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How Do You Relax?

Do you think relaxing is part of a healthy, active life? For some, relaxing is the opposite of activity. For others, it’s congruent with it. Maybe it just depends on how you define “relax.”

rocks at Hendry's in Santa BarbaraI know many people who love to practice yoga, as they find it to be a calming, centering activity that relaxes their mind AND body. I’m not one of those people. When I try to do yoga, my mind just wanders and I notice all the parts of my body that hurt. So yoga is definitely NOT relaxing for me.

house dwarfed by lilac treeFor others, reading is a release and escape. For most of my life, I was the same, as I’ve loved to read ever since I was three. But now I just feel guilty if I read anything except professional research or nonfiction, as I have so many things I HAVE to read before I can pull out something I enjoy (or so my massive guilt hormone would have me believe).

two cormorants, entwinedJust as many people like to combine their foods, I like to combine my activities. That seems to quiet the guilt hormone beast that lurks somewhere behind my sweaty-mascara right eye. So I combine action with relaxation by walking. And baking. And taking pictures. But not of my baking because my photo skills aren’t yet good enough to make me feel warm and self-satisfied inside. Only a piece of homemade sourdough bread can do that.

art on building in Los AngelesAlmost every day I walk. With the dog. Or alone. With my camera. Whether it’s a short 20-minute visit to our nearby meadow, or a 6-mile hike with a friend once a month, I always come back from my walks in a composed, steady state. I like ticking off the benefits:

dog jumping off rock at beach* reduced stress
* completed most of my 10K daily steps
* created a happy dog
* focused mind
* shot some great (I have self-confidence) photos
* communed with nature (though I have strong opinions about bugs touching me)
* escaped (temporarily) the demands on me
* maintained my weight and fitness levels

waves hitting old pier
bridge at Bacara Resort
fallen logs on the beach cliffsWhat about you? Do you find it relaxing to combine activities? Are you able to appreciate yoga or meditation? Do you feel guilty about taking time to relax? And what do you do to relax? Do tell. I might add your idea to my list.

funny comic about relaxing

Found on Facebook. Artist’s name is on the comic.

by Alexandra Williams, MA


Do THIS if you want to Get Fit, Lose Weight, Live Longer, Destress

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Kymberlys lunge post at Rancho la puertaDo you ever feel confused or misdirected by all the fitness advice coming your way?

  • “Move moderately every day.”
  • “Go hard with your cardio just once or twice a week.”
  • “Exercise more.”
  • “Relax, sleep, and meditate more.”
  • “The best activity for the over 50 crowd is strength training.”
  • “Aerobic exercise is the best way to improve your brain and body, especially as you age.”

Aaaackk What’s a midlife, active ager personage to do when exercise advice seems so contradictory??!!

Well, it depends. Yes, it depends on your goals and priorities. All of the above comments are true — given a specific goal. So my goal with this post is to start with the outcome you might desire and offer an appropriate suggestion based on that desired result.  For example, one of you might have a primary goal to lose weight, while another of you might prioritize avoiding illness. The workout for the former person would include some high intensity, interval aerobic exercise once or twice a week. The protocol for the latter would be to walk casually every other day.

So let’s hop, skip, walk, sleep, and jump from goal to goal hoping you find what you are looking for along the way.  If you ever wanted to know “what’s the best fitness advice for me?” then find your goal below with the “best” tip after it. (Also check out our post on the BEST cardio exercise).

Alexandra exercisingGoal: Lose Weight

Trying to lose weight? Apparently Baby Boomers have the highest obesity rates of any age group – topping 35% in 17 states and 30% in 41 states.  Freak Out Fit Fact!!  If you do have a weight loss goal, try the following:

  • Do interval training. (Get more scoop on how to easily incorporate Interval Training here).
  • Eat meals on a regular basis. In general, eat breakfast within an hour of waking up. Then put no more than 5 hours between meals.
  • Look for ways to reduce stress. Taking even a 15 minute relaxation break can boost your metabolism — the rate at which your body burns calories.

And read our post on the the best ways to burn fat. Just promise not to be sitting down while reading about fat burning!

Goal: Reduce Stress

Reducing stress is the number two top motivator for working out according to a Concorde University study  (wondering what the number one motivator is? I’ll tell you at the end of the post). AARP Bulletin Jan-Feb 2014 shares that people 50-64 (uh, that’s us baby boomers again) feel more stressed out than people over 64.

Women and water sculpture at the RanchHow do you destress? If you are like many Americans, you turn to tv or online activities. However, people who use these methods also report not finding them helpful. Cognitive gap here readers! What is helpful for destressing? No surprise — physical activity. That’s pretty much ANY movement. How is that for good news and easy advice to follow? Do what you enjoy and you’ll be less stressed.  Read our post on reducing stress and be even more mellowed out. IDEA Fitness Journal June 2014

Goal: Reduce Blood Pressure

Need to reduce your blood pressure? Try isometric exercises. Those are the kind where your muscles are under tension without changing length or joint angle. Planks and wall sits are good examples as is a chest squeeze where you press the palms of your hands together in front of your chest and hold the resistance pressing hand to hand. Envision the “namaste” position. Now hold that and stick to it for 4 weeks. Yup, you are bringing your blood pressure down!  Mayo Clinic Proceedings (2014;89 [3], 327-34)

Goal: Increase Your Life Span

Let’s aim big here. Want to live longer (and better?) Then you must pump it up. Rest assured– you don’t have to go Arnie Schwarzie style. A UCLA study of men over 55 and women over 65 confirmed that more relative muscle mass leads to a longer life. And you’ll probably look and function better in that life too! My  fitness pro tip for you? Start in a strength training class led by a knowledgeable instructor . You’ll get exercise ideas, form feedback, safety cues, and interaction to make the experience more enjoyable and effective. American Journal of Medicine 2014

Plank pose on the mountainGoal: Better Balance, Flexibility, and a Happier Life

If you want more life satisfaction, improved psychological well-being, increased flexibility, and better dynamic balance – take Pilates lessons.  Mat classes brought benefits as did work on Pilates reformers and other specialized equipment. Find the Pilates training that you enjoy and reap those many benies! To increase your happiness even more, read our post on Getting Happier. IDEA Fitness Journal June 2014

Goal: Make Good Decisions

Want to make better decisions and smarter choices? Engage in 15 minutes of mindful meditation prior to making your decision. You will be able to focus more effectively on information available now (vs in the past or present) and to ignore other emotions, thoughts, issues that might get in the way of your ability to think rationally and clearly.  IDEA Fitness Journal June 2014

Difference between motivation and inspiration?Move to Improve

Of course, many more goals exist with endless good advice to achieve those specific goals. If we did not cover YOUR goal, put it in the comments with your question and we’ll get you the latest Fun Fit Facts and workout tips.  The main message Alexandra and I hope you get from this post is that no matter what your exercise goal is, moving will help. Move Often. Move to Improve!

And since you made it all the way to this point, you get to find out the Number One Reason US adults of all ages report as their main motive for working out:

To be toned and fit. Whatever that means to you. Yup.
Readers: What motivates you to exercise?

Not only are we movers, but also we are speakers. Book us to speak at your events: (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

Improve your move when you go to our YouTube channel for short videos that will improve your active aging adventure! Have you subscribed yet to our blog? Please follow us on google+Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.


Ease Out of Stress

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Be Like a Dog with Stress

Are you time-pressed, overstressed, overbooked, underloved, underfed? Ok, I got a little carried away thinking of “It Never Rains in Southern California.”

Stress can take a toll on your well-being, weight, and ability to enjoy life. When we launched our VoiceAmerica.com radio show, Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers, we interviewed hormone expert, Tamara Grand on the subject of midlife weight gain. In looking at the effects of hormones, Tamara commented on the role stress plays in layering on fat. (Listen to the whole show, but the short story here is that stress triggers the release of cortisol, which slows the body’s metabolism and promotes fat storage). Oy vay, does that short story have an unhappy plot!

This connection between stress and fat levels going up together, triggered an email from one of our radio show listeners:

What’s the easiest way to reduce stress in a busy life?

Good question! Add in the aspect of “easy” being tied to “busy life” and the best methods probably also mean the quickest or least time consuming. The answer is … It Depends. What might be easy for you might be hard–and perhaps even stressful– for me. For example, I find a walk in nature relaxing and stress reducing. Walking outside might be anathema to you. You know I have to mention that even a 5 minute walk outdoors helps release tension.

Walk in Nature to Destress

Walk This Way

In researching meditation benefits for our post on its stress reducing aspects we discovered that meditating as short as three minutes make a positive difference.

Taking deep, refreshing breaths is another strategy that is easy, free, and quick.

So far so good — get into nature; move/ walk/ exercise; breathe deeply; meditate. What else?

First, let’s distinguish between chronic and acute stress. And done! Yup, go to our post “Is Stress Making You Fat?” to catch up on what chronic stress can do to you and what you can do it!  I feel better already knowing my work on that subject is already written. Whew!

Next, let’s consider more strategies that are easy, effective, and quick. For instance, laughing is a great way to bring cortisol levels down. Oh sha bam – again dropping my stress levels by having you link to this article from WebMD that offers 10 relaxation techniques you can all try. Why work harder than I have to?

Total Gym and Kymberly

Combine two destress tactics into one: Relaxing While Exercising

What’s left? Ah yes, please also read our post about how stress is a stealth saboteur of your good health.  Again, I feel pressure being lifted from my well-toned shoulders being able to refer you to work already finished. Aaaaahhh

However, I am compelled to do a little heavy lifting here. Of all the strategies I encounter, support, and even propose why not go straight to the problem? What is causing the chronic stress in the first place? Would it ultimately be easier, or at least more successful to address the source? For example, if finances are the cause of the stress, then is it time to change either income or expenses? The change might be challenging at first, but easier long term if the problem is solved.  Meantime, I plan to use the easy, free, readily available stress reducing strategy of LAUGHING and BREATHING, preferably while WORKING OUT! Hmmm, that means it’s time to call my witty, walking sister.

Reduce stress easily when you subscribe to our website and listen to our radio show. Experience some of the best leaders in the health, wellness, and fitness world every Wednesday morning at 8:00 PT/ 11:00am ET. Listen in (better yet, call in to 866-472-5792) to our new radio show Active Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers with guests who offer practical advice and cutting edge solutions to your active aging challenges. You’ll find us at voiceamerica.com on the Health and Wellness channel.



How Yoga Can Help Your Mind

Guest post from Phil Tucker

guest poster, Phil TuckerWe are at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Spa in Tecate, Mexico taking yoga classes and attending a presentation by John Ratey, MD, author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. So you get the benefit of a guest post from one who knows yoga much better than we!  Phil Tucker is an avid yoga practitioner and general health and wellness advocate. He’s looking to feel ever younger as he grows older! Please make Phil feel welcome by leaving comments. THANKS! K and A

Too often when we think of yoga we think first and only about how it can benefit our bodies. We conjure images of svelte young women performing acrobatic poses, and focus on how lithe and perfect their bodies look. Yoga has become ever more popular for just that reason, and today tens of thousands are flocking to studios to attain the ‘yoga body.’ Yet this ancient practice has much greater potential to benefit you than merely toning and strengthening your muscles and core: it can lower your stress levels, help you achieve clarity, mental well being, and consequently enjoy life more profoundly.

Does that sound a bit much? Then consider this: yoga is often described as a form of ‘moving meditation.’ You strive to perfect all the different poses to clarify your mind and ground yourself in the present. By bringing all of your focus and attention on the entirety of your body, you find you don’t have room to worry about dinner or whether you are going to finish your work in time. Instead, you have to be fully conscious of what each part of your body is doing, and in doing so, you switch off your mind and find a sense of peace.

It goes deeper than that though. At the end of each yoga session you experience the final pose known as Savasana, or ‘corpse pose’. This is most beginner yogi’s favorite pose, as it simply involves lying on your, back, arms out, fully relaxed, with eyes closed. Usually the instructor will play soothing music. Many people find that they tend to drift off to sleep as they relax ever deeper. Why do they sleep? It’s not just because they’re tired. It’s also because beginner yogis often have the most active minds and the greatest levels of stress. Savasana is meant to provide practitioners with a final opportunity to still their minds and experience the universe through only their spirit and bodies, but beginners, who are often exhausted by too much thought, will often slip away completely into sleep.
That is how yoga can truly make a difference in both your mental health and general well being. It affords you the opportunity to still your thoughts and release your stress for not only the hour that you are on the mat, but for a long period of time once you step off it. One could say that the point of yoga is to help you live a conscious life, to be self aware and fully present in your life, and it helps you do that by grounding you in the moment, energizing your body, and helping calm your mind.

Photos: Provided by Phil Tucker via Flickr

Readers: How has yoga changed your life (for those who practice it? What would motivate you to try yoga if you have not yet done so?

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