Food & Fitness After 50: It’s True! Good Things Come in Small Packages

“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns, Comedian

For 38 years, Bo worked in IT for IBM and then “retired” and worked for 3 years in the “best job I ever had.” That job was for the local Chamber of Commerce where “everyday was different, unpredictable, and fun.” But, being the people-person, she is, Bo says the best part was the people she worked with and the interactions with others in her community. Having just celebrated her 69th birthday, Bo is now fully retired, but she spends a good part of every day at the YMCA taking aerobic classes three days a week from Jean the Dancing Queen.”  She also plays pickelball for several hours 4 to 5 days a week.

Healthy Habits to Control Weight

Bo 2Bo has always been petite and the only time she gained weight was during her pregnancies with her 2 boys, but she quickly got back to her usual, healthy weight. While many adults gain weight as they age, Bo manages her weight by eating smaller portions, eating lots of fresh veggies, limiting sweets and sugar, and paying attention to how much and when she eats. “I’m lucky that I like the healthy stuff!” She often finds she doesn’t have much of an appetite, but eating breakfast and a mid-day meal around 2 pm (which she calls a cross between lunch and dinner as “linner”) keeps her fueled without being full. Her only dietary indulgence is a “real Coca-Cola” a couple of times a week. She also pays attention to hydration and is sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish water loss during activity.

Keep moving

As she has gotten older, Bo knows she needs to pay attention to her body and adjust as needed. “Know what you can do and what you can’t do.” TRX is all the rage at our local Y, but she knows that it isn’t for her. “Understand your body, but stay involved and active.” Her words of wisdom are “the more you use it, the better it gets.” Great advice for everyone!

Keep motivated

Many sedentary folks look at active people and think it is easy for them or that it comes naturally, but Bo makes exercise a priority in her life. Bo’s advice is “don’t be lazy; tell yourself you have to go to exercise class, an activity, or for that daily walk. “Feed your body right and use it every day!” Her words reminded me that while I often would prefer to skip morning exercise class and sleep in a bit longer or linger over a second cup of coffee, I have never once said, “I wish I hadn’t exercised today!” We all feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally after a good workout!

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Meet Jean, the Dancing Queen

“I won’t be old till my feet hurt, and they only hurt when I don’t let ‘em dance enough, so I’ll keep right on dancing.”

Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson,  U.S. Dancer

Three days a week, I muddle through a dance aerobics class at the YMCA, along with about 20 other women. While I have two left feet, Jean, our instructor, is a dancing queen. Jean, age 69, loves “music, dance, and movement,” and that is what drew her to dance aerobics over 40 years ago. In school she took every PE class she could fit into her schedule, but when she discovered dance aerobics, she knew she had found her favorite exercise.

Jean class 1
Jean, center, with dancing disciples

 

Girls weren’t always encouraged to be active

Jean grew up in rural Georgia and loved hanging out with her two brothers. She described herself as “tom-boy,” and everyday after school the trio would be outside “running, jumping, and climbing trees until mom honked the car horn to call us in for supper.” She realizes she was active in an era when girls weren’t. In high school she played basketball and was a cheerleader and in college she played intramural basketball. Over the years, she enjoyed all kinds of activity, from running (and completing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC) to golf to cycling. She completed the Bicycle Race Across Georgia ten times! Jean and her husband, a high school and college football player, have passed their love of exercise to their children.

Her first stint at college got interrupted by motherhood, but she eventually went back to school to earn a social work degree. Between work, school, and family, Jean taught dance aerobics in small towns in northeast Georgia and South Carolina. At the time, there weren’t many fitness facilities, so she got resourceful and used elementary school gyms or church facilities…any space that would allow her to gather with a group of dedicated dance devotees. “There were times when it was so hot in the un-air-conditioned schools or churches that we moved class outside to the parking lot. It was still sweltering hot in the Georgia summer, but at least here was a breeze!”

Dance Aerobics finds a permanent home

For the past 10 years, she has found a home in the local YMCA, teaching at 8 AM three mornings each week. She changes up the hour-long routine about every 8-10 weeks to keep in interesting for the attendees, and for herself. “Exercise is serious business, but it has to be fun,” and we do have fun. Jean transfers her joy to her fellow dancers every day, but even more so on Halloween. She surprises us with her own special look as we dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.Jean halloween

Jean says it is more challenging to stay active as she ages, but says “you have to make the effort, because some days it is easier to want to do nothing. But, we all have to take responsibility for our health and fitness and find something we love to do and look forward to doing it.” For Jean, that something is dance.

Being well

Jean also stays well by playing games, reading, and working crossword puzzles to keep her brain sharp and says maintaining relationships with her friends and family keeps her aging well. And, of course, she moves everyday for the physical and mental benefits. “Movement makes me feel happy and I hope that everyone finds an activity that makes them move and be well.”

Learn more about eating well, moving well, and being well in Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon.