A Plate of Food = How Much Exercise?

Here’s some information to help you plan a healthy holiday season.

The Calorie Control Council says we can easily consume 4,500 at a big-day meal.

Yikes!

But if you’re trying to measure the pleasure against your hard-won exercise gains, here’s a handy guide to learn how much yumminess you’ve earned — or how hard you’ll have to work after the big meal. (Estimates are based on media sources*, USDA figures, and exercise for an adult weighing 160 to 180 pounds.)

A la carte:

3.5 ounces of turkey: Run 1.5 miles

½ cup stuffing: 20 minutes biking

A cup of mashed potatoes: Run 2 ½ miles

A slice of apple pie: 34 minutes biking

A helping of cranberry sauce: 13 minutes of weight training

A serving of green-bean casserole: 10 minutes of rowing

By the plate:

4 ounces of skinless white turkey, plus a combined cup of stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy tallies up almost 600 calories. Estimated effort to burn that off: 70 minutes of ice skating.

Don’t forget that pumpkin pie and whipped cream add on another 325 calories – which will get you 40 minute of aerobics.

Of course, every body is different. We all have different priorities when celebrating with family and friends. And it’s up to you how much of this is worth how much of that.

But regardless, please be sure to move your body regularly before the holiday – and to get some exercise on the big day, too. Take a walk, rake the leaves, play with the kids, or do a full-blown workout if you like.

Be grateful. And be active!

* USA Today, Time, Runner’s World

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

Set Your Self-Care Goals Now for the Busy Holiday Season

Are you taking care of yourself?

We don’t mean just exercising and eating right – although those are truly important to your health and wellbeing.

We also mean “self-care” activities that too many busy mature adults shrug off as self-indulgent, selfish or just not as important as “caring” for others.

Thing like managing stress, getting enough sleep, and participating in activities you enjoy.

“Self-care in essence is the mindful taking of time to pay attention to you, not in a narcissistic way, but in a way that ensures that you are being cared for by you,” says Maria Baratta, a clinical social worker and PhD who writes for Psychology Today.

We like to think of the way flight attendants tell airline passengers – in the event of an in-flight emergency – to secure their own oxygen masks first before helping someone else, even a child.

The message is clear: If you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be of any use to others.

For many over 50, you’ve spent a lifetime caring for others, like children and grandkid. The holidays trigger our tendencies to think and do for others sometimes at our own expense.

But with a little planning, we can make sure we fulfill all our family and social duties while also taking care of ourselves.

Five Easy Ways to Practice Self-Care after 50

No. 1: Get outside

Especially this year during the pandemic and spending more time inside, we need to make an effort to get out of the house sometimes. So do it – make that effort!

Go for a hike. Give the dog a longer walk. Take up walking, jogging and biking on local trails. Enjoy golf, tennis and other outdoor sports – even those that involve snow or winter weather.

Nothing feels as good as sunshine and fresh air!

No. 2: Do something you enjoy – just because you enjoy it

Now, we’re not talking a binge of old “Bachelorette” seasons. We mean that it’s important to have hobbies and interests outside of our care-giving role, even if they don’t benefit someone else in an obvious way.

For instance, play music, read books, meditate, or go to the gym.

No. 3: Plan your holiday activities

It’s so easy to be overwhelmed sometime around Thanksgiving, when we realize that we’ve over-committed. Too many meals, visits, phone and Zoom calls, etc., pile up before we know it.

So, this year, schedule an hour or so in early November to sit down with a calendar. Add all the family and social commitments, shopping dates and deadlines – and the days you will exercise, what you will do on them, and any special plans you need to ensure follow-through.

Then, remember this…

No. 4: It’s OK to say ‘No’

You don’t have to do everything someone asks or expects. You can even change your mind.

No. 5: Yep – Eat right and exercise

Plan it out on your calendar. Let anyone know who might be affected. Seek support and accountability from friends, workout partners, a trainer or us.

You will be tempted to “let it go” from time to time over the coming weeks, but stay true to yourself, your goals, your heath – and yes, your self-care.

You’ll thank yourself every day.

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

How to Read a Nutrition Label on Food

When it comes to eating right, a little basic information goes a long way.

Nutritional labels on food can help us make better choices about what we eat, whatever our diet or fitness goals might be.

Lower salt? Yep.

More fiber? Absolutely.

Less sugar? Of course.

So, take a minute to learn how to read the Nutrition Facts while you’re shopping. You can instantly learn:

  • Calories
  • Fat grams
  • Certain kinds of fat grams (saturated and trans)
  • Cholesterol
  • Carbohydrates – including fiber, sugars and added sugars
  • Protein
  • Some vitamins and minerals

In the US, the information is more detailed than ever, thanks to new government regulations that went into effect this year. They mandate more details about the different kinds of fats, for instance, and call out manufacturers for adding sugar that’s in addition to sugars naturally found in the food.

Older adults often don’t get enough Vitamin D and potassium, which are important for bone health. They’re now required to be listed on the labels.

Getting enough of these nutrients, plus fiber and calcium, can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure, says the National Institute on Aging.

Also, pay attention to serving size. The new rules make it easier than ever, since packagers would previously slip multiple “servings” into packages that look like a single serving.

It only takes a moment to read the labels and make better choices. It’s even fun to keep track – and it’s definitely a step toward healthier living.

Intense Training Works Wonders for Older People, Large Study Finds

How hard do you like to exercise?

Some people over 50 think a leisurely stroll is good enough.

Others turn up the intensity to get a good sweat.

New research suggests “older” people should lean toward the latter, according to The BMJ (short for British Medical Journal). It’s the largest and the longest study of this age group. It shows that high-intensity interval training (which we call HIIT) is effective and safe.

More than 1,500 people were involved in the study, which was conducted in Norway beginning in 2012. Those who performed HIIT the most had the lowest mortality rates, compared to those who exercised but with less intensity.

They became physically fitter and mentally sharper. The researchers even want governments to explicitly recommend some high-intensity exercise “that gets you really sweaty and out of breath.”

Currently, the World Health Organization and many governments recommend adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

“High-intensity interval training for five years increases quality of life and improves cardiorespiratory fitness more than moderate exercise,” the Norwegian University of Science and Technology reports.

What is HIIT for, anyway?

You might have heard about HIIT and wondered what it’s about. Or maybe you’ve noticed joggers or walkers sporadically speeding up for short bouts?

HIIT is a great way to make the most of aerobic exercise, and although it has media buzz, it’s not just a trend. It can also be applied in resistance and circuit training.

And it is not just for “the young and healthy,” the Mayo Clinic says. “Researchers have found that HIIT can improve health and fitness for just about everyone and has even bigger benefits for older adults.”

During a HIIT workout, you go back and forth between working hard and taking it easy.

The Mayo Clinic cites just one study that shows walkers improved aerobic fitness, leg strength and blood pressure just by alternating between three minutes of fast walking and three minutes of slow walking – for 30 minutes, four times a week.

Their results were better than others who walked twice as long but at a slower, consistent pace.

It’s even better news for people over 65. The Mayo Clinic says age-related deterioration of muscle cells has actually been reversed.

Exercise is cheap medicine

And AARP says that varying short bursts of fast walking with longer bouts of strolling helps:

  • Lower inflammation
  • Improve blood pressure
  • Slow aging
  • Reduce the risk of many diseases

Try HIIT on a treadmill or other equipment – or even in a full-body workout with resistance. Holly can help answer any questions you might have about whether this is right for you.

“Exercise as medicine is a relatively cheap, accessible and available treatment that can benefit a large proportion of the population,” the Norwegian researchers wrote.

We couldn’t agree more!

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

Switch to These Snacks to Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Protein

Are you getting enough protein?

It’s a question that becomes more relevant later in life. That’s partly because older adults often lose their appetite and good eating habits, but also because of an inescapable truth about aging.

People lose muscle mass as we age – unless we engage in strength training to prevent it. We also have to make sure we’re ingesting enough protein, the building block of muscle, to maintain our strength.

What difference does this make to someone who is not a bodybuilder?

Plenty.

Without strength, we are more prone to lose balance, fall, and lose functional ability.

Plus experts say that younger people typically need 0.8 grams of protein per body weight to keep what they have.

But older people need 1.2g.

The best protein has all the essential amino acids and is largely animal based, like meat, fish, poultry, eggs, soy, beans and legumes. Make sure you’re getting plenty of these regularly as part of your balanced diet.

And here are a few handy snacks to keep around. Nibble on these instead of candy or high-carb junk food to keep your protein intake up where it belongs.

  • Peanuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds
  • Cottage cheese
  • Broccoli, peas, chickpeas, asparagus
  • Greek yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Jerky

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

Exercise Makes Us Better Lovers At Any Age

Fit people make better lovers. It’s true at any age, even later in life.

And it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

If you’re stronger, more agile, and have better stamina, then chances are you’re going to have a more satisfying sex life – and help your partner have one, too.

Scientific research backs this up.

For instance, a new study seeks to debunk the myth that “older” people aren’t interested in sex. It’s a persistent stereotype played out in countless TV sitcoms and standup routines. But as anyone over, say, 50 can tell you, it’s simply not true for everyone past middle age.

It’s still important

In a study shared in September, researchers followed 3,200 women over 15 years. Here’s some of what they found.

“About a quarter of women rate sex as very important, regardless of their age,” said Dr. Holly Thomas of the University of Pittsburgh. “The study showed substantial numbers of women still highly value sex, even as they get older, and it’s not abnormal.

“If women are able to speak up with their partner and make sure that they’re having sex that’s fulfilling and pleasurable to them, then they’re more likely to rate it as highly important as they get older.”

Among men and women alike, higher levels of aerobic exercise can improve sexual performance, stamina, and desire, another study reported last year.

More exercise brought more benefit among participants in the study, researchers found.

For example, among the fit group of people who participated, vigorous running reduced the risk of sexual disfunction by 25 percent for men and 30 percent for women.

Sex is physical, after all

Part of this is just simple physiology: When you’re in good cardiovascular shape, blood flows better throughout the body, including to your sexual zones.

More evidence shows how physical activity and other lifestyle factors “may offer some protection against sexual problems” that are common later in life, another study reports. “To stay healthy or to improve health, older adults need to do two types of physical activity each week: aerobic and strength exercises.”

It can even get better later

The Mayo Clinic adds that “many older couples report greater satisfaction” because of fewer distractions, more time and privacy, and no worries about pregnancy.

“Contrary to common myths, sex isn’t just for the young. Many seniors continue to enjoy their sexuality into their 80s and beyond,” the clinic says. “A healthy sex life not only is fulfilling but also is good for other aspects of your life, including your physical health and self-esteem.”

Fight Back with Fitness to Stay Strong and Healthy – No Matter Your Age

Senior Man Jogging In Park

In a year dominated by a pandemic that hits hardest against mature adults, many are overlooking an obvious way to do their best to stay healthy.

By exercising, we gain spectacular health benefits, including a stronger immunity system.

These benefits have no age limit.

“Whether you’re in your 40s or your 80s, you will benefit in the same way,” says Dr. Wael Jaber, a cardiologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of a study with encouraging news about exercise and aging, separate from coronavirus.

Sedentary people are almost four times as likely to die early as those who exercise regularly, says the study. It looked at 122,000 people who were tested on treadmills over 13 years.

“There actually is no ceiling for the benefit of exercise,” he said. “There’s no age limit that doesn’t benefit from being physically fit.”

So, if you’re already exercising regularly, then keep it up.

But sadly, most people of all ages don’t get enough exercise. One bit of good news: People over age 70 are the fastest-growing segment of the population to use personal trainers, according to the Personal Training Development Center. And this year, countless older people have adapted quickly by using virtual training over the computer, which we are happy to help with.

We believe what this study and the trend show – that exercise is right for everyone, regardless of age.

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

What These Images Really Reveal about Active Aging Today

Are you a “Golden Girl” or a showgirl?

This meme of Rue McClanahan and Jennifer Lopez went viral, comparing the “Golden Girls” actress in 1985 to the unstoppable superstar during her Super Bowl halftime show this year.

You get the sense it’s supposed to be a dig at the more matronly, old-fashioned image.

But its message is far more powerful for active agers over 50 who want to live life on their own terms for as long as possible: It’s all up to you.

And, for the men out there, try imagining, say, John Forsythe, who was 63 when “Dynasty” premiered, next to Brad Pitt, 56.

All four of these celebs were healthy and attractive in their own way. One isn’t better than the other.

Healthy living means the freedom, and freedom means choice.

It’s up to all of us to decide how we want to present ourselves – how we want to look. It’s up to each of us to accept or reject society’s expectations about what’s “appropriate” at certain ages. Our options are endless – limited to neither McClanahan’s nor Lopez’s versions, Forsyth’s tuxedos or Pitt’s shirtlessness.

When you have the strength, stamina and stability to choose, then it’s all up to you.

‘The Happiest Demographic’

A common myth about aging says that after 50, people (especially women) face a dreary life of loneliness, physical difficulty, and despair. They’re also (supposedly) stuck in the past, and have no sexuality – according to more myths.

But the opposite is true for millions, who are finding that the “grandma years” are turning out to be the best time of their lives.

Adults 65 to 79 say this is their happiest stage of life, according to a British study of 300,000 people. The study found that satisfaction with life peaked during this period. This jibes with other clinical and anecdotal research in the United States, which has more women over 50 than ever before, according to the US Census Bureau.

It isn’t hard to see why women at this stage of life report such levels of satisfaction.

They are often more able to focus on their own wellbeing than during their child-raising years. They are trending toward retirement and less work-related stress. And many say they no longer feel the anxiety about money and keeping up with peers that drove them earlier in life.

The Role of Fitness

“Contrary to the cultural scripts that say women are old and useless and in the way — diminished versions of their former selves — in reality older women are the happiest demographic in the country,” says Mary Pipher, author of “Women Rowing North: Navigating Life’s Currents and Flourishing as We Age.”

Fitness plays a huge role in helping people this age feel satisfied, healthy and confident. That’s because fitness gives mature people the ability to continue living the way they want to live — to enjoy hobbies, travel, sports, grandchildren and other things they value. It gives them the stamina and agility to avoid injury and hospitalization. It helps them present their sexuality however they choose.

Let’s face it: If you feel good physically, you’re going to be happier. And that will show at any point on the “Golden Girls”/J-Lo spectrum.

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

Ageist Myths: Fading in the Face of Covid?

When it comes to ageism and outdated stereotypes, Jeff Weiss has heard it all.

The Toronto-based marketing guru is leading the charge against dangerous myths that lead marketers, brands, and experts of all kinds to dismiss people over 50 as being:

  • Stuck in their ways
  • Out of touch and afraid of new things
  • Technologically inept
  • Not concerned with their appearance
  • Frail and helpless

All nonsense. You know it. So do we!

“Only 25 percent of ‘older’ people feel like marketers are reaching out to them,” Weiss says in an engaging conversation on the Optimal Aging podcast. “These are people who are active, vibrant, and want to feel like brands want their business.

“Age doesn’t come into it – it’s more attitude and how people want to live their lives.”

Among some key findings:

  • Only 5 percent of “active agers” don’t want to shop online, Weiss says.
  • Facebook is hugely popular – sometimes 90 percent – among this demographic. So is YouTube – and now Instagram is more than ever, partly thanks to Covid-19, he says.
  • Older people were quick to join virtual workouts after the pandemic required quarantines.
  • Personal health is “top of mind” more than ever

“Marketers and businesses are finally seeing the value of this demographic because people have had to adjust their shopping habits.”

We love smashing some myths! Come join us. We’ll fight ageism one case at a time.

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

Fight Obesity, Even as the Trend Soars

Do you want to fit in and follow the latest trends?

Then have another plate full of heavy food and start another TV-binge session!

More Americans than ever are obese – 42.4 percent, according to new research.

It’s been steadily rising for years, and this is the first time the number has topped 40 percent. The obesity rate has gone up by 26 percent in the last decade alone, says State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America. The data from 2017-18 was reported by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and the Trust for American’s Health.

This information was gathered before Covid-19, of course – and countless people around the world have gained weight during the pandemic. There’s even a funny new phrase about it — the “Covid 15,” as in 15 pounds gained since all this started.

But obesity is more dangerous than ever because of the novel coronavirus: Obese people are more likely than others to die from being infected with it.

They’re also at higher risk for a range of ailments – type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and many types of cancer, to name only some. It’s not surprising, then, that obese people have substantially higher medical costs, too.

A Quick Check to See If You Might Be Obese

In this report, obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index of 30 or higher. The BMI is a quick assessment to determine if someone might be overweight. But it’s not a diagnostic tool and it shouldn’t be relied on as the sole indicator.

To calculate your BMI, divide your weight in pounds by your height in inches, and then multiply that number by 703. Or use a simple online calculator. If the result is over 25, you’re considered overweight by BMI standards. If it’s over 30, that means you’re obese.

BMI is NOT a perfect indicator, and all bodies are different. It doesn’t even account for gender, and it often defines super-fit athletes as obese, for instance, because they might have a lot of muscle mass.

So, talk to your doctor or a dietician if you’re overweight or obese or want better information.

You Know What to Do

In general though, it’s good for most of us to limit your caloric intake to around 2,000 calories a day – and to burn more than that in activity.

Eat plenty of plant-based food, limit the amount of super-processed material you consume, drink plenty of water, and make sure you’re eating enough protein.

Then, of course, you’ve got to move that body – every day! US and international recommendations say that each adult should get 150 minutes a week of moderately vigorous exercise a week – plus at least two sessions of resistance training.

The pandemic is not an excuse.

If anything, it should fire you up more than ever to take care of yourself. To build your immunity. To be strong and healthy, now and in the future.

Don’t go along with the trend on this one. The older we get, the easier it is to self-isolate and become sedentary – and, yes, the pandemic really does make all of this worse.

We’re here to help with exercises and healthy living tips you can do from home. You know what to do and why: Eat less, move more, and live better!

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