Aging Gracefully Blog

Sculpt Your Arms in One Easy Move!

April 15th, 2014

Looking for the most efficient way to get tank top arms in a hurry?  Here it is:  The classic push up firms your chest, sculpts your shoulders and defines the triceps in the back of your upper arms, all in one easy move.  And even better, you can do this version at the kitchen sink while you're waiting for your coffee or tea.

The diagonal push up is a simply elegant exercise that activates these three muscles of the upper body as well as your core.  With your body on an angle, you need to assume a plank position, using your abdominals and back muscles to stabilize the torso.  The position of your arms determines which muscle you target.  Begin with one set of 10-15 reps of each position; build up to 2 sets.

To target the chest and firm the muscles under your bust line, position your arms 3-4 inches wider than your shoulders.  As you lower your chest toward the counter, bend your elbows out to the sides to 90 degrees (think of making a "box" with your arms).

To focus on your shoulders, move your arms in closer, placing your hands directly under your shoulders. As you lower your chest, bend your elbows straight back so they come in close to your sides.

For the triceps, move your hands in even closer, so that you can make a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs.  Now when you bend your elbows, they will flare out to the sides, making a diamond shape as you lower your chest to the counter.

Check out this video for more tips on proper form.


10 Top Fitness Tips for the New Year

January 5th, 2014

Tone up, trim down, and stay in shape all year long! Use these 10 tips from Aging Gracefully Blog posts to create an exercise routine that you can keep up every day for long term benefits.

  1. Create a habit of exercise:  A new study suggests that habits may be more important than will power in the effort to change.  Read more...
  2. Be accountable:  Pew research reports that 70% of Americans now track some aspect of their health and fitness.  Read more
  3. Set SMART Goals:  Experts in the field of self-improvement state that your goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timed.  Read more
  4. Bounce back from set-backs:  Backsliding is no excuse to give up!  Be resilient and use a constructive attitude to deal with challenges.  Read more about new research on resilience and the 7 habits of resilient people.
  5. Take the mistake out of lifting weights:  These 5 strength training "don'ts" help you get started safely.  Read more
  6. Tune-up your cardio workouts:  Bust out of a stale cardio routine to get real results.  Read more
  7. Maximize the minutes in your workout:  Boost health and fitness benefits with Interval Training.  Read more
  8. Count the steps in your day to reduce your risk of disease.  Read more
  9. Think outside the box:  Expand your horizons and take your workout in the great outdoors.  Read about winter workouts here and easy ways to adapt your indoor workout to the outdoors here.
  10. Protect your joints:  Show your wrists some love; be kind to your knees.  Ease the pain of arthritis (Part 1 and Part 2)

Stay tuned for future blog posts with more practical tips on how to keep up with everyday exercise for lifelong fitness.


Burn Calories with Winter Workouts!

December 9th, 2013

Expand your horizons beyond the gym this winter. Take your workout in the great outdoors to tone up, burn calories and stay strong. Redbook Magazine shares three of my favorite winter activities here.

  • Ice skating is a great family activity that you can pursue together, challenging your balance while working inner and outer thighs, glutes and ankles. An average woman (145 pounds) will burn 230 calories in 30 minutes.
  • Cross country skiing is the front runner for all-around aerobic benefits. It's a more complete workout than running or biking because it involves the upper body as well as the legs. The average woman will burn 260 calories in a half hour.
  • Snow shoeing is also a high calorie burn, like cross country skiing. It's more strenuous than walking or running at the same speed.  Adding poles makes it a full-body exercise as you engage the upper body.

Appropriate clothing and gear are essential to keep you safe and comfortable. Wear layers. While you’re moving you may get quite warm, but when you stop you can really feel the wind chill

Winter workouts keep you glowing! Here are a few of the health and fitness benefits of exercising outdoors:

  • Exposure to fresh air and natural light – soak up some Vitamin D.
  • Helps fight seasonal depression.
  • Manage holiday weight gain (the average weight gain is 3-5# during holiday season).
  • Maintain cardio fitness, strength, balance and coordination
  • Core strength is integral to all activities – full-body strength training will improve performance in all.

The Quantified Self: Health and Fitness Self-Monitoring

November 17th, 2013

Are you using a device or app to measure and track your health and fitness? Perhaps you prefer to jot something down in a journal or notebook or enter it on a spreadsheet. Maybe you keep track for someone you love. According to a recent survey conducted by the Pew Research 70% of adult Americans now track some aspect of their health or that of a loved one.

  • The majority of those surveyed (60%) said that they track their weight, diet or exercise routine.
  • 33% monitor health indicators and symptoms, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, headaches and sleep patterns.
  • 12% track health indicators for a loved one.

Whether you keep track "in your head" (as 49% said), keep data on paper (34%) or use some form of technology like a website, spreadsheet, app or device (21%), clinical studies have shown that tracking is a tool for improving outcomes, particularly in losing weight or managing a chronic condition.

No matter how you track your progress, you will accomplish greater success by using these tips:

  • Begin with a goal in mind.  Decide what you want to achieve. See more about setting SMART goals.
  • Establish a baseline against which you can measure future progress.
  • Make manageable lifestyle changes:  Eat and exercise each day in such a way that you can do it again tomorrow.

Tracking your daily and weekly achievements is motivating and a proven tool in self improvement.

It can change your overall approach to maintaining your health or that of someone you love.  Contact me here for more information on how fitness coaching helps you to be accountable and successful in achieving your goals.

Arthritis: Break the Circle of Pain with Exercise, Part 2

November 10th, 2013

The stiff, achy joints of osteoarthritis (OA) can limit your quality of life, affecting your ability to work and causing increasing levels of disability. While exercise can cause momentary pain and discomfort, not exercising is worse since inactivity can lead to more pain and stiffness. (See last week's post for more on this).

Moderate exercise can make you stronger and more functional. It helps to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and increase mobility.  Take a slow and steady approach. The goal is to work the joints while protecting them:  Consistency is more important than intensity. A well-rounded exercise program should include appropriate cardio activity, strengthening and stretching.

Do your cardio activity first in order to warm up the muscles and release lubricating fluid into the joints, preparing them for strengthening and stretching. Cardio exercise enhances aerobic capacity, improving overall fitness and reducing inflammation. It also helps you lose weight, decreasing the amount of stress on the joints and relieving the aches to allow you to become more active.

  • Start slowly and increase gradually.
  • Make it easy: do something that's convenient and you can continue easily.
  • Do low impact activities to protect the joints: for example, brisk walking, cycling, the elliptical machine. Warm water exercise is very therapeutic to the joints and provides buoyancy, reducing impact on them.

Strength training exercises build up muscle tone to support vulnerable joints, making them more stable and improving alignment so they function more efficiently. Toned muscles also provide shock absorption and reduce mechanical stresses that can accelerate cartilage degeneration.

  • Using light weights begin with 2-3 repetitions of each exercise and gradually progress to 10-12.
  • Although you might feel slight discomfort at first, the movement usually gets easier; however avoid any exercises that increase joint pain, especially if it continues for two hours after exercising.
  • Do the exercises 2-3 times a week on nonconsecutive days.

Stretching improves flexibility by lengthening the muscles and tendons, helping you maintain and improve mobility.  It decreases joint stiffness and increases the range of motion around the joint.

  • Concentrate on the large muscles of the legs, the low back, and hands (try stretching your fingers in the warm, humid air of the bath or shower).
  • Stretch every day and even several times throughout the day. For end of the day stretches, view video here.
  • Hold a stretch for 10-30 seconds and avoid bouncing

Of course, this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or becoming much more physically active.


Arthritis: Break the Circle of Pain with Exercise, Part 1

November 3rd, 2013

We used to think of osteoarthritis (OA) as a nuisance disease, causing aches and pains that you just have to live with as you're growing old. Now, however, we recognize the impact that OA has on daily living, affecting your ability to work and becoming one of the most common causes of disability in the U.S.

Stiff, achy joints are the hallmark of OA, a degenerative joint disease affecting the cartilage that acts as padding between the bones of the joints. Over time, normal wear and tear causes the cartilage to break down, reducing the cushioning in the joints and causing pain, inflammation and swelling. It usually occurs in the weight bearing joints of the hips, knees and feet, as well as in the neck and lower spine and in the hands.

During exercise this condition can cause sharp pains and restrict range of motion. Although the tendency is to minimize movement to avoid pain, this can unfortunately lead to more pain and stiffness. Inactivity, a frequent consequence of arthritis, creates a downward spiral and causes a cascade of other health risks.

Appropriate exercise will actually diminish the discomfort, increase mobility and strengthen the muscles that support the joints.  A well-rounded exercise program should focus on cardio activity, strengthening and stretching.

Start every session with a thorough warm up to increase core body temperature and circulation, warm up muscle tissue and release lubricating fluid into the joints.  Then go through the body with gentle range of motion exercises for joint preparation.  View video here.

While exercise cannot cure arthritis, it can make you stronger and more functional.  Its benefit is to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and increase range of motion.  Tune in next week for Part 2 of this column discussing appropriate cardio, strengthening and stretching exercises.

Click here for more about the prevalence of OA knee pain in women.

Of course this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or becoming much more physically active.