Track Your Snacking While You Prepare Holiday Meals

Illustration of a man cooking, bringing a piece of food up to his mouth

Taste testing while you cook adds up in calories – keep track of every bite!

The holiday season presents lots of challenges to your healthy eating habits. Lots of people cook large meals, with multiple side dishes, to share with visiting family and friends. When you’re not cooking, you might be baking a variety of seasonal desserts, especially for holiday parties.
Potlucks are especially popular this time of year, so even when you’re not the one hosting the dinner party, you’ll probably end up making that one particular dish that the whole family loves for Thanksgiving or Christmas (or both).

Cooking up a storm is hard work, and it’s not always an exact science, so you may find yourself taste-testing that world-famous casserole as you go, “just to make sure it’s right,” especially if you’re cooking an old family recipe that your beloved Nanna never actually wrote down. Well, unfortunately those calories add up too!

 

Don’t get carried away with taste testing while you cook – a handy way to keep yourself accountable is to keep a plate right next to the stove. When you take a bite, put the same amount of food on the plate immediately afterward. Once you’re done cooking, you’ll have proof in front of you of how much you ate, and you can adjust what you eat at the meal, as well as log it in your food log.

Remember – when you Log It, you Lose It!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

We’re Grateful for These 15 Facts about Fitness after 50

a smiling woman throws autumn leaves in the air

After the year we’ve had, there’s a lot to be thankful for!

It’s funny how events, and a little time, can enrich our perspective – like how much the pandemic has changed the way the world thinks about healthy living, especially for people over 50.

You could say we’re more aware than ever of the relationship between lifestyle habits and remaining safe from diseases. At least, we hope.

And lately, at least, you could say that more people are returning to gyms and fitness studios, after spending a lot of time at home and, too often, largely inactive.

And those are all good things, right? Let’s be thankful for them – and also for these 15 facts about fitness over 50. What else can you think of? After all, perspective is a key component of gratitude!

  1. You’re never too old to start exercising and see immediate health benefits – for your body, brain and spirit.
  2. Over-50 fitness is a growing trend in the industry around the world, as more gyms, studios, manufacturers and “thought leaders” continue to see the economic power of “older” people wanting to stay healthy.
  3. You can exercise anywhere – with a lot of equipment, with a few items, or with nothing but your body and some motivation.
  4. Consistency is key to success, and it’s liberating to accept this truth – rather than to always be chasing instant results or miracle cures, and berating yourself when you fall short some days.
  5. We can enjoy occasional, big meals more when we’re practicing healthy lifestyles consistently. That doesn’t mean we get to eat more food at them – just that we’re allowed moderate indulgences when we are regularly exercising and eating right.
  6. We sleep better when we exercise regularly. And is there anything better than sleeping well?
  7. Exercise lowers stress, high blood pressure, cholesterol, risk of diabetes, and obesity – just for starters.
  8. It keeps us stronger when we come down with illnesses, and it helps us recover from surgeries and other setbacks
  9. Exercise is good for brain health, improving memory and mood, and lowering the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
  10. Staying fit and eating right are the best defenses against heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the United States and many other countries.
  11. Weightlifting has a greater effect than running, walking or cycling on lowering the risk of heart disease, according to the British Telegraph.
  12. Exercise is the miracle drug. It’s good for your bones, muscles, balance, heart, mental health and sleep.
  13. Fit folks are better lovers. At any age.
  14. Your grandkids will want to play with you more when you’re ABLE to play more.
  15. As the world opens up after the pandemic, we’re all going to want to travel more freely than we’ve been able to lately. And travel takes strength, stamina and flexibility. In other words – fitness!

Enjoy the holidays, other big events, and daily life as much as possible. Offer thanks. And give love – to everyone, including yourself.

We’re here to help you do that with safe, fun and effective guidance to help you feel better, look better, and move better!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

A Plate of Food = How Much Exercise?

Top down view of a turkey and side dishes on a table

Do you know how much exercise it takes to burn off your holiday dinner?

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, everybody 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

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Keep Those Shoulders Moving

a woman holds an ice back to her shoulder

Exercise regularly to maintain mobility in your shoulders!

 

What is your body’s most mobile joint?

It’s the shoulders.

Just think about it. You can move your shoulders pretty freely (we hope) in all directions. What other joint can do that? Your shoulders are one of the body’s two ball-and-socket joints — the hips being the other. So, they’re built for a lot of movement.

But as we age, we tend to slump into a rounded posture, which not only looks bad but can lead to muscular dysfunction and health issues.

 

Functionally, limited range of motion makes it harder to reach overhead and grab that dish from the cabinet, and other routine tasks. Plus, if your shoulders get really tight and you’re hunched like a Neanderthal, your upper body caves in and can restrict your breathing.

Every year in the US, some 50,000 shoulder surgeries are performed, with the average age for women 60, and the average age for men 56. But there’s a lot you can do before that becomes necessary. Try icing it if your shoulder hurts, or talk to your doctor about non-steroidal anti-inflammatories.

And, whether you’re new to exercise or an old pro, remember to take time to get your shoulders free and flowing in all directions. Try these exercises to start:

  • Simple arm rotations (with arms out to the sides and making small circles, first to the front and then to the back)
  • Arm swings, criss-crossing them
  • Arm reaches high overhead
  • Downward dog yoga pose

We’re here to show you how to keep your shoulders strong, mobile, and healthy. Come see us today.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Workouts and Diet Make Gains Against Diabetes

a white haired man in a yellow shirt flexes his arm muscles

Lee improved his diet and exercise routine to fight type 2 diabetes!

Lee Bacchi went on and off the exercise wagon for decades – not really training with a purpose, but going to the gym sometimes.

That continued even after he was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes more than 20 years ago.

But finally, this year, his growing belly was getting to be too much. Shirts were tight. Belts “didn’t work.” He weighed 209 pounds, standing 5 feet, 9 inches. It was even interfering with his workouts, specifically the hex bar deadlifts he enjoyed with his trainer.

“I said, ‘I need to work on it,’” recalls Lee, now 70 and a retired Catholic priest.

 

Lee got serious about his training – and, more importantly perhaps, he consulted a nutritionist to gain control over his eating habits.

Now, he’s within sight of his 170-pound weight goal. And his doctor is delighted. Lee’s blood numbers are much improved, and his diabetes medication has been greatly reduced.

Exercise and Diet Are Crucial in Fighting Diabetes

November is American Diabetes Month, a great time to highlight the link between exercise, diet and the disease, including for people over age 50.

The American Diabetes Association says 30 million Americans have diabetes, the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. A person’s weight is a major factor. Exercise and proper eating are important in preventing and managing diabetes.

The ADA says we can take steps to prevent type 2, the most common form. “Stay at a healthy weight, eat well and be active. With these steps, you can stay healthier longer and lower your risk of diabetes.”

The ADA defines type 2 diabetes as “characterized by high blood glucose levels caused by either a lack of insulin or the body’s inability to use insulin efficiently. Type 2 diabetes develops most often in middle-aged and older adults but can appear in young people.”

Among Americans age 65 and older, 25.2 percent or 12 million people have diabetes, the ADA says

If you think you might be at risk, talk to your doctor. If you have been diagnosed, be sure to know about proper eating and exercising and take care of yourself every day.

How exercise helps
Physical activity:

  • Helps lower blood glucose, blood pressure, HDL cholesterol and triglycerides
  • Lowers risk for pre-diabetes, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke
  • Relieves stress
  • Strengthens the heart, muscles and bones
  • Improves blood circulation and tones muscles
  • Improves flexibility and reduces inflammation

And no, you’re not too old to start.

“Even if you’ve never exercised before, you can find ways to add physical activity to your day,” the ADA says. “Even if your activities aren’t strenuous, you’ll still get health benefits.”

For Lee, the double impact of purposeful training (resistance training and working on a treadmill) combined with mindful eating did the trick. He eliminated most starchy carbohydrates and eats mostly protein and vegetables.

“I’m feeling good, and people are telling me I look good. I didn’t think I could do it this well, but I have.”

>Let us show you the healthy path to prevent and treat Type 2 diabetes, as well as other ailments common later in life.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Being Grateful Is Good for Your Health

a woman stands with arms outstretched, eyes closed, smiling

Make it a habit to be grateful – it has lots of health benefits!

Gratitude is important every day, not just on Thanksgiving.

It’s good for our physical, mental, spiritual and social health – and it even has a relationship to exercise.

“Studies suggest that making a habit of noticing what’s going well in your life could have health benefits,” the US National Institutes of Health says.

Age can make us more grateful, when we consider the power of our life experiences and our good fortune, along with our perspective and wisdom. Try to deliberately take a few moments each day to express gratitude — to other people, to your idea of God, and in a daily journal. Writing down reasons to be thankful really does wonders to fight self-pity, depression, and bad moods.

When we focus on our blessings (like generally good health and mobility), we’re less likely to be down in the dumps about our challenges or shortcomings (like what we assume our bodies can’t do anymore).

Studies show gratitude improves your emotional wellbeing and stress management. It has been linked to fewer signs of heart disease. Meditating and practicing kindness have similar benefits, the NIH says.

Psychology Today reports that grateful people have fewer aches and pains and feel healthier than other people. They’re also more likely to take care of themselves, exercise more, and keep regular checkups.

Why else should we be thankful for giving thanks?

It reduces symptoms of depression, our urges to overeat, and high blood pressure, studies show. Plus, it helps us sleep. So try counting your blessings at night, not sheep.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Exercise Boosts Creative Thinking

a light bulb-shaped block of text, with the work Exercise printed in red

Make sure to exercise to get your creativity flowing!

 

Exercise boosts creative thinking of all kinds.

Want proof?

  • Michael, a corporate attorney, solves his complicated work problems while swimming.
  • Todd, who manages PR for a large communications firm, likes to have one-on-one meetings with his direct reports at the company gym.
  • And Lyndsey, a photographer, cleared her head to open her own business while lifting weights and sparring in the gym.

 

There’s also a growing body of scientific studies that make the connection between exercise and creative thinking. Walking is a good starting point, as great thinkers like Aristotle, Nietzsche and Thoreau observed. But strength training and balance work are essential, particularly after 50.

‘Walking Opens Up the Free Flow of Ideas’

For example, in one study experts found participants who walked more saw an 81 percent rise in creative thinking on a key scale to measure divergent and convergent thinking, the two main components of creative thinking. One refers to our ability to think of multiple solutions to a problem, the other to thinking of just one.

“Moreover, when seated after walking, participants exhibited a residual creative boost,” wrote Marily Oppezzo and Daniel Schwartz of Stanford. The benefits come whether you’re walking indoors or outside, they said. “Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity and increasing physical activity.”

Beyond walking, our brains get juiced by bicycling, yoga, weightlifting – whatever exercise we choose. And people who are in good shape get even more benefits, research shows.

“Those who exercise regularly are better at creative thinking… Regular exercisers fared better on creativity tests than did non-exercisers,” wrote cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato.

Exercise increases the size of the hippocampus, which plays a major role in learning, and improves memory.

Healthy Habits Are Good for Everyone

“Creativity” doesn’t apply just to artists or other “creative” types. It refers to thinking freely – “outside the box,” as the saying goes – to find solutions to problems.

When we were younger, maybe it was easier to pull an all-nighter, or dredge up creative bursts by sheer will when forced under a deadline.

But that only works for so long. And as we age, we need more reliable ways to keep our creativity flowing. That means more than just exercise. We need to eat right and get plenty of rest, and replenish our mind and spirit with friends, family, art, community and spiritual pursuits.

Creativity is key to success in any kind of endeavor. And exercise can help you — any kind of it.

Try it out. Next time you’re turning over something in your mind, go for a walk and see if your mind doesn’t start generating some new ideas.

Starting with a walk is fine. But come let us show you the power of more kinds of movement for people over 50. Some people find yoga unleashes their subconscious problem-solving abilities. For others, lifting heavy weight gets the mental juices flowing.

Free your body, and the rest will follow.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Can You Really Avoid Gaining Weight Over the Holidays? Yes!

metal weight labeled "11 lbs" with a red gift bow on it

The average person gains 11 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s!

When fall and winter come around, so do the holidays – a time for happiness, but also a time for stress. Not all methods for coping with holiday stress are healthy!

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve all offer ample opportunities for parties, and for unhealthy sweets and other holiday treats that can slow you down on the path to fitness.

In fact, the average person gains 11 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s!

Don’t let yourself fall completely off track from your fitness goals — these are my favorite tips for staying healthy and still enjoying yourself during the holidays! 

 

  • Log your food to keep track of exactly what you’re eating — as I like to say, “When you log it, you lose it!” Having proof of what you’ve already eaten that day (or that week) right in front of you can help you maintain good food habits.
  • Avoid too many sugary desserts! Holiday recipes for many popular cookies, cakes, pies, and more do not skimp on the sugars and fats. This goes hand in hand with my next tip…
  • Make low-fat and low-calorie versions of your favorite holiday foods! This is especially helpful if you’ve agreed to bring something to your next family dinner — you want it to be something you can feel good about eating. Look up healthier recipes of your favorite holiday dishes and treats that are lower in fats, carbs, and calories, and higher in good nutrients like fiber and protein. You may be surprised what substitutions you can make!
  • Get your steps/exercise in! Keep moving this season to keep your metabolism in check — the good part of being busy with holiday plans is that it offers lots of reasons to get moving. A step tracker or other type of fitness and activity monitor can help you with this. Plus, it’s always a great idea to make time for you by sticking with your favorite fitness classes! It’ll give you a chance to de-stress and get away from the hustle and bustle for a bit. 
  • Pace yourself when drinking — alcohol is higher in calories than you think! For every alcoholic drink you have, have a glass of water immediately after. This will help you feel fuller sooner, and it’s simply a safer habit to get into. You’ll be happier the morning after too, since proper hydration reduces hangovers! Plus, the less intoxicated you are, the easier it will be to…
  • Make wise choices. There are always opportunities to take the healthier option — or make one. At a party with lots of sweet treats? Go for the fruits and veggies first! Going out shopping? Park farther away from the stores! Waiting for food to finish cooking? Pass the time with some squats, stretches, or stair-climbing!

Don’t feel defeated when the time for making New Year’s resolutions comes around. Stick to these tips and you’ll be in a better, happier place for the New Year!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

5 Fast Facts about Lowering High Blood Pressure

close up of an arm wearing a blood pressure cuff

High blood pressure is the #1 cause of heart attacks in the U.S.!

 

Everyone knows high blood pressure is a killer. It’s the No. 1 cause of heart attacks in the United States, and the most important risk factor for strokes.

And we know it’s a bigger problem later in life, afflicting up to 65 percent of people 60 and over.

But do you know the best ways to help keep your blood pressure right where you and your doctor want it?

Here are the top five.

 

  1. Exercise regularly. Studies prove that strength training and aerobics workouts lower both numbers of your blood pressure – the systolic and diastolic. This is one more reason you need to be lifting weights, using resistance bands, or practicing yoga. Strength training equals life. It does not equal bodybuilding! And, of course, exercise is a great way to…
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. More than a quarter of people with high blood pressure are obese. Being overweight makes your heart work harder to pump blood through your body.
  3. Manage stress. Take time every day to purposefully calm down, sit still, and focus on your breathing. Get enough sleep. Enjoy the outdoors, the arts, and hobbies.
  4. Drink alcohol moderately if at all, and don’t smoke. The first part means no more than two drinks a day for me, and one for women. The second part means, Come on – are you kidding?
  5. Watch salt? Yes. But also sugar. Limit how much of both you put on foods. But remember that both salt and sugar are added heavily into our processed foods, so start reading labels and making your grocery choices accordingly.

Talk to your doctor about hypertension (another word for high blood pressure). We’re here to show you how exercise helps.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

How His Fear Got Him Moving

Two smiling men stand next to each other in a gym

For Rocky, fear of diabetes treatment got him to go to the gym!

Fear can be a powerful motivator.

Forget about the entertaining scares from ghosts, aliens and the supernatural.

Think about how fear – blind TERROR – can cause us to take action. It’s the classic  “fight or flight” response that’s hard-wired into human behavior, right?

For Rocky Eilerston, on the left in the photo, it was simple, powerful and effective fear that drove him to get healthy.

“No needles,” Rocky recalls, a shudder in his voice.

 

Rocky had gained too much weight when his doctor told him he was heading for daily use of needles for diabetes. Rocky was 270 pounds at 5’10”. He was so unnerved that he walked across the street – literally – and into a gym, where he hired a trainer to help him.

“It’s the first time I ever set foot in a gym,” says Rocky, who grinds stumps to pulp for a living at age 63. “In my entire life.”

Rocky started working out and dropped down to 200 pounds, with his waist size going from 40 to 34 inches. His doctor took Rocky off his diabetes medicine, and lowered his blood-pressure dosage, too.

Exercise to Manage Health Conditions

Getting fit after 50 is a great way to reduce the amount of prescription medication we need. It also helps prevent the development of complicating conditions like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Exercise helps with arthritis pain, and a proper diet can lower inflammation. Both help you sleep better and manage your physical and mental health.

Studies suggest that taking too many daily prescriptions can lead to health complications, and some combinations can produce unwanted effects like falls, dehydration, and cloudy thinking. Plus, some of us just don’t like the idea of taking one more pill every day.

If you think you’re on too many prescriptions, you might want to talk to your doctor about making lifestyle choices that could reduce your need for so many. And if you see more than one doctor regularly, make sure they all know about all your medications.

You and your physician might be able to come up with a plan that involves regular exercise, good eating habits, and follow-up visits to see how you’re adjusting.

We all age differently, and many of us need medicine as we age. But, as Rocky proves, we can often do something about it.

Eating Right Is Key to Weight Loss

For Rocky, eating right was just as important as his workouts with his trainer.

He cut out sodas and as much sugar as he could – motivated at every step by that fear of regularly injecting himself with insulin.

Rocky trains three days a week for an hour each time. It is stretching for flexibility and hip mobility, then lifting weights and cardio.

“He knows a lot of stuff,” Rocky says about his trainer, so the cost is fine.

Now Rocky knows a lot, too – and he’s putting it to work every day for his health.

And he’s teaching us that sometimes, fear can be good for us.

What motivates you? Let’s talk about how to get you happy and healthy with regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle. Come see us today.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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