Plan to Keep Working? Then Plan to Stay Fit

Yellow book cover for "In Control at 50" by Kerry HannonAfter 50, questions about retirement plans are as common as “What’s your major” back in college.

It used to be 65 was the standard target for most people. But retirement plans have shifted generationally, along with everything else.

And while we often talk about happy retirement being a prime motivator to stay fit after 50, let’s not overlook the millions of people who aren’t planning to give up work at the traditional point in life.

Did you know that two-thirds of workers over 50 and almost 80 percent of the self-employed don’t plan to retire at 65? That’s according to a study in December 2020, but only 1 in 5 said the pandemic had delayed their exit from the daily workforce.

But the same survey found just 62 percent of us are focused on staying healthy so we can keep working.

And trust us, if you’re going to keep working, or if you’re looking for a job, then you need to stay in shape – with the strength, endurance, agility, and social competence that’s required.

A new book aims to help us navigate today’s job market, “In Control at 50-Plus: How to Succeed in the New World of Work” by Kerry Hannon.

Hannon lays out why we’re working later in life nowadays, the challenges older workers face, and strategies for re-entering the workforce or finding a new job.

It can be daunting.

We say you need to take care of yourself regardless and to keep your fighting spirit alive.

And we’ve got your back. Let’s get the “eye of the tiger” back for you.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Thousands of Older Athletes Race Back for the National Senior Games

Senior runners lined up on a track for the National Senior GamesOne of our favorite events for active agers is back for the first time since 2019. We love the National Senior Games because of the boundless inspiration they offer everyone, regardless of age or fitness level.

Thousands of people will gather in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to compete in track and field events, plus softball, tennis, pickleball, swimming, and more.

Some are well into their 70s, 80s, and 90s. The oldest at the last event in 2019 was 103!

Some athletes have been active their entire lives and see no reason to let age slow them down. Others are relatively new to fitness and exercise. And many overcame injury or illness to be strong enough to compete.

With family and friends in tow, they support each other, make friendships, and build community – proving yet again the valuable social aspects of physical activity.

Here are just a few athletes from across the country. We hope their stories inspire you to get fit, stay fit and enjoy living your life to the fullest at every age.

Pat Kelly, 62, running in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter races

Racing brings simple joy, she says. “I feel like a 10-year-old again, you know, not thinking about anything else in the world, just running a race,” Pat says. “I love that feeling. That escapism.”

She loves the training, too. “It’s a feeling that is deep down. It brings me great joy to be able to do it. And I have a great appreciation that I’m able to do it.”

Dick Johnson, 81, Pickleball

After 10 or 20 years of inactivity, Dick had grown overweight and developed diabetes. Then he found the popular game with the weird name.

“Pickleball saved my life,” Dick says. “Physically, it’s getting harder and I can’t play every day like I used to. But everybody’s got their stuff. That’s what happens at our age. The way I look at it the pain is worth it because if I wasn’t playing I wouldn’t be as healthy and I wouldn’t be living as long.” 

Flo Meiler, 87, Track and Field

“I am surprising myself,” Flo says. “I still can’t believe I’m doing the pole vault when I’ll be 88 in June.”

But she never forgets why: “It’s all so much fun. I’m looking forward to it.”

Flo trains six days a week, including twice a week on weight machines, and she plays tennis with friends.

What do you think?

Even if you don’t want to be this ambitious, don’t these stories make you want to stay strong and independent for as long as possible? Doesn’t it seem like the fun way to get older?

We agree! We can help you find your own fun, healthy way to stay strong and independent, too.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

New Evidence Shows how Exercise fits Depression

Older woman on a yoga mat, leaning against a yoga ball, smilingIf you still think physical exercise is only good for the body, then check out this latest research that adds to the evidence about mental health.

The Journal of American Medical Association’s Psychiatry journal just published an analysis of 15 studies involving 190,000 people to learn more about how exercise lowers depression.

Here are some key findings:

  • Just 1.25 hours of brisk walking weekly lowers the risk of depression by 18%.
  • Doubling that amount of time lowers it by 25%. This is the amount of time recommended by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control as the minimum amount of exercise needed, along with two sessions of resistance training.
  • Benefits were strongest among people who previously didn’t exercise at all.

Four years ago, another study found that people who exercised had 43% fewer days of mental health issues.

It suggested that exercising for 45 minutes three to five times a week was great for boosting mental health.

Even simple movements like doing chores and jogging lowered the risk of depression by an average of 10 percent among adolescents, yet another study found in 2020.

The evidence is clear. Regular exercise is good for you – body, soul, and MIND.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Where were you in ’82?

Three women in colorfully saturated 80s workout clothesIt’s been two generations since fitness became part of the broader culture, but still, most of us don’t exercise regularly.

We see it everywhere – from gyms and studios to home workout equipment, from wearables like Apple watches to “athleisure” clothing like Lululemon.

Fitness today is a $100 billion industry worldwide, which means countless ordinary people exercise for the sake of exercising. They know it’s good for them. They know it will help them lead better, longer lives. They know it’s fun.

But it wasn’t always like that. Until about 40 years ago, fitness facilities weren’t common. Celebrities weren’t super-fit. People smoked cigarettes – a lot. The idea of “fitness over 50” hadn’t been coined

But there’s still a generational difference in this awareness, particularly among older Baby Boomers who came of age before fitness was so common.

Is that you?

Looking Back

Chances are your parents and grandparents never set foot in a fitness facility after high school PE class.

But starting in the late 1970s, Jazzercise and the running craze began taking off. And 40 years ago, in April 1982, movie star Jane Fonda introduced her “Workout” VHS tape, galvanizing all these elements to help create the modern studio, home workouts, and the home-video industry.

Fonda sold millions of copies of “Workout” videotapes and books, inspiring people everywhere to don legwarmers and “feel the burn” doing aerobics.

Before this period, most ordinary people didn’t exercise just for the sake of it. Heck, they probably hadn’t even thought of it.

That’s why so many older still people don’t “just know” a basic truth that we promote every day about fitness over 50:

We all need to exercise – especially later in life – to keep the strength, flexibility, and endurance needed to lead our best lives.

OK, Boomer?

Remember these other touchstones from the time period?

  • “Flashdance,” “Staying Alive” and all the “Rocky” chapters promoted super-sleek stars as sex objects. Lots of hard work, lots of sweat…The idea was: You could look like them! Hollywood even made a film about health clubs called – yep – “Perfect.”
  • Fashions like headbands were everywhere, along with those legwarmers, sweatshirts torn at the shoulder, and lycra workout shorts (in neon colors, of course).
  • We all had the hot new gadget, the Walkman personal cassette player, and wore it at the gym or while jogging.
  • Remember Nautilus? 24-Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, and Jack LaLanne’s European Health Spas proliferated. Jazzercise and racquetball were everywhere.
  • And throughout the decade, countless videos followed, from Richard Simmons to Debbie Reynolds.

Where We Are Now

We’ve all come a long way since then. Fitness has improved and extended millions of lives.

More people over 50 are returning to exercise or discovering it for the first time. They want to feel better, move better, and look better – which defines “fitness over 50” for plenty. They know that exercise simply must be a part of a healthy lifestyle.

They’re coming to see us every day and loving it.

So, what are you waiting for? Another 40 years? Keep going!

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Volunteering Is Good for Your Body and Soul

Elderly man and woman pointing to their shirts that say "Volunteer".When Pat Santilli moved to a new town in her 60s, she quickly visited the local animal shelter to volunteer. Pat always has been an animal lover, and she thought volunteering would be a good way to meet people and learn about the community.

And she was right. She made new friends and found a purpose in serving the animals, many of them desperately neglected or abused. “There’s something I can do to help. It gives you such a feeling of love, which obviously makes you feel good — to do something for this little creature that is beyond words.”

Experts say older people who volunteer typically give more time than any other age group. More than 18 million older adults contribute 3 billion hours of community service each year. They help in a wide range of services – helping other seniors and at-risk youth, providing education and job training, and pitching in after natural disasters.

“A growing body of research shows an association between volunteering and mental and physical health benefits,” the organization says.  “In particular, older volunteers report lower mortality rates, lower rates of depression, fewer physical limitations, and higher levels of well-being.”

Studies show volunteers walk more, perform everyday tasks better, and are less likely to develop high blood pressure, among other benefits.

You can learn about volunteer opportunities at community centers, organizations like the Lions Club, community theaters, museums, places of worship, and more.

For Pat, volunteering is part of her healthy lifestyle that includes eating right and exercising five times a week with weights and yoga. And the payoff continues: Just this year she found her own new furry friend at the shelter. She and Blondie couldn’t be happier together.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Adjusting Workouts Makes Them Personal – and Better

An older man at the gym using a machine, and a younger man next to him gesturing to his own chest.Tony, a lifelong tennis player, is in his mid-50s now. When he started noticing his game wasn’t as sharp as it used to be, he thought gym workouts might help restore his power and relieve some pain.

But the trainer he used ignored Tony’s personal needs and past injuries, even when Tony said he didn’t like certain exercises.

“He just kept saying ‘Do it more’ and ‘Try harder,’” Tony says. “I quit going. I just didn’t see the point.”

Too bad Tony lives far away. If he worked out with us, we would help him modify workouts to fit his specific requirements and limitations.

We’re able to do that because we know that everyone is different. Particularly later in life, we’re more likely to have experienced injuries, surgeries, or some other event that can limit our ability.

There’s nothing wrong with that. And it’s definitely not an excuse to stop working out.

It simply means you have to be more mindful of what you’re doing – and, if you use a trainer, be sure that person has the ability to suggest modifications that will keep you safe and still give you a good workout.

What’s A Modification?

A modification is just a simple change to an exercise or a substitute to accommodate an injury, inability, or weakness.

There is nothing wrong with needing a modification. Everyone does at some point, even top athletes who have been injured. They don’t stop exercising. They just do some things differently.

“I work out. I lift heavy. I play hockey,” says trainer Jim Adams, host of the Masters in Fitness Business podcast. “I’m 51. I can still train hard, but you can’t train like you’re 25. You can’t get in with some 25-year-old trainer who says, ‘Hey I squat, it’s good for me – let’s get you on the squat machine!’”

A basic example of a modification is the push-up. For a full-body pushup, you’re on your toes and hands for the full range of motion. But some people need to drop to their knees. Others might start out doing push-ups on a wall and work their way up.

This could be caused by a lack of upper-body strength or confidence. But it could also be because of injury. For instance, if you’ve had surgery to remove a bone spur on your toe, you’re not going to want to put pressure directly on it.

Now, as another example, extend that idea to someone who has had knee or hip replacement. It might not be time yet for full-on squats.

Or someone like Tony, who has lower back pain and tight hips.

Make the Workout Fit You, Not the Other Way Around

We’re here to assess your condition and individual needs – and to get you going on the workout that’s best for you.

If someone tries to push you into a cookie-cutter routine – especially if it’s uncomfortable or painful – stop immediately and look for someone else.

Tony did, and he found a trainer who helped him hit the tennis ball harder – and a Pilates class to strengthen his core.

“You know, it’s OK to get older. I know I can’t do everything I used to be able to do,” he says. “I want to work out with a trainer who understands that at least as well as I do.”

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Strengthen Your Balance

Elderly person at a gym lifting on one foot.How much time do you spend on one foot?

About 80 percent of the time when you’re walking!

It’s a good fact to keep in mind when thinking about balance training and how important it is to help prevent falls later in life.

About 36 million older adults fall every year, resulting in more than 32,000 deaths, the CDC says. Those falls lead to 3 million ER visits. One in five causes an injury, like a broken bone.

We have lots of exercises to improve your balance. Strength training is key because we need strong muscles to stay upright. Tai Chi and yoga are also good to give us agility and strength.

Talk to us about how to start.

Generally, folks also need to perform exercises on one leg or in a split stance, which resembles foot placement in a step. That means performing some exercises, like deadlifts, with one foot about 18 inches behind and feet about 18 inches apart.

People can take the same approach with squats and while holding TRX straps, or gripping the counter at home.

A basic single-leg reach gives great benefit, too. Just stand on one foot, lean forward and reach down to an object about 2 feet high. Touch it with your fingertips and stand back up.

This is just meant to get you thinking and get you started. Please talk to us about any questions you have. Remember you can practice balance with us or at home.

And don’t think you’re too young. Start now, if you haven’t already.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

It’s Time to Take Back Control of Your Wellbeing

Four elderly or middle aged people sitting on a road curb talking to each other in exercise clothesAfter the disruptions of the last couple of years, it’s more important than ever to take responsibility for your health and wellbeing in all its aspects.

That includes exercise, of course. But we need to remember the other elements of wellbeing (or wellness), too.

Most experts list six to eight categories of well-being or wellness. Here’s the breakdown provided by the International Council on Active Aging:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Intellectual/Cognitive
  • Professional/Vocational
  • Social
  • Spiritual
  • Environmental

The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) writes “People often think about wellness in terms of physical health — nutrition, exercise, weight management, etc., but it is so much more. Wellness is a holistic integration of physical, mental, and spiritual well-being, fueling the body, engaging the mind, and nurturing the spirit.”

The University of California defines it as: “an active process of becoming aware of and making choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. Wellness is more than being free from illness, it is a dynamic process of change and growth.”

10 Tips to Get Your Groove Back

Here are some ways to jumpstart our activity across all the aspects of wellbeing.

  1. Get outside. For any reason…for NO reason. Go for a walk, jog, or bike ride. Play with the dogs or grandkids. Enjoy sports or hobbies.
  2. Get to the gym. We are here, healthy and oh-so-happy to help you get moving again. Or, if you’ve already been joining us, then congratulations! You’ve got a leg up on so many people still attached to the couch.
  3. When at home, be sure to move more and sit less. Put on some fun music and dance during chores. Walk around during TV commercials.
  4. Call local charitable organizations, community centers, and your religious leader to see how you can help.
  5. Meet friends for coffee, lunch, or golf. Make new friends here in our fitness classes.
  6. Limit news and social media. Stay informed, but once or twice a day should do it. More than that can lead to being overwhelmed.
  7. Meditate or pray each day. Practice an attitude of gratitude.
  8. Plan a short road trip and maybe even research a longer trip if you’re ready to fly again.
  9. Read books. Inside, outside…daytime, nighttime. Doesn’t matter. Just read!
  10. Eat fresh fruits and vegetables every day.

“Habits very much influence health, well-being, and quality of life. If you change your habits for the better, you change your life for the better,” the NIH says.

Making good changes and reinforcing positive habits are helped by scheduling, accountability, convenience, and more.

In other words, being part of a gym or fitness community is an invaluable way to build the solid wellness you want and deserve.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

The Health Benefits of Loving a Dog

Middle aged woman running on beach with a dog (yellow lab)Want to do something that’s good for your health, will get you moving outside, and even guarantee a boundless source of love in your life?

Then you should consider getting a pet, specifically a dog, according to research that shows the health benefits canine companions have on older adults.

“Those who own a pet, particularly a dog, were healthier from a cardiovascular standpoint,” said Dr. Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist.

The study looked at 1,800 people with no history of heart disease and scored them based on Life’s Simple 7 from the American Heart Association: body mass index, diet, physical activity, smoking status, blood pressure, blood glucose, and total cholesterol.

The study found that people with pets had better cardiovascular health – and people with dogs had the best of all. Pet owners got more physical activity and had better diets and blood sugar – again with dogs bringing the greatest benefit.

The heart association has said that owning a dog increases physical activity and engagement while lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases. These are all important challenges for millions of people over 50.

And AARP gathered previous reports showing dog owners have a lower risk of high blood pressure and are more likely to survive a heart attack. Having a dog lowers stress and depression and even eases pain since just looking at a furry friend produces endorphins, our natural painkillers.

So, if you don’t have a pet – particularly a pooch – consider adopting one. You can find a shelter near you here.

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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

Exercise Helps Fight Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

Silver color ribbon on hand support (isolated with clipping path) for Parkinson's disease awareness and Brain cancer tumor illnessSheri knew something was wrong.

She’d always been active, particularly enjoying daily walks. But lately, her balance and posture were off. Her knees jerked. Her hands trembled.

So when her doctor diagnosed her with Parkinson’s disease last year, it was almost a relief.

“At least now I knew,” says Sheri, 73.

She started an exercise regimen designed to help relieve some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s. It started working quickly. Sheri felt less pain, and her balance and posture improved. And she has stayed committed to staying active.

“Movement is the most important thing,” she says, noting her support group – adult children, “prayer partners,” and friends who stay in touch with her.

More Than 10 Million Cases Globally

April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month and a good time to discuss how exercise can lessen its symptoms and improve quality of life.

Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain, and symptoms can include tremors, problems with walking and balance, and limb rigidity.

More than 10 million people worldwide have it, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. In the US alone, more than 60,000 people are diagnosed each year, almost all of them after age 50.

The cause is unknown. There is no cure. Treatments include medication and surgery, says the Parkinson’s Foundation. It is not fatal itself. But complications are the 14th leading cause of death in the US, says the Centers for Disease Control.

Exercise Is Essential

“Any kind of exercise you do consistently will help improve your Parkinson’s symptoms and overall health,” the Parkinson’s Foundation says. That’s because exercise might slow the progression of the disease. It also:

  • Improves muscles, bones, flexibility and balance
  • Helps with lung capacity
  • Keeps you socially active
  • Boosts confidence and mood

Boxing is an increasingly common activity for Parkinson’s patients. “Non-contact boxing-inspired classes can reverse, reduce and even delay the symptoms,” says Rock Steady Boxing.

“Boxers condition for optimal agility, speed, muscular endurance, accuracy, balance, hand-eye coordination, footwork, and overall strength to defend against and overcome opponents,” Rock Steady says. “Parkinson’s causes a loss in many of the same elements that boxers condition to improve.”

Also, the Parkinson’s Foundation recommends activities such as:

  • Golf
  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Dancing, since learning steps while moving can boost cognition, like boxing exercises
  • Swimming
  • Tai chi and yoga to help with balance

Exercise Gives Back Some Control

Sheri says she’s committed to her walking routines and other activities. It helps her feel better physically, but it also boosts her spirits.

“This is something I can control,” she says. “I felt so out of control with the Parkinson’s. And this just helps me feel so good, I can’t tell you.

“In the evenings, if I’m down in the dumps, I make myself go out walking and it makes such a difference. I’ve been blessed that it’s not worse and that there’s something I can do to help it.”

#FitnessIsTheFountainOfYouth

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