True or False? Click To Tweet
More good news: We have to mention TransformAging, our webinar summit that guides you to be more energetic, attractive, and mentally and physically stronger. Reinvigorate your body, mindset, and life when you implement its easy steps. Get your own set of the entire TransformAging Summit recordings and access proven, evidence-based secrets you can put into action today. Click any link in this paragraph or click the image to find out more about this cutting edge series and how you can own it immediately.
Now back to calorie counting and housework:
According to the study (done by promotionalcodes.org.uk), a good spring cleaning burns 3,655 kcals, while a marathon burns 2,500 – 3,500. Yes, it will take you longer to do the cleaning than the running, but look on the bright side – you didn’t have to run. Check out this breakdown:
Quick math tells me that’s 16 hours of work. And I see no category for jumping onto the mattresses when you discover spiders lurking under the bed. I’m sure there’s a high calorie burn for that. I can testify that my heart rate was definitely in the “Working Very Hard” range.
Cleaning external doors isn’t my thing, though I do scrub down the area by the doorknobs. I’d also love to see the calorie count for scrubbing all the kitchen cabinets plus the stove hood and kitchen walls, mainly because I want credit for these chores. Does sweeping count as part of scrubbing?
So, who’s up for 20 minutes on the stairs? And who thinks this is good news? I know I’m excited, though I doubt I’ll pull on my workout gear and put out a 16 hour house chore workout. And how many calories did I burn getting all the dog hairs off the mini-trampoline?
Action: Another easy and free action is to have us come to you twice a week. Not to clean, mind you. But to share tips on how to age actively and enjoy the second half of life. SUBSCRIBE now and grab your bonus while you’re at it. Also, could you get that dust bunny from my corner when you’re done entering your email?
Alexandra Williams, MA
Alexandra: Well, “Day-um” as my other southern friends would say! And “DOMS.” Which is not a way of cussing with a northern accent. It stands for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. We talked about it in “How Do I Prevent Calf Soreness after Walking Hills,” (or as we are tempted to entitle it: “My Calves Have a Stiffy.” Can you tell we’re happy to talk about sore muscles and preventing exercise discomfort.)
Essentially, elevating your core temperature (and thereby henceforthwith and so forthy warming up the muscles) within 24 hours of the original cardio activity will help prevent muscle soreness later on. You don’t have to repeat the 10 mile run, but a walk of just ten minutes should do the trick. It could be the running is making you sore, and that you simply aren’t feeling it until one or two days later. Then walking gets all the blame. Instead blame DOMS.
Kymberly: Running is powered primarily by calves and quads. Walking is powered by glutes and shins (and therefore a great cross training or complementary cardio activity). So if you are used to running and added the walking recently, then your body may simply have been adapting to using your muscles in a new or different way. I am not sure if the pace has anything to do with the soreness unless the slow pace dictated or created an unusual gait that did not work for you biomechanically.Walking & Running Are Opposites, powered by complementary muscle pairs: quads and calves vs… Click To Tweet
Alexandra: Door #3 – If it’s not delayed muscle soreness, could your pain be caused from overuse? Is it standard for you to do 31 miles in a 4-day span? Somewhere in here I’ll throw out the concept of post-run stretching…oh, there, I just did! Could be you also need more recovery time between runs and walks.
With your entire lower body in pain, have you considered the pain might be due to shin splints or your Q-angle? (get solutions from our post, Prevent Shin Splints: Three Calf Stretches). If you have fairly wide hips and/or a narrow stance, then your knees might be the ones yelling “ouchy.”
Kymberly: When you feel better, run or walk over to our group fitness classes so you can let us know whether your pain and soreness are in your joints or muscles. If muscles, I’d say pull a Bobby McFerrin: “Don’t worry; Be happy.” Simply do 10 minutes of light cardio within 24 hours of a new, intensified, or added activity to give your muscles a chance to reheat and release. But if the pain is in your joints, then worry. … and change your gait or stride, as now we may be talking something biomechanical. In this case get a certified trainer or health professional to assess you. Do not light up those joints!
Photo credit: Photobucket
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, 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
We’re sure these all made sense at the time, you know, before anatomy & physiology were invented. Possibly a few laws of physics too. Definitely before we baby boomers became the over 50 midlife crowd who needed to make the best workout choices possible.
1. Arm circles – jog in place and circle your arms around until your shoulders fall off. You’ll still need shoulder pads from the 80s if your goal is to develop your deltoids, and not just fatigue the shoulder joint.
2. Side-lying leg lifts – Think “feel the burn.” Why would you want to feel burned? Not even calories feel that way in this useless exercise.Ever suspect that exercises *your friends* were doing were ineffective? What about these 4 moves? Click To Tweet
3. Windmill toe-touches – Way to go with the unsupported forward flexion and repeated, quick spinal rotation. This move can actually hurt your spine.
4. Frantic “bicycle” crunches – elbows forward and to knees, with wild spinal twists. By the way, if you slow down and do this one with good form, it goes from the “lame” to “great exercise” category. In the spirit of sharing, here is the correct way to do this one (note armpits, not elbows, to knees slowly).Only do bicycle crunches at a slow and controlled pace for them to be effective. Click To Tweet
PS Yes, we did survive all of the above. Somehow…..
Exercisers: What are some of the most useless moves or exercises you have done?
Photo credits: Creative Commons – loufi, Alexandra Williams and Kymberly Williams-Evans
ACTION: If you want to access abs moves that are effective AND targeted to women over 50, enter your name and email below. No obligation. No time wasting. Maybe some waist whittling though.
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA