Project Body Smart | Exercising with a group helps ensure success
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Exercising with a group helps ensure success

Some people prefer to exercise alone. Others are joiners – happiest when they’re working out and playing with friends or other folks.

“Being in a group appeals to me – I like to sign up!”

That’s Diane Firmani, a 64-year-old multi-athlete who stays active outdoors all year long in Wasilla, Alaska.

In summer, she runs 5Ks and half-marathons. Year-round, she travels all over to compete in triathlons.

And in the winter, when she’s not out with friends riding fat-tire bikes over snow and frozen lakes, the retired school librarian is on the hockey rink, playing with her women’s team that includes five members over age 50.

All the physical fun took a serious, spiritual turn in the last year. Diane has been taking care of her husband since a debilitating stroke.

“It has been a challenging year,” Diane says. “And those girls have stood by me. They support me. They’re true blues.”

Diane’s experiences prove all kinds of points about staying fit after 50. It’s fun. It’s social. You can diversify your workouts no matter where you are.

Exercising with Others: It Works!

And by staying active in groups, Diane personifies what experts say: Exercising with a friend or group dramatically raises your chances of sticking to it.

That’s true across the board. Studies show:

That’s why we offer a range of options for people who want to exercise with other people. Come talk to us about the possibilities.

‘I don’t think of myself as old’

Diane’s team recently made it to the championship match of the C Cup Women’s Hockey Classic, which brings together women from across the state.

“Sometimes people say you’re too old, or women shouldn’t play hockey, but I don’t care,” Diane says. “I don’t think of myself as old. I don’t feel old.

“I used to have more of a grandma image in my head – white hair and a walker… But I’m nothing like that.”

Neither are the other women over 50 on her team, including Ironman triathlete Sammye Pokryfki, 58.

“Playing hockey on my women’s team expresses so man of my core values — staying active, being part of a team, challenging myself, and spending time with friends. But the most important thing that keeps me coming back? It’s just so much fun.”

Their advice to people over 50 who don’t know how to start getting fit?

No. 1: Just get moving.

“And for me, get a friend, get a buddy,” Diane says. “You keep each other motivated, and you keep each other committed.

“Since my husband’s stroke, there are days when it’s really hard, and it’s easier not to go play or workout. That’s where my friends come in. That’s my tribe. That’s who I count on.”

New Guidelines Say Exercising for Even Less than 10 Minutes Is Valuable

We might know that exercise is important for physical and mental health.

But how much exercise do we need?

US government guidelines say adults should get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise – or at least 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity.

“If that’s more than you can do right now, do what you can,” says a report from the Department of Health and Human Services. “Even 5 minutes of physical activity has real health benefits.”

People over 50 also should participate in strength or resistance training (like with weights or bands) twice a week and work on flexibility, the Centers for Disease Control says.

The government issued guidelines recently that are slightly revised from the initial 2008 recommendations. The new report says exercise in bouts of even less than 10 minutes can go toward the 150-minute weekly goal.

“Research studies consistently show that activity performed on at least 3 days a week produces health benefits,” the CDC says. And more exercise means greater benefits for everyone, including people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and beyond. Exercise controls weight and blood pressure, reduces the risk for several cancers and falling, and helps stave off depression and dementia.

So, what exactly counts as “moderate” or “vigorous” intensity?

Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, jogging, biking, dancing, light swimming and general yard work.

Vigorous-intensity means: jogging or running, swimming laps, jumping rope, biking faster than 10 mph and high-intensity interval training.

“As a rule of thumb, a person doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity can talk, but not sing, during the activity,” the government says. “A person doing vigorous-intensity activity cannot say more than a few words without pausing for a breath.”

Healthy Recipe: Beef Stew with Fresh Mango

Fresh mango and cilantro add the perfect balance to this beef stew with its full-flavored complements of Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, and just a bit of cinnamon. Serving it over whole-wheat couscous is an easy way to boost your fiber intake. From the American Heart Association.

Makes 6 services: 1 cup stew ½ cup couscous

Nutrition Facts

Calories: 395

Total Fat: 9g

Saturated Fat: 3g

Sodium: 224mg

Carbohydrate: 50g

Fiber: 8g

Sugars: 15g

Protein : 30g

Ingredients

  • 1½ pounds lean stew meat (1-inch cubes), all visible fat discarded
  • 2 14.5-ounce cans no-salt-added diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 medium onion (cut into 6 wedges)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into ½-inch strips
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce (lowest sodium available)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 medium garlic cloves (minced)
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup uncooked, whole-wheat couscous
  • 1½ cups fat-free, low-sodium beef broth (or)
  • 1 medium mango (cut into bite-size pieces)
  • ½ cup chopped, fresh cilantro

Directions

  1. In the slow cooker, stir together the beef, tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, garlic, cinnamon, salt, and pepper. Cook, covered, on low for 8 to 9 hours or on high for 5 to 5½ hours, or until the beef is tender.
  2. About 10 minutes before serving time, prepare the couscous using the package directions, omitting the salt and substituting the broth for the water. Spoon into bowls. Ladle the stew onto the couscous. Top with the mango and cilantro.

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