Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for the ‘Physical 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:

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:

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:

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:

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.

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.

The Seven Minute Workout: Fitness in a Flash for the Whole Family

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

It's all the rage:  twelve exercises in a seven minute workout using only bodyweight, a chair and a wall. According to the American College of Sports Medicine Human Performance Institute, this total body workout delivers all the benefits of prolonged endurance exercise in an interval training format.

Interval training combines high intensity effort interspersed with brief periods of recovery. The twelve exercises - alternating upper body, lower body and core muscles – must be done in rapid succession, in the order given.  Perform each exercise for 30 seconds, resting for 10 seconds in between. Work at 80% of your maximum capacity, i.e. at level 8 on a scale of 1-10 perceived exertion.

The exercises are:

  • Jumping jacks
  • Wall sit
  • Push-up
  • Abdominal crunch
  • Step-up onto chair
  • Squat
  • Triceps dip on chair
  • Plank
  • High-knees running in place
  • Lunge
  • Push-up and rotation (side plank)
  • Side plank

This is something the whole family can do at home. Several people have told me that their kids are into it. One woman told me that her son does it with her while her daughter times them and her husband demonstrates proper form for push-ups!

Capsized in Lake Malawi!

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

I spent the month of July traveling in Africa, a mind-expanding adventure in so many ways. My husband James and I had a first hand experience of the kindness of the people and the harsh reality of their lives. We witnessed the efficiency of Mother Nature as she rules the wild kingdom and had an eye-opening jolt of how sacred the environment is to her realm.

But what I want to share with you is a personal experience of overcoming unexpected physical challenges. Lake Malawi, Africa's third largest lake, is considered an inland sea, in other words the waters can get as rough as the ocean. We were staying on a remote island camp and one afternoon we decided to take a kayak around the small island.

On the leeward side, we could see brilliant fish just below the surface of the clear waters. We were enjoying the scenery of the giant boulders all along the shore line and the fish eagles soaring overhead. As we paddled around to the windward side, however, the wind picked up and the water became very choppy. Shortly thereafter, we couldn't steady the kayak in the rough waters and capsized.

It took us a few minutes treading water to recover from the shock and gather our thoughts. After several attempts, we were finally able to get on top of a submerged boulder and right the kayak. Then we angled it into a crevice in the rocks and climbed back in. The ride back was challenging as the wind and waves got worse, but we finally paddled safely back to camp.

If I had not been in good shape, I might have failed this unexpected test of strength and stamina. I'm often reminded of the definition of physical fitness, which is: "The ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and to meet unforeseen emergencies."

This is a recurring theme for me! For other blog posts along this line, please see:


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.

Shake Off the Winter Blues: Take Your Workout Out-of-Doors

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Here's a real mood-booster for you! Take your indoor strengthening routine out to the park, breathe in the spring air and get a healthy dose of Vitamin D. It's easy to adapt kitchen sink exercises to a park bench outdoors. Add a portable stretch band to round out your workout. Begin your outdoor workout by walking for 15 minutes at a moderate pace in the park. Find some stairs, inclines and declines to vary the route. Then, scout out your bench. For the first six exercise vignettes, stand behind the bench, using the top of the back for support. Use the following video links as an easy guide. For all of them, do 10-15 repetitions.

Then, to complete the workout, add two more exercises: Squats: Stand in front of the bench, feet parallel, and hip-width apart. Shift your weight back onto your heels, bend your knees and reach back with your hips, lowering yourself toward the bench as if you were going to sit down. Tap the edge of the seat with your hips, but don't sit down. Squeeze your glutes to return to the start position. Crunches: Sit backwards on the bench, threading your legs through the slats of the back rest, feet on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest and sit up tall. Exhale as you roll back, drawing your ribs toward your hips, curving your spine into a "C." Then realign the spine to straighten up. This workout gives you a total of 10 exercises that target the major muscle groups. It will only take about 10-15 minutes to complete one set of 15 reps of each exercise. Peel off the winter layers and prepare to reveal lovely new contours for warm weather. 

Are You at Risk for the New Silent Disease?

Monday, February 18th, 2013

We all do it, every day. Some of us do it for most of each day. We do it at home, at school, at work, at ball games and at the movies.
What is this pervasive risk factor that can cause early death? It's called "sitting" and Americans average 9.3 hours a day compared to 7.7 hours of sleeping.

The dangers of too much sitting have been making recent headlines:

  • Extended sitting slows the body's metabolism reducing levels of fat burning enzymes and HDL cholesterol.
  • Sitting too long raises your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disease, and certain kinds of cancers, even for people who meet the recommended physical activity levels.
  • Sitting more than 6 hours a day increases your risk of death, even if you work out.
  • Watching TV for 6 hours a day robs 5 years off your life.

Being sedentary for the average 9 hours a day is killing us! So what to do if you can't quit your day job? And if exercise won't help anyway, what can Americans do to truly combat the negative effects of sitting for long?

  • Set a daily schedule and periodically, at least once an hour, take a 2-minute break of light to moderate activity. Walk around your office, climb some stairs.
  • Make exercise a part of your meetings: Switch your coffee meetings to walking meetings. Block off time in your calendar.
  • Stand at the back of the room during company meetings or ask your company to create a collaborative meeting space at standing height.
  • Develop an "active work station" such as a standing desk or a treadmill desk.
  • Instead of hitting the vending machine at 3 pm, make a point to stand up, stretch and do a few leg exercises like squats and calf raises.

A small, simple change can have a dramatic impact on your health. Even if it seems elementary, the consistency of doing a "little bit a lot" is a formula for success.