After Deep Loss, A Powerful Friendship Blossoms at the Gym

After Deep Loss, A Powerful Friendship Blossoms at the Gym

When Glenna Brown’s husband became ill, she found that regular exercise at a nearby studio helped her deal with the stress and remain strong enough to be a good caregiver. 

When he died, Glenna (above, left) found more: a loving support group that helped her through her loss, and a new friend who was going through a similar experience. 

That was Shirley Nunez, whose husband passed in 2020. The two became fast buddies, working out together, socializing, and even traveling. 

“I saw Glenna working out and said, ‘I want to be like her,’” says Shirley (above, right). “She’s been my lifesaver and just everything.” 

Their story proves the power of working out with other people at a studio or gym. Social support, accountability and friendliness are crucial for older people trying to get in shape or stay in shape. 

A Circle of Reinforcement 

After 50 or so, many people find their lives change in ways that can lead to isolation and loneliness. They might stop working. Children might be grown and far away. Spouses might be gone.  

As we learned from the pandemic, group settings for fitness are ideal for breaking that dangerous cycle. They provide more ways to exercise and more ways to be social. And both those things improve our physical and mental health in countless ways. 

The social component is big at Evolution Fitness and Wellness in Houston, where co-owner Jackie Bachmeier introduced Glenna and Shirley, knowing they had much in common. 

“In the fall, we coordinated a group that travels to another town for a pumpkin walk,” Jackie says, giving just one example. “We had a group of ladies who booked an AirBnB, and several others have gathered at a member’s beach house for fun and relaxation. None of these relationships existed prior to them meeting and exercising together here. 

“The sense of community is as vital as the exercise itself.” 

Support Helps Build Positive Changes 

For Glenna, 74, steadily building healthy habits – exercise, eating right —  helped her lose more than 80 pounds. She’s committed to staying strong for her great-grandchildren. “I can get down on the floor and play with them. I can hold them, I can pick them up.” 

For Shirley, who turns 65 in August, the exercise has lowered her pain, given her strength, and improved her posture. “It’s just been amazing,” she says. She credits working with a small-group trainer who offers guidance and correction on her form. 

The pals motivate each other at the gym – and outside of it. They have turned their attention to “bucket list” items.

This year, they went to New York City together, a first for both, to see the sights. 

“One day we walked 10 miles,” Glenna said, proud to be strong enough for such fun. “That’s not for the faint of heart.” 

Next up? A Hawaii cruise in 2023. 

You can’t stop this dynamic duo!

We believe in the power of friendship and social interaction, too. Come see for yourself what the right fitness class can do for you – in lots of ways! We are here to help.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Reach Out to Your Friends; They’ll Be Glad You Did

Reach Out to Your Friends; They’ll Be Glad You Did

We often underestimate how much our friendship means to others, a new study says. 

So, we’re shy to reach out to old friends, afraid it will be awkward or unappreciated. 

The research says:

Reach out! You’ll be glad you did. 

“People are fundamentally social beings and enjoy connecting with others,” wrote Peggy Liu, the study’s lead author in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 

Sometimes, people reach out to others — whether simply to check in on how others are doing with brief messages or to show that they are thinking of others by sending small gifts to them,” she wrote. “Yet, despite the importance and enjoyment of social connection, do people accurately understand how much other people value being reached out to by someone in their social circle?” 

Researchers held 13 experiments with almost 6,000 participants to see if people could estimate how much their friends value them reaching out and what forms of communication have the biggest effect. Reaching out meant making a call; sending a text, email or note; or mailing a small gift. 

The study found that people significantly underestimated the reaction their gesture would bring. 

Friendships are important to our physical, mental and social health as we age, and can even predict our health and longevity. Having strong friendships boosts our overall well-being. 

So go ahead. Pick up the phone. 

It’ll be good for you. 

And if you want to make new fitness buddies, come see us today! We can’t wait to see you. 

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Success Story: She’s So Glad She Found Weightlifting

Success Story: She’s So Glad She Found WeightliftingLike most women of her generation, Margaret Cone, now 79, never saw much reason to lift weights.

She had always been pretty active and tried to stay in decent shape. Her family had a strong health history.

But about 10 years ago, Margaret noticed she had gained weight from the long hours she was putting in at her sedentary job. And to make things worse, her doctor diagnosed her with high blood pressure.

Margaret did not take this news passively. She wasn’t going to rely on medication, and she went looking for information about other ways to treat the condition.

“I started reading about weightlifting, and I had never tried that before,” she recalls. “But I thought, ‘I’ll try anything.’ To my surprise – and everyone else’s – I could really do it.

“Without even trying, I lost 25 pounds. I felt better than I ever had in my life.”

Her blood pressure is in control, and Margaret remains a passionate lifter – working out twice a week with her trainer. It even helps her enjoy gardening more and lets her wield a chainsaw to keep her limbs to county regulation.

Yes, this 79-year-old woman confidently uses a chainsaw in her yard. She even has a little swagger about it, noting that the neighbors always wonder what she’s up to.

“It’s sort of a vanity thing,” she admits. “Look what I can still do.”

Resistance Training Is Crucial to Healthy Living as We Age

Margaret’s story is so important because it can remind people and educate others about an important fact: Resistance training is key to healthy aging.

Why?

As Margaret shows, it helps lower blood pressure, maintain weight, increase functional fitness and boost confidence in daily living.

Studies also show these reasons why everyone should be lifting weights. (Here’s a secret: You can call it “resistance training” if it makes you feel better.)

  1. It slows age-related muscle loss and increases muscle mass and quality. We all lose muscle as we age, but we need it to stay strong enough to function in daily activities, not to mention to travel, enjoy sports, and play with grandkids.
  2. Resistance training burns fat. Think it’s all about cardio? Wrong. So many people want to lose weight, and if you’re one of them, then you need to be lifting.
  3. Weight training improves balance — both when standing still and when moving, thus lowering the risk of falls.
  4. It eases arthritis pain.
  5. Strength training builds bones and fights osteoporosis. This is an extra motivation for women, who lose a small percentage of bone mass each year after menopause.
  6. It fights depression among older adults – plus dementia and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
  7. Weightlifting helps you sleep better.

And, to bust a persistent myth about strength training, it will not make you immediately “bulk up” like the Incredible Hulk.

Just ask Margaret or any of the other women we know who swear by it.

“I say go for it,” she says. “I wish I had known about this earlier.”

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Physical Activity Rates High When Choosing Retirement Locations

Physical Activity Rates High When Choosing Retirement Locations

It used to be conventional wisdom that everybody wanted to retire to Florida or another sunny spot, find a comfortable place to sit and… wait for life to wind down.

Today’s active agers aren’t settling for that.

Sure, some people want a slow pace and lots of sunshine. But we’re also looking at other criteria to our retirement spot – like access to recreation, nature and exercise; proximity to airports to make travel easier; social opportunities; and other things that contribute to a deliberately active retirement.

That’s the focus of the Retire There with Gil & Gene podcast, hosted by a married couple in Brooklyn, New York. She’s retired; he’s counting the days. Each week, they interview a retiree in a different destination about what made it The Place.

Porto, Portugal… Green Valley, Arizona … Santa Barbara, California … Austin, Texas … Hong Kong… and, yes, even various spots in Florida.

“Many of our guests are somewhere where things feel new to them, and they realize how much they love something that involves physical exercise,” says Gil Chan.

“They’re spending retirement doing things they wanted to do but didn’t have time when they were working and raising kids,” Gene Preudhomme adds. “They’re enjoying themselves.”

“Retirement now is to do something physical,” Gil says.

Why wait for retirement or a move to a new location? Get physical with us starting today!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

 

International Studies Show Baby Boomers Are Killing It

International Studies Show Baby Boomers Are Killing ItOh, yeah!

Let’s bust another myth about fitness over 50, thanks to a global study that found that “time-rich” Baby Boomers exercise more than Gen-Z.

Data revealed that people 57 to 70 exercised an average of 215 minutes per week. That’s way more than Generation Z, which includes young adults 18-24.

The Global State of Mind Index was commissioned by ASICS across 17 countries including the United Kingdom, China, Thailand and Germany. It reported that Baby Boomers had the highest State of Mind score — 68 out of 100.

By contrast, Gen-Z was the least active and had the lowest score of 55, exercising just 111 minutes per week.

The brand did more research to find that a third of Boomers consider regular physical activity essential to maintaining social connections and mental health.

A 2019 study found similar news Down Under. Australians 55 to 75 worked out 83 more hours a year than those under 40, according to Fitness Australia, the country’s fitness industry body.

The group’s leader, Barrie Elvish, said older Australians enjoy the confidence boost exercise brings. They’re also walking, gardening, swimming and playing team sports.
“The most important thing for all Australians, no matter what their age, is to find activities that they love to do,” he said.

Not only for Australians, of course, but for everyone! Let’s get you moving today.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Daily Function or Athletic Excellence — Fitness Is the Way

 

Don Phillips won a slew of medals at the recent National Senior Games.

But the real value of his healthy lifestyle is far more ordinary. It’s also what so many people want as they get older:

Functional fitness.

Don, a 91-year-old retired veterinarian, recently drove 250 miles to a school reunion.

He putzes around the yard doing odd jobs, getting what he needs off high shelves (and putting it back). He grocery shops. He rides his bike and jogs.

This fall, he’s going on a deer hunt.

How does he manage all this?

Simple: Exercise.

Don lifts weights twice a week. He walks or jogs 2 to 3 miles a few times a week, outdoors or on a treadmill when weather gets bad.

Study Says: Crank It Up

He also has focused on amping up the intensity of his workouts now, since he might not be able to exercise as often as he used to. That makes sense.

A 2017 Mayo Clinic study showed that HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) can reverse some cellular aspects of aging. It’s as simple as increasing the speed of your walk for a minute, then slowing back down to your regular pace… then increasing a bit for a minute, and slowing back down… etc. Studies have shown that HIIT is effective and safe for older people.

“We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, but the take-home message for aging adults that supervised high-intensity training is probably best, because, both metabolically and at the molecular level, it confers the most benefits,” says K. Sreekumaran Nair, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and senior researcher of the study.

The study gibed with previous research that shows all exercise improves lean body mass, insulin sensitivity, cardiorespiratory health, muscle mass and more. And maintaining strength, endurance and agility is key to performing the tasks of daily living.

His Turning Point

At this spring’s National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, Don entered 13 events and won eight gold medals in the 90-94 age group. He earlier won five golds at the 2015 event.

“I had never been to a track meet. I had never seen a track meet before the Senior Games,” Don said. “I started doing this for health reasons.”

Don was 57 when a neighbor returned from a doctor’s visit under orders to exercise. The man’s knees were shot, he was overweight, diabetic, and generally in poor health.

That made a big impression on Don, who started his fitness journey right then.

He’ll turn 92 this summer.

The neighbor? He died at 73.

“Too young,” Don said.

Whether you want physical fitness or gold medals, we can help you reach your goals. Let’s get moving together!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Work It Out: 5 Facts about Low Back Pain

Graphic of a person's back, with their lower back glowing red to indicate pain.If you suffer from chronic pain in your low back, you are not alone. Not by a long shot.

Unfortunately, low back pain is widespread, and it’s often hard to figure out why it’s happening or how to feel better. Too many people reflexively turn to medications, surgery, or ongoing misery.

We know there’s a better way: movement.

“Moving is probably the most important thing you can do for back pain,” states an article on Vox that reviewed dozens of studies into low back pain. “When back pain strikes, your first instinct may be to avoid physical activity and retreat to the couch until the pain subsides. But doctors now think that in most cases, this is probably the worst thing you can do.”

Let’s discuss the best exercise options for you. In the meantime, review these five facts about low back pain in America.

  1. Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the United States.
  2. It costs us $90 billion a year.
  3. Evidence shows exercise can alleviate the pain – without reliance on drugs or surgery – while doing nothing and hoping for the best just delays recovery.
  4. Studies show flexibility of the lumbar spine and hamstrings, core stabilization, and muscular strength significantly reduce low back pain.
  5. If you have low back pain, first see your doctor to rule out serious causes. Then start moving. Come see us to learn more about strength training, aerobic exercise, yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and more.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Fitness Over 50: Sharing the Common Goal

Group of seniors in fitness clothingA friend in marketing has come up with four categories of what he calls the “Over 50 Fitness Consumer.”

It got us thinking, so we want to know. What do you think of this idea? Do you see yourself in one of these groups?

Regardless, this idea illustrates a crucial point about enjoying life in our later years. Everybody’s different, and we LOVE the diversity of people over 50 who want to get fit or stay fit, as illustrated by our friend’s idea.

  • First, he says, are people between 50 and 70 who are not in good physical shape or experienced in fitness. After working hard and raising kids for decades, they now might want to start, but don’t know how.
  • Second, are people in that age range who have always been athletic and physically active. They’re comfortable in a new gym or fitness studio, but – like everyone – they’re noticing that their bodies are changing with age.
  • Third, are people over 70 who are not in good shape or experienced in fitness. They’ve probably been retired for a while and, although they’d like to get moving on a regular basis to enjoy the rest of their lives, they don’t know what to do now, either.
  • Fourth, our friend says, are people over 70 who have always been athletic and active – and are now determined to remain that way, despite the challenges of getting older, like joint replacements and common chronic health conditions.

Our friend told us about his idea so we would keep in mind that “over 50” is not a “one size fits all” cohort. And, although we know that, of course, it’s always a good point to remember, especially since so many want to reduce “older” to a mere niche.

We’re sharing it with you for a different reason. We want you to see yourself somewhere in this broad range of fitness customers. We love helping anyone in all of these categories. Helping everyone enjoy the benefits of fitness motivates us each day — and we’re here to help you figure out what’s right for you and your goals.

That being said, think about yourself, family, friends, or others you know around town.

  • Maybe you have a 60-year-old sister who still runs triathlons a few times a year.
  • Maybe you’re in the bigger group of people right around retirement age who want to start exercising and need a little guidance – or, at least, a kind welcome. (Either way, we got you!)
  • If you’re over 70 and athletic, you have a lot of experience that a newbie at the same age lacks. We respect that difference, and we appreciate your understanding that age happens to everyone to some degree, depending partly, of course, on how much care you’ve given your body, brain, and spirit in life.

Everyone has some things in common later in life, of course. Changing hormones. Different career focus. Empty nests. Aches, pains, and extra pounds if we don’t exercise regularly.

We’re all united in our common goal of living our best lives at any age. Come see us today, and let’s get going!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Halftime 2022: Time to Take Stock of Your Fitness

Graphic of calendars for April through September with a blue box over them, with the text "2022 Halftime: how do you feel?" in it.Here we are at the midpoint of the year.

So, for the “halftime” show of 2022, ask yourself three questions.

  1. How happy are you with your health and fitness today?
  2. What can you do to reach your goals by the end of the year?
  3. What kind of help do you need or want along the way?

It’s OK if you’re not right where you want to be. Hardly anyone ever is, so don’t beat yourself up or take it as another reason to keep saying, “I’ll never be in good shape again.”

We are here to help you set and reach the right goals FOR YOU.

And this halfway point is a perfect moment to take stock, pat yourself on the back where appropriate, and make whatever changes you need to make.

  • Maybe you need help getting started.
  • Or your focus might be fizzling.
  • Or you have a big event coming up later that you’re excited about and want to get ready.

Whatever it is, remember this: IT’S ALL UP TO YOU.

We’re not saying you have to be super-muscular or ready to run a triathlon. Fitness over 50 means being able to enjoy life on your terms.

So, here in the beginning of July, ask yourself those three questions. And then contact us.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.

Are You Too Old to Exercise? More Common Questions about Fitness over 50

Three middle-aged people working out next to each other at the gym. The woman in the middle is talking to the man on the left.

Here are more questions we’re often asked about exercise after age 50. Let us know of any other questions you have! We are happy to answer them.

Question: Older people don’t need to lift weights, right?

Answer: Wrong! Resistance training is ESSENTIAL for everyone as we age, for many reasons that are indisputable. Humans start to lose muscle mass regularly in our 30s, and if we don’t work to build muscle, we eventually become frail and weak. That leads to balance problems, falls, broken bones, and more. Plus, lifting weights helps to keep us lean, sleep better, and to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol.

Q: Does muscle really weigh more than fat?

A: No. A pound is a pound is a pound. BUT muscle is denser than fat and takes up less space in our bodies – about 22% less space.

Q: Is the “no pain, no gain” idea for real?

A: No, it is not. Some discomfort might be normal when starting a new activity, but many types of pain are not – like joint pain and tendon strains. If you’re new to exercise, don’t ignore pain. Talk to a trainer or healthcare professional to help you distinguish between normal and concerning discomfort.

Q: Am I too old to get any benefits from starting to exercise now?

A: No. Research proves that we’re never too old to start exercising and enjoying its benefits.

Q: Are sit-ups the best way to lose belly fat?

A: Sadly, there’s no way to “spot reduce” body fat, in the belly or anywhere else. And sit-ups can cause strain on the neck. Lowering body fat can be a slow process, achieved through resistance training, some cardio, and consistently eating right over time. Talk to us about which “belly” exercises are safe and effective for you.

Q: I’m over 50 and my weight is fine. Why should I work out regularly when I don’t have to?

A: So many reasons! Losing weight isn’t the only motivation for taking care of yourself. Staying fit after 50 also helps you enjoy sports and activities safely, including traveling, playing with grandkids, and putting away the groceries. We need strength, endurance, and flexibility, no matter what our weight is or what activities we enjoy!

Q: Gyms are full of young people. Will I feel uncomfortable?

A: We want to help you get fit or stay fit. We are uniquely qualified in this area to work with people over 50. And your comfort level is of the utmost importance to us. Let us show you how safe, fun, and effective we make it for you.

Q: Do I have to do a warmup before I exercise?

A: It’s always a good idea to start with 5 to 10 minutes of walking, jogging, or some other movement to get warmed up first. It prevents injury and improves the benefits of the coming workout.

What question do you have?

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.