Sunday, January 26, 2014


You have probably heard people refer to “Core exercise”. The term core refers to your body minus your legs and arms. Functional movements are highly dependent on the core, and lack of core development can result in a predisposition to injury. In fact in many cases when you fall and incur injury (sprained wrist or ankle, broken arm, hip etc.) disaster doesn’t come because you tripped. Instead it happens because you tripped and were unable to right your course and catch yourself. Your core muscles were too weak to come to your aid so you plummeted all the way to the pavement.
Core exercises are an important part of a well-rounded fitness program. Aside from occasional sit-ups and push-ups, however, core exercises are often neglected. Still, it pays to get your core muscles — the muscles around your trunk and pelvis — in better shape. Read on to find some ideas shared by the Mayo clinic.

Core exercises improve your balance and stability

Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.
Core exercises can help tone your abs

Want more-defined abdominal muscles? Core exercises are important. Although it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat, core exercises can strengthen and tone the underlying muscles.

Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities

Strong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass from the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. (Note back pain is often the result of weak abdominal muscles—your poor back is having to make up for what your abdominal core muscles aren’t able to do)

Core exercises can help you reach your fitness goals

Aerobic exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But to have a truly well-rounded fitness program, you should include core exercises in the mix as well.

Core strength needs to be safeguarded as you age. My girlfriend Gail and I often visit a 94 year old friend named Lorna. Poor Lorna can be sore for days if she does something as simple as step up on a stepstool to dust something. On the other hand my daughter that is a Pilates teacher recently had her class doing a plank challenge –HOLD A PLANK FOR 3 FULL MINUTES . An older gentleman in the class (in his 60’s) said “My wife and I can plank for 6 minutes”. The whole class was impressed that after they dropped out at 3 minutes the gentleman went on to plank for 6 minutes and his wife continued to 7. (He explained he can go to 7 also but if he goes to 7 she tries to go to 8 and he didn’t want her to hurt herself.)

So what is your challenge for the week? I would like you to practice planking every day and I hope you will continue this challenge beyond this week and complete this monthly challenge. (Note I have a young friend that makes it a practice to plank every day before her morning shower- a great way to keep up with core strength)

I am including 5 levels of planking so you can begin where you must. Remember it’s not where you are at now but that you begin to make dedicated daily positive progress. For each day that you give your best effort to planking you earn the 5 daily bonus points.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Strong Bones

(Most of the information I’m sharing comes from a WebMD article by Jean Lawrence)

         One in two women over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in her remaining lifetime. Yet the advanced effects of bone loss -- a humped upper back or easily shattered limbs -- does not have to be in the future of people who eat wisely and exercise regularly.
Bones are living tissue. They contain nerves, blood vessels, and marrow, where blood cells are created. Bones are constantly tearing down and rebuilding themselves, like a freeway construction project that never ends. Without this repair and reinforcement of even minor weak spots, we would break bones on a regular basis.
"When a person is under 20 years of age," explains Felicia Cosman, MD, medical director of the Clinical Research Center at Helen Hayes Hospital in New York "you are forming more bone cells than you are losing." But when women near menopause, rebuilding new bone slows down. A woman's bone density begins to decrease."
Bone density is measured by a painless, low-radiation X-ray, which is translated into a T-score. The lower the score the greater the risk of having a fracture. If you have not had a bone density test done you might want to ask your physician about it.
A T-score of -2.5 or below should concern a woman. It indicates osteoporosis and can justify medication. A normal score is -1 or higher. A score between -1.0 and -2.5 indicates low bone density (osteopenia). 
Steps You Can Take to Prevent Osteoporosis                                            To prevent porous, breakable bones as you age, you need to have sufficient calcium and vitamin D. The body uses calcium for a number of functions and will take it out of the bones faster than it can be laid down if your diet is not pumping enough calcium into the pipeline.
         Annemarie Colbin, PhD, author of Food and Our Bones: The Natural Way to Prevent Osteoporosis, urges us to look at the animals with the largest bones -- cows, elephants. "What do they eat?" she asks. "Leafy plants."
The biggest component of a bone-healthy diet is leafy greens, both cooked and raw, according to Colbin. "Greens give you not only calcium, but vitamin K, potassium, and other minerals and nutrients you need to lay down bone. My first three recommendations are vegetables, vegetables, vegetables," she says with a laugh.
Vitamin D is also important for strong bones, and a good source is, believe it or not, the sun. If you are not getting at least 20 minutes of direct sunlight (without sunblock) daily you should consider taking a supplement.
Another building block of strong bones is protein. Colbin recommends mixing it up -- beans, fish, chicken. "You shouldn’t eat the same boring diet every day." Again, she urges you to select good-quality, properly raised, antibiotic-free protein sources.
Whole grain bread or pasta is helpful, too. "This gives you magnesium," Colbin says. Magnesium also helps maintain strong bones.

What About Milk or Supplements?
It's almost a mantra -- drink milk for strong bones. Colbin is low-key on milk. "You see the most fractures in countries that drink a lot of milk," she says. "I am not too keen on dairy."
Cosman is also not enthused. "A lot of people drink milk, but I am not big on that," she says. "Maybe low-fat milk or yogurt. Those calcium-enriched juices are good."
Things to avoid for good bone health are sugar (it increases secretion of calcium and trace elements out of your bones), caffeine (ditto), stress, and habitual dieting, which can "starve" your bones.
So what does that leave? Besides veggies and fruits, many women, at least women over 50, may need some calcium supplements.
Women over age 50 need about 1,200 mg a day, according to the Institute of Medicine. Consult your healthcare provider for a decision. 
Incidentally, calcium can be calming and bedtime is a great time to take a supplement if needed
         Bones last longer if you stress them more. It's one of those medical conundrums. Exercising -- putting the weight of your body or an outside weight on the bone -- makes it lay down more bone material to strengthen it. "Use it or lose it!" quips Colbin. "Any exercise is better than none. Ideally, several times a week -- and you need aerobic, weight bearing, and resistance."
          A study done by the University of Toronto shows that aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or dance, improved the amount of calcium in the upper body and upper thighs, two areas at risk for osteoporosis induced fractures.
In order to earn the 35 Bonus points this week you must:
1. Track your daily calcium intake every day this week
To do this:
- go onto myfitnesspal,com and click on settings.
-Find the scroll down menu and choose diary settings
-Choose calcium as one of the things you want to track daily this week  (please note it can be beneficial to change these settings often to make sure you are getting all of the needed nutrients in your diet)
-Note if you get 100 each day for Calcium that is 100% of your daily requirement (for some reason it doesn’t measure in milligrams or whatever)
2. Ensure you get the recommended amount of calcium daily every day this week (you can include a supplement if you are already taking it but I’d love you to learn to get it from fresh food)
4. Take part in some weight bearing exercise at least 3X this week. (walking, jogging, dance, aerobic, weight lifting and resistance)
5. Consider having a bone density scan done if you have not recently done so. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Strength Training

Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier

We all have our favorite way of exercising. Personally I love yoga and long walks. But recently I’ve been feeling guilty that I keep walking right past the weight machines at the gym. Strength training is one of the best ways to reduce body fat, increase lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently. And you guessed it, I’m going to require a bit of strength training this week as part of our special weekly challenge. The following information comes from Mayo Clinic’s website.

Use it or lose it

Muscle mass naturally diminishes with age.
"If you don't do anything to replace the lean muscle you lose, you'll increase the percentage of fat in your body," says Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and co-director of the Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center. "But strength training can help you preserve and enhance your muscle mass — at any age."
Strength training also helps you:
   Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
   Control your weight. As you gain muscle, your body burns more calories 24/7 (Yes even when resting on the sofa). The more toned your muscles, the easier it is to control your weight.
   Boost your stamina. As you get stronger, you won't fatigue as easily. Building muscle also contributes to better balance, which can help you maintain independence as you age.
   Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.
   Sharpen your focus. Some research suggests that regular strength training helps improve attention for older adults.

Consider the options

Strength training can be done at home or in the gym. Common choices include:
   Body weight. You can do many exercises with little or no equipment. Try pushups, pullups, abdominal crunches, leg squats or planks.
   Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. You can choose from many types of resistance tubes in nearly any sporting goods store.
   Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools and can be bought very inexpensively at Walmart or Target. Also you can use weighty stuff you already own (cans of food, bottles of water etc.)
Weight machines. Most fitness centers offer various resistance machines. You can also invest in weight machines for use at home.

So what is the challenge. You can take your choice of the following 2 options:
1. Add strength training of some sort (pick anything from the list above) and add at least 10 minutes for all 6 daily work outs this week. It can be part of your hour of exercise or you can do an additional 10 minutes (note: while you only get exercise point credit for the challenge for working out for 60 minutes if you work out longer it can help you stay within your daily calorie allowed on


2. Set aside 2 of your daily work out hours for strength training this week. That’s right ladies do some type of strength training for 2 whole hours.

Either of the above options will earn you the weekly 30 bonus points!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 Here We Come!

You don't have to begin your resolutions on January 1 to make positive changes this year. So now that your Christmas tree is Undecorated (it is isn't it?) and your decorations are packed away it's time to get moving with your goals for the new year. 

We're happy to have you aboard for our Winter Wellness Challenge. Here's what you need to do:
1. Read or re-read the Frequently Asked Questions and Rules tab on this blog
2. Weigh yourself and take your measurements and write them down in a  safe and secret place (NO you do not have to share them with me)
3. We will have a weekly challenge that will change each week. Check here on the blog a couple of days ahead to see what you need to prepare for the week's challenge. To earn the points for this week's challenge:
Friend at least 5 people (you can use e-mail addresses from my e-mail headers to find new friends) on
Make sure there is contact between you and your partner at least once per day this week (text, video, exercise together, e-mail, phone) Begin to build your partnership strength
4. Make sure you and your partner have e-mailed me your cell phone #, e-mail address and home address
5. Make payment by paypal ( or mail me a check at Sandee Spencer at 1290 Northridge Drive Longwood FL 32750. The cost is $5 per week so $40 due in advance. 

E-mail me with any questions or concerns