Category Archives: Exercise

Book Announcement: Ten Secrets to Losing Weight After 50

Are you over the age of 50 and struggling to lose weight? Have you tried countless diets to no avail? Do diet methods you used in the past no longer work? If so, I’m here to help. My new book, Ten Secrets to Losing Weight After 50, is available on Amazon now – just in time for those New Year’s Resolutions .

It’s not your imagination. As you age, you tend to gain weight and it’s harder to lose than when you were younger.

A year ago, I weighed 174 pounds – more than I’ve ever weighed before. For the first time, I was at the top of the “overweight” category and creeping ever closer to the “obese” level.

Widening hips, a Buddha belly, and other parts of my body that rolled, jiggled, and sagged added to my dismay. Let’s just say, I wasn’t happy. Not only was I getting fat, but my muscles were noticeably weakening. I could no longer stand up from a squatting position.  Painting my toenails was almost impossible as I lost flexibility.

In a panic, I started dieting and exercising. But as an older, post-menopausal woman, methods that succeeded in the past no longer worked. On top of that, I had developed the bad habit of stress eating while caring for my mother and consoled myself with comfort food after her death. Needless to say, my attempts at losing weight failed dismally.

I felt frustrated, hopeless, and ready to give up. Does any of this sound familiar?

Through extensive research and trial and error, I finally unlocked the secret of losing weight after the mid-century mark. I’m ready to spill my secrets. No dangerous surgeries, diet pills, expensive weight loss programs, pricey supplements, crazy fad diets, expensive gym membership fees, or personal trainers involved.

After explaining why it’s so hard to lose weight after 50, I share 10 things I was doing wrong and what I changed to finally succeed. Want a sneak peak? To show my appreciation for readers of my blog, I’m providing an excerpt of the first chapter of my new book below. Enjoy!

EXCERPT FROM TEN SECRETS TO LOSING WEIGHT AFTER 50

SECRET ONE: CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE

What I Was Doing Wrong: Thinking life wasn’t fair and I’d never lose weight after 50.

 What I Changed: Accepted the facts of life and changed my outlook.

Oh, I had a million reasons why I couldn’t lose weight. In fact, if making excuses were an Olympic event, I could have won a medal. I used the standard excuses. I’m too busy. I’m too stressed. I’m too tired. For good measure, I also added some justifications related to my age. Maybe you’ve used some of these reasons:

  • Losing weight is SO hard as you get older – impossible – in fact.
  • I’m eating the same way I did when I was younger and somehow packing on the pounds.
  • When I dieted before, I’d drop four pounds the first week and two to three pounds a week after that. Now? Forget it! I’m lucky to lose half to one pound a week – if anything at all. Sometimes I even gain weight for no reason at all.
  • The methods I used to lose weight when I was younger don’t work anymore.
  • I’m never going to have that flat belly or small waistline again, so why bother? Isn’t it natural to be shaped like an apple as you age? I give up. It’s not fair!

Notice a recurring theme? Losing weight was just too hard and life wasn’t fair, so I was throwing in the towel and accepting my fatter self. Sound familiar? If you’ve been singing this same song, you need a serious attitude adjustment – just like I did.

Let’s face it. Losing weight is mostly a mental struggle. What you think about your ability to lose weight is crucial to your success. So, don’t get stuck in a negative state of mind convinced that it’s impossible to lose weight after 50. If you allow yourself to think this way, you’re doomed before you start.

So, let’s look at those complaints again:

  • Yes, your metabolism slows down and you lose muscle mass as you age, making it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off. That just means losing weight is more challenging and will likely take more time. But, trust me, it’s by no means impossible. And well worth the extra effort!
  • True, you can’t eat the same way you did when you were younger without gaining weight. As a result, you’ll need to change the way you eat and exercise – permanently. The good news is that you’ll feel much better by doing so. Drinking tons of soda and eating tubs of ice cream just makes you feel sick anyway.
  • You aren’t going to drop weight the way you used to. You’ll need to lower your expectations and practice patience. Be happy with losing a pound or two a week. You’re headed in the right direction and more likely to keep the weight off if pounds drop off slowly. What if you go weeks without losing anything? Later, I’ll share a few ways to get past those stubborn plateaus.
  • Your body has changed. You’ll need to change your dieting and exercising strategies to lose weight and keep it off. I’ll share some tips to help you do just that.
  • And no, it isn’t natural to be shaped like an apple at any age! Perhaps you won’t have the perfect perky butt, tiny waist, and a six-pack after you lose weight. So, change your objective. You’re older and wiser now. Losing weight should be about staying healthy so you can travel, chase your grandchildren, and live a longer and happier life. Exercising should be about maintaining muscle mass to stay strong and increase flexibility, balance, and endurance.

So, no pouting allowed. Don’t use aging as an excuse to eat whatever you want or become a couch potato. If you give up now and sit around feeling sorry for yourself, you’ll just keep gaining weight and suffer the accompanying health risks.

Now that you’ve accepted the fact that losing weight is more challenging as you age – but not impossible – here are some encouraging facts to live by:

  • By eating healthy and making a commitment to becoming more active, experts assure that you can be healthier at 65 than you were at 45. Isn’t that a worthwhile goal?
  • Food choices and fitness strategies really do work – even in your 50s, 60s, and beyond.
  • Every day you make choices about what you eat and how active you will be that day. Those decisions make a difference. It’s never too late to adopt new lifestyle habits and make a big difference in your health.

How Many Calories Do You Need?

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s time to accept facts. You burn fewer calories as you age. So, just how many calories should you eat to lose weight?

You can use a complicated math formula to figure it out or try an online calculator. Since math gives me a headache, I’m going to keep things simple and look at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines to give you a general idea of how many calories you should eat each day.

As mentioned earlier, according to the guideline, sedentary women over 50 burn about 1,600 calories a day. Sedentary men over 50 burn between 2,000 to 2,200 calories a day.

These calorie breakdowns are just to maintain – not lose – weight. If you’re reading this book, most likely you want to drop some pounds. Experts say that to lose one pound a week, you’ll need about a 500-calorie deficit each day.

Let’s crunch some numbers. As a rule of thumb, that means if you’re a sedentary man over 50, you’ll want to shoot for about 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day and burn at least 100 calories a day with exercise. If you’re a sedentary woman over 50, aim for 1,200 calories a day and burn an extra 100 calories. Keep in mind, these numbers are just an estimate.

Maybe you’re thinking “sedentary” doesn’t describe you. In fact, I considered myself an active person. However, if you sit most the day at work or home – even if you perform normal daily activities like cooking, cleaning, shopping, and taking your dog for an evening walk – you are considered “sedentary.” Since, as a writer, this described me, I had to reluctantly accept that I was in this category.

A moderately active lifestyle refers to working a job that requires you to be on your feet like a nurse, teacher, waitress, or surveyor plus daily physical activity equivalent to walking about 1.5 to 3 miles per day at 3-4 miles per hour. That leisurely evening stroll around the block doesn’t count. I’m talking about a form of exercise that makes you breathe harder and break a sweat for about 30 minutes each day. If that describes your lifestyle, you can adjust your caloric intake accordingly by adding about 200 calories (or more if you are extremely active) to your diet each day.

Since these numbers can vary, a little experimentation will help you determine the exact number of calories you can consume and still lose weight.

Most experts caution against eating less than 1,200 calories a day for a woman and 1,600 calories for a man. Doing so can decrease muscle mass and lower your metabolic rate as well as cause malnutrition.

Small Changes Can Reduce Calories

Before you get discouraged, eliminating 500 calories a day isn’t as hard as it sounds. The right diet, which I’ll address in the next chapter, can help you do so. However, even making a few small changes in your diet and lifestyle alone can make a big difference.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Drink an iced tea instead of a 12-ounce can of soda and switch a large serving of French fries for a side salad and you’ll save more than 500 calories.
  • Ask your waiter to box up half your meal before it gets to the table and you’ll save 750 calories on average, according to a new study. Or simply share an entrée when eating out. Researchers found that a typical meal at an American, Italian, or Chinese restaurant contains about 1,500 calories—far more than anyone needs at one meal.
  • Switch a large popcorn without butter at the movie theater concession, which packs a whopping 1,030 calories, for a small popcorn without butter for 225 calories and you’ll save 805 calories.

Burning Calories in Record Time

Later, I’ll discuss which type of exercises are most beneficial if you’re 50-plus. I want you to keep in mind, however, that you can burn 100 calories painlessly and, in most cases, in under a half-hour.

Of course, always consult with your physician before starting any activity, but running for just five to seven minutes will do the trick. If you hate running or your lower back and knees can’t take it, walk briskly or cycle for 20 minutes. Try a cardio dance class for just 15 minutes, use an elliptical for 15 minutes, walk up and down stairs for 10 minutes, lift weights for 15 minutes, or do some Pilates for about 20 minutes.

Not happy losing only one pound a week?

Work up to it and burn 500 calories each day for a two-pound-per-week sustainable weight loss. Perform an hour of Zumba, garden for an hour and a half, play an hour of basketball, go horseback riding for an hour and 45 minutes, spring clean your house for three hours, or my favorite – play an hour of competitive racquetball.

There you go. Not so bad. By the way, the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn during these activities.

Stay Tuned for More Tips

So, what other tricks do I have up my sleeve? Which diet should you choose? What can you do to avoid feeling hungry? How can you control stress eating? Which kind of exercises produce the best results? How can you get past those stubborn plateaus?

I’ll share all my secrets with you. But remember, the first step is to change your mindset and you too can succeed. You can lose weight and be healthy after 50. I’m living proof it’s possible. Make a lifelong commitment to eat better, exercise more, and live the second half of your life to the fullest.

You Can Do It!

So, there you go. Like many people, my 50s were a time to take stock and I was not going to surrender to middle-age spread and cross the line into obesity without a fight. If I – someone who battled with weight most of my life – can win the weight war, you can too!

Food choices and fitness strategies really do work – even in your 50s, 60s, and beyond. It’s never too late to adopt new healthy lifestyle habits and make a big difference in your health.

Want to lose those stubborn pounds? Click here to purchase your own copy of my latest book.

 

 

 

 

 

Baby Boomers: Turn Back the Clock on Your Heart 20 Years with Exercise

I’m loving this latest report. According to a small study, even if you’ve been pretty much a couch potato for most your life, it’s not too late. You can still get in shape now in late middle-age and help your heart function as if it were 20 years younger.

exercise late middle ageThe study published in the American Heart Association’s journal, Circulation, looked at healthy but sedentary people between the ages of 45 and 64.

Individuals were put into two different groups. The first group participated in a program of non-aerobic exercise such as yoga, balance training, and weight training three times a week. The second group, did moderate- to high-intensity aerobic exercise for four or more days a week.

After two years, the group engaging in the higher-intensity exercise saw a dramatic improvement in the function of their hearts.

“We took these 50-year-old hearts and turned the clock back to 30- or 35-year-old hearts,” said Dr. Ben Levine, a sports cardiologist at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and director of the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital. “Their hearts processed oxygen more efficiently and were notably less stiff.”

Sorry, but walking the dog around the block a couple days a week doesn’t seem to do the trick. Of course, any kind of exercise is better than nothing at all, but if you want to turn the clock back on your heart, a bit more is needed.  A key part of the effective exercise regimen was interval training — short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by a few minutes of recovery.

The researchers eased the exercise group into its routine with three, 30-minute, moderate exercise sessions a week for the first three months and built up to a regular set of workouts that peaked at 10 months and included:

  • Two days of high-intensity intervals: four minutes at 95 percent of a person’s maximum ability (for example, running at a brisk pace or pedaling fast against resistance), followed by three minutes of active recovery (jogging slower, walking briskly, or pedaling slower), repeated four times.
  • One day of an hour-long moderate-intensity exercise that raised the heart rate and the participant enjoyed like dancing, tennis, swimming, cycling, or a brisk walk.
  • One or two days of 30-minute sessions of moderate-intensity exercise, meaning the participant would break a sweat, be a little short of breath, but still be able to carry on a conversation.
  • One or two weekly strength training sessions using weights or exercise machines either on a separate day or after an exercise session.

The participants were encouraged to use diversification with lots of different exercise equipment (stationary bikes, treadmills, elliptical trainers) and engage in outdoor exercises (jogging and cycling) to keep themselves motivated and interested, Levine said.

The intense workout was important, Levine emphasized, even if it was just once a week. Pushing as hard as you can for four minutes stresses the heart, he explained, and forces it to function more efficiently. Repeating the intervals helps strengthen both the heart and the circulatory system.

Another benefit? “It breaks up the monotony of just the walking,” he said. “Most people really enjoy the high intensity work. You would think that they wouldn’t but they like the fact that it’s short and they like the fact that they feel stronger afterwards.”

The participants tracked their heart rate, which is ideal. But as an alternative, use the simple talk test. During the high-intensity intervals, you should be working hard enough and breathing heavy enough that you can’t talk comfortably in long sentences.

Don’t wait too long, Levine warned. “The sweet spot in life to get off the couch and start exercising is in late middle-age when the heart still has plasticity,” Levine said. You may not be able to reverse the aging of your heart if you wait until after 70 to begin.

But you’ll still see benefits from exercising. A research team at Tufts University found that frail people as old as 89 could tolerate an exercise regime that included walking, leg lifts, and stretching. The participants may not have turned back the clock on their hearts, but they improved in ways that could make a big difference. Exercising helped them maintain their mobility and decreased their chances of becoming physically disabled.

“You are never too old, or never too weak, or never too impaired [to benefit from a physical activity program],” said Roger Fielding of Tufts, who led the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Of course, before starting any strenuous exercise program, be sure and check with your doctor. Then get off that couch and start moving!

Ten Ways to Manage Baby Boomer Back Pain

As a famous Aunty Acid cartoon says: “It’s bad news when you get to the age where your back goes out more than you do.”

Back PainThat’s for sure. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lot of back issues during my lifetime, but recently that’s changed. My lower back pain has become chronic and can’t be ignored any longer.

Of course, I’m far from alone. According to statistics, four-fifths of Americans have back pain.

My back problems probably have something to do with my age. But I don’t want to accept that. Isn’t it cooler to think my lower back hurts because of my vicious racquetball games with hubby? Yeah, that’s it! (I swear, old age creeps up on you like underwear.)

If you’re in the same boat, what should you do?

According to research, people who don’t pursue extreme treatment have fewer complications. So before you rush out to get an MRI or x-ray, ask for epidural or cortisone shots, start popping pain pills, or thinking about surgery, try the following recommendations:

Be Patient

At this point, I’m not hopeful my back pain will resolve itself without taking some kind of action – like get the NJNBI consultation at least, and I’m not very good at being patient. However, according to Prevention’s website, as many as 90% of back-pain episodes resolve within six weeks, whether they’re the result of an injury or due to a structural or nerve problem. It doesn’t hurt to give it some time to see if the back pain gets better on its own.

Use Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Oh, I hate to admit it, but me and hubby are both popping Aleve pills like Pez candy lately. We keep a huge bottle in our nightstand. But the fact is, ibuprofen (such as Motrin or Advil) or a naproxen (like Aleve) can help ease the pain. Research shows these types of drugs usually give you better relief than acetaminophen (Tylenol). The downside: Over long periods, NSAIDs can cause gastrointestinal problems, so don’t take them for more than 10 days without consulting your doctor.

Stay Active

You may just want to give in to the pain and lie down, but the general advice is to keep moving. Studies show that people with short-term low-back pain who use bed rest to try and solve the problem may feel even more pain. Simple, low-impact exercises like walking, cycling, and swimming can be helpful. If you sit for long periods of time at a desk like me, experts suggest getting up every 20 minutes or so to walk around and stretch a bit. I just started trying some exercises I found on Mayo Clinic’s website to help gently stretch and strengthen my back and supporting muscles. I’ll let you know if it helps.

Improve Your Posture

Research shows that most people with poor posture put unnecessary strain on their backs. That means no slumping at your desk (guilty as charged) which makes it harder for your back to support your weight. Makes sense. I should have listened to my mother when she told me to stand up straight. Never too late to change, right? Also, be careful of your posture when lifting heavy objects. Never bend over from the waist. Instead, bend and straighten from the knees.

Use Ice and Heating Pads

You probably already know this, but it’s a good reminder. If your back hurts due to an injury or strain, use ice the first 48 hours for 20 minute sessions several times a day. This can reduce swelling and relieve pain. Then switch to 20 minutes with a heating pad which loosens tight muscles and increases circulation.

Focus On Your Feet

This was interesting to me. Women whose feet roll inward when they walk might be particularly susceptible to lower-back pain, according to a recent study in the journal Rheumatology. Inserts may help if this is a problem. Hey, honey, watch me walk. Am I strolling a bit wonky?

Get a Massage

See, it’s not all bad news. You now have a great excuse to get that relaxing massage. One study showed that people who had regular messages had substantially less pain and disability after 10 weeks. Osteopathic and chiropractic therapies have been shown to work too.

Try Acupuncture

I’m a bit of a scaredy-cat about the needles, but studies have shown many patients with low back pain found more pain relief with acupuncture than those receiving conventional care. I’ve heard from several people that this can help. Maybe one day I’ll get desperate enough to brave the needles!

Watch Your Weight

Oh, it had to be said. We all know it’s true. Being overweight puts excess stress on your spine and joints. So, try and keep your weight within a healthy range for your age and height. Okay, lecture over.

Stay Calm

Back pain becomes worse if you start stressing about it. Accept that you have pain and try taking some of the steps I’ve outlined above to help manage it. Deep breathing may help calm you. Resist delving into a sea of negativity and hopelessness. To make the pain more tolerable, try doing three things that make you feel good each day. In other words, find a bit of baby boomer bliss! Enjoy a soothing cup of tea or coffee, write in a journal, call an old friend, or enjoy a candlelit bath.

And take some comfort from a quote I saw from Joe Morgan: “If you don’t have a bad back by the time you’re 60, then you haven’t done anything in your life.”

Image courtesy of saphatthachat at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

 

Why Dancing Makes You Happy

I love to dance. When I was younger and my husband and I were dating, we took ballroom dance lessons and had an absolute blast.

Dancing HappyAlthough we’ve forgotten how to do some of the dances like the rumba and cha cha, we still remember the steps to the swing. At weddings, we’re the couple who rush out every time they play Rock This Town by Stray Cats or Glenn Miller Orchestra’s  In The Mood. And at parties we still get out there and boogie down.

You too should shake your booty as often as possible. Why?

Whether you choose to do ballet, salsa, ballroom, Zumba, tap, or simply rock it out to some fun music, dancing is one of the often overlooked tickets to happiness and good for your health to boot.

Studies show that dancing can help you:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve flexibility
  • Make friends and increase social skills
  • Improve heart and lung health
  • Reduce depression
  • Increase muscle tone and strength
  • Improve balance and posture
  • Increase energy levels
  • Lift your spirits

Need more motivation? For baby boomers like me reading this, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine, dancing may boost your memory and prevent you from developing dementia as you get older.

Hooray for dancing!

Of course, you should see your doctor for a check-up if you’re older, overweight, or have a medical condition before proceeding.

Once that’s done, what are you waiting for? Even though it’s winter right now, that’s no excuse since dancing is usually performed indoors. So join a dance school or check out what your community offers. Most fitness clubs offer dance classes. Go line dancing. Check out an instructional or fitness dancing DVD at your library or simply dance around the house. Get your heart pumping and keep your body moving. Your butt will thank you later!

If you need a few songs to inspire you, here are five dance songs I can’t resist:

“Shout” by The Isley Brothers

“Happy” by Pharrell Williams

“Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift

“1999” by Prince

MC Hammer, “U Can’t Touch This”

Okay, it’s your turn. What kind of dancing do you enjoy and what have you found to be the benefits? What dance songs make you get up out of your chair and start moving? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Exercise Makes You Happier

stretching_and_exercising_205630Want to find your bliss? We can’t discuss happiness and not talk about the importance of regular exercise. You knew it was coming sooner or later, right?

True, 20 minutes on the treadmill doesn’t solve all of life’s problems, but endorphins produced by exercise can help you feel happier by reducing stress and anxiety and lessening feelings of sadness or depression.

Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident and sure of yourself which can help open doors to all kinds of possibilities.

Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. Who doesn’t want that? When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness and outlook on life improves.

If all that weren’t enough, a healthy, active lifestyle can help prevent or substantially slow down a number of health issues that pop up as we age such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, cancer, osteoporosis, as well as muscle and joint pain.

So you would think us baby boomers would be all over this exercise thing, right? After all, our generation of bell bottoms and tie dye isn’t taking old age lying down. We’ve all seen commercials of those ambitious, fit, gray-haired boomers pedaling bikes uphill, lacing up their sneakers and heading to the gym, jogging, and shooting jump shots.

Not so fast. What is a surprise is how many boomers are not physically active. While we boomers have our share of active go-getters, they do not make up the majority. Not by a long shot.

According to research, a whopping 78% of men and women over 40 do not have a consistent fitness routine. In fact, in spite of medical advances, members of the baby boomer generation are actually in worse health than their parents were at the same stage of life, according to research reported in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Shocking, isn’t it? Not exactly how we want to think of ourselves.

Oh I know, us boomers have a million excuses, myself included. We have demanding jobs, discouraging health problems, a slowing metabolism, and hormonal changes. Some of us are caring for aging parents, raising teens, or dealing with our young adult children who are moving back home due to the economy. We’re concerned about injuries or falls. We’re just plain tired.

Before you throw in the towel though, let’s talk about how much physical activity we need to stay fit.

We’re not talking about hours of pumping iron in a gym or running a marathon to achieve the benefits I listed above. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity five days a week (or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity three days a week) Add a muscle-strengthening activity two days a week for a complete package.

Okay, so visualize a life where you can easily travel, play with your grandchildren, and participate in sports, hobbies, and interests without the restrictions of chronic illnesses brought on by being a couch potato. Picture a life without swallowing cholesterol and high blood pressure pills every day and saving money on medication.

Since study after study shows that staying fit is the key to an energetic and fun-filled life during our 50s, and beyond, don’t you think that type of freedom, independence, happiness, and adventure is worth just 30 minutes a day five days a week?

Okay, so there’s your pep talk. It’s time. Get off that couch and get moving!