Aging Gracefully Blog

Posts Tagged ‘mind-body fitness’

Can You Tone Up without Exercise?

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

Salma Hayek recently claimed in People magazine that she stays toned and taut simply by "holding the body in a way that activates muscles all day.” Can you actually tone your belly and other trouble spots without working out or going to the gym? If you have an active lifestyle, can you really skip regular exercise and still be healthy and fit?

It is true that you can stay toned if you’re already somewhat in shape and know how to use your muscles. The key is consciously activating them in your daily activities to flatten the belly and engage the core, stabilize the shoulder blades, contract your glutes to squat and your biceps to lift and carry.  You can achieve a level of toning by contracting your muscles at a low level of intensity. If you’re concerned about maintaining a toned belly, this is something you can do every day. Click here for the free bonus video "The Anytime Move to Flatten Your Belly." You'll also improve your posture, alignment and body mechanics.

Here's how:

  • To engage your core and flatten your belly, "zip up" your abs as if you were zipping up a tight pair of jeans. Pull your navel in toward your spine and then up, lifting the pelvic floor. (Download free video demonstrating the move here). 
  • Stand up straight, rolling the shoulders down and back.  Hold them there by engaging the muscles between the shoulder blades to anchor them and prevent a "forward slouch."
  • Sit without support, using your core muscles to keep your spine tall, ribs stacked over the hips.
  • When you bend and lift, use the large muscles of your legs – the glutes, quads and hamstrings – to squat down, keeping your back straight.
  • When you are leaning forward, practice the "hip hinge," bending forward from the hips and not the waist.  Keep your spine straight instead of rounding the upper back.
  • Get up from any seated position without using your arms for support.
  • When you brush your teeth, stand on one leg for balance and feel the muscles of that leg working to support you, especially in the ankles.  Do both legs or focus on the weaker one.

When it comes to your overall fitness, using these simple techniques can help maintain muscle tone.  Just remember that in terms of health benefits, you are not building muscle strength or bone density, nor are you conditioning your cardiovascular system.  And we all know how important that is. You may be very active during long work days, but if you are not elevating your heart rate and breathing levels it still won’t improve the function of your heart and lungs. Cardio activity aids in reducing your risk of disease and adds energy, stamina and years to your life.  Plus, it burns a lot of calories!

What else can you do if you have little to no time?  At the very least, simple body weight exercises like squats, push-ups and planks will develop muscular fitness. For cardio, try adding 10-15 minutes of fast walking or stair climbing at different points during the day, and you’ll easily accumulate at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

P.S. If you’re looking for more expert advice on the best ways to deal with belly fat and bloating, check out this 2-minute trailer for my brand new video program on how to “Beat Belly Fat, Bloating, Bone Loss and the Blues.”

Order your video today and start beating belly fat now.

This easy-to-follow video of six handy modules is packed with real-life fitness and food tips to help you lose inches, tighten muscles, keep your bones strong, enhance your mood and manage your stress.


Happiness Improves Fitness

Saturday, September 13th, 2014

The mind-body connection continues to amaze.  New research reveals a connection between happiness and increased fitness in older adults.  A large study of men and women aged 60 and older suggests that enjoyment of life contributes to a healthier and more active old age, as well as to a longer life.

Most of us share goals of remaining independent, keeping mentally sharp and staying as mobile as possible as we age.  Researchers at University College London conducted the study to discover whether a positive outlook is related to reduced physical impairment over a period of eight years.  They collected data on:

  • physical health
  • walking speed and mobility
  • depression
  • enjoyment of life
  • and levels of impairment in daily activities

Their findings showed strong associations between physical function and life enjoyment. Older people who enjoy life are at lower risk of developing problems with daily activities and for declines in physical function. Once again, a positive mental attitude contributes to a healthy body.

The study, as reported in Idea Fitness Journal, May 2014, is available in Canadian Medical Association Journal (2014;doi: 10.1503/cmaj.131155).

For more posts on this topic, please see:

Get Fit Now!  Midlife Fitness Predicts Healthy Old Age

Seven Habits of Highly Resilient People

A Tribute to a Special Woman


Seven Habits of Highly Resilient People

Saturday, September 7th, 2013

Resilience has been making headlines lately. It's a intriguing aspect of psychological fitness that impacts your physical fitness and health. Our last post highlighted new research showing that while partially innate, resilience can be learned. A recent article* in the Huffington Post identified seven habits of highly resilient people.

  1. Resilience is not about blind optimism. Resilient people allow themselves to experience both positive and negative emotions. While feeling sad about one thing, they remind themselves that they're grateful for another.
  2. It is about realistic optimism. They combine a positive outlook with critical thinking to create options on how to deal with challenges.
  3. They cope with rejection effectively. Since rejection and set-backs are inevitable in life, they adopt a mindset that maintains their self-esteem and confidence.
  4. They build strong support systems. Social support can boost resilience to stress.
  5. They notice and appreciate small joys and victories, to prevent feeling that "everything is going wrong."
  6. They seek opportunities for growth and learning which enhance their self-reliance and broaden their decision-making skills.
  7. They're endlessly grateful. Being thankful has a positive effect on mood and physical health.  The right attitude allows you to turn difficult experiences into learning lessons.

*As reported in the article "How to Bounce Back from Failure – Over and Over Again" by Carolyn Gregoire, Huffington Post, 9/2/13,

Resilience: Bouncing Back with Spirit

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

How do you handle set-backs in life?  When adversity strikes, how easily do you rebound?  Are you confident that you can survive life's challenges and carry on? Resilience arms you to fight back against catastrophe and to believe in your ability to cope in the future. It is a measure of psychological fitness.

New research on resilience highlights intriguing findings*:

  • Psychological fitness boosts physical fitness.  A study at Florida State University showed that poor resilience affects aerobic capacity. On a treadmill stress test the least resilient performed as if they were 10 years older than their peers.
  • Poor resilience can also affect your health by weakening the immune system, heart health and brain function.
  • Your own stress response can be more damaging than the stressor itself.  The more you stress over a situation, the more you activate the release of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which over time can create health problems.
  • While partially innate, resilience can be learned.  Based on 20 years of research from the Penn Resiliency Project at the University of Pennsylvania, the U.S. Army recently implemented a training program instructing soldiers how to build their resilience, a "boot camp for the brain."
  • At Loughborough University in England, Olympic champions said they wouldn't have won their gold medals if not for overcoming hardships during their training, such as serious illness, career-threatening injuries and their parents' divorce.

I have been thinking about the importance of resilience in the aging process as I watch my 95-year old mother cope with one challenge after another. Despite the many physical restrictions that limit her capacity for life, her buoyant psychological outlook keeps her thriving, moving forward and growing.

For other blog posts on this topic, please see:

A Fighting Spirit at 93

Mental Muscle:  Strength Training for the Mind

How Can Exercise Build Resilience to Stress

*As reported in the September issue of Fitness magazine, "Find Your Backbone" by Dana Hudepohl