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How to Feel Younger

Our health is one of our most valuable assets.  When we’re healthy, we can spend higher quality time with our loved ones, can move around easily, and enjoy going out and having fun.  When we’re feeling under the weather, or have been living an unhealthy lifestyle, it’s difficult to find the motivation to do anything.

Perhaps you were in great shape in the past, but over the course of a few months, or years, your health has started to slip.  How do you go about getting healthy and feeling younger?  Use these simple strategies to put a smile back on your face and add that spring back into your step.

Adjust your Posture

It sounds simple, but even just sitting with better posture will change the way your body feels.  Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head up.  Learn to get in the habit of paying attention to your posture throughout the day.  To get started, it’s helpful to stand against a wall and flatten your back against it.  It’s ok if it’s difficult at first.  After years of bad posture, you’re retraining your body to maintain the form it’s made to be in.

meditation

Get Moving and Increase Mobility

Even if you aren’t an athlete, it’s important to move around each day to get the blood flowing.  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.  Do air squats in the comfort of your own living room.  By getting daily exercise, you improve your circulation, heart health, digestion, and strength.  Exercise is one of the absolute best things you can do for your body to look and feel younger.

Socialize Every Day

Humans are social animals.  For our entire history, we’ve lived in communities where we have regular interaction with our peers.  In this day and age, it’s easy to live an isolated lifestyle and go through the usual daily routine.  Even if your friends and loved ones don’t live nearby, make it a point to get out and socialize every day.  Start by making small talk with the people around you.  Strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line at the grocery store.  When in doubt, ask questions.  People love talking about themselves, and asking a question is a sure way to get the conversation going.

socializing

Eat a Healthy Diet

The food we eat directly affects the way that we feel.  When we eat a diet full of sugar, processed carbs, preservatives, and and chemicals, it leads to weight gain, moodiness, and poor health.  On the other hand, when our diet is full of vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats, our body is able to repair itself.  We feel younger, look fitter, and grow stronger.

Feed your Body What It’s Missing

Go and get a blood test.  Often times, when we feel sluggish, it may be the result of micronutrient deficiencies.  It’s amazing how quickly you start to feel young again when your body has the proper balance of nutrients.  There’s no magic pill, or end-all-be all, but starting with a blood test will show you what’s healthy, and where you need to make improvements.

Practice Daily Gratitude

There’s an ancient Zen philosophy, that says “learn only to be content.”  It’s the secret to lifelong happiness.  Be content with what you have, rather than focused on what you want.  Practice gratitude by saying three things that you’re thankful for every day.  They can be simple.  I’m grateful for the great weather.  I’m thankful for a cup of coffee in the morning.  I’m thankful for my loving family.  See how easy that is?

gratitude

Tips for Weight Lifting and Body Building as You Age

As we age, our bodies naturally begin to lose muscle and bone density.  Continued bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, muscle and joint pain, and injuries as well as increased risks of developing chronic metabolic diseases. However, it is no reason to throw in the towel, as there are things we can do daily to slow down or even stop that process.  Studies long have shown that weight training not only slows down muscle and bone loss, but it can increase your body’s protein and metabolite levels; both of which stabilize the immune system. According to the Journal of Applied Physiology, performing prolonged resistance type exercise training improves functional performance as well as increases skeletal muscle mass in the elderly.

If you have not done much weight training before, it can be intimidating and even bewildering to head to the gym and just start. We highly recommend setting up an appointment or 4 with a certified personal trainer.  Most gyms have them on site or asking around can get you some good recommendations.  Weight training can do amazing things for your health, but can also cause life long injuries if not done correctly.  Do NOT assume that badass muscle-bound individual is lifting correctly or with good form.

Life long legendary body builder Ric Drasin has some great tips to weight training in your 50’s and beyond. He has learned as he is aging to do lighter weights and more sets, as well as using more machines and less free weights than what he used as a body builder.

Screen Shot 2014 01 18 at 3.23.32 PMOnce you have met with a trainer to gain a basic understanding of how to lift safely and with good form, how repetitions and sets work in your favor, then here are some tips to get you started with confidence and success for body building as you age. Check out this article for more details and tips from a pro.

  • Set a regular schedule and you are more likely to keep it. Put your weight training into your calendar as appointments and schedule other events around them. It won’t be long before it is a regular part of your week and you will miss it when you skip it.
  • Avoid mini workouts! Yes, it is possible to get a full body workout done in 20 minutes, but this should be saved for when you are in a pinch, not a regular routine each week.  Especially when you are first getting started building your fitness through weights, it takes months of regularly planned routines to be comfortable and familiar with what works for your body.
  • Make sure you have comfortable, moisture wicking clothing and quality workout shoes for support. They may cost more up front, but proper support will help prevent injuries and protect your joints.
  • Don’t forget a good warm up, stretching, and cool down.  Weight training on “cold” muscles can directly cause injuries.  No short cuts!
  • Leave the ear buds behind-at first.  When you are first learning the movements and form, you need to have full focus and concentration.  It can be too easy to get lost in your tunes and also lose good form.

Here is a motivational video with training tips for real life women ages 50 and over.  Joe Hashey has some great tips for getting started, preventing injuries, and understanding repetitions and sets.

What are some things that have worked for you as you have started or continued your weight training programs in these years over 50?  We would love to hear your stories.

5 ways to age better than your father did

By Kia Zarezadeh, Sponsor contributor from HealthwaysFIT.com (Silver Sneakers)

Most of us grew up idolizing our fathers. It wasn’t just in our nature; Dad was stronger, smarter and had more know-how than we ever did. It might seem like sacrilege to suggest you  can live better than dad did. But one way to top pop is by living a longer and healthier life. Here’s five ways to age better than your father did…

Ditch diabetes

About 25 percent of Americans 60 or older live with type 2 diabetes, so there’s a good chance your father has or had diabetes. The good news is you can eliminate most risk factors by taking better care of your body. Most people with type 2 diabetes are obese, so aim to keep your body fat lower than dear old dad’s. Focus on eating nutritious, low-fat, minimally processed foods that are moderate in calories. This is especially important if you’re a woman: Weight gained after menopause can put you at even higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Avoid arthritis

Like diabetes, arthritis carries a hereditary risk. But that doesn’t mean you have to grin and bear it like Dad. Rest, combined with a healthy weight and a nutritious diet, can help reduce the severity of arthritis symptoms. And, though it might sound contradictory to dad’s advice, exercise is great for reducing joint pain associated with arthritis. That’s because building muscles around your aching joints takes the pressure off those joints.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Take care of your ticker

Heart attacks unfortunately cost many of us a few extra years with our fathers. But heart health has come a long way in the past few decades. Now we know exercise and the types of food you eat can greatly reduce heart disease risk. When it comes to food, do better than dad and look for recipes designed to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. As for working that heart muscle into an invincible piston, try aerobic exercises that raise your heart rate while helping you burn fat.

Defeat dementia

Dementia is a bit trickier than other health problems that may have impacted your father as he aged. Not much is known about diseases like Alzheimer’s, but what we do know is leagues beyond the information available just a few decades ago. The latest research suggests everyday activities, such as walking, can help protect your memory. Of course, in addition to working your body, you should work your brain. From crossword puzzles to online games, people today intentionally are working their minds  stay sharp.

Prevent falls

How many times have you seen an accidental fall devastate the life of an otherwise strong and capable father? Of course, you can’t stop accidents from happening. But powerful core muscles and good balance can cut your chances of taking a spill. Plus, they actually can reduce the severity of injuries you suffer when you do fall. Recovery time is greatly improved in people with fitter bodies. And here’s something we’re pretty sure your dad never dreamed of doing to help prevent falls: video games. New research suggests video games can boost your balance, rejuvenate the brain and even lift your mood.

Starting to Exercise: Steps to Take After Years of Inactivity

Perhaps you found yourself here because now you are retired and have more time on your hands and you spent a few too many years on the career path without making time for good health and fitness practices.  Your family and doctor are all saying you need to make some changes. That time is now.

Are you hesitant to start this late in the game after years of relative inactivity? Many recent studies are showing that seniors who start exercising show improvements in all major physical areas and report an improved quality of life.  Not to mention that they are just having more fun!

Whatever the reason, we are glad you are here and we can help encourage you to a vibrant, healthy lifestyle. There are a few things to keep in mind to help you get a good start and not be sidelined with injuries.

Before you start First and foremost get a complete medical check up that includes blood pressure, cholesterol, joints and back evaluation if you have had pain in these areas. Your weight should be evaluated as well as a bone density scan if osteoporosis may be a concern, skin cancer screening, and a cardiac stress test. You and your doctor may not feel you need all of these, but this is a pretty comprehensive list.

If your doctor detects blood pressure or other heart issues, it may be helpful to get a heart rate monitor to help you to know how much you should or should not push yourself when first starting out.

Depending on what type of activities you plan to go for, make sure you have the right gear, especially shoes.  A poorly fitting shoe or one designed for running when you plan to play court sports can get you off to a painful start or worse, cause injuries.

Check out Silver Sneakers, the nation’s leading exercise program for active older adults. They offer access to more than 11,000 locations nationwide, guidance, encouragement and info to keep you exercising in the years to come.

The Sky is the limit! There are almost endless opportunities to choose from when deciding what to do to be more active.  You can join classes at a gym, join a hiking club, neighborhood walking groups or park and rec sports teams such as softball. Try out some new activities such as kayaking, stand up paddle board, and show shoeing.  Stop and think of the activities over the years that have caught your interest, but you have never tried.  Try one!  Or two, or ten!

Let’s get moving!  Now that you are cleared to go, keep the pressure off yourself and just get out and move.

Consider joining a gym for support and a source of certified instructors and classes to get you started. Many gyms offer senior discount rates as the aging population of boomers is rapidly growing. Personal trainers offer not only motivation, but are an excellent source for guidance in moves, safety, realistic goals.

Check into your local park and rec department for classes and activities that offer not only outlets for challenging yourself physically, but a community of people who are doing the same.

If you are not taking a class or joining a gym, start with some power walks at a pace that is a challenge for you, but won’t leave you in muscle pain and soreness for days after.

  • The American Heart Association recommends that inactive people gradually work up to exercising three to four times a week for 30-60 minutes at 50%-80 % of their maximal heart rate.
  • Increase your activity level gradually over the course of 6 weeks. 20% a week is a recommended.
  • Incorporate exercise into your daily life by taking the stairs instead of elevators, park in the farthest spot. Vacuum more often and do it vigorously! Shovel your own snow and mow your own lawn.
  • Learn good, basic stretching and practice daily whether you workout or not.

Regardless of what you choose, remind yourself that this has been a while.  It may take a bit for you and your body to get used to one another and challenging it to new and strange movements.  Be patient with yourself and remind yourself every day that you are making a difference.  Go for it!

Exercise Safety for 50+

June is national Safety Month. Injuries of all types are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages – and they are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44. However, many injuries can be prevented when people practice safe behaviors. For those of us over 50 who want to continue with a vibrant and active lifestyle, taking care to stay injury free is a priority.

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

Before starting any exercise program, answer the following questions for exercise safety:

  1. Have you checked with your Dr.? Especially if it has been some time since you have exercised regularly or if you have since had some health issues, this is important.
  2. Are you more than 20 pounds overweight?
  3. Are you currently on any medication that needs to be considered along with an exercise program?
  4. Do you have any chest pain while engaged in physical activity?
  5. Is balance or dizziness an issue while being more physical?
  6. How are your joints? Especially your knees, hips, or back?
  7. Do you have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis?
  8. Do you smoke?

If you answer yes to any of the above questions, check in with your doctor so she can work with you on a program that keeps any health factors in mind.

Once you do get clearance from your Dr. and if it has been a while since you have had any regular activity, remember to start slow. Jumping in with a challenging workout can start you off with terrible stiffness and even injure yourself. Work up to more challenges gradually.

Set a regular exercise schedule so that it becomes a habit. When your body becomes accustomed to being challenged on a regular basis each week, you are less likely to have injuries, your balance and strength will improve, and you will be able to step up to more challenges.

Pay attention to your body and learn to “hear” its cues. If you feel sharp pain or feel just plain lousy, you could be injured or coming down with a virus. Dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain, red/swollen joints; all are reasons to back off and schedule an appointment with your Dr.

Ready to start? Remember to warm up and do some gentle stretching , especially before starting cardio. Understand the difference between Dynamic and Static Stretching. Static stretching can actually tear or pull muscles, so some easy walking before stretching is helpful.

Mild discomfort or a mild pulling sensation is normal, but stretching should never cause pain, especially joint pain. If you feel pain, stop at once and consult your health care provider.

Never bounce into a stretch — make slow, steady movements to help your muscles stretch naturally.

Here is a good video on some basic stretches.

If you have joint issues, keep low impact workouts in mind. Low impact options include Yoga, cycling, Tai Chi, gardening, walking, swimming, and weight training.

Psychological Benefits of Fitness After Fifty

As we reach our ‘next fifty’, physical activity and exercise become more and more vital for our health, length, and quality of life. Consistent exercise and a healthy diet do more than just strengthen muscles and improve our ability to be physically active, however – there are lots of mental and psychological benefits of fitness after fifty…

Exercising helps to trigger endorphins, which help you to manage your anxiety and stress levels and overall, improves your mood. Regular physical activity can also lessen feelings and symptom of depression. According to a study done in the state of Michigan, “Physical activity has consistently been shown to have positive effects on various measures of mental health. Most well-documented are the effects of aerobic exercise in improving depression, reducing anxiety and improving mood.”

old man exercising

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

In addition to the more short term benefits of fitness after fifty, for your emotional health and happiness, your long-term mental health is aided through consistent exercise. Your ability to multi-task, plan, problem-solve and master other forms of cognitive function (including memory) can be stimulated and enhanced by consistent exercise.

“There’s a lot you can do to prevent cognitive decline, or slow it down, or recover memory function that you might feel you have lost,” according to Dr. John Ratey, associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. The areas of your brain that are related to memory function are stimulated through exercise, creating a chemical (brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF) that re-wires your memory pathways to make them function more efficiently.

In his book Brain Rules, John Medina notes that aerobic exercise just twice a week halves your risk of general dementia. It cuts your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent. He concludes that to improve our thinking skills at ant age we need to move… a lot.

According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, many recent studies have proven that most of the things that we do to maintain our physical health also benefit our mental health. Exercise helps our memory and mental ability, prevents dementia, improves our mood and energy levels – all by decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol, improving heart health and mobility, and more.

In what ways have you found exercise and fitness to benefit your mental and emotional health? Please share your experience with the Fit After Fifty Facebook community!

Stronger on the Slopes, and Beyond!

By Debora Robinett 

I began attending The Bar Method Seattle-Redmond classes in November 2011, shortly after the SLU studio opened. I noticed many changes and improvements in my body within the first few months.

Debora at Whistler.

Debora at Whistler.

After a year, in December 2012, I wrote a brief testimonial about the changes in my skiing ability/strength.

“As a downhill skier for 44 years, I usually dread the day after the first ski day of the season. I don’t any longer. Despite years of aerobics, strength training, yoga, Pilates, competitive cycling, ballet, skating, running and just about every other sport known, one year of The Bar Method has left my entire body stronger than any other exercise regime, even with a torn ACL. Not only am I stronger on the slopes, but my core strength has supported my balance, upper and lower body endurance, faster recovery and joy for the sport. Thanks to all of my instructors for a superior ski season workout!”

Around the same time, my boyfriend had this to say…

“Snow skiing centers around several movements including edging, turning, and pressuring movements that are used to maintain balance while gliding down the mountain. Working out at The Bar Method adds to a skier’s strength and agility, thus improving the efficiency of these movements. When Deb started Bar Method classes a year ago, she already was a good skier. However, Bar Method has not only improved her endurance, it has enhanced her ability to adjust these movements more quickly while skiing more efficiently. Her agility has improved, allowing her the ability to adapt quickly to varied terrain, steepness, and snow conditions. Most importantly, her recovery time after skiing is minimal. The Bar Method is an excellent regimen for getting in shape, for skiing plus improving your overall core strength.”

– Joseph Claeys Level III Certification-Professional Ski Instructors Association

Then a year later, at my two-year, 400 class mark, I reflected further…

gc1“Saturday, November 16th, 2013 marks my 400th Bar Method class in just under two years at the South Lake Union Seattle & Redmond Bar Method Studios. What an amazing, challenging, body sculpting, muscle strengthening workout. Even years of ballet, aerobics, yoga, weight lifting, Pilates, skating, both competitive cycling & running couldn’t give me the results of these one-hour sessions. So what have I noticed in the past two years? Within the first few months of Bar Method, I noticed that I had dropped a full pant size as my muscle memory returned and the fat melted away. I’ve been a registered dietitian for 35 years, so my diet has always been pristine and I made no changes to it as I began Bar Method. As a downhill skier for 44 years, I usually dreaded the day after the first ski day of the season. I didn’t in the 2011 or 2012 seasons … I am also an avid golfer and noticed that my distance and accuracy improved such that my handicap was lower in the spring than any other start to golf season. Lastly, (and most importantly to me as a woman who is one year shy of her 60th birthday) are the overall anti-aging benefits of Bar Method. My personal physician remarked in 2012 how nicely my Human Growth Hormone (HGH) levels were in comparison to the previous five years. Add another year of Bar Method to my life and my levels are even higher. For all of you Baby Boomers, naturally produced Human Growth Hormone is considered the anti-aging, fountain of youth hormone. I’m old enough to be many of my fellow students’ mother but my energy, endurance and strength is that of a much younger woman. Who doesn’t want to get younger with each passing year? So thank you to owners, Luke, Bev and Maika, all of my dedicated motivational instructors and fellow Bar Method friends who have kept me coming back to Bar Method the last 400 times.”

I’ll be 60 in January 2015 so like Tony here at Fit After Fifty, I agree that exercise (and nutrition and good genes) directs biological age, which is more important than chronological age!

What Motivates You to Get Fit? 3 Reasons Why We Exercise

For me personally, there are a LOT of reasons to get & stay fit. Some of you have probably read a bit about me and my decision at an early age to pursue fitness. When I was in college I saw a group of “older” men playing handball—and I decided that I wanted to be as active as them when I got “that old”. They were in their 40’s—now I’m in my 70’s—and still playing handball. I’ve put a lot of my life into pursuing fitness—and have met & talked to a lot of people along the way who are just starting their fitness journey and some who are well down the path to healthy, active living. Over the years, I’ve noticed a few common themes in what is motivating people to exercise and pursue fitness:

old man running1. HEALTH.

Health is a HUGE motivator—sometimes it’s our own decision to change how we feel physically—sometimes it’s a doctor or spouse-inspired decision. No matter what the instigator, once people are on the pathway to health, I’ve found in my years of getting to know fitness-oriented folks, the road to health is a big motivator in and of itself. Once people realize how good health feels, the motivation self-perpetuates. The fact of the matter is: we feel better the healthier we are! Who doesn’t want to feel as wonderful as possible?

2. JOY.

senior health joy

For some people, the joy of activeness needs to grow on them. For others, like me, it’s naturally engrained within them to find joy in activity. I’ve met a lot of people along the way who didn’t experience much joy to start out with—and now can hardly survive a day without some sort of fitness activity! If you’re among the group of folks who isn’t experiencing happiness & joy in your fitness routine, I have two pieces of advice for you: 1. Try something else. Maybe your current activity isn’t the right activity! 2. Surround yourself with people who are excited to get active every day. Their excitement is contagious!

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

3. LONGEVITY.

Of course, living longer is pretty directly tied to health, but I think these are slightly different motivators. A lot of people are getting fit & healthy so they can be there for loved ones—and be as active with their loved ones as much as is possible while they’ve still got time. Living a healthy lifestyle can add years to your life—and life to your years!

Are you motivated by one of these reasons? Or do you have another motivator to get you active & fit? Share your story with us!

Competitive Aging: Fit After Fifty, Sixty and Beyond

Sometimes it isn’t about ‘aging gracefully’ as people say. We caught up with Cherie Gruenfeld, multi-Ironman Champion and featured inFit After Fifty“, after her most recent Kona Ironman race. Cherie turns 70 next year, and we were interested to hear her thoughts on competing and aging. For her, it’s not about getting older gracefully, but instead; it’s about getting the most out of life now.

It’s pitch black on the lava fields of Kona, Hawaii, where I’m racing in the Ironman World Championships. I’ve been here 18 times before – my first when I was 48-years-old. I’m now 69. My time goal for this year’s race is 13:13 and I’m going to have to do something very special to make that. Some years ago, I finished this race in 11:57.

For a brief moment, my thoughts roam. Do I want to keep working hard each year, struggling to make times that continually get slower and slower?

During my race, I should never let my mind do anything other than focus on pushing my body towards the finish line; however, the question is still at good one. Regardless of how good my genetics are, how much rigorous training I do and how great my motivation, my rational mind tells me that it’s unrealistic to believe I can race as I did when I was younger. That being said, it is not in my DNA to give up on believing that I can still excel. I believe that if I use 100 percent of what I have at this moment in my life, I still have the opportunity to exceed expectations. Therefore, I still set the bar high. My training and racing goals are aggressive, designed to push me far outside my comfort zone.

But the biggest issue in this “competing while aging” scenario – I believe – is understanding and accepting exactly where the bar needs to be set to make the goal challenging, yet achievable. Each person may handle this situation differently. Read more

The Anti-Aging Benefits of Strength Training

Have you ever watched an older friend or relative experience difficulty with standing up after sitting in a chair? Many elderly people struggle with this, especially after surgery Read more