KR:What do you find is the common denominator with people in midlife and exercise?
DS: Mindset. I think people really do believe that part of getting older is that you go to hell. Menopause for example happens and there is hormonal weight; but it is temporary. It’s not just because the hormones shift. People gain weight, as they get older because their metabolism slows down, but what they don’t realize is that they have control of their metabolism by keeping their muscle mass. The body loses 6-10% of our muscle mass per decade; so by the time you hit 40-50 you have lost almost 30%. By adding muscle, we increase the metabolism.
I think the biggest message is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
A pound of muscle takes the space of a tangerine. A pound of fat takes the space of a grapefruit.
So muscle takes 1/3 the space of fat. If we do nothing to keep the muscle as we age, we get softer and mushier. The scale might not even change but the fat vs. muscle percentage in your body changes.
Think of this: a pound of muscle burns 50 calories a day. So for every pound of muscle you lose, you lose the ability to burn 50 calories for each of those pounds. But let’s say you add 2 pounds of muscle to your body. You will burn 100 calories more per day. In 30 days you will burn 3,000 calories just by having that extra 2 pounds of muscle. It takes 3,500 calories to burn a pound of fat. So basically by putting on 2 pounds of muscle, you will burn fat just by the existence of the muscle.
You’d burn 10 lbs per year with that 2 pounds of muscle.
KR: What are some pearls for peri and postmenopausal women seeking fitness?
DS: I say the post-menopausal woman is way more sexy. These are women who say:
I don’t care what the world thinks. I can do anything. I’ve gotten over the humps of child raising, careers etc.
The fitness industry tells you 40 minutes 3x/week of aerobic exercise to “stay fit”
There many of us in the fitness industry who believe you can get cardio while doing muscle-building activities. Mindless hours of ellipticals and stair steppers are not necessary. You get a much better bang for your buck doing short, muscle building, intense movements which gives you cardio while you are doing them vs. just getting on that treadmill. Women hear muscle and they think I don’t want to get bulky. The reality is that most women don’t tend to get bulky because we don’t have enough testosterone. The other consideration is that women are generally thinking of their upper body vs. their legs. It’s easier to add muscle to the legs than the upper body.
There is lots of research that shows it’s never to late to add muscle.
The body will find a different pathway to build the muscle as we get older; but functionally, older people get stronger just like younger people who work out.
Women are motivated by how we look. We’re often looking at the soft mush and we are not looking at the loss of quality of life. What’s more important? What happens if I can’t get up stairs or get off of a soft or low couch?
Strength is about being able to continue doing your life at a high quality.
So if you want a life with quality you want to be able to wash your hair. If you lose use of your shoulder muscles, you can’t open a refrigerator anymore. I’ve had clients in that predicament. If we don’t do anything it will happen.
So my “pearls” of wisdom are: big payoff in building some muscle. The other one is doing Pilates – great for toning the midsection and strengthening the “Core”, making all sorts of activities easier.
KR: What are some words of wisdom for creating the best mindset for getting in shape?
DS: Fear is big. The solution is to visualize where you want your life in 3 years. How do you see yourself? If you see yourself less active with aging you’ll become that person. If we can’t envision it, we can’t become it. You must be able to see yourself as someone who is strong, able, fit and healthy. I think it’s important for people to go inside and see their beliefs. If you are thinking anything like: this is the way it has to be, or this is what it’s like to get older, or there is nothing I can do about it or it’s more bother than I’m willing to do – you’ve got to look at all those belief systems and say who says it has to be this way?
Do you know that all the age markers go down when you exercise? You can keep away cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, osteoporosis and more.
KR: What is your personal life approach to exercise, health and fitness?
What is my first line medical defense?
I believe in exercise.
I keep my food clean.
Whatever ails me: I go to acupuncture. My first line defense is acupuncture. I’ve done that for 20 years.
People are always asking me how much I exercise. I exercise, averaged out, to about 15 minutes a day with intense weight training plus I teach Yoga and Pilates classes.
People don’t get it. They say, “I don’t have time.” I have two different answers to that. The nuts and bolts answer is that you can incorporate exercise into your day just by doing what you are doing and not doing anything extra.
My favorite example is shown in this you’ve-got-to-see video clip on U-Tube which shows how to do chair sits. Of course, it’s my own video, just put fitnessbydot into YouTube. Most people get in and out of a chair many times during a typical day. This is a slightly different way to get into and out of the chair that uses your leg muscles more. In public restrooms you squat. You butt goes back and you hover. We can sit into any chair this way. The closer and lower to the chair seat that you are willing to hover, the harder you work. Stop and focus and take an extra 20 seconds slowly squat into chair every time you sit down.
What is the worst that is gonna’ happen? You are going to end up in the chair! First you work at it. Several weeks later you can hold easily above chair. You’ll end up able to ease in an out of all chairs without using your arms or falling into the chair. There are benefits to not getting stuck in a chair or on a couch. Strengthening the muscles supports knees too. There are benefits of joint health. Think about how many times you do this in a day. 10 Times at 10 seconds a piece. We are not talking about a lot of time here but even they are opportunities to get stronger and build muscle.
What else? Park farther away ie: park a block away. Walk more.
Use the stairs. You should never be in the elevator for a flight or two.
Stand at work vs. sitting.
Even if you are watching TV do some sit-ups during commercials.
The earmark of convenience is usually an opportunity to get some added exercise. Squeeze your butt muscles together while you are standing at the sink or in line at the grocery store.
KR: Why do you think people resist classes as fitness opportunities?
DS: The biggest reason is people have NO idea how much better they can feel because they have never felt it.
People who are beginners in a class activity think, “I look goofy.”
The reality is that in most classes people are at different levels. It’s like being
in a dance class and not knowing the moves. It’s just what new looks like.
We have this idea in our culture that we have to do things instantly and be good at them with no learning curve.
They are just excuses. I felt that way too when I started partly because I was embarrassed and partly because didn’t know what I was doing.
The time is now, not tomorrow, not later.
Get younger, feel younger. This is turn-back-the-clock work. This is how to turn back the aging clock.
People who exercise sleep better and fewer hours. They are more productive and their brains are clearer. Their moods are more even. If you had the ability to be focused and clear all day, do you think you could get more done? The time you gain is greater than the time you spend exercising. It’s like an investment that pays 5 to 1. It gives you back more time than you put into it.
The reality is that it doesn’t cost much and it’s readily available. If exercise were a pill everybody would be taking it. All you need is a good pair or sneakers and that’s about it.
KR: What helps with getting that ball rolling to begin exercising?
DS: People wait to be motivated. It doesn’t arrive, it is created.
You can do all kinds of things to help yourself, like the only clothes you put out in the AM are gym clothes.
Block the front door with your bicycle.
It’s easier to manipulate the environment vs. create or motivate. The exercise becomes its own reward because it feels so much better that you don’t want to give it up.
Make a date to meet a friend at the gym or for a hike. Accountability really helps – tell someone else you will do it and check in with them later.
KR: Dot, thank you for your many words of wisdom. What are your final pearls for spurring the fitness goals of our readers?
DS: Ask yourself: what is driving you?
Do you want to play with grandkids?
Can you get up off the floor without using your hands? (Sit on the floor right now, cross your arms over your chest and get up without pushing with your arms. Can you do it?) This is measure of muscle strength.
What is your “why”?
Mush around the middle?
Maybe it’s that I am embarrassed because I think I should look better than I do?
Maybe it’s that my clothes don’t fit?
What activities are you giving up? Skiing? Bicycling? Hiking?
I don’t buy into that.
We become what we believe.
Do you know how many times I have heard, “If I had known it was going to be this easy, I wouldn’t have waited so long”? You can get a whole lot out of a little bit of consistent exercise.
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Dot Spaet, Fitness by Dot, where the best workout is the one you are willing to do!