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Exercise and Arthritis

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Is it Possible to Exercise with an Arthritic Hip?

picture of dancing woman

Keep on Dancing

Dear Twins: I just found your site and already feel encouraged. I am 56 years old and have been an ‘off again…on again” exerciser!! When I was much younger I was very athletic. Four years ago I trained to walk a 1/2 marathon but the week before the race, I pulled ligaments in my ankle. Since then I haven’t done much of anything.

About 6 weeks ago I began going to Zumba classes 2-3 times a week. Three weeks ago I began to have a lot of pain in my hips. I went to the doctor and was told I have arthritis in my hips and I also had bursitis. My doctor told me to lay off Zumba for two weeks and gave me a prescription to help with inflammation. He told me that I will probably have to take the medication long term to help with the arthritis but the pain from the bursitis will go away after a week or so. I have tried to go back to the Zumba classes but I am concerned the pain will start back up or get worse. I am in really good health otherwise.

Can you advise me as to the risks I would take if I continued to do the Zumba? Also, what other cardio activities can I do that will be okay with my arthritis in my hips? I really feel my best when I am exercising and just started to feel good and have more energy when the pain started. Any suggestions you may have would help!!

Carla, Abilene, TX

x-ray picture of hipsYour question is an excellent one, and will resonate with many of our readers. You are right about the many benefits of exercise, including for arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic, arthritis can be slowed or mitigated with exercise – the challenge is finding the right type.

Low Impact Cardio

If your doc has cleared you to return to Zumba, you may want to ease in and modify the lateral moves (sideways, such as grapevine). Are you able/ willing to add aqua classes to your workout plan? Zumba aqua dance classes exist. You do not need to be a good swimmer to join an aqua class. Shallow water classes are in water that’s generally hip deep. If your gym has only deep water classes, you can use swim lessons as your workout, then wear the buoyancy belts once you’re a more confident swimmer.
For other cardio options, try anything that is low impact (high intensity is fine, but NOT high impact) and more forward and back than side to side. One caveat – depending on where the arthritis is in your hips, spending a lot of time on a machine such as a stair-stepper could be contraindicated. Besides, you seem to be a person who enjoys group fitness classes, so try a variety of those. A varied exercise plan is more effective than a repetitive one for most people.

Strength Training

You might also consider some stretch and strengthen classes. Stretch to open up the hips and strengthen to give your muscles more  of the workload, which eases the load on your skeletal structure (bones). Since you mention a ligament injury to your ankle, I would think strengthening that area might be a priority, especially if compensations are affecting your hips. Have you worked with a physical therapist to strengthen that ankle, while considering the impact on your hips (such as an altered gait)? You can probably even find a therapist who is ALSO a personal trainer by searching at ideafit.com or acefitness.org.

Range of Motion (ROM)

In addition to low-impact cardio and strength training, you may want range of motion exercises too. This article from Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center goes into more detail about everything mentioned above, including the need for tailored, specific range of motion activities.


Rest is an integral part of any exercise regimen, arthritis or no! Check with your doctor about creating the right combo of rest time, anti-inflammatory meds, ice, and possibly even meditation.

Partner with your Doctor

We’ve had good luck getting specific advice for our exercise-loving bodies by choosing primary care doctors who also value exercise. We’ve had some doctors who wanted to prescribe medicine for our arthritic knees. Their advice was to stop exercising. We switched to doctors who used medication as a last resort and aligned with our preference to keep moving. We are not advocating dumping your doc or ignoring his advice; we are advocating getting into a partnership with your doctor so that he can work WITH you to create a plan that includes exercise.

This quote is from Mayo: “Lack of exercise actually can make your joints even more painful and stiff. Talk to your doctor about how exercise can fit into your current treatment plan. What types of exercises are best for you depends on your type of arthritis and which joints are involved. Your doctor or a physical therapist can work with you to find the best exercise plan to give you the most benefit with the least aggravation of your joint pain.”

As women who are similar to you – arthritic joints, exercise-loving, youthful minds, mid-50s – we know it’s possible to keep moving. We just have to be pickier than we were 30 years ago. There IS a solution, and your positive attitude will be a big part of it! Please keep us posted. Happy dancing.

Please share this article via Twitter, Facebook or Google+. Thank you.

Photo credits / Morgue File: X-Ray of hips: xandert; Dancing woman: Earl53


Back Saver Sit and Reach Flexibility Test

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Sit and Reach Hamstring Flexibility Assessment

sit and reach assessmentWe were approached by eHow and asked to create a video to address the question: “What muscles get stretched when performing the back saver sit and reach test?”

Actually the back saver test is a modification of the sit and reach test. Both are flexibility assessments, though the former tests one leg at a time; the latter has both legs extended simultaneously. For the back saver, you sit on the floor with one leg extended in front of you and the other bent with that foot planted throughout.  Then you reach both hands toward your feet and mark how far you go. How low low low can you go? How low can you go?

So, what muscles get stretched in this test designed to test flexibility? For $100 per vowel and $200 per consonant, let’s go with H-a-m-s-t-r-i-n-g-s. We have a winnah! Hamstring flexibility helps with gait, posture and hip placement;  such flexibility helps protect your back. So that’s the “saver” part of the story.
Take a look at this short video we did for eHow demonstrating how to get the most out of the sit and reach test. Don’t we look deluxe when professional videographers shoot us with two cameras?

Good Form to Test Hamstrings

How flexible are your hammies? Are you doing the test correctly or imitating Quasimodo and hunching over? As our video shows, you want to lift long through the spine and press your tailbone back, not under. Lengthen your arms toward your toes without “turtling” (having your neck disappear into your shoulders). If you do this incorrectly and slump or roll in an effort to get closer to your toes–as most people do– then you’re not really involving the hamstrings any more. You’re simply stretching your upper back, which is already pretty stretched out on most people. So do stay long and lifted through your torso. If you have good form, then raise your hands to wave as if you’ve been back saved!

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Prevent Shin Splints: 3 Calf Stretches

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dem bones, Dem bones, Dem Dry bones!

Shin splints are often the result of imbalance between the calf and shin muscles. When the calf (gastrocnemius) is much stronger or tighter than the shin (anterior tibialis), micro tears can occur as the relatively overdeveloped calf pulls on its pair — the shin. Making sure you have flexible, long calf muscles will put the odds in your favor to avoid this painful condition.

The foot bone connected to the ankle bone, The ankle bone connected to the shin bone, The shin bone connected to the knee bone, The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, The thigh bone connected to the hip bone, the hip bone connected to the back bone, The back bone connected to the shoulder bone, The shoulder bone connected to the neck bone, The neck bone connected to the head bone, Them bones got up and walked around. – Lyrics from the song Dry Bones by the Delta Rhythm Boys

Color the the shin bone S for Stretched & Sexy!

If you want your bones and muscles to get up and walk around, you have to keep them happy. Our singing does not necessarily make our bones happy! But stretching, well, that’s a solution of a different horse!

Try the 3 calf stretches you’ll see in our video to keep your calves from overpowering your anterior tib.

Want more ways to prevent shin splints? Check out our prior two posts on the subject:

Shin Splints highlighted on the anterior tibialis

You shoulda been stretching instead of playing with that highlighter!

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Photo credits: creativecommons.org: horse:  doe-c-doe, leg drawing:  rosswilliamdrew, highlighted shin splint:  Northcoast Footcare.



Hip Flexor Stretches: Right and Wrong Way to do a Quad Stretch

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Help, I’ve Skyfallen and can’t get up. Might as well stretch my hip.

Are your hip flexors or quads tighter than Daniel Craig’s glutes in the newest James bond film, Skyfall? If you sit a lot, you probably have short, contracted muscles that need stretching. If you exercise a lot, you also probably have tight, shortened quads and hip flexors from your workout activity.

Basically, any time you lift the knee, such as in a kickbox cardio class, a squat, a step class, a walk up a hill, an incline on cardio equipment — you are contracting hip flexors. Whenever you extend your leg to the front you are contracting the quads. Time to stretch those babies, but not by committing the most common form faults (which can really stress the knee, by the way). Watch our video to get incredible, amazing, unsurpassed, exemplary form. Find out whether you are guilty of any of the most common wrong ways.

3 Common Wrong Ways People Stretch the Quads in the Side-Lying Postion

  1. Pushing the knee forward of the body. creating a bend at the hip
  2. Pointing the knee to the ground or sky instead of straight ahead
  3. Squeezing the foot to the buttocks, thereby stressing the fully “open” knee joint

4 Tips to Stretch Quads and Hip Flexors the Right Way

  1. Push the hip forward of the knee and body’s plane
  2. Pull the knee straight back
  3. Tighten the glutes
  4. Keep the upper and lower leg in one plane, parallel to the floor

 1 video detail that will warrant offering fitness fashion advice to Alexandra

  1. At :22 seconds into the video.

Readers: We’re all about Healthy Aging for Boom Chicka Boomers so let us know what exercise do’s, don’ts, maybes, and shoulds are on your question list.

You can only be extending yourself the right way when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit. Or click on the icons in the right sidebar.

Photo credit: archive.org Public Domain

Hmm, this is Alexandra, and I’m not sure what happens at :22 in the video, but I would like to thank Zensah for the orange compression sleeves. They rule!


Foam Rollers: They Hurt So Good

Alexandra Williams, MA and Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Foam rollers are an excellent tool for a group fitness class or personal training session, both for resistance training and for myofascial release (aka muscle release). In essence, a foam roller can be used both for a workout (especially for the core), and a self-massage, using your own body weight.

Quick kinesiology lesson

Don’t worry, nothing you can’t handle. The kinetic chain is made up of the:

  • soft tissue system (muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia)
  • neural system (nerves and CNS)
  • articular system (joints)

All of these parts make up a whole that is interdependent. For example, muscle tightness restricts the range of motion that a joint may be moved (i.e., tight hamstrings can affect hip and lower back mobility). If you’re confused, please refer to this handy chart:

Foam rollers help with tension and release

Odd as it sounds, for a muscle to gain strength, the tissue has to receive enough stress to cause micro-tears. Once that’s occurred, you can help your muscles recover by using the foam roller to break up adhesions in the muscle tissue and/or fascia. When these “trigger points” are decreased, blood flow increases, which is good!

Alexandra: I like to use the foam rollers for myofascial release with my group fitness students every so often, mostly because I always get a laugh out of their moans and groans when they discover their tight iliotibial (IT) bands.

Kymberly: I admit up front that I love foam rollers! Roll, roll, roll in zee … Hey, that really hurts so good. (Insert silent scream here as I roll out my tight hammies and upper back. Did you get the movie reference I just made two sentences ago?)

Different than Operation: Find the Iliotibial Band

My, oh My, oh Myofascial Release

Alexandra:  I was starting to think it was about time to introduce the foam roller to this quarter’s “crop” of university students when I found out about an app called Roll Release Techniques, which has 100 different videos for using the foam roller for self-massage.


My feeling at discovering an app that I could take onto the teaching stage with me was something like this:

Release Me, Baby!


This app packs in 100 videos, more than 25 different muscle groups, and demos that show up to 4 different levels for each group. The creator of the foam roller app, Dr. Ryan Emmons, is the one demonstrating the moves, and it’s simple to use and follow. Tap the muscle you want, then tap the level you want (regression, main, progression or advanced). Simple to follow along; simple to use.

As a fitness instructor who doesn’t use foam rollers enough to know all the possibilities by heart, I found the Roll Release Techniques App super handy. For a fitness enthusiast at home who wants to get some quick myofascial release, it’s also super because there’s no need to know the names or function of any muscles; you can just tap the picture of the muscle you want to work.

Usually I’m a bit snobby particular about the fitness information I’ll purchase and use, but this app totally rocked and rolled; well, it rolled! As you can see by the facial expressions on my students’ faces in these pictures, foam rollers are an effective tool!








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Readers and Rollers: What fitness apps do you use?

FitFluential LLC compensated me for this Campaign. All opinions are my own. Alexandra used her own money to purchase this app because it was totally worth $2.99 to get all the video demos.

Photo credit: Man jumping  kreg.steppe



Hamstring Stretches: 3 Wrong & 3 Right Ways

By Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Want more benefit from your hamstring stretches? (You are devoting some of your workout time to stretching, right?) Avoid the most common form faults. Be uncommon, just like us! Flexible hamstrings reduce tension on the lower back, allow for good alignment and posture, and enhance your physical performance.

Don’t take our word for it. Watch our short video. Then you can take our image and word for what good form requires.


Most mistakes are related to:

  1. knee joint bent too much
  2. hips and buttocks up in the air
  3. neck and shoulder hunching

Fit-tastic, ham-tacular form involves:

  1. holding away from joints
  2. relaxing the head and neck
  3. lengthening the leg, even if it means moving the leg away from your body

The best stretch of all is the one your fingers make when you subscribe to our YouTube channel and this blog. Follow us on Twitter: AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit. Please also follow us on Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit, especially if you like shots of Santa Barbara and nature. The icons in the right sidebar are a quick way to link to us as well. We link and follow right back.

Readers: What stretches do you see commonly done ouch, wrench, twist and shout, the WRONG way?

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.

Want to see more cute compression leggings and socks? Visit zensah.


Back Stretches: Wrong and Right Way Tips

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Have lower back tightness? Need to stretch your lumbar region?

Don’t become the Hunchback of Notre Fame by making the most common back stretch mistake. Many people incorrectly round the area that needs the least attention and neglect the tight lower back. Focus on the area needing extension and less tension with our right and wrong way tips shown in two common back stretch positions – standing and on all fours.


Filmed at Rancho la Puerta Fitness Resort. Ain’t that place just super purty and inspiring?

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Our colleague Michelle Melendez is offering a free training call on Wednesday, September 12, called “Get the Body You Love in 90 Days.” It’s FREE, but you do have to register at the link. Check it out NOW!

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Readers: Who has suffered from lower back pain? How did you work through it?


End of Summer Trip to Rancho la Puerta

Alexandra Williams, MA

A Spa Stay is the Perfect Way to Spend a Few Relaxing Days

We went to Rancho la Puerta spa in Tecate, Mexico last weekend, not to teach, but to hear author Dr. John Ratey speak about his book “Spark.” Have you heard of Rancho la Puerta? We’ve been going there as guest fitness instructors and presenters since the mid-80s, when Kymberly was first hired to teach fitness for them as part of the cruise ship staff.

The Ranch staff know how much Kymberly loves Dr. Ratey’s research and book about the link between exercise and the brain (more from Kymberly in an upcoming post about her dream-come-true experience of meeting Dr. Ratey, who is very droll and excellent company), so they invited us to come down while he was a presenting guest. Try to feel our pain, as we had to choose every hour between lectures, massages, pool classes, group fitness classes, hikes, meditation, and eating organic, vegetarian food. Yeah, exactly. Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful (trivia: did you know that Rancho la Puerta: Golden Door has a long history with Pantene?)

Actually, our pictures can show you some of the beauty that is the Ranch.

Breakfast is my favorite morning meal

The Ranch Kitties Participate in Meditation

These are just the "extra" Daily Activities

Look Ma, I'm Lounging

Forced to Relax in the Great Outdoors

In a Spurt of Energy, I Moved My Lounging over to the Pool

 Thank you LongSailSports, for the cool googles and GELIE bag! Perfect timing for this trip!

The Daily Quotes are Great, and I especially Love the Squirrel

I dedicate the picture above to John Poole, as he has a tremendous love for squirrels and their antics.

Dreams Do Come True: Eating with new Pals, including John Ratey

I'm Such a Plankster!

Did you know there are many activities you can do when you are (still) recovering from foot surgery? I even took a water class, then did laps, right after 3 miles on the bike and a mile on the treadmill. I was awesomely awesome somewhat nauseous afterward!

I Melted the Pool Water 'Cause I'm so Hot!

These Are Your Glutes on Ranch Fitness!

I was so gracious; I let them use my glutes as the model for these male torso sculptures.

The Butterfly Door at the Rec Center

My bedroom! Not really; it's the Library Lounge

My mind is a Labyrinth (so are the ground and the sculpture)

Every day at the Ranch, I was asked about my compression leggings and socks by Zensah. You don’t have to have foot surgery to be a fashionista, by the way!

Sunrise during the Breakfast Hike to the Organic Garden & Kitchen

Yes, I woke up at 5:45 to take the morning hike to the organic garden and kitchen for breakfast. But look at the picture below and you’ll see that it was totally worth it!

The Only Place at the Spa with a Secret Stash of Chocolate Chip Muffins

La Cocina que Canta: You Eat Where the Food is Grown

Before Kymberly left town to visit her daughter at college, she made this short video that has some gorgeous views of the Ranch. Take a look.

By the way, if you are considering a trip to the Ranch, don’t listen to the dire warnings about Mexico. Rancho la Puerta is only 43 miles east of San Diego, and about 2 miles over the border at Tecate. You are escorted the entire way in the Ranch shuttle and you never have to leave the spa (although we lots of people like to go into town for pinatas, chocolate, wine, lard-based donuts)!

Have you ever gone to a spa? What did you like best about it?

We want to give a shout-out here to our friends at Mr. Steam. They had nothing to do with our trip to Rancho la Puerta, but they do offer us the same feeling of spa luxury with their products. We’re proud to be ambassadors for them! 


Fitness Health Bloggers Conference: Staying Fit While Traveling

by Alexandra Williams, MA

The recent Fitness Health Bloggers Conference (FHBC) was held in Denver, Colorado. I live in Santa Barbara, California. So of course I decided to drive 1,200 miles, each way, rather than fly. And I discovered it is possible to stay somewhat active while driving, just not simultaneously (although I do tend to finger dance to good music on the car radio).

I brought along my 15 year old son. By definition, he does not drive. I hate driving. But I do like traveling. And saving money on airfare. My solution: make lots of stops to get out of the car and take photos with my new iPhone. Yup, oddly enough, having Instagram (an app that lets you take photos and send them out via social media immediately) motivated me to get out of the car and move.

Route to the Fitness Health Bloggers conference

Santa Barbara to Denver via the I-15 & I-70 - Lovely except for HOT Nevada

Any time we spotted a viewpoint or something interesting along the road (yeah, Hwys. 15 and 70 are both major interstates with shoulders just wide enough for me to pull over and not get “whoomped” by the draft of 18-wheelers passing by), I’d careen carefully pull over to the side of the freeway, get out and take some pics. I even took my poor, long-suffering kid on a few short hikes, trying to get the “best” shot. FYI, I am not actually a photographer, I was just determined to get my kid moving.

Driving home via the southern route: Denver to Santa Barbara

The long, hot route from Denver to Santa Barbara. Scenic though!

There has been so much research lately about the detrimental effects of sitting too long that I wanted to be sure and move, both while on the road and at the conference.
I also wanted to be sure and eat healthfully, as good eating habits sometimes get tossed out the window (along with fast-food trash) during road trips.
See for yourself whether I met my movement and food goals.

If you read our post “Lose 2 Pounds in 2 Days,” or our other conference-related post “3 Excuses You Can Use When Mountain Hiking,” then you already know that we went to the conference to speak about blogging and learn about the latest research in the health & fitness field. The attendees were a combination of fitness industry pros and enthusiasts; what we all had in common was our love of fitness and social media. And food. Um, yeah! Food!

This is the section where I tell you about the amazing brands that sponsored the conference (and my fabulous fashion choices). I say “amazing” because they treated us extremely well. Not just well; extremely well.

Anschutz Health & Wellness Center

Cherry Marketing Institute
Attune Foods
Rockin’ Refuel

Driscoll’s Berries
Love Grown Granola
Western Dairy Association
Adora™ Calcium
Quebec Maple Syrup
Better Whey of Life

My gear:
Black Jacket: Qignition
Presentation pink outfit: Aventura Clothing
Orange backpack/ purse: Overland Equipment
Totally comfy wicking socks for the hikes: Goodhew
Hat that protected me from the sun and sweat: Headsweats
Fabulously awesome, fit body: My parents (no link haha, although you can see our mom in this posture video)

Disclaimer: Thank you to Refuel with Chocolate Milk for providing us with a scholarship for the conference registration, and to FitFluential for making it possible for us to be panel speakers and moderators. All opinions, silly faces and poorly lit pictures are my own!


Seated Posture: Part 6 Sitting Pretty

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: I am loving your posture videos! I sit at a desk all day and I’m wondering if you would do a video on posture while sitting. Also, I find it easier to slouch at the computer (I sit on a backless stool) and I’m wondering why sitting up straight seems to take more energy? I am in my early 30’s and when I stand up straight in the mirror, my body looks lovely…and when I am doing my normal posture it looks schlumpy and not as nice. I’d love to change this and I appreciate your help ladies! :)) Sibby, Miami, FL


Seated Schlumpy

Dear Sibby: We are of the mindset and age that 30 year olds should look lovely, and mostly do. We know we did! Since you asked so nicely, we shot a posture video with three starter suggestions on achieving anti-slouching when seated.





The real key though, is awareness, which you seem to have. We deduced this first by your compliment about out posture series videos 1-5. Obvious awareness! Second, you know when you are schlumping, you know when you’re up straight, you know when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for posture’s sake. (Make you think back to any holiday songs?). Third, you actually noticed that sitting in good posture takes energy. This level of awareness is your first, and best step to meeting your posture goals.

A few tips in addition to the video insights:

  1. When wanting to sit naturally and less stressfully, think “tall and extended with your heart lifted” rather than “straight.” The spine has natural curvature so a straight back would actually be out of alignment. Kinda painful too by the end of the workday.
  2. Good body alignment DOES take energy because we need activated muscles to achieve optimal spinal position and muscles are energy users, big time. However, the body seeks energy efficiency (secret body code for – how can I do the least?) Relying on joints, tendons, and ligaments to support a given position (this “schlumping” you confess to) is calorically (energetically) efficient.  Sure, we pay the price later in sore joints, wimpy muscles, and posture that makes us look waaay older than 30!. As we sit hunched over, we are not using abs and back muscles.
  3. Check the relationship between your body and your work station. If the ergonomics are off, that is the first thing to change. Is your work station too low relative to your stool so that you have to hunch to reach the keyboard?
  4. Lastly, stand up every 15-30 minutes. This simple movement will remind you of your posture and get you out of any bad sitting habits at least temporarily.

Saaaay, are you schlumping while reading this? Lift your heart puhleeeze!

Readers: What do you do to remind yourself to sit lifted? What word have you made up to beat “schlumping”? (which we pretty much like and plan to adopt).

Nominate Alexandra Williams for a social media award in the Shorty Awards!

Nominate Alexandra Williams

for a social media award in the Shorty Awards

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