‘Functional’ Fitness to Enjoy Everyday Life

two people seen from the waist down, holding bags of groceries

Eating healthy is an important part of functional fitness!

You already know lots of reasons why you should exercise regularly.

And maybe you shake your head and say, “Not for me.” Maybe you don’t want to look, feel, and move better; manage your blood pressure; prevent Type 2 diabetes, etc.

But have you thought about being able to stand up from a chair or the toilet? About carrying in your groceries? About countless other activities of everyday life that rely on strength?

Most people don’t. They still think people go to the gym to get big muscles. And some do, of course – and that’s great.

But everybody should care about being able to care for themselves and maintain independence for as long as possible.

So consider an idea called functional fitness. It keeps you prepared for activities of everyday life, including stamina to run errands and play with the grandkids without losing your breath.

Functional fitness is increasingly popular with all kinds of people, including those over 50 who want to maintain their independence and quality of life without spending countless hours in a gym.

As WebMD puts it, functional fitness is “about training your body to handle real-life situations.” That means exercises focused on “building a body capable of doing real-life activities in real-life positions, not just lifting a certain amount of weight in an idealized posture created by a gym machine.”

Does functional fitness sound like a good idea for you? We’re here to help you with safe, functional programs to boost your fitness, confidence, and enjoyment of daily life.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

The Power of Fitness in Menopause

a blonde woman on a treadmill turns and gives a thumbs-up to the viewer

Exercise is especially important during and after menopause!

Selene Yeager was in her late 40s when she started noticing strange changes in her body and mood.

A lifelong competitive athlete, Selene noticed that her training wasn’t having its usual effect. She had night sweats and anxiety, but she brushed it all off.

She learned later that she had begun going through menopause. Now she is devoted to helping women understand what menopause does to their bodies and brains, and how exercise helps lessen circumstances and improve overall health later in life.

“I didn’t know what was going on, and that is true for a lot of women,” Selene, a writer and trainer, and podcast host now in her 50s. “We’re in 2021, and it’s still radical to talk about menopause. Something got to change.”

In addition to hormonal changes, many women experience mood swings, trouble sleeping, brain fog, and more. Bone density diminishes, which can be especially troubling since all people lose muscle mass as we age. Weak muscles and bones can often mean falls and fractures. Also, women can have trouble with tummy fat and a higher risk of heart disease after menopause.

“Exercise is the best medicine for all kinds of changes that women are going through at this time,” says Selene, who leads the Feisty Menopause movement and hosts its Press Play Not Pause podcast.

Why Exercise Is So Important Now

Exercise works by improving muscle mass, strength, balance and coordination, according to the National Institutes of Health and other experts

“Research indicates that postmenopausal women who engage in the comprehensive exercise program, benefit by maintaining a healthy body, bone density levels, and good mental health,” the government agency says. “Osteoporosis, the greatest ailment in older women, can be kept under control with exercise.

“Even a moderate exercise schedule can not only keep the weight in check, but it also lowers the risk of stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which tend to show up liberally during and beyond menopause.”

As for hot flashes, though? Well, “the role of exercise, however, in hot flashes remains inconclusive.”

Lifting Weights Is Particularly Helpful

Medical and fitness experts cite many studies (including one in the Journal of the American Medical Association) saying that women can reduce body fat, increase muscle mass, build up bones, and improve balance by lifting moderately heavy weights on a regular basis.

We agree, of course. And so does Selene. (And no, you won’t get big and bulky!)

“Without the anabolic stimulation of estrogen, you need to make up the difference, and lifting weights does it,” she says. “Women in this age category need to lift weights, and they’re not being told that enough. And they need people to teach them because of lot of them haven’t been shown.”

Let us show you how effective, safe and fun resistance training is – and how to integrate it into a healthy lifestyle no matter your age or gender.

And if you have questions about menopause, please talk to your doctor.

>Additional sources: The Department of Health & Human Services; WebMD; The American College of Sports Medicine.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

How to ‘Roar’ into the Second Half of Your Life

book cover for "Roar into the Second Half of Your Life" by Michael Clinton

ROAR stands for Michael Clinton’s 4 goals for later in life!

 

In the second half of life, we’re often told to slow down and lower our expectations. After all, as the thinking goes, we can’t do what we use to do, so why try to be happy, productive or fulfilled?

Well, you know we don’t believe that here. We’re all about helping everyone be fit and strong to enjoy life on their own terms for as long as possible. Whether that means extreme sports, “everyday” life, or something in between – it’s up to you.

Now, a new book is out that dares us to crank up the energy: “Roar into the Second Half of Your Life (Before It’s Too Late)” by publishing executive Michael Clinton.

 

That’s a powerful word, isn’t it? ROAR. Clinton uses it to outline his four-part guide to “identify fresh goals and take meaningful action to achieve a purposeful life.” They are:

  • Reimagine yourself
  • Own who you are
  • Act on what’s next
  • Reassess your relationships

It’s not about just having enough money to do whatever you want, Clinton said on the Friends Talk Money podcast. For Clinton, 67, it has meant running marathons on every continent, launching a foundation, and earning a master’s degree.

His message is simple and strong: Let’s take risks, try new things, and pursue fulfillment – regardless of our age.

Talk to us about your physical fitness and eating habits so we can help you keep roaring.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Look Forward and Keep Moving

a middle-aged woman and middle-aged man running with headphones on

Make sure you keep moving!

Can you look back on your life and see a moment when everything changed for you?

When you suddenly had to decide which way to go, what to do… or even whether to proceed?

A lot of us can, of course. It might’ve been long ago, or maybe it’s something more recent, like a doctor’s visit or just increased creakiness in performing normal daily activities. A lot of our members over 50 have stories like this, and we think they’re powerful and inspiring.

These can be valuable turning points – catalysts to get us to make healthy changes and start exercising and eating right. Gaining strength, stamina, and flexibility. Enjoying life more as we mature.

Our friend Christine Conti didn’t have that luxury of time. Christine was just 31 when she received frightening medical news: She was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that could lead to crippling rheumatoid arthritis — as it had for her beloved grandmother, who could not use her limbs.

From that moment, Christine Conti began a journey that led to dedicating her life to fitness for herself and for others. More than a decade later, Christine is a veteran trainer, co-host of a podcast Called Two Fit Crazies and a Microphone, and author of medical-fitness courses. She also has her first book coming out in January, and the title is appropriate: “Split-Second Courage: What If Your Fears Were the Key to Your Dreams?”

We know you’ll find her message motivating.

Don’t Stop Moving

Christine was always athletic growing up and throughout her early careers in investment banking and teaching. After her diagnosis, she went into a dark period of about six months, thinking she wouldn’t want to live if it meant losing the use of her body and burdening family and friends.

Then, her doctor gave her some perspective.

“He said, ‘We don’t know – it could be five years, it could be 10, it could be 15. We don’t know what this disease is going to do to your body. But here’s what we do know: Once you stop moving, it’s all over.’

“And I took that to heart. That was a powerful moment for me.”

Christine turned her part-time interest in fitness into her full-time career. She also became a marathoner and a competitor in Ironman triathlons.

‘I’m Lucky’

Christine learned that life is finite, and that her disease could strike her lungs, heart, or somewhere else at some point. And she decided to celebrate what her body can do every day.

“I’m lucky,” she says. “I was 31 when this happened to me. Some people wait their whole lives to wake up, open their eyes, and realize the most important things in life are not things.”

Now, Christine loves being a fitness professional, improving and even saving lives.

So do we. Please come see us and let us turn your moment into lasting motivation. And if you haven’t had your crossroads moment yet – well, what are you waiting for?

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Jumpstart Your Productivity in September

a September calendar, a to-do list with items checked off, and a red pen

Write down your goals and action items!

 

It’s amazing how the yearly routine of going back to school can become so deeply ingrained in the brain. We get used to it as children, then do it all again as we raise our own children.
My children are done with school now, but I still feel an instinctive boost in motivation coming on every fall, and I always end up becoming more productive.

If you get that back-to-school feeling too, take advantage of it!
Now is a great time to form new habits that will help you boost your productivity.

 

  • Get up earlier each morning! You can use those extra hours as a time to be productive with no interruptions — enjoy a healthy breakfast while you plan out your day. 
  • Write out your goals! What do you want to get done today, this week, this month? Get them on paper (or a screen if you prefer) so you can see them laid out in a concrete form.
  • Write down your action items — things you need to do in order to accomplish your goals. Tasks, appointments, calls, and more can all be counted as action items. Break larger action items down into multiple steps as needed; being able to check off these smaller items will make seemingly major tasks less intimidating.
  • Once you’ve written down as much as you can, organize your action items by rewriting them in your calendar and/or planner.
  • Aim to complete 3 to 5 action items every day — whether they’re big or small, every action item you complete is another step closer to your goals! As you become more efficient over time, you may be able to fit more action items into your day, just don’t put too many.  You want to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of your day. 

It doesn’t have to be all work and no play, though — remember to reward yourself for staying focused by making time to do what makes you happy! Plan at least some off-time to be exclusively for your favorite hobbies, quality time with loved ones, or whatever else helps you relax and recharge. 

Also, you may find it helpful to plan a larger reward for yourself as an incentive to finish a larger goal. So, the more productive you become, the more you get to treat yourself! You can look back on your list of completed action items and feel even better.

Make a commitment to yourself to stay on track with your goals every day, and you may just surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Fitness Helps with Recovery from Drugs & Alcohol

National Recovery Month 2021, a picture collage showing a variety of people

September is National Recovery Month.

With drug and alcohol abuse affecting millions of people, it’s likely that we all know someone who is involved in recovery or needs to consider it.

That includes people over 50 using drugs and drinking alcohol more and more each year. If we add include other compulsive behaviors like eating and gambling, then we see how huge the issue is.

So, September is a great time to mark National Recovery Month and support anyone involved in living free of alcohol, drugs, and other addictive behavior. This year’s theme is “Recovery Is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community.”

 

Almost 1 million Americans over 65 have a substance use disorder, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Millions more drink alcohol, with two-thirds reporting “high-risk drinking” that exceeds daily guidelines. And, as we age, we absorb effects more slowly, and our brains become more sensitive to drugs. More mature adults are likely to use multiple prescription medications which must be properly managed.

Addiction is treatable, and exercise can help. As WebMD explains, “Exercise and drugs of misuse work on similar parts of your brain. They both activate your reward pathway, which triggers the release of feel-good chemicals.”

Regular physical activity eases withdrawal, curbs cravings, improves sleep, and provides healthy social interaction.

That’s what we’re all about, and we’re here to help anyone live a healthier life now.

If you think you or someone you love has a problem, talk to a doctor or recovery program. The National Helpline is confidential, free, and 24/7: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Success Story: Don’t Call Her ‘Sweetie’

Barb holds a weightlifting trophy

Barb DeAngelis, 76, set 2 world records for weightlifting in her age group!

 

Barb DeAngelis, 76, sees the stereotypes against older people exercising to stay strong, and she shatters them every chance she gets.

Not only does Barb love lifting weights and setting records, but she sees herself as a quality-of-life ambassador for other “little old ladies.”

Barb crushes the “frail grandma” idea one deadlift at a time at a gym in Vermont, where she lives. Barb says she does it to inspire other older women who have been told, “Be careful, Sweetie. You’ll hurt yourself.”

Her favorite T-shirt reads, “Old Ladies Lift.”

 

What’s behind her devotion? Barb was a physical therapist, so she knows how important exercise is. She started lifting weights almost four years ago. A bone-density test revealed age-related osteopenia. She was losing bone mass. The weightlifting has shut off the decline.

“They’ve done studies that show that weightlifting supports bone health, and you’re not talking about little dumbbells, we’re talking about a heavy weight that increases stress on your bone,” Barb says.

And she’s right. Resistance training improves bone density, keeps us strong to prevent falls, and improves mood, sleep, and lots more. And, no, it won’t make you look like a bulky young man.

“I look like every other little, old lady,” Barb points out.

Barb says she wants recognition as a “stealth bada**” – and she’s earned it. This summer at the USA Powerlifting Association event in Palm Springs, California, she set two world records for her age group.

“I wasn’t competing as much as I was representing,” Barb says – because no one else was in her age group, 75 and over.

Most people have more modest goals, of course, and that’s great. Barb and other weightlifting “little old ladies” are powerful motivators to help us all live better lives. They remind us that being fit improves quality of life – and maintains your independence.

“When you have independence,” barb says, “you have a different mental attitude than when you need help from other people.”

Before she started lifting, Barb said she had trouble navigating sidewalks and stairs, and was beginning to fall.

“If you don’t keep your strength up, you lose function, you lose balance, you lose joint mobility, and little by little you’re chipping away at your active and functional life. There is a wheelchair waiting for every one of us. And the point is to stay the hell out of it.

“I used to stumble and fall but not now. I can catch my balance. And every time you don’t fall you don’t risk a significant injury.”

Barb urges everyone to exercise and to practice strength training, which also includes yoga, body weight, and smaller weights than Barb fancies. Her advice: Use a trainer to get coaching on form to make sure you’re doing it properly and avoiding injury.

“I’m just a 5-foot tall, little old lady,“ she says. “And I just really want to get other little old ladies involved.”

We’re here for that, Barb!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Celebrate September As Healthy Aging Month

a woman in a track suit runs outdoors surrounded by fall foilage

September is Healthy Aging Month!

 

If you think January is the most important month for personal fitness, then think again.

It’s actually September, especially for people over 50, since it’s annually promoted as Healthy Aging Month.

And it’s easy to see why the first month of autumn is ideal. Think about. The weather is cooler, but we still have plenty of daylight in the morning and evening… We’ve recovered from hectic summer schedules, but we’re not yet caught up in the hectic holidays… and there’s less pressure than we typically experience with New Year’s Resolutions.

 

Organizers say they’re trying to shine a spotlight on the positive aspects of moving through life – and the mission is to help us all take personal responsibility for our health.

The month was created more than 25 years ago by Carolyn Worthington, publisher of the Healthy Aging® multi-media platform. “Our goal was to draw attention to the positive sides of growing older,” she says. “September was chosen because so many people feel they can ‘get started’ more easily then. Maybe the back-to-school routine never really goes away.”

The campaign this year focuses on staying fit, adventurous, healthy, and connected. Be sure to exercise regularly, including strength training to prevent falls and frailty. Tweak your diet, and keep up with regular medical checkups.

We’re here to help with fitness and more, not just in September but all year long. Let’s get you moving with healthy, safe, and effective exercise to carry you through the fall and beyond.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Still Running at 83: Our Health Is Our Responsibility

Vince Obsitnik stands with 2 other marathoners, all wearing numbers

Vince is 83 and still running marathons!

Vince Obsitnik is an 83-year-old marathoner who didn’t let heart surgery keep him from running.

And Vince, a former US Ambassador to his native Slovenia, has a message: You are the ultimate arbiter of your personal health.

“It’s a mental frame of mind on how you want to live and how you believe in living,” Vince says. “No. 1, you have to make sure that you are getting good medical attention for whatever problems you have. And if you get the right medical attention, you also stay active on it yourself, mentally, to get that medical result.”

This is no tough-guy talk, just a simple creed we should all follow: “Help yourself stay healthy.”

He Stays Highly Aware

Vince was born in the Slovak Republic, which was part of Czechoslovakia. His family fled the Nazis in 1938, and Vince eventually attended the US Naval Academy. He served on a submarine for five years, and then became an executive at corporations like IBM and Unisys.

He’s always been fascinated by the body and learning more about it to help his running. So when doctors advised a hip replacement in 2012, Vince did his own research and then advocated instead for a “resurfacing.” He’s still running today.

“I’m pretty cognizant about everything,” he says in an understatement.

Developing A Passion for Marathons

At 55, Vince decided to start long-distance running, and he completed the Boston Marathon in less than four hours in 1996. Three years later, his doctor said he needed to have a heart valve replaced. Vince asked if he could still run in the New York Marathon as planned, the doctor said yes, and he did.

Vince also ran the 5k in the National Senior Games in June 2019. Two days later he ran a 10k. A few months later he had the mitral valve repaired.

He rehabilitated, trained, and ran another marathon in 2001. In 2008, Vince ran a marathon in Slovakia, where he was serving as the US ambassador (with a bodyguard on each side).

He’s run seven marathons and has a goal of 10. Age doesn’t slow him down.

“People need to be more active and involved in their medical situations,” Vince said. “We have doctors and they are supposed to know what they are doing and many of them do, but we as patients need to know what is wrong and be satisfied in our own mind: ‘Are we doing the right thing, are we doing enough?’

“Not enough people take that approach. People say, ‘The doctor said this,’ and they do it. Inquire more. Ask what’s possible and take steps yourself to improve it.”

Your first step: Talk with us about your health and fitness goals. We’re here for you, whether you’re new or a veteran.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

6 Healthy Tips from a ‘Nurse-Coach’

Nurse Nicole Vienneau sits smiling in a field of daffodils

Nurse Nicole shares her expert tips!

 

If nurses are the most trusted healthcare professionals, then what could be better for active agers than bringing them into the fitness realm, as well?

“Nurse coaches” are just that: people trained as both a nurse and a personal trainer.

It’s part of a growing effort to bridge the gap between traditional health care and the exercise industry. They don’t always operate in harmony for the benefit of the patient-client. Just think if your doctor ever made a flat-out prohibition against physical activity. Or if your trainer gave you directions like you were a college athlete.

 

Nicole Vienneau is a senior faculty member at the Integrative Nurse Coach Academy, a longtime intensive care nurse, active-aging specialist; and owner of Blue Monarch Health, which brings fitness services to people over 50 in their own environments.

“Let’s help people figure out what’s important to them about their life and their health BEFORE they actually get sick,” she says. Here are a few of her tips.

  1. Move more. It improves sleep, mood, memory, and inflammation. Exercise three to five times a week.
  2. Sleep better by eliminating caffeine after lunch, removing electronics from the bedroom, and investing in comfortable pillows and linen.
  3. Keep learning. Read books, visit museums, or take a continuing education course with a friend.
  4. Keep socializing. Find and nurture friends at the gym, religious organizations, political groups, etc. Make a lunch date with an old friend.
  5. If you’re going to a new fitness class, arrive early and introduce yourself to the instructor.
  6. Remember that you are a whole, complex human being – not just a collection of body parts.   

Learn more with Nicole on the Optimal Aging podcast.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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