Staying Fit Through the Decades

Staying Fit Through the Decades: A Guide to Fitness for Adults by William J. Smith, MS, MEPD, CSCS

For most people, aerobic or cardiovascular exercise tends to be the most approachable and convenient choice in their fitness program. However, exercises that emphasize stability, flexibility, movement/coordination, and proper postural alignment tend to be lower on the list.

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes. These physical transformations challenge us to find activities that enhance and stimulate our innate movement needs which are needed throughout our activities of daily living (ADLs), as well as providing us with a sense of physical fulfillment.


Ask yourself the following questions:


1. Stability: Can you stand on one leg for several seconds? Can you hold your own body weight off the ground (i.e. modified or regular pushup position)?

2. Flexibility: Do you have trouble with simple tasks, such as reaching behind a seat in the car to pick up a briefcase or bag? Can you look over your shoulder without turning your upper body?

3. Movement and Coordination: Walking, the most basic of human movements, requires proper coordination between opposite sides of the body. As we age, we begin to lose the ability to plantar flex (push forward using the calf muscles), which leads to posture deterioration, stride length decreases, and really tight calf/arch muscles! Feel your body as you walk and make mental notes.

4. Posture: Take a look at your posture in the mirror. Are the shoulders rolled forward? Hips rolled under the lower back? Noticeable decrease in calf muscle tone? All are factors that can be addressed with corrective exercise therapy.




The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation has identified several criteria that are important to consider when beginning an exercise program. Here are some tips to help overcome common fitness obstacles:

Obstacle: Declining strength (i.e. muscles decrease in strength)

What you can do: Use your endurance. A recent study has shown that while muscle strength decreases with age, muscle endurance does not. You may benefit from working muscles longer – doing more repetitions – with lighter weights. Exercises that emphasize endurance, such as swimming, walking or biking, may be more enjoyable and beneficial for you than those that require great strength.


Obstacle: Arthritis or other conditions that make moving difficult

What you can do: You can, and should, still exercise. Ask your doctor or physical therapist how to use a cane, rollator (rolling walker) or other assistive device. These can be especially helpful if you’re recovering from a joint replacement, or a serious illness such as stroke or cancer.


Obstacle: A history of inactivity

What you can do: Get started on the path to fitness by using everyday activities as exercise. Recent studies have shown that “functional exercises,” those that mimic actual daily activities such as walking up stairs and getting in and out of chairs, are most effective for you.


Obstacle: Chronic pain and inflammation

What you can do: Choose low impact activities to keep moving and minimize pain. Experts believe that certain types of exercise can reduce joint stiffness, pain and inflammation associated with arthritic conditions that affect more than 40 million Americans. Activities such as walking, swimming and water-based exercise are generally effective and well tolerated.


Once you’ve identified your needs, choose the best type of fitness professional for your situation.

Next time you head to your local fitness facility, ask a fitness professional to assist you with the development of an exercise program. Active adults should bring up the following questions relating to their exercise program:


1. General Checklist of Questions to Ask your Fitness Trainer:

What certificates do you hold?

Educational background?

Is this a part-time job?

How long have you been a part of this organization?

What motivates you as a trainer?

Do you live what you teach?


2. Specific Fitness Program Questions to Ask your Fitness Trainer:

Are my special needs (Knee replacement, Arthritic Condition, Vertigo, etc) being taken into consideration?

Is the program multi-faceted (4-component model)?

Does this exercise program take into consideration my active interests (golf, bowling, etc)?

Is the same fitness trainer available to assist regularly? If not, how will my exercise program progress with another trainer?


By identifying strengths and weaknesses, and working with a fitness professional, you’ll be able to effectively adapt your fitness regiment through the years.



WILLIAM SMITH, MS, NSCA, CSCS, MEPD, completed his B.S. in exercise science at Western Michigan University followed by a master’s degree in education and a post-graduate program at Rutgers University. In 1993, Will began coaching triathletes and working with athletes and post-rehab clientele. He was a Division I Collegiate Strength Coach and has been competing in triathlons and marathons since 1998, recently finishing the Steelhead Half Ironman in Michigan in 5 hours and 22 minutes. Will founded Will Power and Fitness Associates and currently consults for fitness, healthcare, and wellness centers in New York and New Jersey. The Director of the Professional Development Institute, Will has also co-authored the definitive guide to triathlon training, Tri Power. He is also the author of several books in the popular Exercises For series including Exercises for Heart Health, Exercises for Back Pain, Exercises for Brain Health, and many others.

A Fun and Healthy Kid Creation Recipe to Make with Your Child!

The breakfast fruit wrap recipe listed below is from Combat Fat for Kids Kid Creation section. Older kids can make it by themselves or parents can make it with younger ones! Combat Fat for Kids is the ultimate guide to building a healthy lifestyle for the whole family and fighting childhood obesity. Complete with nutritious recipes and kid-themed exercises, the book has everything you need to get your family fit and establish healthy habits that will last a lifetime.


Breakfast Fruit Wrap


1 tortilla, preferably whole wheat

2 teaspoons all-fruit strawberry preserves

2 tablespoons reduced-fat ricotta cheese

1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries

2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted



On a flat surface, spread strawberry preserves on tortilla. Top with ricotta cheese. Carefully top with sliced fruit and sprinkle with sliced almonds. Starting from one end, roll tightly. Wrap in foil for neater eating.

Note: As an alternative, try replacing the strawberry preserves and strawberries with apricot preserves and sliced fresh or canned, well-drained peaches.


Reprinted with permission from Combat Fat for Kids. ISBN: 978-1-57826-458-2, $9.99 (ebook). ISBN: 978-1-57826-396-7, $15.00 (paperback). New from Hatherleigh Press. Distributed by Random House.

Dining Out Smarter

When you’re planning meals for your family at home it is much easier to adhere to a healthy eating plan and monitor how well everyone is eating. Eating out at restaurants presents a new set of challenges, but it can still be done!

The book Combat Fat for Kids is the ultimate guide to building a healthy lifestyle for the whole family and fighting childhood obesity. Below are some helpful suggestions the authors offer to help you and the whole family make healthy eating choices while dining out:

1. Start the meal by ordering salads that are packed with vegetables for the whole family. It will help control hunger and help your family feel satisfied sooner.

2. If entrees are big, ask for an extra plate and split them with another family member. Remember, it’s not always necessary for your child to clean his plate as long as he has eaten a balanced and filling meal. It’s also fine to ask your waiter to box up some of the meal and take leftovers home with you.

3. Ask your waiter how the foods are prepared so that your family can make wise selections from the menu. There is nothing wrong with asking questions about whether or not the meal is deep-fried, grilled, or baked. Try to stick with meals that are blackened, grilled, broiled, baked, boiled, or stir-fried.

4. Understand that it’s acceptable to ask for sauce, gravy, and spreads to be left off from meals or placed on the side so that the amount can be monitored. The same principle applies when ordering salads. Asking for dressings or sauces on the side makes it easier to control portions. A little can go a long way with fatty or calorie-laden toppings.

5. Order menu items instead of the all-you-can-eat buffet. There is a much greater chance of overeating and losing sight of portion control when family members are loading their plates at the buffet and can make multiple trips to refill.

6. If your family splurges for dessert when dining out, try to order a fruit-based dessert or split the dessert into smaller portions. It’s not necessary to ban all desserts. Instead, simply reduce how often and how much of them your kids eats.

Reprinted with permission from Combat Fat for Kids. ISBN: 978-1-57826-458-2, $9.99 (ebook). ISBN: 978-1-57826-396-7, $15.00 (paperback). New from Hatherleigh Press. Distributed by Random House.