YOUTHFULNNESS IS A CHOICE

GETTING OLD IS THE DEFAULT SETTING

Posted: September 13, 2017

Youthfulness is a choice; getting old is the default setting. I promise that if you work out with the Body Electric program, and walk a few miles most days (start slowly), you'll begin to age backward. Being sedentary and not investing in the business of health and well-being is a huge factor in physical decline.

 

A focus on losing body fat is trumped by energizing our bodies with clean fuel...  foods that are nutritious and delicious! Flexibility and balance require attention (tell me about it!) and the ability to wind down and get a good night's sleep is another important part of the equation.

 

You can choose to be youthful or to get old by default. I certainly hope that I am preaching to the choir!



 

It's a Fact! Fitness and Strength Create Immunity Against Aging.

Your physical fitness is always in flux.

Posted: December 12, 2016

Aging muscles can lose strength, mass and mobility if we give in to sedentary behaviors; we can start to experience rapid muscle and joint declines in our early 40s. The key is to create an ongoing habit of movement, activity and strength building. People who have steadily maintained weight and resistance training over their adult years enjoy immunity to many of the chronic conditions related to aging.

 

You can jump start your strength training by working with relatively light dumbbells while paying careful attention to correct form. My mantra for the Body Electric program has always been “form over function.” In other words, a movement done incorrectly over time will likely create an injury. I have seen people contort their bodies using poor form to accomplish those last few repetitions. The beauty of using dumbbells correctly is that your body will continue to develop to accommodate an increased workload. Therefore, move on to heavier dumbbells only when you can perform an entire exercise with pristine form.

 

As life expectancy increases, we have to physically prepare for old age, and it is never too early or too late to start the process of physical fitness. Most adults are aware of the need for regular aerobic exercise in the form of walking, swimming, and other activities that increase heart rate. Consistent moderate weight and resistance training showed the best results for long lasting health benefits in older adults, delivering the greatest gains in strength, anaerobic power and mobility. The body has an amazing ability to retain muscle memory, so whether you are starting training before age 30, or later, you will be rewarded with lifelong benefits including independence and a better quality of life.

 

Water is Life

Posted: November 20, 2016

For me, this is personal. Last Friday I exercised from 4:30 to 5:30 pm and quickly dressed to meet a friend for dinner at 6pm. We began our dinner with a glass of red wine and I ordered a bowl of chili inspired by the fall-like temperature. We enjoyed our meal,paid the bill, and as we got up to leave, I began to feel light-headed. I sat right down and proceeded to experience intense nausea with the resulting consequences (I’ll spare you the gory details).

The culprit turned out to be dehydration caused by inadequate fluid intake. Water is the human body’s major component. Therefore, water is an essential nutrient for healthy hydration without bringing any other elements into the body. On average, the adult body contains 60% water, mostly contained inside our cells. In fact, our billions of cells must have water to live. The total amount of water in our body (two-thirds) is found within our cells.

More muscle equates to more water content. Conversely, the fatterthebody, the less water the body contains, as body fat has little water. Our vital organs contain different amounts of water: the brain, the lungs, the heart, the liver and the kidneys contain a large quantity of water – between 65 to 85% depending on
the organ, while bones contain less water (but still 31%!).

Muscles atrophy with age, and older adults consequently have less water in their bodies than younger people. From infancy to our elderly years, the composition of the body changes from 75% to 50% water on average. The kidneys’ ability to reabsorb water decreases with age, so water is lost from the body in greater amounts. In addition, the sensation of thirst diminishes as we grow older, so it’s even more important to monitor water intake carefully to avoid dehydration.

The main conditions leading to a fluid deficit are high ambient temperature, high humidity, restricted fluid availability, and protective clothing that traps heat and perspiration. The consequences include decreased blood volume, increased heart rate, and lowered exercise capacity. So how much fluid does the average, healthy adult living in a temperate climate need? The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages a day; the average intake for women is about 9 cups(2.2 liters) of total beverages a day. The rule could be reframed as: "Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day," because all fluids count toward the daily total.

What you eat also provides a significant portion of your fluid needs. On average, food provides about 20 percent of total water intake. For example, many fruits and vegetables, such as watermelon and spinach, are 90 percent or more water by weight. In addition, beverages such as milk and juice are composed mostly
of water. Even beer, wine and caffeinated beverages — such as coffee, tea or soda — can contribute, but these should not be a major portion of your daily total fluid intake. Water is still your best bet because it's calorie-free, inexpensive and readily available.

To ward off dehydration and make sure your body has the fluids it needs, makewater your beverage of choice. It's also a good idea to:
•Drink a glass of water or other calorie-free or low-calorie beverage with each meal and between each meal.
•Drink water before, during and after exercise. Electrolyte-enhanced waters have things like potassium and sodium added to them, which help your body absorb the water more quickly. These electrolytes are helpful in preventing dehydration, so they're especially useful during and after intense workouts.
•Drink plenty of water while drinking alcohol. The common belief that consumption of alcoholic beverages, such as wine, results in dehydration is fully supported by scientific research.
•Monitor the color of your urine. When you are properly hydrated your body discharges clear urine with a tinge of yellow. However, concentrated, dark urine (chardonnay or orange) is a telling sign of dehydration.

Cheers!

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Strength in Numbers

Our Collective Ability to Effect Change

Posted: July 22, 2015

Baby Boomers are plagued by health problems associated with a lack of adequate exercise. Excessive body fat and deficiencies in muscle tone and strength are but a few of the resulting problems. Elevated levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure are proof that we’re living longer, but not stronger. We baby boomers have to demand that fitness facilities, gyms and health clubs, offer appropriate programs that challenge our muscles without stressing our joints.

Many PBS stations have put fitness on the back burner in favor of airing as many as 20 cooking shows each day. Strength, vitality and relevance, all associated with youthfulness, can be maintained, even increased, with a program of weight-bearing exercises. Voicing your support of fitness on PBS by contacting the program director at your local PBS station will make a difference. Let’s pool our strengths and have daily TV fitness available to all. We, collectively, can make a difference!

 

My Virtual Toolbox

Embrace change with these 4 tools

Posted: June 18, 2015

In the early 1980’s, when the first Body Electric shows aired on PBS, I lived and worked in Tallahassee, Fl. My journey then took me to Los Angeles in 1990, back to Tallahassee, on to a 14-year marriage in Orchard Park, NY, then to Brookline, MA, and most recently (two weeks ago) to Portsmouth, NH. PHEW!

To set the record straight, I am the kind of being that enjoys change. People often ask me to name the favorite place I have lived. My answer is always, “the next place."  It is my nature to look forward to what is ahead rather than bemoan what was. A very important lesson that I learned along the way is that I can be happy in the humblest of places and unhappy in beautiful environs. It is really the joy in your heart that defines your existence.

I now live one hour and 15-minutes north of my former residence in Brookline. Therefore, I can visit my daughter, son-in-law and precious granddaughter, Sophie Bell, anytime. That’s an important priority that has to figure into my lifestyle.

Having moved frequently, and often to places where I knew not a soul, such as LA and presently, Portsmouth, I have developed a “virtual” toolbox that is always handy and helps me successfully negotiate each move. My virtual tools include

The Normalizer Tool
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are inevitable. Tell yourself, “this is what it feels like to courageously move to a new place.”

The Be Cool Tool
Becoming friends with your new environment is a process and takes time. Exploring the neighborhood is much more important than unpacking boxes. Don't stress, the boxes will wait for you.

The Enjoyment Tool
Treat yourself to a nice dinner, find a gym or health club where you can maintain your precious strength and vitality, and introduce yourself to new friends. (And, you can enjoy a Body Electric DVD with my friendly face anywhere.)

The People in Your Neighborhood Tool
There are infinite ways to connect with people through your work, hobbies, church, dating services, etc. My foundation is always the wonderful women I meet teaching Body Electric classes. And, since I am single, meeting a special guy is always on the agenda.

There’s a limit to the number of times one can erase and update adresses in a book. Fortunately, most of my friends now store their contacts online. Change is difficult, regardless of the motivation. For me, “dancing on the skinny branches” is how I choose to experience life.

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Pulling Together (by M. Richard, 2007)

Each Christmas I post this story of a very special friendship between a dog and a reindeer. The universal message of support and tolerance is always relevant. Happy holidays to every mother's child.

Posted: December 17, 2016

 

The Siberian Husky was friendly and sweet.

Homeland security was his daily beat.

He guarded the house when no one was home,

but often felt bored and very alone.

 

His breed was known to race in the snow,

dogs pulling sleds with mushers in tow.

The husky envisioned the pack in his dreams.

He longed to join them and be part of the team.

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“SIBER”

Sometimes there were visitors, a curious few

that spoke with a chirp, squeak, or cock-a-doodle-do.

They were not dog, nor human, some even had wings ...

too different, too strange, these misshapen things.

 

A deer passed by on one bright autumn day,

and the dog invited the stranger to play.

But, what could they do, where could they go?

"Do you speak 'bark'?" The deer shook his head, "NO!"

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"Where" asked the deer, "is the rest of your herd?"

"Dogs travel in packs.  You've used the wrong word."

"Where," asked the dog, "is the rest of your pack?"

"We are a herd, and our head wears a rack."

 

"A rack," laughed the dog, "your look is a dilly!

You should be more like me ... not strange and not silly.

My tail is quite furry and my nose has a snout.

I do lots of wagging and sniffing about."

 

"Dear dog," said the deer, "whoever you are,

it is painfully clear you have not traveled far.

You know only your world, yet attempt to judge others.

You have much to learn of your sisters and brothers!"

 

"If I appear rude, I do not wish to offend.

Let's play a game and our friendship will mend."

So, the deer agreed that the dog have his way

And they set out to discover what together they'd play.

 

"Let's go for a hunt and find us some food!"

The dog wanted meat and the deer thought that crude.

"Listen here, dog, that is NOT what I eat.

Wild berries and apples ... now, that is a treat."

 

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"Okay" said the dog, "I'll teach you something new.

Let's dig for a bone ... I've buried a few."

"Dig up a bone? That is no fun.

It's sloppy and dirty with a hole when you're done."

 

"I know what," said the pup, "this will be fun!

We'll climb up the hill and explore 'til day's done."

So, the dog and the deer became friends on the run

and met everyday in the cool morning sun.

 

 

"Now that we're pals, I'll tell you my name.

I'm a reindeer called Rudolph (Rudy's the same)."

"I'm Siber, the Husky, a canine it's true!

I'm delighted to meet you ... a deer friend will do!"

 

"Can you play everyday?  Will you try to remember?"

Said Rudy, "I plan to go north in December."

"And, where will you go?  Where will you stay?"

"I pull Santa's sled in a land far away."
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"My nose lights up red as I guide Santa's flight.

We take off each year on Christmas Eve night

to bring special gifts to good girls and boys

like bicycles, skates and shiny new toys."

 

"That's cool, Rudy!  I've heard of you, deer!

How lucky I am to have met you here.

My folks must greet you before you depart.

They're kind, and fun, and speak from the heart."

 

So, Siber and Rudy ran through the woods

excited to get home as fast as they could!

"We'll have a grand time, you can spend the night, too.

We will play lots of games ... always plenty to do!"

 

When the morning sun rose, it was time to move on.

With a leap and a sigh Rudy was gone.

The reindeer all cheered as he came into sight,

"you've arrived just in time to light up the night!"

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It was a special year for good girls and boys.

They behaved very well and deserved lots of toys.

Santa packed his sled with a heave and a ho.

With the reindeer in place he was ready to go.

 

But, alas and alack, something was wrong.

The sled was too full and they were not all that strong.

The reindeer kept pulling.  What else could they do?

They huffed and they puffed. It was just too hard. PHEW!!!

 

Then Rudy came up with the brightest idea!

"I have a dog friend who will help. Have no fear!"

So, he called Siber forth with a snort, sniff and bellow,

"Dog, we need your help!  You're a very strong fellow!"

 

Siber was pleased to contribute his might.

"I'm ready to go to the North Pole tonight!"

Soon the deer and the dog were joined up together

and the sled took off as light as a feather.

 

"Rudy, I'll pull the sled, I can do it with speed.

And, I'll do it best if I'm put in the lead."

Said Rudy "your nose doesn't light up like mine.

We'll pull together and all will be fine."

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The dog was a hero, a most unusual sight,

as he launched Santa's sled on a magical flight.

Santa shouted with glee as they drove out of sight,

"Merry Christmas to all!  And, to all a good night." *

 

*The last two lines are inspired by "T'was the Night Before Christmas" (or

"A Visit from St.   Nicholas") by Clement Clarke Moore (1823)

 

 

 

 

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Maggie's Got Your Back

"Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works." Steve Jobs

Posted: December 27, 2016

Your posture expresses your body's relationship with gravity while standing, sitting or lying down. Good posture places minimal strain on your supporting muscles and ligaments during your lifetime. Body mechanics refers to the way you use your body to complete various tasks during activities of daily life. Whether lifting, bending or stretching, you should think of how you are using your back to avoid causing an injury.

 

Your spine has thirty-three vertically stacked bones (vertebrae) that are cushioned by disks. Add spinal fluid, and you should have ample and functional protection for your spinal cord and nerves. Your backbone, or spine, starts at the base of your skull, runs through the midline of your body, and ends with your tail-bone. However, it is the way you carry yourself, your posture, that most significantly protects your back—more specifically your spine-- from injury. Strength training includes the use of free weights, weight machines, resistance bands or water exercises to strengthen the muscles and bones in your arms and upper spine. Strength training can also work directly on your bones to slow mineral loss.

 

Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement or weight-bearing activities. A normal spinal column is designed to curve naturally, both forward and backward. Your spine has natural curves that form an S-shape, or a slight inward curve, and the thoracic (lower) spine has a kyphotic, or gentle outward curve. The spine's curves work like a coiled spring to absorb shock, maintain balance, and to facilitate the full range of motion throughout the spinal column.

 

Correct posture is a simple but very important way to keep the many intricate structures in the back and spine healthy. It is much more than cosmetic—good posture and back support are critical to reducing the incidence and levels of back pain and neck pain. Back support is especially important for patients who spend many hours sitting in an office chair or standing throughout the day.

    

Flexibility Should Not Require a Stretch of the Imagination

Disuse causes weakness and tightness which causes more disuse and so on.  It’s a vicious cycle. Flexibility, or the lack thereof, is the single most important factor effecting our quality of life as we age.  Sure, it’s important to be able to climb the stairs and not get winded, and to have the strength to perform daily activities.  However, not being able to move your limbs through their full range of motion is extremely limiting.  The great news is that your flexibility is not age-related.

 

Poor muscle tone is inevitable if the number and kind of exercises done are insufficient. A person with poor muscle tone is much more vulnerable to mechanical strain than one with a normal or muscular build. When a person is ill and completely inactive in bed, he loses the strength of the muscles at the rate of 7 percent a day.

 

To Keep in Mind

* Do not twist the body while turning, but rather change the position of your feet and turn. Just bending down and turning to one side is the worst movement you can make.

*Do regular back-extension exercises and abdominal exercises to keep up the tone of the muscles.

 

Stretches are best performed after your muscles are warmed up — at the end of your exercise session, for example. They should be done gently and slowly, without bouncing. Relax and breathe deeply while you stretch. Avoid stretches that flex your spine or cause you to bend at the waist as these positions may put excessive stress on the bones in your spine (vertebrae), placing you at greater risk of a compression fracture.

 

 

 

 

I'M A SUN PROTECTION WORSHIPPER!

THE STORY OF MY METAMORPHESIS

Posted: August 5, 2017

In the 1950’s and 60’s, Miami Beach catered to tourists whose vacation goal was to return to their northern residences with a prizedgoldentrophy of tanned skin. Visitors flocked to the sandy beaches and basted with exotic oils, suntan lotions and the ultimate, sure-to-bake formula: baby oil spiked with iodine. Toaccelerateandinsure a maximum skin-darkening experience, serious sun devotees added a sun reflector. I grew up in this tropical paradise, surrounded by tourists who proudly wore their painful sunburns. But, I knew first hand, their lobster-red skin would soon itch, blister, peel, and potentially leave them with a permanent reminder of their days in the sun.

 

Growing up in Miami Beach, we were not made aware of sunburn prevention or the dangers of over exposure. Other than a thick layer of white zinc oxide covering an already burned red nose, I cannot recall ever protecting my skin while playing all day in the blazing sun. I enjoyed a golden tan throughout my high school and college years in Miami, unaware that sunburns cause wrinkles, freckles, age spots, and more serious skin diseases later in life. Looking back, I realize my dark olive skin was the result of endless days in the South Florida sun, burning and tanning my naturally fair-skinned complexion.

 

My gypsy meanderings led me to Los Angeles, California in 1990, where I promptly joined the ever plush and newly opened, Sports Club LA (SCLA). The SCLA experience featured luxurious amenities, including a rooftop terrace for nude sunbathers. I quickly discovered that every inch of skin, even sun-tanned derrieres, are not immune to freckles and other forms types of skin damage caused by prolonged exposure to the UV rays. In contrast to my beach loving years, I currently reside in New England where the sun does not shine every day. The women in my fitness classes, who have not grown up in sun-prone climates, have unblemished skin on their arms and legs, free of discoloration or freckles. The northern climate does have its perks!

 

Skin plays an important immunity role in protecting the body because it interfaces with the environment to work as a shield. With overexposure, the sun’s ultraviolet UVA and UVB rays can permanently alter one’s DNA, creating damage at the skin levels where new skin cells are formed. This negative effect on the elastin and collagen fibers in the dermis leads to premature ageing. Even more significantly, DNA damage isn't always visible under thesurface, and can contribute to skin cancers, including deadly melanoma.

 

As a result of dealing with the residual effects of prolonged and repeated exposure to the sun in South Florida and Southern California, I have developed a respectful awareness of the sun’s potential threat to the skin and adopted sun protective measures. I habitually use sunscreen to prevent further damage, and when Coolibar sun protective hats and clothing came to market, I became an immediate devotee! Wearing garments with UPF 50+sun protection gives me a new type of freedom to safely enjoy the glorious sun.

 

Today, at age 70, I swim in a Coolibar Active Swim Jacket and Coolibar Swim Tights, both UPF 50+, which cover and shield even those hard to reach places, often missed by sunscreen. Yes, I dress differently than other swimmers and certainly more protected, but I feel proud to be the “smart” one in the daytime sun. And, ladies, another advantage of covering your legs with sun-protective leggings is that it provides the “camouflage benefit,” even if your legs are pure perfection! Shifting my habits to include sun safe practices has allowed me to continue to enjoy my outdoor activities without limitations; pushing myself to be the very best me in the sunshine I love.

 

 

"COUNTERCLOCKWISE"

Mindful Health and the Power of Possibility by E. J. Langer

Posted: April 23, 2017

Ellen Jane Langer is a professor of psychology at Harvard University, having in 1981 become the first woman ever to be tenured in psychology at Harvard. Langer studies the illusion of control, decision-making, aging, and mindfulness theory. Her most influential work is Counterclockwise, published in 2009, which answers the questions of aging from her extensive research, and increased interest in the ins and outs of aging across the nation. "Counterclockwise" is an incredibly empowering work.

 

Following are quotes from Chapter One:

 

 Over time I have come to believe less and less that biology is destiny. It is not primarily our physical selves that limit us but rather our mindset about our physical limits. Now I accept none of the medical wisdom regarding the courses our diseases must take as necessarily true.

 

Mindful health is not about how we should eat right, exercise, or follow medical recommendations, nor is it about abandoning these things. It is not about New Age medicine nor traditional understandings of illness. It is about the need to free ourselves from constricting mindsets and the limits they place on our health and well- being, and to appreciate the importance of becoming the guardians of our own health.

 

The hefty price for accepting information uncritically is that we go through life unaware that what we’ve accepted as
impossible may in fact be quite possible.

 

Small changes can make large differences, so we should open ourselves to the impossible and embrace a psychology
of possibility.

 

To read the rest of Chapter One, download the PDF file here.

 

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New Body Electric Shows in 2017!

My Fervent Wish for 2017

Posted: December 29, 2016


 An opportunity to produce a new Body Electric series of 26 shows in 2017 is my passion. There are many moving parts which all have to come together in order to make the series a reality. I have always been an independent producer of Body Electric, airing on PBS since 1984. In the past, the shows have been funded by a combination of commercial underwriters, viewer contributions, and the support of various TV stations, first WFSU in Tallahassee, FL, followed by WNED in Buffalo, NY. With this series, the 22nd,  I’m hoping that Kickstarter will generate ample crowd funding.

 

The Production

I am a detail person. The Body Electric brand is steeped in strength and grace. I have always been passionate about all things aesthetic including, but not limited to, the movement, the setting, and the music. These values are very subjective, so I rely on my own judgment as the creator, host, and producer. Needless to say, I value viewer input as extremely generous and valid.

 

I recently came upon the most beautiful venue, the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, MA. The theater, which faces the harbor and ocean, features a glass wall that separates the stage from the elements. The management is very enthusiastic and supportive about having the Body Electric production on their stage. Just imagine a setting designed by Mother Nature!

 

The production team and I are good to go in March. The plan is to launch the funding campaign this January. One of the premiums for contributors will include a four-disc DVD including all 26 shows.

 

The PBS Stations

My team and I have been in touch with many of the PBS stations that both have a history with Body Electric, or have never aired the shows. We have gotten an enthusiastic response from program directors who recognize the validity of the program and will air the series when it becomes available. We will provide the station list on the Kickstarter site.

 

It’s About Time!

I am intensely passionate about providing a program for Baby Boomers with exercises designed to maintain muscle tone and stronger bones. We need to challenge our muscles, without stressing joints that have had their share of wear-and-tear. This type of program is generally not offered at gyms and health clubs. And, you’ll have free access in your home on PBS! Many of us have been fitness friends for many years, and I am humbled by your loyalty and support. At the age of 70, I am totally in tune with where we have been and what the future offers. Let’s stay strong!

 

 

 

Stretching

Let there be no debate

Posted: February 23, 2015

A friend was telling me the other day about, shall we say, a difference in opinion he’d held—for years—with his wife about the proper time to stretch. The hubby believed that it was always best to stretch before exercise, not after. His wife believed that the only stretching needed was after a workout.

 

So, whose side to take?

 

I got off easy over this argument. Turns out, they were both wrong.

 

First of all, unless you’re nursing an injury, there’s really never a bad time to stretch. When you stretch regularly—while working out or not—you become more flexible. And flexibility may just be the single most effective deterrent to the effects of aging. You don’t lose flexibility with aging; you lose flexibility when you don’t stretch. Or exercise. Circulation, posture, range of motion—stretching and flexibility can go a long way to improving a number of everyday ills that come with aging. When you stretch and become more flexible, you increase the distance your limbs can travel before an injury might occur. That’s a good thing whether you’re working out, crossing the street on wet, slippery pavement, or simply tying your shoes.

 

Stretching before a workout

 

Cold muscles limit range of motion and are more receptive to injury. Always include a warm up period (at least five minutes) before a workout that includes some stretching. Start with a gentle stretching of your head and neck and then work your way down your body; go for a short walk, or even take a warm bath. The point is, loosen and warm up so that both your body and mind are more receptive to the workout ahead.

 

During a workout

 

This is a workout ritual that many people don’t consider, but is just as important as any other time. Working with resistance, as we do on Body Electric TV, not only makes your muscles stronger but also temporarily shorter (contracted) and therefore, more susceptible to injury. So it is critical to stretch your muscles back to their resting length after each exercise. During a workout, I generally do 15 to 30 seconds of stretching following each exercise for a particular muscle group before moving on to the next exercise.

 

After a workout


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The cool-down period is a great time—while you’re still warm—to work on muscle length and flexibility. Just as you should stretch between each exercise, your cool-down period should also include stretching that brings muscles back to their resting length. Stretching at the end of a workout has the added pleasure of alleviating post-workout muscle soreness, and it also works to increase blood circulation and to remove waste products such as lactic acid. Bonus benefit: it’s a reward for a job well done.

 

Stretching between workouts

 

To keep your muscles supple between workouts, stretch every three days for five to ten minutes. Anytime you’re feeling tight, perform a few minutes of gentle stretching. All stretching, no matter when or where, should be static. That is, never bounce your way through a stretch.

 

I hope that settles that debate.

 

Learn more about stretching and flexibility in chapter four of my book, Body Electric (McGraw Hill, 2008).

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Aging's Bad Rap

See what really puts your health at risk

Posted: February 23, 2015

Aging may well be a risk factor for diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes and osteoporosis, but it is not the cause. According to Dr. Robert Butler, an internationally recognized leader in gerontology and geriatrics, “healthy aging” is shaped by social and behavioral factors, and adequate nutrition, rather than genetics.

 

The number of people over 65 will double by the year 2030. Age management, a new trend in scientifically research-based medical care, shifts the focus from disease treatment to more proactive disease prevention. The key issue, though, is not the undeniable fact that our bodies do age, but, rather, how they age. Even minor lifestyle changes have a dynamic effect on the quality of our lives.

 

Decline and disability are not normal consequences of advanced age.

 

Medical experts say inactivity poses as great a health risk as smoking, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression, arthritis and osteoporosis. Even lean men and women who are inactive are at higher risk of death and disease.

 

Being fit is one of the most important things you can do to ensure healthy aging. Regular exercise also helps to combat the ongoing damage done to cells, tissues and organs by chronic conditions such as elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and the increasing incidence of Type 2 diabetes.

 

Get with the Program

 

Aerobic exercise provides health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation. The American Heart Association recommends performing aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, for at least 30 minutes on most days. (You can also accumulate 30 minutes in 10 or 15-minute sessions.)

 

Muscle-toning exercise strengthens your muscles and bones. Exercise each muscle group for 3 ½ minutes every third day. So, if you exercise your upper body on Monday, you should work the same muscles again by Thursday. You may exercise a muscle on consecutive days provided that there is no soreness. Important caveat: continually challenge your muscles with heavier hand-held weights only if you can do so without compromising correct form.

 

Eat right

 

Eating a healthy diet is vitally important in maintaining lean muscle and reducing body fat. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., the best-selling author of “Eat to Live,” writes that raw vegetables and fresh fruits provide protection against cancer and osteoporosis (researchers found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones).

 

For optimum health and longevity, concentrate on foods that pack the most nutrients per calorie. And, by using meat as a condiment rather than the main course, you can afford more organic, and healthier, free-range products.

 

It’s not aging that slows you down. It’s the decisions you make and the lifestyle you lead that determine the quality of your life, no matter what age. So make a decision now to enjoy self-sufficiency, youthful vitality, and creativity for the time of your life.

 

Resources to get started

 

You may request (at no charge) Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from The National Institute on Aging by calling 800-222-2225 (toll free), or online at http://www.nia.nih.gov/

 

As the producer and host of Body Electric TV, which has aired nationally on PBS television since 1985, and author of the book, BODY ELECTRIC: Strong, Toned and Sexy in Just Three Hours A Week (McGraw-Hill; May, 2008), my mission is to inspire millions of Baby Boomers to maintain their fitness and youthful energy. The Body Electric program offers effective, safe, and enjoyable exercises that are powerful on the muscles and gentle on the joints.

 

Order my book >

 

Order workout DVDs >

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Road Workouts

Exercise is key to a successful trip

Posted: February 23, 2015

My job requires that I travel several days a week. Is it fair to blame any weight I might gain or a lack of conditioning on my travels?

Hardly. Extended travel is no excuse for missing a workout and letting yourself go. In fact, exercise while traveling is actually very important. When you’re confined to an airplane o a car for several hours at a time, your muscles will start to shrink and restrict your range of motion. Confinement impedes blood circulation as well. If you can stand and walk around a bit while in the air, you should. In a car, obviously, you don’t have that “luxury.”

 

You can see how exercise (that includes stretching) is so important on the road. Most decent hotels these days have fitness rooms with equipment (so, remove access to the gym from your list of excuses). But, maybe the fitness facility is closed when you’re ready to work out. Okay, fine. Try exercises you can do right in your hotel room with no equipment required. Use your own body weight for resistance, keep an eye on your form and keep it real. Your modified road workout should also include exercises for your chest and shoulders (push-ups), triceps, gluteal muscles, abdomen (stomach crunches) followed by a few relaxing stretches.

 

While a well-equipped hotel gym is nice to have, there is an upside to spending 30 minutes doing a muscle-toning workout in your room: privacy (assuming you're traveling solo). Tune the TV or radio to any channel and enjoy yourself.

 

After your workout, do more stretching—deep, slow stretches—then follow that up with a relaxing warm bath or shower. That workout-stretching-warm shower combination is a sure-fire recipe for a great night’s sleep, too. And you’ll no doubt need one to be ready for your next big day on the road.

 

Relaxing stretches-

 

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 A few more thoughts about working out on the road: first, when you’re packing for travel, always include workout clothes and a good pair of running or walking shoes.

 

Lastly, road workouts can help you fight off two other traveling pitfalls: fatigue and a bad diet. When you exercise during your travels, you will rest better at night. When you’re rested, your resistance is stronger and you are less likely to succumb to night-food cravings (a symptom of fatigue) or other dubious food choices.

 

So, no more excuses. Traveling doesn’t give you a get-out-of-a-workout-free card. On the contrary, it can contribute to your travel enjoyment and success.

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Need An Easy Way to Start Exercising?

Walk this way

Posted: February 23, 2015

When it comes to exercise, the one thing you should strive for, more than anything, is to be consistent. And, one of the easiest exercises you can do with consistency is walking. Not only is walking a simple exercise, it’s also a great way to introduce (or reintroduce) yourself to daily exercise without great inconvenience or expense. And, of course, the benefits of a regular (if not daily) walk are well known and include reducing the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, certain cancers, sleep problems, pain due to arthritis—the list goes on and on—to say nothing of how good and energetic it can make you feel.


 Getting started


Start with a good pair of walking shoes and use thick or padded socks to help prevent blisters. Be safe; always wear bright reflective clothing, and try to stay on sidewalks or pathways. If walking at dusk, dawn, or at night wear reflective clothing, or carry a flashlight. If you must step into the street (hopefully for only a short distance) be sure to walk facing traffic. If it’s a cool day, bundle up in layers to stay warm. Bring your ID, a cell phone, and water. For added motivation, have a regular date with a walking buddy. You can chat, of course, but keep walking briskly so that you become slightly out of breath. And, leave Fido at home; his constant stops to “smell the roses” will only interrupt your workout.


The three “F’s

 

A few minutes of easy strolling at the start of every walk will help to loosen and warm your muscles and joints. Start with a few 10 to 15 minute walks and then focus on walking farther, faster, and more frequently. How much father, how much faster, and how frequently you walk all depend on your goals. Keep your route interesting by varying it, adding a hill, or increasing your pace with faster “sprints.” From 15 minutes, try pushing yourself to 30 minutes, and then set a goal to walk three miles in 45 minutes. You can do it.


  Five more steps to better walking

 

1. Walk tall with your chest lifted and your shoulders pressed down.

2. Contract your abdominal muscles to help support your lower back.

3. Concentrate on quick steps - your stride length will come naturally.

4. Roll your foot from heel to toe and push off from your toes.

5. Measure your walks against time and not distance.


 Easy, right? Why not start today? Then, be consistent with it; put it on the calendar for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…

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Don't like it? Modify it.

TEN TIPS FOR CUSTOMIZING YOUR HEALTH CLUB WORKOUT

Posted: June 2, 2015

Have you joined a health club only to discover that you don’t really belong there? Indeed, fitness programs named Cross Fit, Insanity, Boot Camp, and Zumba can sound intimidating to some people and may not even be appropriate for your age or fitness level.

 

So what to do? Your options might include staying with it, hitting the treadmill, or perhaps spending more money on a personal trainer.

 

Actually, staying with your current class might not be such a bad option, if you take steps to modify your (or the class) routine. (And who wants to throw away good money, right?) With a little tweaking, the class you’re already attending might still provide the challenge and muscle-toning you’re looking for.  

Check out my 10 Tips for customizing your club or class workouts

 

1. The warm-up is designed to prepare you mentally and physically for the workout. Warming up increases overall body and muscle temperature resulting in increased blood flow to active muscles.

 

2. Aerobic exercise is best saved for the treadmill, or the outdoors.

 

3. Use weights that are challenging, but do not cause you to compromise correct form.

 

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4. Pace your movements with weights so that you can contract and expand your muscles through a complete range of motion.

 

5. Modify deep lunges, or any movement that causes joint pain. Exercise should cause muscle fatigue, but NEVER pain.

 

Abs alignment

 

6. When performing abdominal exercises, support your head with your hands keeping your head, neck and chest in alignment. Always maintain contact with your lower back and the floor. 

 

7. Use a cushioned mat for floor exercises, to protect your back, hips and knees.

 

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8. Use a belt or towel to extend your reach during flexibility/stretching exercises.

 

9. Stretch after every workout to enhance your rate of recovery and reduce any residual muscle soreness.

 

10. Your goal is to have a safe, effective, and enjoyable workout. The instructor will respect your ability to customize the workout!

 

 Take care!

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National Women's Health Week!

Having some fun with a serious subject

Posted: May 14, 2015

Let’s give big props to the Office of Women’s Health at the Department of Health and Human Services (not to mention you for your tax dollars) for this recent and important annual promotion. WomensHealth.gov set up a wonderful web site for the event; it's still up and packed with great information about healthy living for women of all ages. Check out the nifty interactive tool to get steps to take for good health. Just type in your age group and hit “Go.” For baby boomer women, you’ll see some very familiar suggestions—suggestions I’ve been advocating for my entire career: exercise most days for at least 30 minutes, eat healthy, maintain a healthy weight (that doesn’t mean you have to be skinny), limit alcohol, and for heaven’s sake, don’t smoke!

 

There are many other common sense suggestions on the site as well including regular doctor visits especially for mammograms, cholesterol, and diabetes checks.


Want to turn your game up a notch? Take the NWHW Pledge, then enter your age group in the interactive map and play something of a “Battle of the Decades” to see which age group has made the most pledges to healthier living.  When I last checked the map, the 50’s were packing a punch. Way to go, girls!

 

And that’s another reason I like this promotion so much: National Women’s Health Week is all about taking a serious subject and making it fun.

 

Hey, I’ve been saying that for 30 years too!

 

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No bones about it

Your body needs calcium as much as it needs exercise

Posted: May 7, 2015

When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, exercise doesn’t go it alone. Nutrition is an equally important part of any fitness program no matter what the goal. For women over 50, it’s especially important to strike the right balance between the energy spent on exercise and the food you take in for nutrition. And don’t think you can stop reading here because of all those nutritional supplements you take. You might be doing it wrong! More about that in a few sentences.

 

First, let’s take a look at Mineral #1 on the Over 50 Hit Parade: calcium. Did you know that 99 percent of the calcium in your body sits in your bones and teeth? True enough. Given that, it’s not hard to see why the human body requires calcium more than any other mineral. Your bones are pretty important.

 

Bones reach their maximum strength and density—or peak bone mass—around age 30. Loss of bone mass after that age is inevitable, and for postmenopausal women, bone loss can be rapid. Furthermore, our bodies don’t produce calcium. We get it from foods like yogurt, milk, and cheese. (And you get the same amount whether it’s full fat or non-fat, if you’re worried about that.) If you’re body isn’t getting enough calcium from food, it borrows from your bones for use in other parts of your body. If you don’t “pay back” that lost calcium, your bones can become weaker and you put yourself at greater risk for osteoporosis.

 

Regular exercise can also help combat loss of bone mass for women and men age 30 and over. Weight-bearing exercises that force you to work against gravity are especially good for your bones. Walking, hiking, jogging, climbing stairs, tennis, dancing, and weight training are all bone-friendly.

 

The right dose at the right time


So, are calcium supplements a good alternative to a yogurt smoothie? Yes, but only if you’re taking the supplement correctly. Calcium is most efficiently absorbed by your body when it’s included with real foods in a process called synergy. Simply put, calcium (and other minerals) works better in your body when combined with other natural minerals and vitamins (vitamin D, in particular) all working together in your food, and your body. That’s synergy.

 

Calcium supplements have no such synergy. They work alone and don’t absorb into your body as readily or naturally as calcium with food. That doesn’t mean calcium supplements are worthless. On the contrary. If your regular diet isn’t getting your calcium levels where they need to be, consider a supplement taken at doses of 500 mg at a time. No more. Your body can’t absorb more than 500 mg at once.  If you’re trying to add 1500 mg of calcium a day through one daily dose of supplements, you’re wasting 1000 mg (a mistake I made once). Break it into three 500 mg doses daily (if you need to take that much).

 

So how much calcium do you need?


Here’s what the National osteoporosis foundation recommends for women:

Age 19 to 49: 1,000 mg

Age 50 and over: 1,200 mg

Postmenopausal: 1,200 - 1,500 mg

 

This, of course, assumes all body systems are normal. Your doctor may have other plans for you if your calcium levels are off. Regardless, before you consider a calcium supplement, it’s important to understand how much calcium you’re getting from your normal diet. To give you an idea, here’s a sampling of food sources with calcium:

 

Plain low-fat yogurt (1 cup)…………........448 mg

Skim milk (1 cup)……………….................324 mg

Mozzarella cheese (15 ounces)………......310 mg

Orange juice, calcium fortified (1 cup)…300 mg

 

See the Guide to Calcium-Rich Foods at the National Osteoporosis Foundation, or pick up my Body Electric book for more ideas.

 

So once you finish your work out, go ahead and treat yourself to that low-fat yogurt smoothie.

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Need proof that exercise can help you age well?

Witness Exhibit A:

Posted: April 7, 2015

Looking better than ever,

the original 1980s Body Electric TV dancers

gather for a reunion in March, 2015.

Back row: Jules. Beth, Jill, Berneice, and BeNisa.

Front row: Jane, Margaret, and Mary.

 

In March of this year (2015), it was my great pleasure to reunite with several of the original Body Electric TV dancers in Tallahassee, Florida, where my fitness program got its start back in the mid-1980s.

 

It was such a joy to meet up with these friends again, and it was inspiring see how our dedication to fitness and a healthy lifestyle has delivered the promised perks. The ladies in the front row, including yours truly, are in their mid-60s. I am the baby boomer supreme at age 68. And the beautiful ladies in the back row are aged 47 to 60.

 

It was the late Dr. Robert Butler, founding director for the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and an internationally recognized leader in gerontology and geriatrics, who believed that healthy aging is shaped by social and behavioral factors, and adequate nutrition, rather than genetics. The key issue, though, is not the undeniable fact that our bodies do age, but, rather, how they age. Being fit is one of the most important things you can do to ensure healthy aging.

 

Regular exercise also helps to combat the ongoing damage done to cells, tissues, and organs by chronic conditions such as elevated blood pressure and cholesterol, and the increasing incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Aging may well be a risk factor for diseases such as Alzheimer's, diabetes, and osteoporosis, but it is not the cause.

 

Decline and disability are not normal consequences of advanced age


Medical experts say inactivity poses as great a health risk as smoking, contributing to heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, cancer, depression, arthritis, and osteoporosis.

 

People ages 55 and older are one of the fastest growing segments of gym membership, and will help push the fitness category to nearly $30 billion by 2018. But classes that strengthen muscles without stressing aging joints are hard to find. (Unless you look here, of course.) 

 

And wouldn’t you know, boomers are the first generation to reach their older years in worse health than their parents were at the same age—that according to Patricia Ryan, vice president of education at the International Council on Active Aging. As she told the LA Times, “Boomers are more likely to suffer from disability and disease as they age. It's an inactive lifestyle, lots of fast food and not enough exercise. People used to get up and walk to the bank. Now we all drive."

 

Medical advances now enable people to live longer, but not stronger. Those aged 65 today can expect to live until they are 84.1, compared with 78.9 in 1950, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

Even moderate exercise can keep people healthier as they age. And I’ve got a great picture to prove it!

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Getting It Right for Boomers

Exercise pundits often misplace the message

Posted: March 26, 2015

 

The other day I happened to catch a segment on a popular network daytime TV show. One of the guests was a fitness instructor who proceeded to show the program hosts a few exercise moves. What I saw shocked me.

 

The guest was clearly in shape, strong, and the product of regular, aggressive workouts—the kind that make for big arms and six-pack abs. Good for her.

 

Our two female hosts (both 50+), while trim and lovely, were clearly not in the kind of shape as their well-cut guest; much less the same age demographic. Never-the-less, the guest proceeded to demonstrate exercise moves the hosts would never—and should never—attempt.  

 

Possible injury awaits those who push exercise past what is appropriate for their ages and fitness levels, and the guest should have known that for her baby boomer hosts. It’s a pretty good guess that her fitness message was off the mark for much of the program’s viewership as well.

 

Another opportunity lost

 

This isn’t the first time I’ve witnessed a misplaced message between exercise and exerciser. I’ve seen this exercise hodgepodge all my life and it’s one thing that keeps me motivated to speak about—and demonstrate—age- and fitness-level appropriate workout routines. One workout routine doesn’t fit all. And shouldn’t.

 

Fitness fads come and go, and they largely go because they are so narrowly focused; often on a single, younger, demographic. For boomers, impracticable techniques, fad-driven exercises, or complicated and time-consuming regimens often discourage participation right out of the gate, or lead to frustration and ultimately a failed commitment.

 

Key for baby boomers (including our misguided program hosts) are varied exercises that challenge the muscles without stressing the joints. And it shouldn’t be complicated. Simple thirty minute workouts three days a week using light resistance (weights) can start to help you feel stronger and appear more toned in just a few workouts. (Read more tips on proper exercises for boomers in my Body Electric Book.)

 

There’s something else that’s often lost in the “six-pack mentality” of modern-day exercise messaging, and especially relevant for baby boomers today: exercise can help you temper the effects of aging and help you live longer. How could you not be motivated by that?

 

A toned-looking body is the bonus that regular exercise can bring. Feel free to max out whatever benefits you can draw from that. Flaunt it, baby. But how you feel, how you live, and how much longer you’re hanging around this planet – that’s the real magic the right exercise can bring if you stick with it.  

 

Flaunt that too.

 

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Muscle Soreness

Respect what your body has to say

Posted: March 10, 2015

You’ve heard me say this once or twice before, and you’ll hear me say it again: it’s never too late to start exercising. The human body is a physiological wonder in many ways, including its ability respond to exercise no matter its age.


Making a decision to exercise and maintain a regular fitness routine is the first important decision you can make. The next important decision is the type of workout you select. Whether it’s a Body Electric TV workout—with light resistance and low joint stress, ideal for baby boomers—or long-distance running for that 10k you’ve got your eye on, you need to select a workout that’s appropriate for your long term goals and has a gentle entry point.


Let soreness be your guide


If you’ve been off a workout routine for even a little while, ease your way back into it. Too much, too fast is a recipe for injury. That said, you should expect some level of soreness—called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)—within the first two days of your workout. But, it shouldn’t be the kind of soreness that causes you to modify your way of life. If it does, then you’ve obviously overdone your workout. Double-check that you’ve selected the right workout program. If you’re satisfied that you’ve made the right choice, then dial it back for the next workout, and watch your form.


Soreness is the result of microscopic tears to your muscles. Harsh as that sounds, it’s actually an important part of the process of getting stronger. As muscles rest between workouts, your body goes about the work of not just repairing them, but also making them stronger and better prepared for upcoming workouts. (As I said, the body is a physiological wonder.) So, just as you should temper workouts that knock you off your feet with DOMS pain, you should increase the level of workout effort if you’re experiencing no soreness at all.


Tired muscles and injuries both need rest


Always allow time between workouts for your muscles to rest, heal, and get stronger. My rule of thumb is to work a muscle every three days. You should not exercise when you are injured—from a workout, or a trip down the staircase. If your injury is acute, seek professional medical care right away. You have to respect all injuries, using the RICE acronym.


Rest: Try not to use the injured area for forty-eight hours, or until soreness subsides.


Ice: For swelling, apply a cold pack for twenty minutes at a time, four to eight times a day. Do not apply ice directly to exposed skin.


Compression: Use a compression wrap on an injured ankle, knee or wrist to help reduce swelling.


Elevation: Get the injured limb above your heart, as much as you can.


So get up, get moving, and let your body tell you how you’re doing. Chances are, you’ll discover that a little bit of soreness never felt so good.

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