Rotation Keeps Us Moving for Real Life

At the gym, we often perform exercises in straight lines, like lifting a bar straight up, right? Our feet are generally even and parallel.

All that’s great, but it’s not enough, since we don’t move like that in real life – just straight forward/back and up/down. Usually, we’re on one foot and moving to the other, or we’re in a split stance – and rotating through the hips, shoulders, and thoracic spine.

It’s the rotation that is too often neglected in workouts. And after age 50 or so, we need to really give attention to our rotation and other mobility issues. Most people exercise to enjoy their favorite activities – like golf or tennis – and the challenges of daily life – such as putting away the groceries.

That means rotation, rotation, rotation.

We’re not kangaroos, after all! Or mummies walking stiffly straight ahead.

Even as you walk, your hips (ball and socket joints) and your shoulders (the body’s most mobile joint) should be rotating, swaying back and forth. If they’re not, your gait might mirror that of a mummy.

That’s not a good look. It’s not efficient. And it causes more physical problems down the movement line.

Every joint in your body requires both mobility and stability. If they’re too tight to do that, other parts of the body chip in, causing stress or injury.

Talk to us about this. We’ll show you some essential rotational exercises like a lunge with a chopping motion, or a kneeling woodchopper. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? It is – and it’s super-important to keep smooth, natural rotation through your core and shoulders.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Here’s A Special Way to Celebrate Another Birthday

What sounds like a perfect way to celebrate your 75th birthday?

For Jerry Mathis, it wasn’t about cake or resting by the pool.

Jerry ran his first Spartan race, instead. It was a 5k course with 20 obstacles like climbing over walls, shimmying up ropes, and trekking through swampy land.

Sound like fun to you?

“I loved it!” says Jerry, a retired telephony and IT coordinator. “Every time you get through something, there’s another challenge you have to go through. At 75, I don’t have that many obstacles, so I enjoyed it.

“I have friends who brag when they make it from the bed to the couch. I think, ‘No, that’s not living.’”

A fit life with a family-related goal

Jerry started working out in his late 20s when he was a teacher and students bought him a gym membership and sessions with a trainer. They felt he was too skinny at 5’6” and 130 pounds. He didn’t argue, and he hasn’t looked back.

For the last few years, he and his trainer picked a goal around his birthday. He settled on the Spartan race after overhearing a group of police officers who work out at his gym. They had completed one, and Jerry thought it sounded like fun.

His trainer got him ready by working on his core, legs, balance, strength, and agility — all necessary for the demanding course.

They initially picked a race for last fall, but it was canceled because of the pandemic. Still, Jerry kept up his workouts, even when it meant training virtually. He briefly had Covid-19 in the fall but made a full recovery.

“I’m a little stubborn and very competitive,” he says.

He’s also motivated by the memory of a relative who died some 40 years ago.

“She lived to be 107 years old. My goal is to outlive her by one day,” he says. “It’s silly, but it keeps me going: Can I make it to where Aunt Emily was?”

Just keep moving, he says

Jerry’s advice to other people in his age group is simple: Move.

“Every day, move. Do something — work out, walk, run, ride a bike. Whatever it is — get up and move throughout the day.”

More than 8 million people have participated in Spartan races since the company was formed in 2010 to encourage holistic health. It now puts on 250 events annually in more than 40 countries.

“Some people are at the beginning of their fitness journey and some are elite athletes,” Spartan says.

Jerry finished 43rd of 255 competitors over 60. He didn’t like being lumped in with all those youngsters, but says he was competing against himself, anyway. He’s planning another in October.

“It was fun,” he says. “And I know I can do better.”

We can’t wait to see how he celebrates turning 76!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Mush Your Way to Fitness, Without Going to Extremes

In Alaska, land of extremes, the annual Iditarod Sled Dog Race got started March 7 and was scheduled to wrap up a week or more later.

The people who drive the sled dogs are called mushers. They’re men and women, starting in their 20s and going well into their 70s, engaged in the brutal “Last Great Race,” as the 1,000-mile trek is known. They usually start near Anchorage and go all the way to Nome, but this year, they’ll go about halfway and turn around, a coronavirus concession that doesn’t make the competition any less grueling.

What does that have to do with fitness over 50? Especially since most of you will never want to do anything quite this extreme?

Plenty.

Look at four-time champion Martin Buser, who is 62 years old. He’s one of the sport’s most famous names and always a threat to win again. There’s also 51-year-old Aliy Zirkle representing the women.

She says she trains 90 minutes a day to maintain her strength, functionality, and endurance. Some mushers train by running marathons or participate in other sports during the off-season. And the Iditarod organization shares training and programs to help all the mushers stay in shape — upper- and lower-body strength, the core, cardiovascular endurance, and flexibility.

So, if working out with weights can get these folks ready for the Iditarod, just imagine how it can help you live the way you want to.

We’re here to help. No mushing required!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Why We Need to Hold onto Our Muscle Mass: ‘Use It or Lose It’

A year ago, Pam was vibrant, an active member of a fitness studio, and celebrating her 83rd birthday.

But after the Covid-19 pandemic kept her mostly housebound, she grew frail and hunched over, concerning her children and sending her back to the fitness studio she had loved so much.

“It was shocking to me to see that dramatic change in 10 months,” says Dr. Evan Osar, an integrative movement specialist and chiropractor who works with fitness and medical professionals on mobility, chronic pain, and other issues.

Pam had lost so much of her muscle mass that it was contributing to a range of problems that can be common later in life. And, unfortunately, after a year of the pandemic, this has become all too common around the world.

The problem is called sarcopenia – “a fancy term that means our muscles atrophy,” Dr. Osar explains. “It’s like the old adage, if you don’t use it, you lose it – and that’s so true.”

It starts in our 30s

In the first three decades or so of life,  our muscles get bigger and stronger. But then, just as human beings, we start losing muscle mass and function – 5 percent or more of it each decade.

“By your 60s, you could’ve lost 9 to 25 percent of your muscle mass,” Dr. Osar says.

Why should the average person care about losing muscle? Isn’t that just for bodybuilders and athletes?

Absolutely not. Losing muscle contributes to falls and fractures, and it reduces our strength and mobility for tasks of everyday life. Less muscle can mean more body aches and pains, poorer posture, and more trouble.

As WebMD puts it: “Symptoms can include weakness and loss of stamina, which can interfere with physical activity. Reduced activity further shrinks muscle mass.”

Even active, healthy people lose muscle mass – but it’s made worse when we stop moving, as so many people have done for the last year.

“And now we’re seeing people who haven’t left their homes for the last year, so think about how their health is deteriorating just in these last months,” Dr. Osar says. “A year after Covid-19 started, think about the obesity, the diabetes, the cardiovascular… let alone the sarcopenia.”

Exercise offers strength, relief, and balance

In short, without enough muscle, we won’t be able to enjoy life as we’d like to – from sitting and standing, to playing with grandkids, to riding a bike.

Resistance training is an essential part of the solution.

“Exercise, in particular resistance training, reduces injury and death across the board,” Dr. Osar says.

He’s not alone, of course. Countless studies show this to be a simple fact. If you exercise regularly with resistance, you will have more muscle mass to feel, move and look better.

It’s that simple.

And after the last year we’ve all had, it’s never been more important. Don’t shrink from life and enjoying it as much as possible. Get moving! We are here to help, no matter how active you were before or during the pandemic.

It’s AFTER that counts now.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Healthy Snacks for When You Need a Nibble

Everybody likes a bite between meals sometimes. And there’s nothing wrong with it, as long as you make healthy choices and don’t overindulge.

Highly processed foods tend to be high in fat, salt, and empty carbohydrates, so avoid those. Get some fruits and veggies in there, protein, and a little healthy fat.

Here are 10 that are just as easy as a candy bar.

  1. A hard-boiled egg packs protein but is low in fat and carbohydrates. They’re easy to make in advance for a convenient bite.
  2. Toast with avocado or peanut butter gives you whole grains, protein, good fat, and not too much of anything bad for you. Just make sure you’re using good bread.
  3. Veggies, pita bread, and hummus – a light and flavorful favorite.
  4. Mix up a protein shake and toss in some berries.
  5. Cheese and (clean) crackers. Again, make sure you get crackers that aren’t jacked up with salt, sugar, and other ingredients.
  6. Fruit, fruit, fruit.
  7. Plain Greek yogurt. You can mix in berries or nuts.
  8. Nuts and seeds are full of nutrients protein, fiber and good fat, and can reduce the risk of heart disease and other problems.
  9. Slices of cucumbers, red peppers, and other vegetables.
  10. Handy cheese snacks are available at your grocery store. Or buy blocks and slice of a piece.

See? You don’t need that candy bar at all.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

10 Movement Snacks and Other Small Steps to Wellbeing

Snacking is bad for you, right?

Well, not necessarily.

When we use the idea of “snacking” for exercise, or just movement, and other aspects of wellbeing, it can take us far on our daily goals to live better.

We still need our full, well-balanced “meals” of gym workouts, running, etc. But these little “sneak ‘em in” tactics can help us move more, improve our mobility, manage stress, and feel better.

But too often, we think of movement and healthy living decisions as strictly “all or nothing” options.

  • “I will work out 5 times a week and get in the greatest shape of my life” – or do nothing.
  • “I will eat only organic vegetables from local farms” or whatever is handy and tasty.
  • “I will manage my stress better than anybody ever, boy” – which really misses the point entirely.

Say no to the false choice and enjoy doing whatever you can for yourself, whenever you can.

Here are 10 ideas to get you thinking in the right direction.

  1. Start the day with stretches. If a body in motion stays in motion, then why not roll out of bed and do a short, comfortable series of stretches to get the blood flowing and limber you up right away? Go crazy and toss in a few pushups.
  2. Take a short walk. Yes, longer walks are better – but when you can’t plan your day around going around the block a couple of times, remember that you don’t have to. Just get up and out and moving.
  3. Breathe deeply. You can do this anytime, no matter what you’re doing. Just pause and take a deep breath and slowly exhale three times, paying attention to nothing but the air going in and out of your body. If this leads to a longer, quiet period, that’s even better. (You don’t even have to call it meditation.)
  4. Simple leg exercises. Can you do 10 squats during a TV commercial? Raise your heels a few times?
  5. Park far from the store. The extra steps matter, and they add up quickly.
  6. Take the stairs. Even better!
  7. Put the phone down. Pick up a book. Or your journal. For 10 minutes. You’ll be amazed.
  8. Slowly sip a glass of water. You’re replenishing your body, lubricating your brain, and paying attention to what you’re doing.
  9. Have some almonds. Or pecans or walnuts. This is smart snacking, literally, and much better than opening a bag of chips.
  10. Dance, dance, dance. During housework. While folding laundry. During a commercial break (yes, you’re sensing a theme here).

Are you thinking of more ideas? Are you realizing how much more you’ve been sitting during the pandemic? We’re here to help, so let’s talk. The point is to move your body, eat mindfully, manage your emotions, and sleep as much and as well as you should. Those are many of the components of wellbeing, after all.

We all need AT LEAST 250 minutes each week of moderate exercise, according to the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And every little bit helps. So, snack away.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

‘Fitness Junkie’ Makes International Headlines at 81

We love smashing stereotypes, especially those that are harmful and keep people from enjoying themselves as much as possible.

Like all the countless myths about why you shouldn’t exercise, especially if you’re over a certain age.

So, we’ve been delighted to see an 81-year-old German grandmother become an international sensation with her exercise enthusiasm.

Erika Rischko calls herself a “fitness junkie,” but she only got started in her 50s, after her kids grew up and left the house. Now, she’s been featured on the USA TV show “Good Morning America” and is racking up thousands of followers and millions of “likes” on TikTok, a new social media platform that definitely skews a lot younger. She’s also big on Instagram.

She started working out because she was lonely as an empty nester. She didn’t even start to like it much for a few years, but she kept at it. Now she’s hooked, working out twice a day sometimes and always looking to try something new.

But even Erika stresses that you don’t have to go to her extremes.

“There is no need to,” she says. “And start slowly. Just eat healthily, but do not chastise yourself. Find a sports activity that you enjoy because if you do not enjoy it you will not last,” she told GMA. “And if you are not as disciplined as I am, find a workout partner as it is not that easy to cancel on somebody.”

Good advice, Erika!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Spring into Fitness Starting Now

It might not seem possible right now, but springtime is just around the corner. And whether you’ve been staying active all winter (and pandemic) or not, it’s not too soon to start thinking about amping up your exercise routine and paying more attention to your diet.

This crazy winter will end soon – we promise. So will Covid-19 restrictions on our daily lives – right?

So, rather than get caught unprepared, let’s consider a few tips to spring forward (like daylight saving time) for a blooming season of healthy living.

  1. Lift weights. If you’re not already practicing resistance training of some kind, you should be all year round. Strength training is good for your bones, your balance, and preventing age-related loss of muscle, which leads to all sorts of problems. For generations, we were taught that getting frail and creaky was inevitable. Not true!
  2. Hit the trails. Depending on how the weather where you live, you might be feeling cooped up indoors. So be sure to enjoy your town’s walkability features on trails or parks by walking, jogging, or biking.
  3. Stay fresh. Farmers markets should be popping up soon. They’re a great way to eat fresh and eat local, and to be sure you’re getting all the necessary nutrients along the way.
  4. Are you ready for gardening? If you love working in the yard, then you need to be strong and have the endurance and flexibility to do it. You don’t want to bounce up off the couch after six months and just start. See us first; we’ll help get you ready.
  5. Keep your regular appointments. Have you checked in with your doctor lately for Rx refills – and a discussion about seasonal allergies that might be coming back? Or stress related to Covid-19 and weather? Or a few pounds you might’ve gained? Resist the urge to shrug off the dentist, the eye doctor, and others who help keep you moving.
  6. Spring cleaning. How many of us have overflowing junk drawers and frightening hall closets at this point? Start the season right by scrubbing the decks and getting your household organized – at least for the next few months.
  7. Set a date. Schedule a date this spring to run a 5K, host a socially distanced picnic with friends you haven’t seen lately, or drive to a scenic spot for a hike. Before long, we’ll be able to sub those events with a trip to the beach or, at least, a day by the pool. This will be good practice!

Look, we know it’s hard to eat right and exercise sometimes in normal circumstances, let alone during times like these.

But that’s no excuse. In fact, it might be an even more powerful motivation.

As Bette Midler sings, “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows… Lies a seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.”

We’re here for you. Let’s talk.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Sometimes It’s Best to Slow Things Down

In today’s society, we want everything fast.

Food.

Weight loss.

Tax returns!

So, it might be natural that we also think “fast” must mean “best” when it comes to exercise. And sometimes, for some people, it might be. But should you be cranking up the reps and speed as much as possible?

Not so fast!

Some workouts emphasize speed and volume, like High-Intensity Interval Training and As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP). So do gimmicky “seven-minute workouts.” But for many people — especially beginners and those over 50 — slowing the tempo might be a better and safer option.

When you slow it down, you’re able to really feel the movement, and there’s less chance of injury. Also, most of us later in life have developed some improper movement patterns — it’s just natural. When we’re not rushing through exercise, we have more time to make corrections that can make the exercise more effective.

Moving more slowly also leads to more “time under tension” or TUT, which is effective in building muscle and engaging stabilizers. And, if you don’t have access to heavier weights, extending TUT can increase the challenge.

Lastly, going slower builds more strength in the ligaments and tendons and can improve balance, which is so important later in life.

Talk to us about the pace of exercise that’s best for you.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

How Fitness Helps You Do What You Want

What’s on your “bucket list” of things you want to do at least once in life?

  • Do you want to see your grandkids get married?
  • Do you want to wear a dress you wore years ago but have outgrown?
  • Maybe you want to climb a local hill – or Mount Kilimanjaro.

We all have a list with items like these on it. The “bucket list” idea is a fun way to make plans or just daydream. It’s so common that Hollywood even made a movie with the title starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.

And it doesn’t matter what you’re planning to tackle on your bucket list: Being fit will help you do it.

Let’s look at common reasons people over 50 decide to get fit or stay fit. What does each one inspire you to do? How can strength, endurance, and agility make those aspirations come true?

7 Reasons Why

  1. Grandkids. Nobody wants to be the “boring nana,” right? Millions of today’s grandparents play active roles in their grandkids’ lives. Bucket List Item: That can be as simple as getting on the floor to play – and then being able to get back up again.
  2. Feel, Look and Move Better. Most of us want the benefits of exercise more than we want long hours in the gym. It’s no different for people over 50. Exercise improves your mood, your appearance, and your mobility. Bucket List Item: I want to look great at my 50th high school reunion.
  3. Hobbies. Gardening and hiking are just two of the physically demanding hobbies that people enjoy and want to continue, regardless of age. Bucket List Item: Take a ballroom dance course to dazzle your partner.
  4. Sports. Some people go to the gym because they like to work out. But for many, it helps them keep doing something else they love. Bucket List Item: Play 18 holes at every course in the country.
  5. Travel. The pandemic really will be over one day. And when it is, you want to resume checking off the places you’ve always wanted to visit. Bucket List Item: Take walking tours of the great European capitals and museums.
  6. Mental Health. You might know that exercise is good for your body. But did you realize it’s also great for your mind, helping to build memory and ward off dementia? Bucket List Item: I want to win Trivial Pursuit with my younger family members.
  7. Physical Health. Did you hear about the real “wonder drug” to help keep your body healthy? It’s called exercise! Fitness even helps us recover from common surgeries and illnesses. Bucket List Item: I want my doctor to take me off certain medications.

It really doesn’t matter what you want to do – or whether some people think you’re boring or too adventurous. It’s our job to help you get or stay fit over 50 so you can live life on your own terms for as long as you want.

Show us your bucket list and let’s get to work on it.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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