Food & Fitness After 50: Top 5 Exercise Tips

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob MurrayBob Murray

In Food & Fitness After 50, we describe the importance of regular exercise for health and longevity.  We know that for many people, words such as “exercise”, “training”, and “workouts” are turn-offs, terms they can’t relate to and don’t want to consider as part of their lifestyle.  That’s no problem!  Most important for all of us is to adhere to a simple concept: sit less and move more.  Improving our health is as simple as that one painless step.  By reducing the time we sit, our increased movement throughout the day results in more calories burned and challenges our hearts, muscles, and bones to gradually improve their capacities.  For those who have spent the past decades doing just the opposite—sitting more and moving less—changing that habit is one of the easiest and most effective steps we can take toward better health.

Here are our top 5 tips to easily experience the long-term benefits of moving more:

  • Make sitting-less a priority. During each weekday, set an alarm to sound every hour (or less if you’d like) as a reminder to get up and move around.  If you’re stuck at your desk or in a meeting, moving around may be nothing more than standing for a few minutes.  If you have the opportunity, use those regular breaks from sitting to take a walk, stretch, or do a few exercises.  Television commercials can be another prompt to get up and move, just don’t use those opportunities to visit the refrigerator!
  • Make moving-more easy to accomplish. Family responsibilities and work require most of our time and energy, so it’s no surprise that many people want and need some down time to decompress.  If your day is jam packed and there simply is no time (or energy) to devote to formal exercise, there are still easy ways to move more.  For example, if you drive to your job—or ride a train or bus—take a longer way to walk to work.  Even an extra five minutes of walking before and then again after work can make a big difference over time.  If you have the chance to take a walk at lunch or during a break, that extra movement just adds to the benefits.  Also keep in mind that we don’t have to do all of our physical activity at one time; breaking things into ten-minute periods three times each day is an easy way to achieve a total of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity.  Spreading out our activity over the day may actually be as good as or better than exercising for an hour and being sedentary for the other 23 hours.
  • Make moving-more enjoyable. Common sense tells us that we’re more likely to continue to do the activities we most enjoy.  For that reason alone, moving-more should consist of whatever physical activities you most enjoy.  This simple lesson is especially important for those who have not exercised for decades, but have decided it’s time to increase daily physical activity.  Remember that housework, gardening, and mowing the lawn all count as moving-more.  We may not always enjoy those activities, but they all contribute to the goal of moving more.
  • Make moving-more fit your lifestyle. It can be frustrating to get excited about changing our fitness habits only to soon realize that we can not sustain the commitment of time or energy.  If your weekday schedule is crammed with family and work responsibilities, trying to find time to exercise can add stress.  Do your best to move more each day and use the weekends to get in the exercise you couldn’t fit into your chaotic week.
  • Make moving-more a regular habit. If you are one of the millions of Americans who are overweight and out of shape, your lifestyle will have to change if you hope to become slimmer and fitter.  Some people are successful at making large and abrupt changes in their lifestyles, but most of us find success in initially making small changes and gradually building on those over time.  If you haven’t exercised in decades, it makes more sense to develop new move-more habits by taking a daily 5-minute walk in one direction and then returning home than it does to sign up for a 12-week body-pump class.  Start small, develop a new habit that’s easy to maintain, and then gradually add more time and intensity.

Food & Fitness After 50 contains common-sense, science-based tips and resources that can help us eat well, move well, and be well.  Remember, the journey to better physical and mental health can begin with something a simple as a walk around the neighborhood. Food & Fitness After 50 is published by Eatright Press, a division of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is available at Amazon.

Why this dietitian encourages you to eat well, move well, and be well

In a yoga class (or, as instructor Tina Howard calls it, “YoFlex”), we were in a stretching pose on our backs, legs reaching up to the ceiling, and flexing our feet, when we were told to write our favorite age in the air with our outstretched foot. I thought for a brief second before writing sixty-six, my current age. There, I did it, I outed myself! But, although my brain thinks, “wow, 66 sounds old,” I believe that getting old is a privilege that not everyone gets to do. My father died in his early 50s, and we all have family and friends who did not get to enjoy a long life. So, instead of moaning about getting old (I really hate the expression “senior moment”), I hope that you celebrate growing old with grace and don’t chase a fountain of youth. We might want to believe in the power supplements that promise to turn back time, stop memory loss, improve aging skin, retard chronic disease, and achieve world peace (ok, just kidding about that last one), but we all know it is a scam. It is human nature to look for the quick fix, the easy cure, but we all know that what we eat, how much we move, and adopting healthy habits is the only way to age with grace. But, food tastes good and exercise is hard; much easier to think that a pill can fix our ills.

Many of you know that Bob Murray, exercise physiologist and all around good guy who is aging gracefully, and I have a book coming out in October called Food & Fitness After 50 book-front-page(and thanks to our family and friends who have pre-order the book on Amazon! And, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the link). We present a lot of real world scenarios from people we have talked to over the years who want to eat well, move well, and be well, but are not always sure how to separate nutrition and exercise fact from fiction. We use their stories to illustrate the book’s content.  And, I am constantly inspired by the 50+ adults in my community and my friends around the country who are living a healthy, active life. Every Tuesday, I will post a conversation with some of these friends and family members who I hope will inspire and continue to motivate you to be the best you can be at every age.

So, watch for their stories (you might recognize a few folks) and if you have a burning question about food or fitness for those of us over 50, leave your question here and we will answer it on the website with a personal response, too. Access the question box through this link Question box.

 

Guilt-free snacks?

Snacks
The email caught my eye…”guilt-free snacks for healthy habits.” Sounded like something I would be interested in and it had all of the buzz words for today’s consumer: “pure, natural, real, organic, gluten-free, and straight from nature.”  Well, that last one is a lie because no processed snack food comes “straight from nature.” I’ve never seen a chocolate hazelnut brownie coconut butter tree or a dark chocolate Brazil nut bush.

Never mind that, snacking is big business and many of us graze all day long, forgoing meals for snacks. So, how did these 3 “guilt-free” snacks fare on closer look? Spoiler alert….not so good.

For those of us 50+ adults, snacks should be nutrient-rich but not calorie-rich. Even for the most active among us, calories count and I’ve seen many older adults sabotage their weight and fitness goals by consuming too many “healthy” snacks. Snacks have calories and to avoid the weight creep of aging we have to be mindful of calories from all snacks. Let’s take a closer look at these so-called “guilt-free snacks.”

  • Dark chocolate Brazil nuts. A 4-oz bag sells for $6.00 with 5 servings/bag. Each serving has 230 calories, 18 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 12 g sugar, and 3 g protein. Let’s face it, how many of you can stop at one serving? A pretty pricey snack, loaded with calories, fat and sugar and not much protein to promote satiety…that feeling of fullness that keeps you from eating more a few hours later.
  • Chocolate hazelnut brownie coconut butter. This one costs $13.33 for a 12-oz jar. Two tablespoons comes with 220 calories, 20g fat and 3 g protein. Coconut butter is all the rage and we can debate the health aspects of it another time, but as a snack it packs a calorie and fat wallop.
  • Crunch cluster almonds. A one-oz serving will set you back 160 calories and 13 g fat with only 5 g protein. And, a 9-oz bag costs $6.32.

To me, a guilt-free snack is affordable and delivers on nutrition and taste. Snacks that are much (much!) less expensive and more (more!) nutrient-rich include plain Greek yogurt (100 calories and 18 g protein) mixed with your favorite seasonal fruit or try cottage cheese (1/2 cup has 90 calories and 13 g protein) with a few whole grain crackers. If you like a creamy, cheesy snack, try a portion-controlled wedge (like The Laughing Cow spreadable cheese wedges with only 35 calories per wedge) on crisp apple slices.

Don’t be fooled by the health-halo surrounding “guilt-free” snacks. Eat nourishing, healthy snacks without the high price tag. I’ll bet you have some in your fridge right now!