• May 08, 2011
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So Many Reasons To Consider Doing Yoga

Why would you want to twist yourself like a pretzel? According to the Yoga Alliance, there are many good reasons:

Stress relief: Yoga reduces the levels of cortizol__ the stress hormone

Pain relief: Studies have shown that practicing yoga postures, meditation or a combination of the two, reduced pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, autoimmune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions

Better breathing: Yoga includes breathing practices which can be effective for reducing our stress response, improving lung function and encouraging relaxation

Flexibility: Yoga improves flexibility and range of motion.

Other good reasons include: better circulation, improved concentration and coordination, improved memory, and inner peace. The meditative effects of a regular yoga practice helps to cultivate a feeling of calm and peacefulness.

Yoga poses can be modified to fit the abilities of just about anyone. I use modified poses all the time with my clients. One of my favorite poses is the cat-cow (photo,left).  It's very safe and is good for the back. You stand on all fours, arch your back like a cat and let your head hang down. Hold the position for at least 7 breaths. Release the position and let your back down like a sway-backed cow, keeping your head facing up.

Again, hold for at least 7 breaths. This pose alternately stretches and strengthens the back and neck.

Yoga classes can be found on almost every corner today. They are offered in yoga studios, most gyms, community centers, parks, some churches and even on the beach!

There are many types of yoga from Hatha to Bikram to Iyengar. I'm still sampling yoga styles and don't yet have a favorite, so I could really use your suggestions here!

  • May 29, 2011
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Overcoming The Negative Effects Of Too Much Sitting

Seniority Matters note: Sibyl's blogpost is so timely, and serves as a great response to the recent New York Times blog depicting the workplace as a major culprit in today's obesity epidemic.

"The science of sedentary behavior, also called inactivity physiology, is an emerging field of research in health, fitness and medicine. This field involves the study of sitting for extended periods of time and the biological ramifications associated with it.

In the United States, adults and children spend the majority of their day in various forms of sedentary behavior, such as riding in a car, working at a desk, eating a meal at a table, playing video games, working on a computer, and watching television.", says Len Kravitz PHD, in an article published in the October 2009 IDEA Fitness Journal.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time can increase the mortality risk from cardiovascular disease. So what can you do if you spend one hour a day commuting to work, four to eight hours sitting in front of a computer and two hours watching television? 

You can break up long periods of sitting during work by:

  • Walking around the office every hour.
  • Standing up and getting some water.
  • Walk to the farthest bathroom.
  • Stand while talking on the phone.

For the 2 hour time period spent watching TV or reading you can:

  • Get up and move during commercials.
  • Do some lunges every 30 minutes.
  • Get up and walk around the room after reading a certain number of pages in a book.
  • Stand and do some stretching.
  • June 01, 2011
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Our Thoughts On Assisted Living Facilities Here In Florida

Recently the Miami Herald published an excellent series "Neglected to Death" that brought to our attention some of the horrific conditions that exist in some assisted living facilities here in Florida.

For many of us (even those like myself who work with these issues everyday), who are in the throes of searching for solutions for our own parents, this was an eye-opening and disturbing series, and highlights the importance of having the information at our finger tips that enable us to make good and informed choices.

Not every choice we make for ourselves or our parents will be perfect but the knowledge that the services we engage are quality, safe and secure allows us to tweak and make the changes that make us feel that we are as close to perfection as possible. This is the underlying philosophy of Seniority Matters.

 I read and re-read each installment of the series many times. While I was thrilled to see our legislators jump into action, I fear that their response is like a bandaid on a huge gash.  I believe we need to fix the system from the bottom up.

Think about it for a second.... most of us reading this blog use the internet as a major source of information. I even use the internet to validate things that people say to me. When making critical choices for myself or my father, I want to have the critical information I need at my fingertips.

A lot of the information that we need to make these decisions are available, but it is all over the place, and unless you are dedicated to sleuthing it out you won't find it. Having such information readily available to all requires a major overhaul. 

After hours of thinking I submitted my thoughts and opinions and submitted to the Miami Herald. It was published in the Ideas and Issues section in Sunday's (May 29) paper. 

Have you had a chance to read the series?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic that so many of us are facing.

  • June 19, 2011
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Extra Inspiration That Keeps Us Working Out!

Do you sometimes need extra inspiration to keep working out? I do too.

Enter Diana Nyad...remember her? Diana Nyad, now 61, is a former world record holding American swimmer. Diana broke many records including the 50-year-old mark for circling the island of Manhattan in 1975 in 7 hours and 57 minutes. 

In 1979 she completed the longest swim in history...102.5 miles from Bimini to Florida.

In one of the few things she tried (publicly) but did not succeed, Diana attempted to swim from Cuba to Florida in 1978. Though she swam for an incredible 49 hours and 41 minutes in a metal shark cage, she couldn't finish due to high winds and high seas.

After a ten year stint as a top swimmer, Nyad went on to pursue a career as a sports announcer on TV and as radio commentator on NPR. She has also written three books, "Other Shore," "Basic Training," and  "The Keyshawn Johnson Story."  

 Not long ago, facing her 60th birthday and feeling the weight of the approaching milestone, Diana (photos left and below) asked herself  what she regretted the most in her life. It turned out to be the aborted attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. So, two summers ago Diana began training for the swim again. 

For the last year, her training has consisted of swimming point to point and island to island in the Caribbean. She even once swam from St. Maarten to Anguilla. The Cuba-to-Florida swim is scheduled for June or July.

The now-61-year-old will have a support team of 25 and and will no longer have to deal with the shark cage, but will use the more scientifically advanced "shark screen."

I'll be watching, because Diana has become my latest fitness inspiration. You can keep up with Diana's plans and progress at her website, diananyad.com/blog.

What about you? Leave us a comment below on the person who inspires your fitness training.

 
  • June 28, 2011
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Exercises To Help Your Posture

Poor posture is prevalent in older adults and can cause a myriad of problems. Poor posture causes the head to move forward and the shoulders to round, which in turn, causes neck and back pain. A once healthy gait becomes a shuffle increasing the risk of falling. People with kyphotic posture (extreme convex curvature of the upper spine) often have to use a cane or walker just to get around.

On her website, Jolie Bookspan writes, "The pressure of your own body weight on your neck muscles and discs over years of poor sitting, standing and bending habits is enough to injure your neck as badly as a single accident." She concludes with a positive note, "a degenerating disc is not a disease, but a simple, mechanical injury that can heal, if you just stop grinding it and physically pushing it out of place with unhealthy habits."

 There are some stretching and strengthening movements you can do to improve posture and gait. Hold each position for 30 seconds.

Stretches:

The W stretch ( for upper back and neck): Your back is against a wall, knees bent. Step 12 inches away from the wall. Contract the abdominals with shoulders, back and buttocks against the wall. Without lifting the chin, touch the back of the head against the wall.

If this is impossible for you to do, just bring the head back as far as possible. Raise your arms to form a W. Bend elbows at shoulder height, wrists above elbows, with palms facing forward. With your body still against the wall, draw your arms back until elbows, wrists and hands are touching the wall.

Runner's stretch (for calf and Achilles Tendon, photo above): Stand with your hands on a wall. Keeping the right leg straight with the heel flat on the ground, step forward approximately 24 to 30 inches with left foot, then lean forward, bending the left knee. Repeat on the other leg.

Strengtheners:

Neck strengthener: Seated in a car or chair with a headrest, press hips back in the seat and lean back, pressing your head against the neck support. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat 8 to 15 times.

Gluteal strengtheners: Lie facedown with your knees bent at a 10 to 15 degree angle. Squeeze the buttocks muscles. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 8 to 15 times.

  • July 14, 2011
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Feet Hurt? What You Can Do For Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis (PLANT-er fash-EYE-tis) causes a stabbing-like pain in the heel of the foot. It usually occurs in only one foot, but can affect both as well. Sometimes, the pain is felt in the arch or on the ball of the foot.

It is most common in runners, athletes and women between 40 and 60. Heel pain is caused by stress placed on the plantar fascia ligaments (under the bottom of the foot) when it is stretched abnormally, resulting in tears and inflammation. Strengthening and stretching exercises aid the ligament in becoming more flexible and can strengthen muscles that support the arch.

If you combine stretching and strengthening exercises with rest, icing (after exercise), shoe inserts and mild pain relievers you will have a better chance of pain relief.

Here are some exercises for plantar fasciitis:

 Stretching exercises (stretch fascia and the Achilles tendon):

  • Regular Calf Stretch: Stand with your hands on a wall. Keeping the right leg straight with the heel flat on the ground, step forward approximately 24 to 30 inches with the left foot, then lean forward, bending the left knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and do 2 to 4 repetitions. Do this stretch 3 to 4 times a day, 5 days a week.
  • Plantar Fascia and Calf Stretch: Stand on a step, holding on to the railing. Your toes should be on the step, with the heels off the step. Slowly lower your heels down over the edge of the steps. You should feel a stretch across the bottom of your foot. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds, then bring your heel back up to the level of the step. Repeat 2 to 4 times.

Strengthening exercises:

  • Towel Curls: Sitting down, place your foot on a towel on the floor and scrunch the towel toward you with your toes. Next, using your toes, push the towel away. Repeat 2 to 4 times.
  • Marbles: Put marbles on the floor next to a cup. Sitting down, lift the marbles up with your toes and put them in the cup.

Remember to avoid running on hard surfaces if you have plantar fasciitis. Wear good athletic shoes when you exercise and replace them regularly. Always stretch before activity and gently massage your feet after to promote circulation and relaxation.

I sometimes give golf balls to my clients with plantar fasciitis. Rolling the golf ball with the affected part of the foot provides a massage effect.

  • July 17, 2011
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Electronic Reading Devices (eReaders) For Aging Eyes!

If you’re having trouble reading in low light, you’re not alone. Over time, an adult’s eyes may become damaged and he or she may experience difficulty reading in low light, difficulty focusing due to blurred vision and increased sensitivity to glare. These are the beginning symptoms of many eye disorders including macular degeneration -- the leading cause of vision loss among persons aged 65 or older. With macular degeneration, reading may become more of a challenge and less of a pleasure.

To alleviate stress on the eyes, many seniors are familiarizing themselves with electronic reading devices, better known as eReaders. These new gadgets are the alternative to paperback books and can be customized to fit the reader’s needs, such as font size and lighting contrast between the text and background, all by the tips of your fingers.

The three products leading the eReader market are the Amazon Kindle, the Barnes & Noble Nook and Apple’s iPad 2 (See the table below for a side-by-side comparison). Each device’s reading component has a high-resolution screen for clear reading and adjustable brightness. The Kindle and the Nook represent the triumph of the concept of E-Ink, with revolutionary display of words and images on a screen that are glare resistant. E-Ink technology reflects light like ordinary paper, allowing the reader to enjoy a novel or periodical at any angle or amount of light. The iPad 2 rivals the Kindle and the Nook with the largest and brightest display, but its glass screen makes it susceptible to glare when exposed to bright light or held at certain angles.

All three eReaders come with the convenience of an online bookstore. Simply plug in your new eReader and follow the easy steps to installing any supplementary software and creating an account for downloading all types of reading materials. The Kindle, Nook and iPad 2 are compatible with any PC or Mac. Once logged on, you can download millions of titles from the eReader’s respective bookstore within 60 seconds or less with just a simple click. WiFi and 3G models allow for wireless browsing and downloading.

  • July 17, 2011
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When It Comes To Heart Health, Know Your Numbers!

The number of women who have heart attacks increases dramatically once you turn 55, especially after menopause. There are many factors that affect your risk for heart disease and stroke. Some, like age, race and family history, you can’t control. But others, such as obesity, stress, smoking and cholesterol, you can. If you are at risk, for any reason, take your heart health seriously.

Begin by knowing what your numbers are. That is, when your physician orders lab tests at your annual check-up, ask to see (and retain a copy) of your lab tests and know how your results stack up against these optimal benchmarks, which measure your risk for heart disease and diabetes, from the American Heart Association (AHA).

  • Total Cholesterol: <200 mg/dL L
  • DL (“bad”) cholesterol: <100mg/dL
  • HDL(“good”) cholesterol: 50mg/dL or higher
  • Triglycerides: <150mg/dL
  • Fasting Glucose <100mg/dL

The AHA offers many helpful tools, from online trackers to healthy diet tips, to help you learn about and monitor your heart health. When you sign up for their “Go Red for Women” program, you can take a “heart check up” to assess your cardiovascular health factors, and receive a free 12-week online nutrition and fitness program and coaching tools.

  • August 05, 2011
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Now You Can Have A Dose Of Flax Seed In Your Coffee

Take a walk through your local super market, and you’ll be surprised to see just how many products contain flax seed, which some call a “wonder food” for its many potential health benefits. You’ll find ground flaxseed as a key ingredient in “chewy” products such as cereals, oat meal, breads, and crackers. But now, one processor has come up with a way to mix it with your morning coffee.

Flax Milk is the latest entry in the dairy and lactose free beverage category. The company behind it, FLAX USA, says it contains 1100 mg of Omega 3s and has as much calcium as regular milk. Right now, it’s a one-of-a-kind product that’s only available at Wal Mart in the refrigerated section. I haven’t tasted it yet, but their publicity materials claim that both the regular and vanilla flavors are delicious. I hope so because I’m not a big fan of nut, soy or rice milks.

If you want to try it out, here's a recipe provided Flax USA: 2 cups Flaxmilk (original or vanilla) 1/2 c. organic banana 2 tbsp of frozen orange concentrate 1 cup ice cubes 2 tsp of coconut extract 2-3 tbs of Flax Organic Milled Flax Seeds Blend at high speed till smooth and garnish with your choice of fruit (like strawberries) and a sprig of mint.

Flax USA is a family business in North Dakota. The Stober family has been growing flax for five generations and their organic, cold-milled, golden flax seedcan be found at Costco and other big box chains.

For another source on the health benefits of Flax, read The Healing Power of Flax: How Nature’s Richest Source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids Can Help to Heal, Prevent and Reverse Arthritis, Cancer, Diabetes and Heart by Herb Joiner-Bey N.D.

  • August 16, 2011
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New Research Shows That Soy Doesn't Prevent Bone Loss Or Help With Menopause Symptoms

Women who consume soy supplements thinking…hoping… that they will help reduce or eliminate menopausal symptoms such as bone loss, insomnia or hot flashes will be very disappointed at the findings of a clinical trial published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

I know this study well as I worked on it for 3 years at the University of Miami—managing and analyzing the data—and co-authored the paper with Dr. Silvina Levis (see our previous Q & A on Vitamin D with Dr. Levis) and colleagues.

The study targeted women ages 45-60 years who had been menopausal for one to five years. We wanted to determine whether daily intake of soy isoflavones (plant compounds that mimic estrogen in the body) in tablet form prevents the rapid bone loss associated with the initial menopausal years.

In this study of 248 women ages 45 to 60, half were were given 200 milligrams of soy isoflavones daily (a much bigger dose than you or I would ever consume) and the other half were given a placebo. At the outset, nearly all complained of the most common menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia. loss.

After two years, the study participants were tested for changes in bone mineral density and in menopausal symptoms. Despite the large dose of soy isoflavones, researchers found no difference in the rates of bone loss between the two groups. There also was no significant change in other symptoms such as hot flashes. In fact, by the end of the study, more women in the soy group reported hot flashes compared to the placebo group, 48 percent to 32 percent. Moreover, almost all of the participants (those taking the soy tablets as well as the placebo) reported adverse effects such as constipation and bloating.

In the end, the study showed that soy isoflavones are too weak an estrogen to make a difference and can’t be considered a remedy for menopausal symptoms or prevention of bone loss. Women will need to reach out to more traditional modalities to prevent bone loss and hot flashes, including the use of FDA approved drugs and exercise.

  • August 22, 2011
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Get Up And Dance! Ballet For Boomers And Seniors

A lot of people have jumped on the ballet class bandwagon. Why? Because ballet classes are entertaining, have great health benefits, and, who doesn't want to look long and lean like Natalie Portman in “Black Swan?”

Ballet is strenuous -- so use caution and common sense -- because every inch of your body is actively engaged in the movements. And ballet is good for the brain because, like any kind of dance, it requires that the brain remembers the steps and coordinates upper and lower body movements at the same time. If that’s not enough to get you moving...consider that the classical music used in ballet has a beneficial effect as well. Studies have shown that classical music stimulates the alpha waves in the brain, thus enhancing thinking and learning.

One of the greatest benefits of ballet is that it can tone your body while greatly improving posture. Have you ever seen a ballet dancer who slouches? In ballet you learn to stand tall like you have a string attached to the crown of your head which is suspended from the ceiling. Good posture is essential in staying healthy and pain free.

Many people find ballet dancing helps relieve stress, not only because you are exercising, but you must concentrate solely on the movements, forgetting about your problems for a while. And on top of all that, it’s fun.

There are dance studios offering adult ballet classes all over South Florida...below are two in Miami-Dade. However, if you need a little more convincing, or just aren’t ready to commit... click this link to a magazine article that features my daughter, Amber, who teaches dance in the Washington, D.C. area, and a 20-minute mini-ballet lesson in a video.  If you click on the symbol in the lower left of the video frame to expand the picture, you can watch the video as you dance away in the privacy of your home.

Bravo!

Adult ballet classes:

In Miami

  • The Bar Method: 5734 Sunset Drive, South Miami  (305-668-7738), miami@barmethod.com
  • In Motion:  4700 Biscayne Blvd. Miami  (305-751-2229)

Near Fort Lauderdale

Near Palm Beach

 Do any of you take Ballet lessons?  If so, do you have a favorite ballet school?

  • August 26, 2011
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THE Conversation

Have you seen this Public Service Announcement on Aging with Joan Rivers and her daughter?

It's part of the Volunteers of America's campaign to get family members to talk about aging. Using humor to address this topic, it shows that no matter who you are, it's not an easy conversation to have.

Take a look and tell us what you think. Have you had THE conversation with your children or parents?

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