Older & Wiser with Sue Grant

Posts in the fitness tips category

Happy New You! (Helpful hints to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions)

It’s that time of year again, where we vow to make some sort of fitness related resolution, only to have abandoned our best intentions by March. Research shows that about 60% of people make them — and that more than half of those of us who do, don't keep them for longer than a few months.

The secret to making a fitness New Year’s resolution last is to admit that getting and staying in shape won’t always be easy.  But SO worth it!  Here are some tips that will help you succeed:

Ditch the term “New Year’s Resolution”

That infamous term is associated with failure and broken promises, so avoid mentioning that expression when thinking and talking about your fitness goals. 

Instead of getting stuck in the “New Year’s resolution” mindset, come up with specific, achievable goals. 

Aim low

It goes without saying that most New Year's resolutions are easier announced (or written) than done-but if you set the bar too high, you're doomed from the start.

Start small, and make your goals realistic enough that you can easily imagine them becoming reality.  If you only focus on your big, long term goal, you might feel like a failure and give up if you don’t achieve that big goal soon.  Set yourself up to succeed by creating reasonable, manageable goals that will bring you to your big goal.

For example, instead of a sweeping declaration like “I’m going to get fit!”, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. Or, if the gym is not your thing, track the number of steps you take each day and work on increasing that number by a reasonable amount each day.

Be Specific

Your declaration should be absolutely clear. Making a concrete goal is really important rather than just vaguely saying “I want to lose weight.” Come up with an explicit goal: How much weight do you want to lose and at what time interval? 

The timeline toward reaching your goal should be realistic and definite too. That means giving yourself enough time to do it with lots of smaller intermediate goals set up along the way. Focusing on these small wins keeps you encouraged along the way—each time you meet one, you have reason to celebrate your progress.

Change one behavior at a time 

Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time. Thus, replacing unhealthy    behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life this month. Instead, work toward changing one thing at a time. The key to success is to zero in on one goal, not three.

Spread the Word!

You will be much more likely to succeed if you tell your friends and family about your plans (but carefully avoiding the “Resolution” term!). Social support can help you stay accountable, so let your world know about your aspirations. If you’re into social media, post regular updates on your progress. Your fans will cheer you on!

The more people to whom you announce your plan, the more people there'll be to prod you along if you fall behind. Just letting others know that we've committed makes it more likely that we'll follow through — we're less likely to slide if somebody else knows what we've said we'll do. 

Put “exercise” in your calendar for the entire year

There’s a saying that when people retire, they can either schedule their new free time for exercise or for Doctor’s appointments.  Plan on committing to whatever form of movement you enjoy in February, March and the rest of the year, not just January!

Don’t beat yourself up

Perfection is unattainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you ate a brownie and broke your diet or skipped the gym for a week because you were busy. Everyone has ups and downs; resolve to recover from your mistakes and get back on track.

Don’t Fall for It – “Sit to Stands” are Grand!

I met with a new home client yesterday who told me that he falls all the time but assumed that this was a normal consequence of his clumsiness.  Goodness NO!  As you probably know, one of the most frequent causes of death for older adults is “complications from a fall.”  At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I told my new client that fall prevention is truly a matter of life and death.

There are many ways to minimize the chances of a dangerous fall, but I’m just going to write about one thing you can do in this article today.  Keep an eye out for my upcoming blogs to learn about additional things you can do to reduce your risk of falling.

Regular exercise:

This is (in my opinion as a Master Certified FallProof Instructor) THE most important thing you can do to reduce your risk for falls.  Exercise helps you to maintain lower body strength, which is crucial.  Let’s face it – everyone stumbles and trips a little during the day, but if your legs are strong enough, they can help you catch yourself.  If your legs are weak, then you will be much more likely to fall.

One of the easiest and most practical ways to improve your lower body strength is to do “Sit to Stands.”  You simply sit down and stand up from a chair.  Try to do a few Sit to Stands before every meal, and gradually increase the number of repetitions.

When you sit down, try to descend as s-l-o-w-l-y as possible – this will really help to strengthen your fall prevention muscles.

If you need to use your hands on the chair to stand up, then do so, but work towards using your hands as little as possible. The most advanced hand position is to cross your arms across your chest so that you are only using your lower body muscles to propel yourself. 

To measure your progress, see how many Sit to Stands you can do in 30 seconds.  Take note of which chair you use, and record the number of times you stood up.

It will be rewarding to see how much you’ve improved when you time yourself again in a month or so.  Just be sure to use the same chair so you’re comparing apples to apples.  As I’m sure you know, it’s a lot easier to stand up from a tall rigid chair seat than a low squishy couch.

These super-fast Sit to Stands are also a great way to add power to your workout, which is especially important as we get older.  Adding speed and power help to keep your fast twitch muscles tuned up, which help you to react quickly (which is essential when you stumble.)

Boring? You bet!  But anything’s better than falling and ending up in the emergency room!  Stay tuned for more fall prevention tips in my next blog.

Change Your Cell’s DNA with This Type of Exercise!

High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is a very popular exercise regime, but many people have assumed that it is only for elite, highly trained athletes.  Not so!  Researchers at the Mayo Clinic have found that HIIT has even bigger benefits for older adults!

The idea of HIIT is very simple.  You exercise hard for a short while, rest for a bit, and then do it again.  You alternate between a short bout of intense exertion and a nice easy recovery.

The astonishing results of the Mayo research study were that some age-related deterioration of muscle cells had actually been reversed on people over 65 that did HIIT.  This is huge!  HIIT seemed to change a cell’s DNA in a way that boosted the muscle’s ability to produce energy.  It also triggered the growth of new muscle, helping to counteract the inevitable muscle loss that is part of the normal aging process.

These changes were more dramatic in the over-65 exercisers compared with a group of people under 30.  We rule!  

If you are considering giving HIIT a try, you should definitely check with your physician first. However, many studies have shown that intervals can be safe and beneficial for people with diabetes, heart disease, and more. 

If your physician gives you the green light, start off easy!  Begin your workout with a nice easy warm up (as always). If you enjoy walking, try walking briskly for a couple of minutes, followed by a slow stroll until you recover.  You can do the same sort of interval on a stationary bike or any piece of cardio equipment.  Gradually increase the number of intervals you do, but again, don’t overdo it at first!

I recommend that you do just one or two HIIT workouts a week, combined with light or moderate exercise on the other days.  You need to give your body time to rebuild bones and muscles to increase strength.

HIIT is not for everyone, but you may want to give it a try, now that we know how beneficial it is for us Older Wiser folks! 

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

"Ask Sue" - Recommendations for a Stretch Strap

Question:  I want a stretch strap make of textile possibly with loops and routines to go with it. Can you recommend anything?

Answer:  Glad you asked!  Be sure to be warmed up before you stretch.  Think of your muscles as being like salt water taffy - easy to stretch when nice and warm, but if you put the taffy in the fridge overnight and tried to stretch it in the morning…. Ouch!  Check out the OTPT original stretch out strap on Amazon - it comes with an instruction poster.

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

Adopt a "NEAT" Lifestyle for Better Health!

If you are one of the millions of people that don’t enjoy traditional exercise, take heart!  You’ll be happy to hear about the NEAT term, which stands for
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. (Big word!)  Thermogenesis is a metabolic process during which your body burns calories to produce heat.

NEAT is the energy you burn when you are not sleeping, eating, resting or deliberately exercising.  It’s a great alternative for those who either don’t have the time, or simply loathe exercising. 

Now that we have such accurate wearable fitness devices, researchers have been able to measure energy expenditure, rather than just count steps, and they have discovered that dozens of non-exercise activities can be slipped into our daily routine to help keep us healthy and fit.

Mayo Clinic endocrinologist James Levine coined the term when he was the director of the Obesity Solutions Initiative.  “Anybody can have a NEAT lifestyle,” he said.  “Our research showed that you can take two adults of the same weight and one can burn an extra 350 kilocalories (per day) simply by getting rid of labor saving devices and moving more throughout the day.”

If you are retired, home maintenance can be an excellent form of NEAT.  For example, making your bed uses as much energy as walking!  Scrub the counters, sweep the floor, walk the dog, carry the groceries, gardening, going up and down stairs – it all adds up. 

If you do need to sit a lot, emulate that wiggly kid in 3rd grade that drove your teacher crazy – move your legs in various directions, stand up and sit down, tap your toes and lift your heels.  The more you move, the better.

How NEAT!

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

Dance For Increased Brain Health

In addition to providing physical, psychological, and social benefits, did you know that dancing is also really good for your brain? 

In a new study from Germany in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers divided healthy people 63 and older into two training  groups.  Half of the group did repetitive exercises that did not require new learning, and the other half enrolled in a dance program that required them to continually learn challenging new routines.  Classes were held twice a week for six months, and then once a week for the next 12 months.

As seen in MRIs, both groups had increases in gray matter in the hippocampus.  The hippocampus is involved in learning, long term memory, and spatial navigation.  However, the dancers had increases in more parts of this brain structure, and also had significant improvements in balance.

Atrophy in the hippocampus is part of the normal aging process, especially after age 70, but the great news is that this is one of the brain areas that can actually generate new neurons in response to physical and mental challenges – like dancing!  The key to the process, known as neuroplasticity, is to be moving while solving a cognitive task.

As we get older, many of us are worried about “losing our marbles.”  The authors of this study concluded that, “the additional challenges involved in our dance program, namely cognitive and sensorimotor stimulation, induced extra hippocampus volume changes in addition to those attributable to physical fitness alone.”

Even if you think you have “two left feet,” dancing, or doing some kind of activity that challenges you to learn new things while you are moving, will help you to keep those marbles!

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

How Many Steps a Day: Is 10,000 Necessary?

10,000 steps…….. or not!

You have probably heard of the recommendation to walk at least 10,000 steps each day.  This is a commendable goal, but if we don’t reach that target, it’s tempting to simply give up and throw in the towel.

New research has concluded that the 10,000 step target might actually be a little on the high side, in a report from Atlantic.com. 

Researchers from Harvard gave fitness trackers to 16,000 women ages 62 to 101 and counted their steps.  They then monitored their health for a four-year period.  In a comparable study, scientists from the renowned Karolinska Institute in Stockholm gave a similar device to 851 subjects, including almost 400 men, and tracked them for 14.2 years.  In other words, one trial observed an impressively large number of subjects, and the other monitored its subjects for an impressive number of follow up years.

Surprise!  After adjusting for diet, lifestyle, and other factors, the Harvard researchers found that the women who walked about 4,400 steps a day had a 41% lower risk of premature death than the least active gals, who averaged 2,700 steps.  The Swedish study also found that the most active subjects had a 50 to 70 percent decline in mortality during a defined follow up period compared to the least active, most sedentary participants.

Walking more than 4,400 steps further on decreased the risk level moderately, and the benefits plateaued  at around 7,500.

Harvard lead author i-Min Lee says the 10,000-step goal should be lowered to encourage more people to get walking.  “If you’re sedentary,” she says, “even a very modest increase brings you significant health benefits.”

Fun fact to ponder:  The 10,000 step target isn't actually based on scientific research – it stems from a 1960s marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer that played on the fact that the Japanese character for 10,000 resembles a man walking!  

Take away message:  Don’t give up if you aren’t walking 10,000 steps a day.  Shoot for at least 4,400 – a much more manageable target.

 

Sue Grant holds numerous certifications within the health and wellness industry.

  • Certified as a personal trainer by the ACE
  • Certified as a Master Instructor for the FallProof Program
  • Certified by the Arthritis Foundation
  • Certified in Older Adult Fitness by the American Institute of Fitness Educators

Sue has also studied personal training and group fitness through U.C. San Diego’s Fitness Professional Certificate program. Click here to find her collection of DVDs.

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