By Kim Lyons
It is national Active Aging Week, and it’s perfect that this week hits in the fall. Summer is over, vacations are winding down, and kiddos are back to school. Fall transitions us from spontaneous day trips and late-night movies to a more consistent, maintainable schedule. As life takes a more predictable rhythm, it sets the perfect landscape to re-focus on your fitness routine.
Whether you are a seasoned gymgoer or just looking to make a few healthy changes, getting back into a routine can often be challenging. There is a short window before the holiday madness hits to get into your fitness groove, so it’s important to get off to a solid start.
Here are my top 3 tips to achieve your goals fabulously this fall.
- Prioritize Protein & Hydration!
Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand, just as cars and gasoline do. Without proper fuel, your car won’t run. Likewise, proper nutrition helps keep you energized and is essential for success.
Protein and hydration need your undivided attention if you want to feel and perform at your best. Studies show protein helps keep us feeling full, decreases cravings, increases metabolism, stabilizes blood sugar, and makes it more likely that you’ll keep the weight off for the long term. In addition, protein plays a supporting role in everything from our mental health, mood, cognitive function, immune system, and bone health to healthy skin, hair, and nails. Aim to eat protein with every meal and snack. Many experts recommend eating roughly 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day; I recommend 1 gram of protein per pound of your healthy body weight goal.
Hydration is another essential factor for your energy levels. Drink a large glass of water first thing every morning and optimize your daily water intake with electrolytes. Without enough electrolytes and minerals in your diet, you won’t be using the water you’re already drinking efficiently. Electrolytes add great flavor to your water and help improve your body’s ability to stay hydrated. Look for a low-calorie, sugar free version.
- Focus on the 3 S’s: Steps, Strength Training, and Sleep
This is the magic trio for long-term fat-loss success. No form of exercise has been analyzed more thoroughly by scientific experts than walking. The benefits are undisputed. Walking more—whether going for a casual stroll through the fall leaves, walking in a local mall, or performing walking intervals on a treadmill at your gym or the local track—is integral to your health, conditioning, and ultimately, your longevity.
Walking for just 20 minutes, 3 days a week for 6 weeks can increase energy levels by 20% and reduce symptoms of fatigue by up to 65%, according to research by the University of Georgia that was published in the journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics. Walking is free, universally regarded as one of the safest forms of exercise, and you can easily adjust your workout to match your fitness level. I recommend walking for a minimum of 20 mins daily at a pace that lets you comfortably talk but not sing!
Strength training is a must when it comes to losing body fat. It helps you build muscle and burn more calories all day (even while sleeping), making it superior for dropping the extra pounds and keeping them off.
After age 30, muscle mass decreases by 3-8% per decade, and at an even more rapid pace after age 60. To help combat this, you need strength training. This can include using your own body weight as resistance, doing reformer Pilates, or using resistance bands or traditional gym equipment. Start with hand weights and stick to simple moves such as squats, lunges, rows, and incline push-ups. Use full-body movements for maximum results and plan for workouts that are less than an hour 3-4 times per week. We always recommend checking with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine.
Last but not least, you need to sleep. We all know a great night’s sleep equals more energy, but let’s focus on the lesser-known benefits of prioritizing sleep. When you do not get adequate sleep, the body makes more ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and less leptin (the satiety hormone). Poor sleep has been associated with glucose intolerance (a precursor to diabetes) and insulin resistance. All of these can sabotage your fat-loss efforts. Focus on getting a good night’s sleep by avoiding screens 1 hour before bedtime, creating a bedtime ritual and consistent bedtime, soaking up some sunlight right after waking, and sleeping in a cool, dark room.
- Habit Stack
Creating lasting and maintainable results begins with replacing bad habits with better habits. Forming these new habits takes time and practice, but it’s much easier when you add a new, healthy habit to an already established one. This is called habit stacking. Here are a few examples to get you thinking of ways to structure your new, healthy habits.
- After brushing my teeth, I drink a large glass of water.
- I do 30 body-weight squats and 20 counter push-ups while I brew my coffee.
- I go for a 30-minute walk after my lunch.
- After dinner, I turn off everything digital and then read, stretch, and prepare for the next day.
We thrive when healthy essentials are placed in a daily routine: sleep, wake, eat, exercise, repeat. Let this fall be your healthiest, happiest season and let it start right now with Active Aging Week!