Cardio exercise has officially moved into the number one spot for “the best thing you can do for your brain” (AARP Bulletin, Get Moving for a Healthy Brain, Sept 2013, pgs 12-13). Take that crossword puzzles, foreign languages, and musical instruments! (Also touted as great vehicles to boost brain power, but downshifted out of first place given the latest research).
If you want to keep smart, cut your risk of Alzheimer’s in half, repair brain cell damage, and basically grow a bigger brain, you’ve got to dance, baby, dance! Face facts midlifers and baby boomers — if you do not eke out at least 150 minutes of cardio per week, your brain actually shrinks every year post 40, year after sedentary year.
But if you want to increase your brain size and capability — cue harps and trumpets — then find a way to work in about 22 aerobic minutes each day. Or 50 minutes three times a week. Or 75 minutes twice a week. I can do this math for you because I boosted my brain teaching step class and walking my dogs. We’re easy around here how you get to the total and new studies support that ease. Sure walking for weight loss is wonderful (read our post on what walking can do for you). Walking for brain gain is even more powerful and impactful! Or try dancing, swimming, getting on a treadmill, biking, hiking, gardening even (could this be any easier? No I am not going to include watching Dancing With the Stars on this list even though I admit total fanaticism for the show.) It really does not take much time or effort to succeed with a brain fitness program.
Let me stress again how powerful movement is for your brain — each and every time you exercise, you get a bigger hippocampus (that’s sexy talk for the post 50 crowd); you stimulate the growth of new neurons; you cut your risk of dementia by 60 percent. Can I get a rah rah here with a pom pom thrown in please?
As Dr. Michael Luan, a friend and expert on Conscious Movement puts it, “We exercise to become better humans. Conscious Movement evolves your brain. The body is your ultimate tool for success, and we all have the potential for greatness. Success with your body creates success with your career, relationships, and ultimately, your life.” The better your brain, the better your life, wouldn’t you say?
Movement will improve your focus, increase your mood, enhance your decision-making processes, help your ability to plan, regenerate brain cells, help your memory, and basically outsmart all those young people who can’t believe how sharp you are for a person your age.
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Kymberly Williams-Evans, 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
As I write this, yet another mass shooting has occurred a few hours’ drive from here, this one at a center for those with developmental disabilities. That’s too close to home, as one of my sons has disabilities. And my heart is still with a friend who lost her child and is left to savor the experiences and memories she built with love.Find your personal motivating movement factor and focus on it for 2016. Click To Tweet
What do you love in your life? Traumatic events make you think of the things you love. I love my boys. It’s that simple and basic. So I am consciously choosing (did you think I’d say “uncoupling”?) events that can include them.
If you read my post about joining the Hollywood Hotel team as part of the Hollywood Christmas Parade you know I went with my younger son to celebrate his birthday.
If you read my post about visiting the Hyatt in Palm Springs, then you saw me with my older son.
Both events required me to walk a lot. Yeah, one of my knees is bone on bone and needs surgery (long story why that’s postponed till 2016), but I can still do MOST things, so I do. We have so many videos and posts about the ways and whys to exercise (and Kymberly has a downloadable Ultimate Abs series coming out soon), and as 2015 comes to a close, I beseech you to find your personal motivating movement factor and focus on it for 2016. Spend time with grandkids? Be the hottest hottie at your high school reunion? Prevent disease? Feel comfortable in your own body? Whatever is between you and the experiences you want (excluding those financially out of reach), is it within your power to close that gap?
And if you’re headed to Hollywood or Palm Springs, I really had great experiences at both the Hollywood Hotel and the Hyatt Palm Springs. If you’re in the Santa Barbara area, come watch the Downtown Holiday Parade this Friday, Dec. 04 at 6:30 pm. I’ll be dancing with the La Boheme Professional Dance Group (just before Santa’s float). No matter where you are, we invite you to subscribe to our blog using the handy box right over there ——>
Alexandra Williams, MA
Photo credits: All photos are mine, though I wasn’t able to have my external flash with me on the parade route
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!
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by Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
And the winnah winnah winnah is …………….. ONE of you is correct. Ok, I’ll give. First, we assume you mean “static” or holding still when you say “deep stretching.” In that case, stretches are best held when muscles and the core body temperature are at their warmest. For static stretching, that spells “post activity.” Your heart rate is up, you’re possibly sweating, your internal temp is toasty – good time to ask the muscles to ex–teeeeeend. Is ONE of you hot under the collar now?
Alexandra: We covered some of this (including a lovely picture) in our post Stretch it or be Wretched. But the full truth and nothing but the truth is essentially whatever Fun and Fit say it is, for the simple reason that we sprinkle a light dusting of truth over
nothing everything we do, so we’ll give you even more info. While doing your post-exercise stretches, please hold and argue, yell and scream politely discuss your differences of opinion for at least 15-30 seconds so that you can get improved active range of motion, rather than a quick 5-second dish-throwing tirade discourse about improved passive range of motion. Keep in mind the goals of stretching: 1) to maintain or improve range of motion (flexibility) and 2) to reduce the risk of injury and soreness. You will reach these goals better with warm, happy muscles that have been contracting and extending throughout your aerobic workout and are now ready to solely lengthen.
Kymberly: Let’s divide and conquer – umm, this is the segment that is not couple’s advice. To prepare to move, (i.e. hike, run, walk) you need to actually move. Yes, indeedy. A warm-up needs to literally heat up the body by mimicking the workout to come. That is, in your warm-up, do the type of movements you will be doing in the workout, but at a lower intensity and graduated pace. Rehearse the joint actions and movement patterns you are about to perform.
For example, if you are about to take a power or dog walk, the best warm-up is walking – not jogging, side stepping, or squatting. Start at a moderate pace, ideally and initially on flat terrain. About 3-5 minutes later, pick up the pace and stride intensity. Holding still and stretching statically would be the opposite of this.
Guess what? As you warm up, you are actually building in the necessary stretches — dynamic (moving) ones. By definition, if I am contracting my quadriceps, my hamstrings are simultaneously lengthening. As I swing my heel forward to take a step, my shin contracts. Its antagonist, or pair, the calf muscle has to extend. So you really are stretching pre-workout, but in a dynamic way that meets the warm-up goals.
Kymberly: The muscles are most helpful when warm, pliable, and extensible. Also, all the latest research concludes that static stretching before exercising offers no injury prevention protection. Nor does pre-activity stretching help minimize muscle soreness. ARE YOU LISTENING PEOPLE AND COACHES?! ALERT ALERT –EXIT THE 80’s DOOR AT THE END.
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Alexandra: This post took us 15-30 hours to write in a non-passive way because that’s how long it took for us to conclude that no
stupid, **&^*^%$ reputable research exists about “cranky” muscles. As a sop, though, here is a nice, compassionate saying regarding cranky, angry people.
Kymberly: So who won the bet, G or E?
Dear Readers and Crankyfoos: What is your favorite stretch after a long hike? What do you argue about during your strolls? Remember to subscribe if you have not already.
Photo credits: Photobucket.com
Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA
But first, take a look at our recently released program, “Ultimate Abs Workout Collection for Women Over 50,” (over 23 videos, 10 modules, popular abs questions addressed).
Our quick video tutorial gives you helpful specifics on how to perform oblique (side) abdominal crunches correctly. And as a bonus, we also show how NOT to do them.
Good news – you don’t have to learn technical terms. But just in case you’re wondering why we say “obliques” instead of “waist” or “that area that encircles your spine that used to be oh-so-tiny way back in high school,” we’ve got some quick Ed-U-Cay-Shun-al info about the technical terms.
Your external obliques run diagonally, forming a V in front. Imagine you’re putting your hands into a vest or front coat pocket. Feel those rock hard muscles? Yeah, me neither. But I do know that my obliques are there somewhere.
Your internal obliques run at right angles to your external obliques and form an inverted V. Put your hands on your hips with your thumbs in front and fingers behind, pointing down as if putting your hands into back pockets.
For those of you who like the nitty-gritty, oblique-y details, here’s an excellent definition by our colleague Dr. Len Kravitz, who teaches at the University of New Mexico and is way smart!
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.” More importantly, you can now confidently add oblique crunches to your exercise routine. Score!!
Photo credits: CreativeCommons. org
by Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA
Kymberly: Dear Gina: As you are doin’ the Tighten Up in Texas, keep in mind this pithy and wise quote I made up myself: “Keep the mind clear and the body confused.” Always know what, why, and how you are performing your resistance exercises. That’s keeping the mind clear.
And change up those resistance training exercises every so often. That’s where the body confusion comes in. Be careful not to mix up the two and wonder what the heck you are doing and why, but gosh, you sure have done it for a long time. That’s akin to saying “gee the food was bad, but at least they had big portions!”Change up about 20-30 % of your workout every few weeks to achieve better strength Click To Tweet
Anyway, we are really talking adaptation and progression here, not muscle memory. You want muscle memory, which allows you to achieve good form and coordination. And you want to constantly push yourself to progress. Once you adapt to a move, it’s time to vary the exercise in one of many ways.
Alexandra: I want some muscle memory. I want to remember what, why and where my muscles are! I had them just a minute ago. I think they got lost behind my Buns of Cinna! Geez, at this point I have a Samwise and pithy quote that I made up, and it’s better than Kymberly’s. It is this “Frodo, Frodo, it’s me – Sam. You have Muscle Alzheimer’s.” I too want to adapt and progress, but I call it something different. I call it “I let my boys make it through their teen years by reminding myself it would soon be over, and I would again find harmony and joy in their company.” Adapt? Yup. Progress? They’re alive aren’t they? So some days I lift my car keys and purse 15 times as I contemplate running away for 3 years. Other days I lift my car just once, and contemplate hurling it, and myself, over a cliff. Light weights one day, heavy the next.
K: Ummm, so where were we? Basically, adaptation can occur anytime between 1 and 12 weeks– for each new move. Unless you are Alexandra, then it’s a lifelong process. For you, Ginaroo, I would change up about 20-30 percent of my workout every few weeks. Don’t completely throw out one routine for another all at once. Morph your routine with one, two, or three new approaches each week without getting caught up in exact formulas. If you no longer see or feel progress with a given exercise, change something about it. If you feel stale with a move, throw out the old Cinnabuns. Couldn’t resist.
As for what element to change, that is the fabulosity (made up that word too and proud of it!) of resistance training. You can select to change any number of elements to keep your body adapting upwards and program fresh:
So many ways to vary: the exercise itself, the equipment, the speed, the balance factor, the resistance factor, the range of motion, the order of your routine. Get happy and choose what appeals to you.
A: Forget your troubles, come on get happy, gonna chase all your weight away. Said Hallelujah, come on get happy, get ready for the push-ups day! What appeals to me has nothing to do with working out. It involves curly dark hair and manly t-shirt smell. Really, I just go to the gym and work out so I can sniff the hotties. Oh, and I’m paid.
K: And whoever said to change your routine to avoid muscle memory, needs to read our blog in a big way. You change your routine to avoid lack of progress from overadaptation. Force the body to adapt upwards. Just as I have had to adapt to having a twin who lifts car keys for a workout. As you can tell by the fine quality of my advice, I do all the heavy lifting for her.
You will then be so strong you will want to subscribe to our blog to get active aging answers twice a week. Subscribe now in the box above or to the right.
What do I mean by that? In truth, the question isn’t necessarily a plea for solutions (though we have many solutions; some are listed below and some are linked to in this post and through the pictures). Before giving some answers about substituting A (Inactivity) for B (Activity) in ways that don’t add time demands to your day, let’s take a look at some of the actual meanings behind the question:
I’m hoping you’ll tell me I’m okay, and that I don’t need to exercise.
Other people think I should exercise, but I don’t really agree, so I’m kicking this can down the road.
I actually hate to exercise, so please say you have an easy, “magic pill” solution that doesn’t involve sweating, exertion or a change of clothes.
And certainly, some want our expert input so they can make healthy changes to their routine.
Here’s how you can discern whether you’re truly invested in finding a solution – after reading our suggestions, see if you’ve implemented any of them over the next two weeks. If so, you truly wish to make some changes. If not, you may be more comfortable choosing guilt, procrastination or plain old avoidance. As a person who is the full-time caretaker for two people, I can definitely say that there are times when it’s truly impossible to get in some “me” exercise time. And… as a person who’s a full-time caretaker for two people, I can also say that being too busy for exercise every single day for weeks, months or years is a choice.
Recently I’ve posted quite a few pictures and scopes (videos on an app called Periscope – please follow me at @AlexandraFunFit), and gotten lots of comments about how I must be on a permanent vacation because I’m always out and about, walking around. No. I’m just finding a solution that works for me while I wait around for the people I drive. Walking and taking pictures and doing my scopes keeps me fit, not just physically, but also mentally. My stress level is under control for two reasons: 1 – I am outdoors walking, which means I am exercising AND getting the benefits of nature; and 2 – I made a conscious choice to do something that takes my mind off the many hours I am required to drive and wait and drive and wait and drive and wait. That choice gives me a feeling of control.
What tips would you add to the short list above?
P.S. Do you see the Ent holding up the tree and raising his arms and face to the sky in this picture? Look again.
by Alexandra Williams, MA (don’t forget to follow me on Periscope for my travel and fitness videos)
While teaching for a week at Rancho la Puerta Spa in Tecate, Mexico I managed to find a few spots that had wifi so I could share some abdominal moves on video.
The three videos were done in real time via my Periscope account (if you have a Twitter account, you can get a Periscope account), but I saved them so that I could share them now with all of you. They are in portrait mode because Periscope isn’t yet set up for landscape mode, but the info is still 100% legit at any angle!
This video is the perfect place to start if you’re new to a stability ball or just want to ease into ab work:
This video adds an extra element to the video above:
This one adds the challenge of lifting your feet and moving your arms:
As it’s about a kabillion degrees IN THE SHADE here in Santa Barbara, my brain is melted, so I have no clever words. Instead, you get lovely photos from my trip to Tecate, including a BONUS photo of the beach where I grew up – Hermosa Beach. That makes this entire post worth its price – which is zero, of course, but still….
Please follow me on Periscope for travel and fitness scopes (videos): I am at AlexandraFunFit.
As I’m trying to finance our medical coverage (we are no longer covered by work), I’d appreciate your input. I’m thinking of making note cards from some of my photos and selling them. Do you recommend this? If so, any suggestions where to sell them (besides Etsy)? Thanks.
by Alexandra Williams, MA
Put on by the industry association for fitness professionals, it has grown over the years to offer options for enthusiasts too. Two in particular might appeal to you when making your 2016 plans for July.
Entrance is free, so that’s a super incentive right there. Several hundred companies, ranging from heavyweights Reebok, Merrithew/ Stott Pilates, TRX, General Mills, and Lorna Jane to smaller and newer companies such as Ahnu Footwear, Siggi’s Dairy, Lolé Fitness Apparel, LaBlast Dance Fitness, and Functional Aging Institute were offering samples, demonstrations, workouts and discounts to visitors.
No matter what your age, ability, fitness level, or health preferences, you could find something of interest. Just a few of the types of free workouts – indoor cycling, slacklining, Core Stix, interval training, walking, dance, suspension training, strength training, treadmills & cardio machines, Pilates, yoga, competitive events – are enough to get you thinking, “Wow, for the price of, um, ZERO, I can work out all day if I want.”
You can also shop for just about anything you need for fitness – clothing, shoes, apps, tech gear, equipment, healthy food, supplements, skin care, water in all kinds of forms (we saw dark brown mineral water that tasted just like clear water), education, pain relief, music. I’m wearing the Recon Jet glasses above from Intel.
Besides eating lots of free samples, I got a free functional fitness assessment. I didn’t do well, thanks to my knee that needs reconstruction, and my shoulder/ wrist injury, but at least I have additional information about ways I’m compensating. I also won free custom shoes from Reebok, and my sis won an Intel Basis Peak fitness/ sleep tracker. Other people won free spa weeks, a Schwinn indoor bike, mini-fridges, protein packs/ bars, clothing, music, training, books, and on and on and on.
Fitness Fanatics Day
You don’t have to be a fitness fanatic to sign up for this, because once you participate in just one of the workouts, you’ll become one – it’s that fun. Open to both convention attendees and the general public, Saturday was a full day of workouts lead by the fitness celebrities who created them: Jillian Michaels, Todd Durkin, Leslie Sansone, Beto Perez and Jeanette Jenkins.
I didn’t do the workouts, as I was covering them for IDEA Fitness Journal and didn’t have time, but I did stop in to all of them, and can tell you that the room was packed for all five sessions, and the exercisers were having the time of their lives.
If you’ve never enjoyed exercise, this “time of your life” concept will sound weird, but it just means you haven’t found the RIGHT exercise yet. I was really tapping my feet and wishing I could just stay in the “3 Mile Walk Concert With Leslie Sansone.” That was my favorite because it was easily accessible to nearly everyone. I saw people in there who represented typical Americans. This was not a class for the fit people; it was a class for the people. And since I’m a Boomer (with injuries) and I teach older adults (and university students), I am drawn to these inclusive kinds of workouts.
Next year the IDEA World Fitness Convention is back in Los Angeles July 13-17. Mark it in your calendar now. You’ll recognize me. I’ll be the one standing on the side of the room taking notes and tapping my feet. Except when the disco songs start. Then I set my stuff down and “help” the leaders show the youngsters how it’s done.
by Alexandra Williams, MA