Fitness Changes to Make in Your Fifties

Middle aged couple exercising together

As people age, they tend to slow down a bit and take life a little easier, but this can actually have quite a detrimental effect on your overall health, as it causes a decrease in metabolism and therefore muscle mass. Studies have shown that a significant chunk of the population do little to no exercise after the age of 50, and this is something that really does need to change.

Start with a Physical Activity That You Enjoy
For people who are generally quite sedentary, the best way to begin making positive fitness changes in your life is by introducing a physically activity that you genuinely enjoy. This can be anything from walking the dog to taking a sunset stroll after dinner to going dancing a couple of times a week. Starting off slow will help to gradually increase your fitness levels, which will then make other fitness activities seem far less daunting.

Strength Training
Bone density peaks around the age of 30, and after this begins to slowly drop, which is why strength training is so important, as this will give you the strong bones that you need to keep your body healthy. Strength training basically refers to lifting heavy objects, and should be carried out around two to three times a week in order to really build muscle strength and mass. Lifting weights is the best way to do this, and you should try to begin with dumbbells that weigh between five to eight pounds, increasing this to eight to ten pounds as your body gets stronger.

Middle aged woman doing strength training

Realistic Goals
While you may have been able to build up strong muscles in just a few weeks while you were in your 20’s, you need to be realistic about the fact that this is going to take a bit longer now that you are over the age of 50. Make sure that you allow for this when coming up with your fitness goals, while also taking into account that your body will need more recovery time after intense workouts. Patience and consistency are key here, and while the results may take longer to appear, working out regularly will end up giving you the stronger body that you desire.

Cross Training
Many people believe that activities such as high impact aerobics, which work the same muscles over and over again, is beneficial, but this is actually a sure-fire way to cause an injury to your body. Cross training makes use of several different types of fitness activities in one session, resulting in a far more balanced workout that prevents injuries from occurring.

There are many different types of chronic diseases that commonly affect people who are 50 and over, from heart disease to diabetes to osteoporosis, and your chances of developing one of these increases drastically if you are generally quite inactive. However, keeping fit and exercising on a regular basis is one of the best ways to prevent these diseases from occurring, while keeping your body healthy and strong as it continues to age.

Steps for Dealing with a Personal Loss

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A personal loss can be so hard to deal with and can hit some much more severely than it does others. For those of you who are trying to come to terms with your grief, here are a few steps that you can take.

Understand the Grieving Process
While the grieving process is hugely individual, there are five general stages that people tend to experience. These are denial, followed by anger, bargaining, depression and, finally, acceptance. However, not everybody goes through all of these five stages, and the grieving process can take different amounts of time for different people, sometimes just weeks but sometimes years.

Establish a Support Network
Although you may not particularly feel like speaking to anyone, it is so important that you reach out to others and establish a support network for yourself. Withdrawing from the world is all-too-common, but this is only going to be extremely detrimental in the long run, so try to speak to others who have been through similar experiences, as they will be able to share a valuable perspective with you.

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Professional Help
If your grief or anger really starts to overtake you and feels like it is all getting too much to bear, then this is a sign that you may need to turn to a professional for help. An experienced therapist will be able to help you to work through any intense emotions that you may be feeling, which will enable you to overcome any obstacles or blocks that are holding you back.

Express Your Feelings
Whether it may be a piece of art or writing in a journal, expressing yourself in a creative way will always be helpful when dealing with a personal loss. This is especially useful when your emotions are really threatening to bubble over, as you will have an outlet into which you can channel this energy, turning it into something productive.

Exercise
Exercising when you are feeling so down may be the last thing that you want to do, but exercise focuses your mind on the task at hand, while also releasing serotonin and other beneficial hormones into your brain. Whether you go to the gym, take the dog for a walk, or sign up for some lessons to learn a new sport, this will also be a great time for you to do some self-reflection, which can really help you to move past any painful memories.

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Don’t Try to Numb the Pain
It can be tempting to turn to mind-altering substances when you are dealing with a personal loss, as these can often numb the pain that you are feeling. However, not only will this make it much harder for you to deal with the loss in the long run, but it can also lead to an addiction, as you will end up turning to this substance whenever you begin to feel down.

A personal loss, as well as the grieving process that accompanies it, can be caused by a wide range of things. Whether it be the death of a loved one, the loss of a friendship, or a divorce or breakup, make sure that you take the necessary steps to help you to deal with your loss, as this is what will help you to really move on.

Avoiding Knee Pain and Injuries

Woman attending to her injured knee

Knee pain becomes more prevalent with age, and can be caused by either a one-off injury, or from repetitive knee motions. To keep your knees in the best shape possible and avoid any pain or injury, take a look at these useful tips.

Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight can cause unnecessary stress on your knees, and will seriously increase your chances of developing knee pain. By maintaining a weight that is healthy for your size, you will be able to prevent this extra stress, while also lowering your chances of developing osteoarthritis.

Pay Attention to Your Running Technique
If you are a runner, then you have a far greater chance of injuring your knees, unless you pay close attention to your running technique. You should be leaning forward from your ankles, and landing mid-foot, while keeping your knees soft and bent each time you land, to minimize the amount of impact that they receive. You should also keep your feet pointing in the direction at which you are running, as having your feet splay out to the side will end up torquing your knee each time your foot hits the ground.

Warming Up
Before you do any type of exercise, it is important that you first warm up and do a few stretches. Stretching the muscles in the front and back of your thighs is especially important, as this decreases the tension that is placed on your tendons, which therefore alleviates the pressure that your knees would otherwise have faced.

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Stay Active
Even if you are already experiencing minor pain in your knees, it is important to stay active on a regular basis. Allowing your activity levels to decrease will only lead to weakness, which would then make your knees much more susceptible to injury. Even just walking will be extremely beneficial to your knees, as walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, and puts minimum stress on your joints.

Don’t Neglect Your Shoes
When it comes to avoiding knee pain, wearing sensible shoes that fit your feet well is an effective method. This will help your legs to maintain the correct alignment and balance, which protects your knees from extra stress. If you are a runner, the way in which your shoes fit your feet is especially important, and you should also make sure that you replace your shoes either every three months, or after 500 miles of wear, as this is what is recommended by experts.

Avoid Activities that Stress Your Knees
While staying fit and active is important, you should also try to avoid specific activities that will cause extra stress to your knees. Examples of these are deep knee bend exercises and downhill running, both of which place a huge amount of tension on your knees.

A knee injury can be incredibly painful and frustrating, which is why you should take all of the necessary steps to prevent this from happening. From ensuring that you warm up before exercising to keeping your weight under control, these tips will help you to keep your knees healthy for years to come.

Foods to Pack in Your Gym Bag

The foods that you eat before and after a workout are extremely important, as different foods will be able to fuel you in different ways. If you have been confused about the best snacks to pack in your gym bag, here are a few ideas.

Yoghurt

Pre-Workout: Greek Yoghurt with Berries
Greek yoghurt with berries is a great pre-workout snack, as the yoghurt contains a combination of whey and casein, meaning that you are getting a great balance of slow and fast-digesting proteins, which provide your muscles with the amino acids that they need during a workout. The yoghurt will take between four and six hours to digest, while the berries, which are a great source of carbohydrates, will take around two, giving your body long-lasting fuel.

Post-Workout: Tart Cherry Smoothie with Fresh Ginger and Whey Protein
Smoothies are always refreshing after a gruelling workout, and a tart cherry smoothie, along with some fresh ginger, will go a long way in helping to reduce inflammation, preventing any soreness. When it comes to the whey protein, around 30 grams of this is the optimum amount, as this will help to stimulate synthesis and growth within your muscles.

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Pre-Workout: Bananas
Bananas are an easy snack to carry around, and are absolutely packed with potassium and complex carbohydrates. Both of these can significantly help with nerve and muscle function, so even if you do not enjoy eating bananas on their own, try adding them to a smoothie or some Greek yoghurt.

Post-Workout: An Orange and a Hardboiled Egg
Eggs are often considered to be the perfect food, and hardboiled eggs are extremely portable, and make for a great post-workout snack. The protein in the eggs will help to repair your muscles, but try to choose eggs that are organic and free-range, as studies have shown that these are usually much higher in the fatty acids that help to prevent any inflammatory damage that a vigorous workout may have caused. Oranges contain high levels of potassium and water, which will help to rehydrate you and replenish energy.

Pre-Workout: Oats with Almond Butter
If you are heading for a high-energy workout, then carbs will be your best friend, which is where the oatmeal comes in. However, in order to keep yourself feeling satisfied for the next few hours, cook the oats with some almond butter, as this is also a great source of magnesium, which is necessary for muscle contraction and relaxation.

Vegetable omelette

Post-Workout: Vegetable Omelette
Eggs are extremely high in leucine, which helps to trigger the synthesis of protein in muscles, which is why they are such a great post-workout food. By packing your omelette with lots of different vegetables, you will be providing your body with a wide range of vitamins and minerals to help it to recover, from red bell peppers for vitamin C to pineapples for bromelain.

When it comes to pre and post-workout snacks, remember that timing is everything. The ideal time to eat is around thirty minutes to three hours before a workout, and within twenty minutes after working out, as this is necessary to keep your muscles healthy.

Tips for Increased Happiness and Productivity

Happy woman

Everybody faces different challenges within their lives, and, when this happens, it is sometimes all-too-easy to fall into a bit of a rut. Rather than letting that happen to you, here are a few tips that will no doubt help you to increase your happiness and boost your productivity at the same time.

Reflect on Your Life
It is always important to take some time out of your busy schedule every once in a while to reflect back on your life. From the good points to the bad, start keeping a journal of your reflections, as this will help you to see where all of your decisions lead you to, and can really help you to make beneficial changes in the future.

Woman in gym attire eating salad

Improve Your Diet
The food that you put into your body has a direct impact on your state of mind, as well as your energy levels, meaning that a few tweaks to your diet could really help to boost your happiness and productivity. While junk food may be easy and convenient, this will zap you of energy and dull your mood, so try to stick to a diet that mainly consists of fresh and whole foods.

Regular Exercise
If you tend to avoid exercise as much as possible, then this will be slightly harder to implement at the beginning, but you will also notice huge changes quite quickly. Exercise releases endorphins within the body, and these trigger the happiness impulse in the brain. In addition to this, regular exercise will leave you with so much more energy during the day, which can then be used to make your day more productive.

Woman relaxing by reading

Learn to Relax
Many people think that they simply do not have time in their busy day to relax, but human beings were not designed to be continuously expelling energy. Instead, the body works best when it experiences periods of recovery and restoration, which is exactly why you need to be dedicating sufficient time each day to relaxing and unwinding. This will have a significant impact on your happiness and productivity, so make sure that you schedule in regular breaks throughout the day, and spend this time actually relaxing, rather than thinking about the next task you need to do.

Wake Up Earlier
If you really enjoy lying in, the idea that waking up earlier each morning can lead to an increase of happiness, as well as productivity, may sound hard to believe, but do give this a try. Waking up just an hour or so earlier in the mornings will make it seem as though you have so much more time in your day, and will give you the chance to take part in more activities that make you happy, whether this may be meditation, reading, or walking your dog.

Woman cuddling dog

With the increasing stressors that people are now facing in their day to day lives, seeking out ways to boost happiness and productivity are important. From learning how to relax to reflecting on your life, following these tips will soon result in significant changes when it comes to having a positive outlook on life.

Boost Your Midlife Brain Health

The human brain naturally shrinks with age, meaning that brain cells do not work quite as effectively as they used to. By the time a person reaches the age of 45, the memory begins to decline, as do other aspects of brain health. However, there are a number of ways in which you can boost a midlife brain to improve its health while giving it some extra protection for the upcoming years.

Man doing puzzle

Brain Exercises
There are many brain games and puzzles out there that are designed to help create new associations between different parts of your brain, which is great for strengthening it and keeping it sharp. You can also try carrying out normal, everyday activities, but using your non-dominant hand. For example, if you are usually right-handed, try using your left hand to do everything from brushing your teeth to hoovering the carpet.

Woman running with dog

Regular Exercise
One of the most effective ways in which you can boost your brain health is by partaking in regular exercise, as this has been proven, for many years, to be able to boost cognitive function. It does this by reducing cell damage and inflammation while increasing the density of brain cells, as well as blood vessels in the brain. When it comes to the different types of exercise out there, aerobic exercise is one of the best, as this can help with the parts of the brain that are associated with organizing, multi-tasking, and planning, while boosting heart health at the same time. Resistance training has been linked to beneficial effects on the memory, as has low-intensity yoga, so try to include these in your exercise routine too.

Control Your Blood Sugar Levels
Not only does high blood sugar levels lead to obesity and diabetes, but this also damages blood vessels in the brain, while impairing the parts of the brain that are responsible for memory. Lowering your blood sugar levels is as simple as making a few lifestyle changes, from practicing regular exercise to eating a diet high in vegetables, fibre and whole grains.

Group of friends

Socializing
Humans are social creatures, and, as studies have shown, socializing is important when it comes to keeping the brain stimulated and sharp. Research has shown that older adults who are less socially active tend to experience more cognitive and physical limitations, so make sure that socializing takes a priority in your life.

Brain-Boosting Foods
While a healthy diet itself is important for your brain, as well as your body, there are certain foods out there that are known for being especially beneficial when it comes to brain health. At the top of the list are foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, such as oily fish and walnuts, as these have been linked to improved memory and focus, as well as a lowered risk of dementia.

Your brain is incredibly complex, but boosting its health does not need to be. From physical activity and a healthy diet to brain games and socializing, these tips will help you to keep your mind as sharp as possible while your body continues to age.

Use a Foam Roller to Get Rid of Aches and Pains

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Foam rollers have been used for decades in physical rehab clinics when it comes to pain management, and, when done correctly, can bring about the same benefits that a professional massage does. If you have never used a foam roller before, here is all you need to know to get started.

Purchasing a Foam Roller
Foam rollers are widely available at the majority of sports stores out there, and can also easily be purchased online. If you have never used a foam roller before, then it would be advisable to purchase a softer roller, designed for beginners, and this should be marked on the packaging, whereas if you are a competitive athlete and really require the extra help, a firmer roller would be the better option for you.

How to Use a Foam Roller
When using a foam roller, there are several different moves that you can do, each one targeting different areas of the body. The majority of moves are best carried out on the floor, with a yoga mat or low-pile carpet to provide a bit of support. The Upper Back Roll requires you to place the roller across your back, so that it is supporting your body, before rolling forwards and backwards slowly, to work on tight muscles along the middle of your back. For painful calves, the Calf Roll is ideal, while those who have been experiencing pain in their hamstrings or glutes should gives the Glutes and Hamstring Roll a try. There are multiple tutorials online for each of these moves, and these will help you to get the hang of all you need to do. With all of these moves, you should be applying a moderate amount of pressure to each muscle group, rolling no more than one inch per second. Each time you come across areas that are particularly tight, pause for several seconds and try to relax. Once you feel the muscles releasing, you can continue to move again.

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The Benefits of Foam Rolling
Foam rolling stretches and tones the muscles, while increasing circulation, meaning that a greater amount of nutrients are able to reach all areas of the body, including the muscles, and their surrounding tissue, being worked on. This then helps with the body’s detoxification process, enabling waste to be broken down and eliminated in a far more effective manner. This waste would have otherwise built up within the muscles, causing stiffness and pain. If you often experience areas of tight, knotted muscles, then a foam roller would be able to help with this too, breaking up these bands and providing relief.

After each foam rolling session, you are likely to feel a little sore the next day, as your muscles will have experienced quite the workout. In order to experience maximum benefits, you should try to drink more water than usual after foam rolling, while eating cleanly and getting enough sleep, as all of this will aid in flushing out your system and allowing your muscles to function as effectively as possible.

Beating an Afternoon Energy Slump

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Afternoon energy slumps are extremely common, and can be attributed to the body’s circadian rhythm, which sends out sleep signals during the afternoon, usually at around 2pm. Rather than spending the afternoon wishing that you could curl up in bed, here are a few tips to help you to beat the energy slump and ensure that the rest of your day remains productive.

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A Light, Protein-Filled Lunch
If your lunches are usually packed with carbohydrates, this will be having quite the impact on the way in which your body functions in the afternoon, as carbohydrates tend to zap the body of energy. Instead, opt for foods that are high in protein, such as a tuna salad rather than a tuna sandwich, or a green salad with hard-boiled eggs and sliced turkey instead of a bowl of pasta. You should also try to avoid having a heavy lunch, as the digestion process diverts blood away from the brain, meaning that the more food that needs to be digested, the longer you will feel lethargic for.

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A Midday Workout
Physical activity during the day will not only boost your productivity, but will also help you to beat that midday slump. If you have a gym near you, some light aerobic exercise is all that you need. Alternatively, if you do not have time for a quick gym session, head out for a brisk walk on your lunch break, or pay a visit to the very top floor of your building, using the stairs of course. Even a few simple stretches can help to provide your body with a boost of energy, and these do not require much space or time at all.

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Green Tea
If you tend to reach for a cup of coffee each time you feel your energy levels dropping, you may want to try swapping this out for a cup of green tea instead. While green tea still contains caffeine, it does not have quite as much as coffee does, meaning that it is much better for your health, and will also bring you a range of nutritional benefits.

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Listen to Some Music
Studies have shown that listening to music has the potential to boost the way in which a person focuses, while making them feel more energized at the same time. This is a great quick fix to the afternoon energy slump problem, and if you compile a few energizing playlists on your phone in advance, you will have a pick-me-up to hand whenever you may need it.

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Don’t Skip Breakfast
Considered to be the most important meal of the day, a healthy breakfast provides the body with enough energy to sustain it throughout the day. However, if you skip breakfast, you are likely to experience quite the energy crash at around 2pm, which is why this is a meal well worth making some time for. If you tend to be strapped for time in the mornings, there are many on-the-go breakfast options that may work for you, from berry and yogurt smoothies to a portable bowl of porridge.

Nobody wants to experience an afternoon energy slump, especially if you have a long list of tasks that you still need to complete before the end of the day. From nutrition to exercise, these tips will help you to beat that slump, filling you with energy for the rest of the day.

Best Workouts You Won’t Even Notice You’re Doing

Woman with dog

There is now a continuous influx of new studies that point to the many incredible benefits that regular exercise can bring, ranging from a lower risk of heart disease to a reversal of the aging process. While many may enjoy structured workout routines, these are not for everybody, so here are a few workouts that are guaranteed to get you fit, without you even noticing this happening.

Walking Your Dog 
Your dog needs exercise just as much as you do, so heading off for a long dog walk is a great way to take care of both of you. Being around animals in general also boosts your physical health and mental well-being in so many other ways, so if you are guilty of often letting dog walks slide, now is the time to change that. If you do not own a dog but would still like to enjoy the many benefits that come from spending time with one, there are now many services out there that enable you to borrow someone else’s dog for a few hours, or, alternatively, you could simply find a friend’s dog, or a neighbourhood dog, that would benefit from some extra exercise.

Woman with child

Playing With Your Kids 
Whether you choose chase, hopscotch or jump rope, playing with your children is a great way to boost all of your fitness levels while creating some long-lasting memories. Each of these activities are effective ways to burn calories, and will also teach your children about the importance of exercise from an early age.

Dancing 
Dancing involves moving your body energetically and continuously, both of which are perfect for keeping your heart rate elevated while burning calories. If you are wanting to learn a new skill at the same time, then a dance class would be ideal for you, but the same benefits can be had simply by dancing to some music at home. All you need to do is blast your favorite songs and let the beat move you, which will, when done on a regular basis, strengthen your heart, tone your muscles and improve your balance.

Gardening

Gardening 
Gardening for around 30 minutes a day can burn up to 300 calories, providing that you are actually moving around, digging and planting, rather than just standing still and admiring the view. Gardening would be classed as a moderate level cardiovascular exercise, and its benefits include everything from a healthier immune system to a reduced risk of heart disease and stroke. If you like the idea of gardening but do not know where to start, begin by sowing some seeds of a food that you love to eat, as the sense of accomplishment that comes from growing your own produce is a great motivator to spend more time in your garden.

Exercise is key when it comes to staying healthy, but this does not mean that you need to develop a structured exercise regime. Instead, by spending half an hour to an hour a day on one of these activities, you will be gaining the benefits of a regular workout without having to feel as though you are actually working out.

Three Aspects of Healthy Living

While there are many different aspects to consider when it comes to healthy living, there are three that are absolutely key. From physical health to mental well-being to social relationships, make sure that you place a priority on each of these parts of your life.

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Physical Health
There are a number of factors that contribute to an individual’s physical health, but two that you can have full control over are diet and exercise. In today’s world, it is all-too-easy to get the diet part wrong, especially since supermarket shelves are lined with unhealthy, processed foods. Improving on a diet can often seem daunting, so take this one step at a time, making easy and gradual changes rather than dramatic, difficult ones. For example, incorporating a new vegetable into your meals each week could be a great first step, as could making your own healthy smoothies at home. Exercise also plays a huge role in physical health, with the majority of people out there not getting enough exercise at all. Again, this is something else that can seem challenging to initially get motivated about, so begin by picking a few forms of exercise that you genuinely enjoy, such as a certain sport or a dance. Once your fitness levels begin to improve, it will be much easier to branch out and see what else is out there.

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Mental Health
Mental health is an extremely broad topic, but one of the key causes of poor mental health in today’s world is stress. When you experience stress, this triggers an emergency response in your body, which sends the hormone cortisol coursing through you. Chronic stress, which means consistently elevated levels of cortisol, will increase your risk for so many mental health problems, from depression to other forms of mental illness. When it comes to keeping your stress levels under control, you may need to experiment with different tactics before finding one that works for you, whether this may be doing some form of exercise, spending an hour gardening, or spending time on a new hobby.

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Social Bonds
Healthy relationships are a vital part of healthy living, and there is plenty of research out there that shows that strong social bonds are linked to a longer and happier life. Not only do healthy relationships mean that you are 50% less likely to die prematurely, but they can also boost your immune system and help you to deal with stress better, which, in turn, will be a boost to your mental health. If you are looking to expand your social circle but do not know where to begin, look into local groups or clubs where you can meet people that share similar interests to you, or ask your existing friends to introduce you to some new people.

When it comes to healthy living, there are always areas in which you can improve on. Whether this may be making improvements to your diet to support your physical health, or expanding your social circle to support both your physical and mental health, be sure to pay close attention to each of these three aspects of healthy living.