It’s all about your middle

Your weak core could be the culprit behind your bad back. If you know you have a weak core but you’ve been reluctant to do anything about it because you hate crunches, relax. There are plenty of ways to strengthen your core without doing crunches. Different exercises focus on the different muscle groups that make up your core.

As we get older, we’re more concerned about healthy aging. We want to be able to do what we want, when we want to do it! And back pain puts a serious crimp in doing what we want to do.

Focus on your core

The basic crunch is quite effective - focus on your core!
The basic crunch is effective for strengthening the abdominal muscles.

And if you focus on your core, you will not only help your bad back, your posture will improve and so will your balance. That’s good news, because we all want to avoid the slips and falls that come from faulty balance. It all comes down to your middle.

In addition to your abdominal and oblique muscles, your glutes, diaphragm, pelvic floor and back muscles also contribute to your core strength. Strengthening all your core muscles help to hold you up and also make other exercises easier. 

Don’t just go through the motions

It takes time and focused effort to strengthen your core. Going through the motions is counter-productive. It wastes time and doesn’t do a thing for your core. By focusing while you’re doing the exercise, you get the most benefit. 

The plank fad has come and gone, but there’s a good reason this exercise was so popular. It works just about all of your core muscles. And if you really focus on your core while you’re performing the exercise – that is, hold your stomach and your glutes in, the plank is truly effective. 

The crunch – effective but unpopular

And while the crunch is definitely not popular, it is quite effective if done properly. Follow these directives and you’ll get the most from the crunch in the least amount of time: Lift from your chest, hands behind your head and elbows wide, hold your stomach in, make sure your back stays flat on the floor, and don’t pull on your neck.

Save your back – focus on your core

A few years ago, I was seriously concerned that I would have lower back problems for the rest of my life. But I read something at the time (and I wish I had saved the article or link) that made me start to focus on my core, and it worked. Today I have very little back pain. So, focus on your core. You’ll be glad (like me) that you did.

We can no longer skip blithely through life

As we age, it seems like everything requires a concerted effort. When we’re young, (or perhaps just in retrospect), we skip blithely through life. But now, no more skipping. If we’re concerned with healthy aging, we have to focus on our actions. 

The world is crazy

The world is a crazy place right now. The global pandemic is going strong. Global warming has caused famine in one part of the world, yet some do not believe that people have caused it. Many world economies are in trouble. There are supply chain issues and shortages all over. As a result, prices are skyrocketing. Media keeps blasting at us from every direction. To keep from going crazy ourselves, we must focus on our actions and on how we want to direct our lives.

Our metabolism isn’t the same as it used to be

My metabolism never allowed me to eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight. I was a fat kid, started out a fat teenager but then really focused and lost weight. It’s been said that some people can actually eat anything up until the age of 40 or thereabouts, and then their body caught up. In order to stay at a healthy weight, even those lucky skinny youngsters had to watch their diet as middle aged adults. (Poetic justice?)

Focus on our actions for healthy aging

For healthy aging, we strive to preserve what we've got and improve what we can if we focus on our actions.
Preserve what we’ve got…

Part of healthy aging means that we have to preserve what we’ve got and improve what we can. Nature takes some things away from us as we age, like our hearing and eyesight. It also takes away muscle mass, bone density and our sense of balance. We can intentionally improve our muscle mass and bone density by doing weight-bearing and strength exercises. And we can improve our sense of balance by actively working at it. We can even improve our balance with just a couple of minutes of exercise a day. 

We all strive for healthy aging. If we focus on our actions, we can achieve it. So we may not be able to skip blithely through life, but we can still skip toward a better future.

Get excited about exercise

Last week was about food. I’m always excited to try new cuisines. No matter the recipe it’s usually possible to make it healthy – cut out excess fats and sugars, substitute another vegetable for a starch. This week is about exercise. It’s time to get excited about exercise!

I’m not a fan of exercise

I get excited about exercise because I can exercise.
I get excited about exercise because I can exercise.

If you’ve read any of my posts about exercise, you know I’m not a fan. I exercise for the benefits I derive from it, like reducing bad moods and depression. (More reasons to exercise!) It also improves memory and cognition, and increases endurance. Those are definitely reasons to get excited about exercise.

The Centers for Disease Control says that physical activity is essential for healthy aging – but how much exercise is recommended? If you’re up to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, then 75 minutes a week or more should do it or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity. A couple of days of strength work should always be added too – for our muscles and bones!

But I am able to do it

The fact that I’m able to actually move my body to exercise vigorously is a reason to celebrate. I’m not a professional fitness trainer. I was never in the fitness field, in any capacity other than a cheerleader or motivator. My background is in accounting. But, I’ve exercised regularly for years and as a result am able to do the activities I want to do. And that is a reason to get excited about exercise.

So get excited about exercise!

I want everyone out there to be able to take a walk with the dog or the grandkids when they want to (weather permitting, of course). To walk around the mall. When you can’t find a parking spot close to a building, walking from a remote corner should not prevent you from carrying out your errand. Yes, the knees might creak, and it may take a few seconds to unkink the back, but once you do, there should be no stopping you.

And that’s a reason to get excited about exercise.

Get excited about fitness

Get excited about fitness. Try new things.
Get excited about fitness!

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “She’s nuts. Excited about fitness? That’s the most boring thing ever.”

But you should be excited about fitness. You’re doing something for you when you actively work to improve your fitness. While eating right can be less than exciting, it can be the greatest opportunity to explore the world and try new things. 

Get out of your eating rut

We get in a rut with our eating. Same old proteins, veggies and flavorings. But thinking about eating healthier can be an introduction to new herbs and spices that we have never tried before. I don’t really know a lot about Indian (from India) food – or Native American food for that matter. It’s easy to do a search for nutritious ethnic foods, and experiment in the kitchen. Print out a couple of recipes you’d like to try and make your shopping list from those recipes. 

The produce store I go to frequently has many vegetables that I’ve never tried and don’t know how to prepare. Things with exotic names, from exotic countries. The next time I go there I’ll take a picture of some of these and explore preparation tips and recipes for them.

Class trip to Spain not for the food

I took a class trip to Spain when I was in high school (a very long time ago). The meals were definitely Americanized for us – high school kids were not adventurous eaters. Some of my classmates even searched out McDonalds for some meals. Others refused to eat anything but the bread served at mealtime. (It was good bread, but not that good!)

Explore new cuisines

I will do more research on Spanish dishes but in the meantime I found this recipe for Pisto (Spanish version of Ratatouille) which I might make sometime soon! If you ever took a trip and perhaps were not as courageous as you might have been with your meals, now might be a great time to take a look back and discover some new taste sensations.

Maintaining your motivation when you embark on a healthy eating program can be tough. I talked about this before when I gave 5 tips for sticking to your plan. But exploring new cuisines is another way to make it easy to stick to your plan.

Even if you’ve decided to eat healthier, be bold. Search out new tastes and flavors. Travel the world from your kitchen. Get excited about fitness – at least the eating part for now.