Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for the ‘Functional Fitness’ Category

10 Easy Steps to Home Fitness

Saturday, December 10th, 2016

Home fitness is the easy way to reach your goals this year and get real results. Get your mind set and body ready to make fitness a daily habit with ten easy steps.  The secret of your success is found in your everyday routines. Day by day your choices shape your actions:  Small, smart, manageable choices will become permanent habits with practice.  Consistency is the key to building and maintaining momentum.

1)  Consistency is more important than intensity. Each day you should eat and exercise in such a way today that you can face doing it again tomorrow. This is how to gradually establish healthy habits that will serve you throughout life and that you will revert to when life becomes hectic.

2)  Get in the habit of exercise to overcome weak willpower.  Habits persist even when we're at low energy and weak self-control. Studies show that we tend to default to a habit when we lack the mental capability to make a choice, for example if we are deliberating about whether or not to exercise. Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2013/10/26/get-in-the-habit-of-exercise-to-overcome-weak-willpower/

3)  Accumulate 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most (at least 5) days of the week.  Exercise accumulated in short bouts of 10 or 15 minutes offers weight loss and aerobic fitness benefits comparable to those achieved in longer workouts.  Think "activity" instead of "workout."    Walk to work, take the steps, lift and carry your groceries, do housekeeping chores energetically.  It all counts!

4)  Count your steps with your smart phone, pedometer or other tracking device.  See how many steps you average and then build on them.  Try to add 1000 steps per day every week until you hit 10,000 in a day!  People who keep a track record tend to achieve their goals. Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2013/11/17/the-quantified-self-health-and-fitness-self-monitoring/

5)  Learn to do a proper squat, the #1 functional exercise for life.  It’s the movement that we need to get up from a seated position - from a chair, toilet or bathtub.  While working the large muscles of the lower body, the squat creates strength and stability to reduce the risk of falling.  As a bonus, it helps lift and firm the bottom line!

6)  Combat the negative effects of prolonged sitting.  Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism and creates a “lazy biology” raising the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disease, and certain kinds of cancers, even if you work out!  For every hour you're sitting, get up and move around for five minutes.  Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2013/02/18/are-you-at-risk-for-the-new-silent-disease/

7)  Practice perfect posture.  Train yourself to stand up straight:  lift the chest, lengthen the torso, roll your shoulders down and back.  “Zip up” your abs by drawing your navel back toward your spine.  Take a deep breath and notice how good it feels to fill your lungs with air!

8)  Wake up your cardio workout.  If you are doing the same kind of steady pace cardio routine over and over, say walking or jogging for 30 minutes most days of the week, your body will stop improving because it has adapted to that level of exercise. Add intervals of high intensity or “bursts” to improve fitness levels and burn more calories. Read more:  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2016/09/05/beat-belly-fat-with-burst-training/

9)  Stay supple with stretching.  Relieve morning stiffness and joint pain.  Just a few minutes of daily stretching helps maintain flexibility, which in turn keeps the muscles supple and counteracts the wear and tear of everyday life, allowing you to maintain a youthful appearance and active lifestyle.  http://www.joanpaganofitness.com/blog/2015/10/04/stay-supple-with-stretching/

10)  Be thankful!  Science finds that the practice of gratitude improves your health. Studies show it can relieve stress, lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, improve heart rhythms, boost your immune system and reduce the effects of aging on the brain.

Pick a couple of these fitness tips and begin to incorporate them daily. Then add two more as you work down the list. Don’t be discouraged that things aren’t happening faster. It doesn’t mean you won’t get there. As you are developing a new mindset, it takes time for the brain to adjust and program the changes until they become automatic.

Get simple strategies to enhance daily life with more energy, a better mood and less stress.  Call Joan today:  212-722-8116.

 © Copyright – Joan L. Pagano.  All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Strength Training by the Decade

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Mother and daughter doing push-ups

Strength training sculpts the contours of your body and strengthens the bones within. By building lean body mass,it boosts your metabolism and your energy levels, making you resistant to the slow-down that occurs with age. A well-designed exercise program that includes weight training will impact your weight, health, fitness and well-being for decades to come.

At 20: A 20-year-old woman who does not lift weights will lose about 6 pounds of muscle and gain 5 pounds of fat by age 50. This means that even if you maintain your scale weight perfectly over time, subtle changes are occurring in your body composition that can affect your health and appearance.

At 30:Strengthening the muscles benefits the bones as well. Now is the time to put "bone in the bank" to fortify against the natural loss of bone that occurs gradually with age.  By age 25 to 30 you’ve achieved your peak bone mass, the highest bone content you’ll have in your lifetime. Although bone continues to renew itself, from this time on you will experience a natural decline in bone density that accelerates at the time of menopause before leveling off again.

At 40: Turning 40 is a wake-up call as many women begin to notice changes in their bodies that sound the alarm. You may be perplexed by creeping weight gain and stubborn belly fat. At around age 40, most women start to lose bone and muscle mass causing a decrease in metabolism of about 5% every decade. The slower metabolic rate contributes to mid-life weight gain when you eat the same amount of food but don't burn all the calories consumed. Strength training revs up the metabolism by maintaining muscle.

At 50: What causes midlife belly? The average weight gain during perimenopause is 10 pounds, and there is a natural tendency to store fat in the abdominal area. The combination of age, hormones, and stress all contribute to belly fat. With age, a woman's level of estrogen declines and the male hormone testosterone becomes more prominent. This causes fat to migrate to the gut from other parts of the body. Stress reaction has a similar effect on fat distribution as it releases another hormone, cortisol, which also encourages fat storage in the belly. Women who lift weights gain less abdominal fat than those who don't.

At 60, 70 and beyond: Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, causes a generalized slow-down. Between the ages of 50 and 70, women lose almost 30% of overall strength, with dramatic losses after age 70. The fast twitch muscle fibers shrink in size, causing not only a loss of muscle mass, but also a loss of power and energy levels. With advancing age, it becomes more critical to preserve your  "functional independence" as measured by your ability to perform all your day-to-day activities, which together comprise a lifestyle. 

Strength training is the key factor in an active aging process. Strong people are more able-bodied and self-sufficient. Studies show that lifting weights can improve your quality of life into your 80s and 90s. Steady exercise can help recover lost vitality, reverse physical frailty, and manage chronic health problems like osteoporosis, glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. You are never too old to begin a weight-training program and the sooner you start, the longer you benefit.

(c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

A Balancing Act

Sunday, February 1st, 2015

Years ago there was an ad on TV that showed a woman putting on panty hose while standing up. My mother asked me then if I could doJoan Pagano balancing on curb that and at the time, I could.  Now, however, when I try to wiggle into leggings and tights while balancing, it's a real challenge!

Our ability to balance peaks around age 20 and normally stays excellent through our early 40s.  From the mid-40s to early 70s, balance starts to deteriorate.  The changes are so subtle that most women are not aware of them.

After the mid-70s, loss of balance begins to affect our quality of life.  In the U.S., falls are the leading cause of injury for people over age 65.  In fact:

  • 25% of older people who fall and fracture a hip die within a year.
  • 80% have severe mobility problems causing a sudden loss of independence.

Balance is controlled by the brain's cerebellum, which is responsible for movement and coordination.  It's a complicated function involving vision, muscle strength, proprioception and attention.  With age, these elements deteriorate.

What are some of the risk factors for falling?

  • Muscle weakness:  balancing is directly related to the strength of our ankles, knees and hips
  • Muscle tightness and loss of agility
  • Arthritis of the knees (related to lack of joint mobility)
  • Previous falls
  • Age-related sensory changes, like slower reaction time, reduced vision
  • Changes in spinal alignment and center of gravity, e.g. bent-over posture of osteoporosis
  • Medications, e.g. for hypertension which can cause postural hypotension and dizziness

However, while certain declines with age are unavoidable, studies show that much of the sense of balance can be preserved and even restored through exercises that require no special equipment or training.

Test your balance:

  • Stork stance on one leg, eyes open, eyes closed
  • Tandem stance, on both legs as if on a tight rope, eyes open, eyes closed
  • Weight shift:  do a squat (weight back on your heels) followed by a calf raise (lifting up on the balls of your feet)

Easy ways to improve balance in daily life:

Show Your Wrists Some Love: 3 Easy Tips for Healthy Wrists

Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Do you regularly exercise your wrists? Do they serve you well? Are they healthy and strong, free from pain? Women are three times more likely to develop painful wrist conditions like carpal tunnel than men. Taking care of your wrists contributes to your quality of life in sports performance, everyday activities and business affairs.

Strong wrists improve athletic performance, especially in racquet sports and golf. Moreover it is important to maintain strength in your hands and wrists to perform your daily activities with ease, whether they include computer work, housework, or simple tasks such as being able to open a jar or lift a full tea kettle. In business a firm handshake is an important asset in making a first impression. Should you stumble, you will be able to break a fall with less risk of fracturing your wrist.

1. Strengthen your wrists with two simple exercises:

  • Wrist curl, palm down Sit up tall on a firm chair with a cushion on your lap. Position one forearm with the palm down, fingers in a loose fist. Rest the wrist of the working hand on top, holding a light weight (1-5#) with the palm down. Keeping your wrists in contact, lift the back of the hand with the weight toward the ceiling. Pause, then return to the start position and, without resting, do 12-15 reps.
  • Wrist curl, palm up Now turn the working arm over and hold the weight with the palm up. Resting the working arm on top of the support arm, curl the hand with the weight toward the ceiling and hold for a second. Return to start and repeat for all reps.

2. Stretch your wrists and forearms: Extend one arm in front of you with the palm up. With the other hand, pull back on the palm so your fingers point down. You'll feel a stretch all the way up the underside of your arm. Hold for 10-15 seconds. Now turn your arm over so the palm faces down. With your other hand, press on the back of your hand so your fingers point down. You'll feel the stretch on the topside of your forearm. Hold for 10-15 seconds.

3. Use proper alignment in exercise. Use good form in lifting weights and holding a tennis racquet or golf club. Your wrist should always be in line with your forearm when holding a dumb bell or stretch band, or using weight machines. Avoid bending your wrist in any direction and if you can't hold it straight, lighten up on the weight.

For other great tips on proper form and alignment, check out my book Strength Training for Women . Contact me here if you have questions about how to protect your wrists from everyday stresses and strain.

Confused by the Calcium Controversy? Play it Safe: Eat Right and Exercise!

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Calcium supplements are in the news because of conflicting results of several major studies and recommendations by the US Preventive Services Task Force. The varying conclusions of researchers showed inconsistent findings, putting into question the benefits of supplements containing calcium to prevent bone loss.

The studies' conclusions ranged widely, finding that calcium pills:

  • Increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 30%
  • Decrease the risk of hip fracture by 35% in post-menopausal women with no increase in heart attack
  • Increase the risk of heart attack by 20% in men (who smoke), but not in women (in men and women aged 50-71).
  • Do not prevent bone fractures and may increase the risk of kidney stones

What do experts draw from this controversy? First, that better studies are needed to clarify the possible risks and benefits and to whom they may apply. Secondly, that the safest and most effective source of calcium is found in food choices, not supplements. And finally that exercise is key to bone health, specifically weight bearing and strength training exercises.

Like muscles, your bones get stronger when you make them work, training them to handle more stress or resistance. Exercise should maximize the load to the bones with a progressive (i.e. gradual intensification) program of weight bearing aerobic exercise and weight lifting. Assuming your joints are healthy, you should aim for:

  • High impact aerobic exercise: defined as activities in which both feet are off the ground at the same time, as in running, jumping rope, and high-impact aerobic dance; also sports like basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.
  • High intensity weight lifting: using the heaviest weights you can lift in good form for 8-12 repetitions with the last few reps being challenging.
  • Balance and stabilization exercises: using a stability ball, BOSU and foam rollers, which recruit the muscles of the core body as you master unstable surfaces. Improving your balance reduces your risk of falling.

Remember: To protect your joints from injury, use good judgment regarding high impact exercise and high intensity weight lifting. Be sure to increase the workload gradually.

If you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, downshift into low impact exercise to avoid jarring the spine and other vulnerable joints. The National Osteoporosis Foundation maintains that the benefits of calcium supplements are likely to outweigh any risks in women over 50 who have osteoporosis, broken bones or significant risk factors for fractures.

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.

Are You Fit to Drive?

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

Have you ever considered how fitness training could be beneficial to your skills as a driver? According to a new study, simple exercises woman drivingcan enhance your ability to drive, keep you safe on the road, and extend the years that you are able to drive.

The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence and the MIT AgeLab found some fascinating results in their research on the connection between daily exercise and driving. Drivers in the study reported benefiting from some of the most challenging physical aspects of driving:

  • Greater ease in turning their heads to see blind spots when changing lanes or backing up;
  • More rotation in their torsos to scan the driving environment when making right hand turns;
  • Increased ability to get into their cars more rapidly.

The participants ranged in age from 60-74. They followed an exercise program for 15-20 minutes a day over eight-to 10 weeks which focused on four areas:

If you include these types of exercises in your training program, you will surely have new confidence next time you need to parallel park!