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This is another post in our series of Fitness Saturday exercises, workouts, and expert tips appropriate to women in the second half of life. Jonathan Urla, a certified advanced health and fitness specialist, expands how more sleep, keeping a food diary, and exercising with a friend can enhance your health.


I love it when the New Year starts on a weekend. This way I get a couple of days to relax and get things in order at home, like organizing last year’s receipts and putting new empty folders in the file cabinet. It also gives me time to reflect back on all that happened last year, and to set my intentions for the New Year. I very much enjoyed reading Dr. Allen’s end of the year article (“Right-Sizing Life”), which illustrates how adapting to changes is a very natural, exciting, and positive experience. Likewise, Megan Riddle’s article (“Your New Years Resolutions — Five Tips for Success”) is a sensible, practical guide to making resolutions that I wholeheartedly endorse.
In terms of health and fitness resolutions, I like to keep it simple. Below are three things that you can do that are easy and that will yield great results.

Photo by drocpsu via Flickr (Creative Commons License)

1.     Sleep More. Studies show that more and more people are suffering sleep deprivation (less than 7 hours of sleep per night). The percentage is even higher for people over 50. It is also incontrovertible that being sleep deprived hurts both your health and your performance. I personally have noticed a reduction in both the quality and quantity of my sleep as I’ve gotten older. There are many different opinions out there on how to teach yourself to sleep better, and of course, the pharmaceutical companies offer a plethora of sleep “aids.”

Some things that have worked for me are pretty straight-forward:

a) Go to bed earlier. I like to read at night and that coupled with lying in my bed makes me sleepy whether I go to bed at 9 or 11. So head up to bed a little earlier.

b) Take power naps. Taking naps has been shown to be very effective and making people feel rejuvenated and rested. Best to keep your nap-time limited to 15-20 minutes so as not to affect your sleep at night.

c) Sleep in when you can. Although you can’t totally make up for a full week of short nights by this, you can bring some balance to your system by really giving into rest for more than eight hours once or twice a week. My body wakes up around the same time each morning. On the weekends, I have found that when I wake up early, if I get up just to go to the bathroom, I can then lie back down and go back to sleep for another hour or more. Then when I wake up, I feel much less creaky and achy then on normal days. So my advice is if you feel you need it, go for it.

2.     Keep a Food Diary. In my previous articles, I mentioned how keeping track of your workouts is helpful to keep you motivated and to make sure you have a balanced fitness program. For nutritional awareness and weight management, keeping a food diary is also very helpful. Studies have shown that just the act of recording what they consumed on a daily basis helped people to lose weight. Writing down what and how much you eat and drink will make you more conscious of what you regularly consume so you notice patterns in your choices of foods. For many of us, we might think we eat a varied diet, but once we start to look at what we regularly eat, we might notice that we actually have a pretty limited diet. That is because convenience is often the guiding principle when we make food choices. After you start keeping a food diary and see your patterns, you can see where you can change things up a bit to give yourself the added variety you need.
3.     Take an Exercise Class with a Friend. Many adults haven’t been to an exercise class in years. The longer you’ve been away from doing this, the less likely you will be motivated to do it. Going with a friend, will help you to get over the intimidation factor and you’ll be more likely to want to go. Now, some of you may say why take a class anyway? The reason is that participating in a class will expose you to new ways of moving and could help you try new things that might be missing in your current fitness routine. That being said, there is good reason to be skeptical when it comes to finding the right exercise class for you. First, choose a beginner level class to start. Next, find out about the instructor — how experienced are they and do they give attention to form (good) or do they push more for intensity (not good). There are older instructors out there with lots of experience who you should look for. You can’t tell from the schedule, so either read the instructor bios online or ask the manager. An experienced, older instructor will be more likely to teach a class that is suitable for beginners of any age, and keep it more about fun than about burning maximum calories.
I hope you find these resolutions helpful and that you have a happy, healthy, and active New Year!!

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