7 Great Reasons to Stay Flexible

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Remember when you were a kid?  You could lie on the floor and pop up in seconds.  You could bend from the waist and touch the floor. If you were really talented, like my kids, you could lie on your back and get your knees to touch your ears. Flexibility allowed you to do all these marvelous feats. Just because you are older now, it does not mean you should give up on flexibility. We lose flexibility as we age.  Most of the loss comes from inactivity,but some comes from the normal process of aging. But just like strength and cardiovascular fitness, your flexibility can improve with regular training.  Here’s seven reasons why you should stay flexible.

  1. Improve your posture  Ever see someone walking around with hunched shoulders or stooped over at the hips?  Tight muscles can cause you  to hold your body this way.  Improving your flexibility can help you release those muscles and straighten your spine.
  2. Avoid injury  Tendons, ligaments and muscles have a better range of motion when they are flexible.  A better range of motion means less chance of those tendons ligaments and muscles being pushed beyond their limits and being damaged.
  3. Less  back pain  A majority of Americans will experience back pain during his/her lifetime.  For some, it will be excruciating and debilitating. Tight hamstrings pull the pelvis forward which puts more pressure on the lower back.  My first job out of college was a YMCA program director.  I taught a class called, “Y’s way to a healthy back”.  Many of my students had been sent to the class as a last ditch effort before surgery.  Most of them had very tight hamstrings.  With just ten simple flexibility exercises done each day, not one of those students had to go on to have surgery.  Most of them found a tremendous amount of pain relief from this class.
  4. Increased range of motion  You will be able to move your body more efficiently through activities of daily living.  Things like bending over to pick up a child’s toy on the floor, reaching the top cupboard in your kitchen, stooping to get the the groceries out of the car, lowering yourself into a chair, or climbing the steps for the 25th time in one day will become easier.
  5. Improved Circulation  Being more flexible allows blood to travel more easily to the muscles and joints.  With a better blood supply the muscles and joints will work more smoothly which means less aches and pains.  I’m for that!
  6. Less Stress  Flexible muscles contain less tension.  That means not as many stiff and aching shoulders, necks, hips, knees and backs.
  7. Improves physical performance A pliable muscle can run through a variety of movements more efficiently. This can improve your performance in many of your favorite sports like golf, tennis, hiking, swimming, skiing and many others.

*Special bonus benefit

Travel more comfortably You will be able to sit comfortably in a variety of positions over time in a confined space.  This comes in handy in a crowded plane or when turning around constantly to tell your kids that, no, you are NOT there yet.

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Pinterest Beginner Strength Training

So, you want to start strength training because you know it will strengthen your bones and boost your metabolism.  You have not done any strength training, or you haven’t done any recently and you don’t know where to start.  Should I go to a gym?  Should  I get a trainer? Should I buy a workout DVD? Should I buy weights? How much will all this cost? You know there will be some muscle soreness, but you want to be able to get out of bed the next day. You’re a little worried about injuries. No, make that you’re a LOT worried about injuries.  If you get injured, you may not be able to work, or do the activities you need to do every day.

The best advice is to start slowly.  Use your body’s own weight at first as your resistance.  Keep the exercises simple. Do less reps of each exercise in the beginning and gradually add reps.  Start out doing only a few rounds of the workout and add rounds as you get stronger.  In the workout below, there are ways to make each exercise more intense as you get stronger too. For example, thigh push-ups can become push-ups on your toes.  Russian twists can be done while holding your feet slightly above the ground and half squats can become full squats. The stretches at the end of each round target the muscles you used during the workout phase.  They will also help increase your flexibility.

Try this Pinterest beginner bodyweight workout.  Do it 2-3 times a week with a day in between each time you do it. If you already do cardio exercise, do that on the days in between. If you are consistent and do this workout at least twice a week, increasing the intensity and length of the workout as you get stronger, you will see results.  Comment and let me know how you are doing!

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Menopause and Exercise-Osteoporosis Prevention

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Weak brittle bones, who wants them?? Broken bones, especially in older adults can mean the beginning of declining health. I am just getting to the point where my time is my own again. I don’t want something like osteoporosis slowing me down, do you?

Why are menopausal women at greater risk for Osteoporosis?

  • During and after menopause the amount of estrogen in a woman’s body decreases which slows down the production of bone. Women in this stage of life can lose up to 38% of the bone growth they accumulated during peak bone growth years (up to age 17).
  • Some older women become more sedentary as they age. Being sedentary is described as standing for less than four hours per day. When your bones are not subject to weight bearing, they naturally atrophy.

Other lifestyle risks that contribute to bone loss

  • If you smoke or drink an excessive amount of alcohol
  • If your diet does not include adequate amounts of calcium
  • If you do not get adequate amounts of sunshine (Vitamin D)

How to prevent bone loss during and after menopause

The good news is any type of weight bearing exercise has been proven to prevent bone loss and keep your bones strong. Weight bearing exercise is anything that works against gravity. That means if you don’t own weights or have access to a gym, you can still do weight bearing exercise by doing body weight exercises (think squats, planks, push-ups etc.) Walking, jogging, dancing and jumping are also considered weight bearing exercise. To get maximum bone building benefits, you should take part in 30 to 60 minutes of weight bearing exercises for and least 3 days per week.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t let bone loss slow you down.  Fight back with weight bearing exercise!

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Diet Plan for Menopause-Healthy Fats

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You may have the notion that all fats are bad and should be avoided at all costs.  At one time, we rode the “low fat” wave in the US.  Every packaged food you saw on the shelves touted the “low fat” label. Unfortunately for us, most “low fat” foods were also high in processed starch and sugar. Recent research has shown that fat is not the devil.  Good fats are necessary to include in your diet.  Menopausal  women need essential fatty acids because they support hormonal balance.

Omega 3 fatty acids are an essential fatty acid that have estrogen like ingredients. They also add fiber and keep arteries healthy.  What foods will add Omega threes to your diet? Fish, such as mackerel and Atlantic salmon. One of my favorite vegetables, the avocado.  Seeds such as flax seed and chia seeds contain Omega threes.  These are easy to sprinkle or stir into your favorite foods. Nuts, such as English walnuts and butternuts.  Some of your favorite spices, like fresh basil, dried oregano and ground cloves also contain Omega threes.

With such a variety of foods available to add healthy fats to your diet, you should be able to find something you like to do the trick! Want some easy,tasty kitchen tested recipes that include healthy fats? Get them here!

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Diet Plan For Menopause-7 Ways to Eat Clean

 

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You have arrived! You have worked hard building a career, taking care of your home and family and building relationships with friends. Now it’s time to start focusing on you. There are so many things you want to do….and then IT starts. Insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, aching joints, mood swings, forgetfulness, weight gain, anxiety, vaginal dryness, sagging libido  AARGH!! All the things you have done in the past to maintain your weight, your mood and your energy levels aren’t working anymore. The menopause monster has sneaked up behind you and pulled the rug out from under you. Your hormones (or lack of them) are taking control.  But you can take back that control.

You have probably heard the term “eat clean” floating around and may have wondered what that means. There is no better time to make the change to clean eating than during menopause. You will be able to take back control of your weight, feel more energized and reap the benefits of stable blood sugar, lower cholesterol and a whole host of other good things. Here’s seven ways to make your diet a cleaner place to be.

 

1. Eat more foods in their natural state
The more packaging and processing a food undergoes, the less it can do for your health. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, unsalted nuts, whole grain breads and pastas, unprocessed beans and legumes, and animal products that have been grass fed or free range.

2. Eat local and in season
Whenever possible, buy locally grown fruits and vegetables. Our town has two farmer’s markets that I like to frequent in the summer. The fruits and vegetables there are always tastier and cheaper than at the supermarket, plus I have the added benefit of knowing where they came from.

3. Eat at home
Your own cooking will contain less calories and more nutrients than restaurant fare. It doesn’t matter if you are eating fast food or at a fancy restaurant. It’s most likely you are cooking for fewer people now. Making larger batches of food ahead and freezing it for quick heat-ups later is a good strategy. So is finding healthy meals that aren’t complicated. Check out my Pinterest site for some insanely easy yet healthy meals.

4. Eat foods that have less ingredients on the food label
Beware the complicated and hard to pronounce ingredient list on the food label. A good rule of thumb is; if you can’t say the ingredient, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

5. Eat lean meats
Chicken breasts, cold water fish like salmon and tuna, lean cuts of beef and pork are your best bets.

6. Eat healthy fats
Fat was once demonized and we started eating “low fat” everything. Unfortunately packaged and processes “low fat” foods gave us way too much carbs and sugar. Now we realize that certain fats are good for our diets and necessary for health. Avocados, chia seeds, coconut oil and butter (yes butter) are all on the good fat list.

7. Eat spices
Replace salt and sugar with nutrient filled spices like ginger, thyme, turmeric, cinnamon and rosemary. Just be careful not to overdo it. Spices do tend to trigger the dreaded hot flash!

If you want to give clean eating a trial run, sign up for these seven menopause friendly recipes.  They’re free!

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Diet Plan for Menopause-Healthy Trail Mix

I’ve hit on a healthy afternoon snack trail mix that packs a nutritional wallup for menopausal women (or anybody for that matter). Here it is:

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1 Tbsp slivered almonds
1 Tbsp sunflower seeds
1 Tbsp raisins
1 Tbsp dark chocolate morsals

Almonds have healthy fats, vitamin E, protein and fiber that can help prevent cardiovascular disease and colon cancer. They can help lower cholesterol levels and prevent cell damage. -Medical News Today

Sunflower seeds contain vitamin E and B1, and copper. These prevent cell damage, help circulation and prevent skin and tissue damage. -Healthy Eating

Raisins contain natural carbs, fiber, iron, potassium and antioxidents. They give you a quick energy boost, help you stay regular, can help reduce chronic disease, lowers blood glucose and can decrease heart disease risk. -Livestrong

Dark Chocolate contains flavanols that reduce cell damage that can lead to heart disease. -Mayo Clinic

After reading this, I realize why this snack gives me an energy boost between work and my workout! Enjoy!

Want help planning healthy meals and snacks that will give you more energy while you cut the fat and sugar? Learn more

Diet Plan for Menopause-Calcium

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You have arrived! You have worked hard building a career, taking care of your home and family and building relationships with friends. Now it’s time to start focusing on you. There are so many things you want to do….and then IT starts. Insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, aching joints, mood swings, forgetfulness, weight gain, anxiety, vaginal dryness, sagging libido  AARGH!! All the things you have done in the past to maintain your weight, your mood and your energy levels aren’t working anymore. The menopause monster has sneaked up behind you and pulled the rug out from under you. Your hormones (or lack of them) are taking control.  But you can take back that control.

I’m sure you have read or heard that calcium is an important nutrient to have in your diet during perimenopause and menopause.  In your youth and young adulthood, you needed calcium to build strong bones.  Now you need it to prevent bone loss and osteoporosis. Lower estrogen levels actually speed up the bone loss process.  From now on, you should get at least 1200 mg of calcium per day.

We all know that low fat milk, yogurt and cheese contain calcium, but did you know that there are many dairy free sources of calcium?  Leafy greens, certain types of seafood, legumes and certain fruits all contain calcium. Here’s some examples.

  • White beans
  • Canned salmon
  • Sardines
  • Dried figs
  • Bok Choy
  • Kale
  • Black strap Molasses
  • Black eyed peas
  • Almonds

Ok, so personally, I’m not going to run out and stock up on canned sardines.  I did try kale for the first time last week and it was very tasty.  I’ll be getting some more in the future. I’ll bet there are some foods on that list you could work into your rotation.  You might find a new favorite.  If you do, comment below and let me know!

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Recipe: Pineapple Salsa Pork

 

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I have been blogging lately about the importance of diet for women dealing with menopause. It’s amazing how the right foods in the right combinations can help with all the annoying symptoms of lower estrogen levels. Here’s a great recipe I have been making for a few years. I tweaked an e-diets low fat recipe to come up with Pineapple Salsa Pork.

Why it’s menopause friendly:

Lean protein to build muscle
Complex carbs (brown rice) to keep insulin levels more even
Smaller amounts of spices than the original recipe to keep the hot flash monster at bay
Antioxidents in the pineapple and salsa

If you are a fixer, this recipe equals
3 RED, 1/2 GREEN, 1 PURPLE, 1/2 YELLOW, 2 tsp

This recipe is written for two people. You can adjust it as needed.

You will need:
8 oz lean pork (I use boneless pork chops)
1/4 tsp chile powder
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
6 Tbsp salsa
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
1 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 tsp oregano
2 tsp olive oil
1 cup uncooked brown rice

(cook rice according to package directions and keep warm)

1. Cut the pork into bite size pieces
2. Mix the chile powder, cumin, paprika, and black pepper together, then coat the pork evenly
3. Add olive oil to a pan and cook the pork over medium high heat until no longer pink. Drain if needed.
4. Add the salsa and pineapple with juice, bring to a boil and cook 1 to 2 minutes
5. Add the cilantro and oregano and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes
6. Add cooked rice to pork and pineapple. Stir to mix and serve.

I served this with a salad to add some more fresh veggies to the meal. Enjoy! If you try it, let me know how you like it!

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Diet Plan for Menopause- Water

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Are you slowly beginning to feel like a raisin in the Sahara? Do your eyelids scratch across your eyeballs like sandpaper in the morning? Does your skin suck in moisturizer like a sponge, but it still looks cracked and flaky?  Does every mucus membrane in your body feel dried up and ready to blow away?  Welcome to one of the many joys of menopause.  This is another side affect of your lower estrogen level.

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Now is the time to pay more attention to your water intake.  Did you know that you are to drink half your weight in ounces?  That means if you weigh 130lbs, you should drink 65 oz. of H20. That’s a little over eight 8oz glasses each day. Drinking the correct amount of water has several benefits

  • Keeps your energy level up
  • Makes your skin more supple and glowing
  • Maintain and offset dryness of mucus membranes (think eyelids, nasal passages and vaginal walls)

You may be thinking that you are getting adequate water intake by drinking coffee, tea, soda and juice during the day, but think again.  Coffee, tea and soda are diuretics.  That means they make you urinate more frequently.  They may be causing you to dehydrate. Any sugary drink is adding calories you don’t need to your diet and don’t forget that caffeinated drinks can trigger hot flashes.

Do your “new” body a favor and replace some of your other beverages with a tall cold glass of water.  Better yet, make it about 8 a day.

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Diet Plan for Menopause-Phytoestrogens

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You have arrived! You have worked hard building a career, taking care of your home and family and building relationships with friends. Now it’s time to start focusing on you. There are so many things you want to do….and then IT starts. Insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, aching joints, mood swings, forgetfulness, weight gain, anxiety, vaginal dryness, sagging libido  AARGH!! All the things you have done in the past to maintain your weight, your mood and your energy levels aren’t working anymore. The menopause monster has sneaked up behind you and pulled the rug out from under you. Your hormones (or lack of them) are taking control.  But you can take back that control.

OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER: Serious menopause symptoms, such as extreme anxiety, depression and mood swings should mean a consult with a doctor. END OF DISCLAIMER In my 30 years experience as a health and PE teacher, and more recently, a certified personal trainer I know that many adverse physical symptoms we experience can be improved with the proper diet.  But what is the proper diet, now that the game has changed???

I’ll be chatting about that in depth over the next few weeks. I can’t give you a meal plan. You’ll need a registered dietitian for that.  I’ll give you some guidelines to follow to steer you in the right direction.

One important thing you want to increase in your diet is phytoestrogens.  Most of you are thinking, “What the h%&* are those?  There is no way I can find them in the grocery store!” Phytoestrogens are just a fancy way to say plant based estrogens.  They are important to you now because your body is producing way less estrogen than it used to. You need a way to balance this lack of estrogen out at the cellular level. So what foods contain plant based estrogens?

Fruits and vegetables and whole grains should be a main staple of your diet. Here’s why: Your lower estrogen levels are slowing down your production of lean muscle. Lean muscle requires more fuel to operate than the same amount of body fat. Less muscle means a slower metabolism, which equals weight gain. Estrogen also acts as an appetite suppressant, so even though you need less calories to get through your day, you are hungry for more.

Other benefits of fruits and vegetables: 

  • Fiber– this keeps you feeling full longer and ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????aids in proper digestive health
  • Folic Acid-lowers risk for cardiovascular disease, which goes up after menopause
  • Antioxidants-reduces hot flashes
  • Vitamin C-boosts your immune system
  • High water content-Keeps your skin and mucous membranes hydrated
  • Natural sugar-helps avoid the insulin spikes and crashes associated with processed sugar (which causes fatigue and over eating)

A 53 year old woman weighing 130 lbs. needs 2 cups of veggies a day and 1 1/2 cups of fruit to maintain her weight. (Be honest, how many of you are eating that much right now?) Fresh are best, followed by frozen, then canned.  Fresh retain the most nutrients. To find out how much fruits and veggies you need, go to choosemyplate.gov

Other benefits of whole grains:????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

  • B vitamins-boosts energy
  • Fiber-digestive health
  • Complex carbohydrates-keeps you full longer and helps avoid those nasty insulin spikes and crashes
  • Folic acid-lowers cardiovascular disease risk

A 53 year old woman weighing 130 lbs, needs 5 oz. of whole grains per day to maintain weight.

What counts as whole grains? 

  • 100% whole grain bread, flour or pasta
  • Stone ground whole grains
  • brown rice
  • oatmeal

Take back control from the menopause monster, head to the grocery store and load up on phytoestrogens! Get cooking and let me know how you feel.

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