Healthy Recipe, Charred Zucchini and Scallion Pasta

It’s amazing how much depth of flavor can be achieved from basic ingredients with a few tweaks in the cooking, as Yasmin Fahr demonstrates in this recipe from “Cook Simply, Live Fully.” Here, summer squash, which tends to be bland, is charred first in a dry skillet with thin slivers of lemon and scallions. Olive oil, grated Parmesan, and the starchy water from the cooked pasta transforms into a creamy sauce rich with umami rather than fat. Not only is it healthy, delicious, and filling, but it’s also easy on the wallet and a snap to make. Serves 4. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini or other summer squash
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 scallions
  • ¾ pound rigatoni, fusilli, ziti, or other short tubular dried pasta
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or more, as needed
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water seasoned with about a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, halve the zucchini or squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut into ½-inch-thick half-moons and set aside.
  2. Cut the lemon in half. Leave one half of the lemon whole for squeezing. Slice the other half into thin rounds, poke the seeds out, and cut the slices into ¼-inch-thick matchsticks. Set aside. Then trim the roots and thinly slice scallions.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until slightly underdone by a minute or two. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat a dry 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini to the dry pan, season lightly with salt, spread out in an even layer and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Then flip with a spatula, scooting some of the slices up to rest on the sides of the pan if it looks crowded. Allow the slices to cook again, undisturbed, for 2 more minutes. Repeat this flipping process in 2-minute increments until the zucchini is browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes total.
  6. Add the sliced lemon and scallions to the zucchini and cook until softened, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the olive oil and season lightly with salt.
  7. Lower the heat to medium. Add the cooked pasta, ½ cup of the pasta water, and ¾ cup of the Parmesan, stirring well to form a creamy sauce. Add more water if the sauce looks too dry or more cheese if the sauce looks too watery.
  8. Remove from the heat, squeeze in the reserved lemon half, and stir. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Check Out These Over-50 Fitness Influencers

We love bringing you news and information that will inspire your fitness journey.

And on social media, particularly Instagram, there’s no shortage of interesting, helpful fitness influencers in the over-50 fitness category. In fact, we would never try to pick a “Top 10” list.

But we are more than happy to share a few that we think you might enjoy. And feel free to share with us any others that you like.

And before you scoff about the value of “influencers,” read what the National institutes of Health had to say about them:

“Studies have proven that fitness influencers positively affect people’s exercise intentions or behaviors. Fitness influencers can be seen as health communicators on social media who use their professionalism, reliability, and attractiveness to motivate people’s fitness behavior.”

Happy scrolling!

1. Joan MacDonald @trainwithjoan. She started getting fit at age 70 and now trains with her daughter. She’s lean and muscular and sports a great smile.
2. Ashley Ward @itsashleywardd. This “hot daddy” type really keeps it in the family, too, frequently posing online with his buff young son. He’s a former pro rugby player and coach and frequently poses in sexy shirtless pics, if you’re into that kind of thing.
3. Jean Titus @titusunlimited. This “Silverfox squad member” also sports the physique of a fitness model half his age. He’s been featured in ESPN and BET.
4. Wendy Ida @wendyidafitness. She says her life was in shambles before she found fitness. Now, she’s a champ and an author in her 70s.
5. Old Lady Gains Apparel @oldladygains. This women-owned business sells “fitness apparel for unstoppable midlife+ women.” With attitude!
6. Debra Atkinson Fit4Menopause @flipping50tv. The podcaster, author and speaker helps woman over 50 live their best lives with strength, bone and brain health, and “science-based hormone-balancing exercise.”
7. Shaun T @shaunt. OK, he’s not quite 50, but this bodybuilder, famous from infomercials a few years back, shows it’s possible for “older” men to pack on the muscle and keep it.
8. Kim Hale @mskimhale. Not all fitness happens in a gym, as this dancer proves. Hale was an aspiring chorine on Broadway years ago and has now returned in her 50s to make her dreams come true.

If any of these influencers – or anything else you see on the Internet – inspires you to make healthy changes in your life, then we say that’s a good thing.

But you’ve gotta do more than just watch these folks and others on your phone. Call us or come see us today and let’s get you moving with purpose.

In no time, you’ll be an influence on others around you, who will start to wonder… What’s the secret?


Is Weight Loss the Most Important Goal?

If you want to get in shape, you better believe this: Nothing is more important than losing weight!

The number on the scale is all that matters!

And we have a special deal for you on a certain bridge in Brooklyn!

Trust us, folks. Despite society’s focus on it, your weight is not always the most important factor in your health and fitness. And losing weight should not necessarily be the No. 1 goal of exercising on a regular basis.

That’s a common misunderstanding that frustrates many newcomers to fitness. It keeps others from even trying to get in shape.

It’s true that weight loss is a common goal. It’s an excellent goal for many people. And being at a proper weight is essential for your health.

But there are so many more reasons to pursue or maintain a fit lifestyle. And there are so many other indicators of health than just pounds – like body fat percentage and strength.

  • Thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.
  • Strong is the new skinny.
  • You might weigh a little more after losing body fat and gaining muscle.

Remember that daily movement is essential for optimal aging. It keeps you feeling better, moving better, and – yes! – looking better.

It lowers healthcare costs.

It extends independence.

So, let’s go over some of the main facts about fitness over 50 that often get overlooked in all the misinformation out there.

Focus on Function

Cody Sipe, a professor and co-founder of the Functional Aging Institute, fights ageism and focuses on functional ability rather than merely someone’s weight or age.

He points out a few of the common false myths.

  • Older people should never lift weights. Not only can most mature people lift weights, but they shouldlift weights. Strength training builds muscle mass, which we lose as we age. And it protects bone health.
  • Walking is good enough. Walking and jogging are nice first steps, but we must do more. That includes strength, cardio endurance, balance and mobility.
  • You’ll hurt yourself if you exercise. Wrong. It’s more dangerous to sit all day than to move your body with purpose.

A Few Top Motivators

People over 50 have endless reasons for wanting a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Grandkids. If you don’t think you need strength, agility and endurance to be The Fun Nana, well, guess again.
  2. Travel. Try carrying luggage, putting it in an overhead compartment, and enjoying activities WITHOUT being in good shape.
  3. Mental Health. Exercise relieves depression, battles dementia, and improves sleep. Hello!
  4. Physical Health. It keeps you at a healthy weight, which lowers your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and countless other issues as you age.
  5. Sports and Hobbies. You can continue your favorite leisure activities if you are fit. This is true for everything from pickleball to ballroom dancing.

So, you see, although it really is important to maintain a healthy weight, this is a much more rewarding journey than just obsessing about that number on the scale. Questions? We are here to help!

Eye of the Tiger: Keep Your Drive at Any Age

Studies show that having a purpose is key to overall optimal aging and to success in fitness at any age.

Once you meet 80-year-old track-and-field champion Howard Booth, you won’t doubt that again.

It’s Howard’s commitment that keeps him going in life and in sports.

“So much of it is the psychology,” says Howard, a retired professor. “I know that deep down, doing this stuff is good for me. There is a little bit of self-brainwashing involved,” he says, describing what others might call motivation.

He worked out in gyms before the pandemic and then built a home gym with a stair stepper, treadmills, chin bars, free weights – and a pole-vaulting pit in the back yard. He likes to lift weights, perform bodyweight exercises like pushups, and practice dynamic balance moves.

Howard has won three gold medals in pole vaulting in World Masters Athletics championships. He’ll compete in Sweden this summer in pole vault, hurdles, and a relay team.

His speed and strength training make him a competitor. Vaulting alone requires you to race down the track and hoist yourself over a bar 7 feet high.

“Drive is why I got a PhD. That’s why I had a great career as a professor,” said Howard. “It is paying attention to details of what you’re doing at that time.”

Determination Is Key

You don’t have to be a retired professor, a pole vaulter, or as dedicated as Howard is. You just need a purpose to keep you moving. Experts say we need at least 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity cardio exercise, plus two strength training sessions a week, to stay healthy.

Many active agers benefit from focusing on a main “why.” They can return to it like a mantra for ongoing inspiration… Maybe they want to walk a granddaughter down the aisle, enjoy a summer working the back yard, or follow doctor’s orders to treat symptoms of chronic health conditions.

It doesn’t matter “what” your “why” is. Just that you have one.

Optimal aging requires the strength, stamina and agility to live life on your terms for as long as possible. It takes effort and determination, but you’re no stranger to putting in work to enjoy rewards later.

Plus, as Howard shows daily, it’s fun to move your body and to challenge and reward yourself.

He enjoys hiking with his wife, a painter, and they visit museums together when traveling for his track meets. Howard has a mountain bike and likes to paddleboard.

For anyone not quite as advanced – or, well, determined – as he is, Howard has some simple advice.

“Start simple and easy,” he says. “You get better and you learn to do new things, which is better than sitting there watching some stupid TV program that has no merit. When you’re done, give yourself kudos: You did it.”

Let us show you how to get that sparkle of drive back in your eye. Call or come see us today.

Gaining Plank-spiration from a 58-year-old World Record Holder

DonnaJean Wilde, a 58-year-old retired educator, made headlines recently when she set a world record for abdominal planking by a woman.

She received official recognition from the Guinness World Record folks for holding a plank for 4 hours, 30 minutes and 11 seconds in Magrath, a town in Alberta, Canada. That was 10 minutes longer than the previous record, set in 2019, Guinness says on its website.

“The challenger’s forearms and toes must touch the ground at all times,” Guinness explains. “The remainder of the body must be lifted off the ground and be kept straight throughout.”

Wilde says she has long suffered chronic pain in her hands and arms. She came to love planking after she broke her wrist and was limited in her activities.

During training, she would read, watch movies – and even completed the work to earn a master’s degree, Guinness says.

You can watch a video on DonnaJean’s achievement on YouTube.

The male record is held by former Marine George Hood, who planked for 8 hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds a few years ago at age 62.

Even people who are very fit will struggle to hold a plank for more than a few minutes. And good news: You don’t have to! The plank is great for core training, posture, gait, balance and more, can be done anywhere, and has many variations.

“Anybody can do what I do,” George told the media after reclaiming his title. “Everybody has to start somewhere.”

The Plank 101

It’s safe for people over 50 – as DonnaJean and George prove. “This is probably the best exercise you’ll ever do,” AARP blogger Barbara Hannah Grufferman wrote. Research shows the benefits of regular planking.

It helps your midsection without the strain of crunches. And it works more than just the abs, targeting the entire core, which wraps around us and stabilizes our bodies while doing everyday tasks. Stability and balance are essential for functional fitness.

When you’re in the plank position, you’re working just about every muscle in your body. The focus is on the core and abs. But you’re also using your legs, arms and back to stay in place.

We’re happy to show you in person, but here’s the basic idea. Start by lying face down on an exercise mat. Keep the elbows close to your sides, the palms facing down, and the fingers facing forward. Lift up, keep your body straight, and put your weight on your elbows and feet.

Engage those core muscles and hold on.

Aim for 30 seconds at first. Rest a minute. Try for three rounds of that to start, a few times a week. You’ll be amazed how fast you advance.

Motivation for Everyone

Let DonnaJean and George serve as inspiration, no matter what your goals are.

“Keep trying and keep practicing,” she told Guinness. “I actually still can’t believe it. It feels like a dream.”

Dreams come true at any age. Come see us today and let’s bring yours to life.

Healthy Recipe, Curried Chickpeas with Spinach and Tomatoes

This bold-flavored vegan entrée tastes like it’s been simmering for hours yet takes less than 30 minutes to prepare. It’s adapted from Kat Ashmore’s “Big Bites: Wholesome, Comforting Recipes That Are Big on Flavor, Nourishment, and Fun” and consists of inexpensive staples you already have. Canned chickpeas are the principal protein source, delivering vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Pair with greens and a whole grain such as brown rice. Serves 2-3. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • ¼ to 1/2 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 (5-ounce) bag baby spinach (about 5 cups)
  • 1 or 2 cups cooked brown rice for serving
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, for 3 or 4 minutes, until tender.
  2. Add the garlic, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, and cayenne (if using), tomato paste, ½ teaspoon salt, and a few grindings of black pepper. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, or until the mixture is fragrant and the tomato paste darkens.
  3. Add the chickpeas, ¼ cup water, and the tomato and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  4. Stir in ¼ cup of the coconut milk and the spinach, in batches, if necessary, stirring as it cooks down. Add another ¼ teaspoon of salt and simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated, adding a splash more coconut milk if you prefer a creamier consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired.
  5. Serve over rice and sprinkle with cilantro, if using.

—  Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Success Story: Fitness Helped Him Thrive after Back Surgery

For Dr. Bruce Lockhart, it was finally back surgery that got him committed to regular exercise near retirement a decade ago. Over the years, he had treated enough patients with chronic back pain to know that he didn’t want to become one after the procedure. So he found the right trainer at the right gym and has been enjoying it for 10 years, pain free. “I like not looking like I’m 77 years old,” says Bruce, who enjoys hiking, working in his large garden, and running obstacle-course races —  in addition to three-times-a-week small group training at the gym. “You can very quickly become a couch potato at my age,” he says. “It’s pretty easy. But I really enjoy going to the gym. It’s just become part of my life.” Exercise Before and After Surgery Bruce is a great example of how fitness helps us overcome common physical challenges that can affect us later in life – like his back pain, or surgery for a joint replacement that so many people need. Even healthy ones. Mature adults who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer a disability – and they are more likely to recover faster, according to one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers said the active participants in the study had been “built up” by exercise and had become “more resilient” than sedentary peers And the National Institutes for Health concludes that exercise before and after surgery is important for ensuring its success in older people. Trainer Shebah Carfagna believes she benefitted from her physical fitness when she needed hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago in her 60s – in “prehab” as well as rehab. “You have to take what life gives you and make it work and adjust,” Shebah says. “It’s important for the body to continue to move. You just can’t stop become something happens. You have to keep going.” Find Something You Like For Bruce, his life as a physician and his own experiences in the gym have taught him that nothing promotes healthy longevity like exercise. “If you don’t stay fit, sooner or later, things are going to start to go downhill,” he says. “It’s so important if you care about how long you spend on this earth.” Bruce recommends finding a gym or studio you like – where you feel comfortable and welcome. He enjoys working with his “inspiring” trainer, and in a small group whose members keep each other accountable. But it’s not essential for everyone. His top piece of advice? “Find something you enjoy doing,” he says. “It’s not going to become drudgery if you enjoy it.” >We couldn’t agree more. Let’s get you moving today!

Take Steps Toward Better Heart Health

Bernadette Harris knew she needed to make some changes in her lifestyle. “I was working 15, 16 hours a day. I wasn’t eating right. I wasn’t exercising,” she recalls now. Her high blood pressure scared her. “I don’t want to be the grandma on a walker,” Bernadette says. “If I didn’t make some changes, I was not going to be here for my daughter.” She started making changes advocated by the CDC Foundation for American Heart Month in February.  Exercise is among the most important steps we can take for heart health to prevent heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure and more. “Physical activity is key to a healthy heart,” the CDC campaign says. “Even small steps toward being more active can add up to big health benefits over time.” The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, broken up any way you want, and two weekly sessions of strength training. Other steps the CDC and heart advocates support include:

  • Managing risk factors like blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Working with healthcare providers
  • Eating right
  • Reducing stress
  • Quitting cigarettes

“Making these changes was about really enjoying life more, really living, not working all the time … recognizing the things and the people who matter most,” Bernadette says now. Talk to your doctor about your heart health. And, if you’re not already working out with us, let’s get you started today for a stronger tomorrow. Call us today to get started!

How to Build Healthy New Habits

It’s the time of year when everyone wants to build new habits, and “getting in shape” is always one of the most popular New Year resolutions.

We love it, of course, and welcome everyone who’s starting this month – and all our returning friends who are back for more strength, endurance, and agility.

Over the years, we’ve seen a lot of people build healthy habits that last long after the holiday thrill fades. How’d they do it? Here are some common success factors for you to keep in mind.

1. Set SMART goals

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. So, apply this to building habits, as well. Instead of saying, “I will exercise more,” say, “I’m going to the gym three times a week for at least 30 minutes through January, and then I will add 15 minutes each day starting in February.”

2. Start small

Research, and a terrific best-selling book, tell us that “atomic” (small) changes are the best. Avoid statements like, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds this month,” and set more realistic expectations.

3. Celebrate little victories

Did you hit your workout goal for the week? Treat yourself to a fancy coffee. Dropped that first pound? Give yourself a high-five in the mirror.

These little victories are so important to acknowledge.

4. Remember your ‘why’

Let’s admit it: There will be days when you don’t feel like exercising. Just remember WHY you started in the first place. To rule the golf course this spring? Walk your granddaughter down the aisle? Turn around a doctor’s warning? That’s the secret fuel to keep you going.

5. Workout with your partner or a friend

Working out with a pal makes it way more fun. A trainer and a small group can serve the same purpose. Talk to us about making these valuable connections.

6. Tie habits together

Here’s another gem from “Atomic Habits” – link your new habit to one you already do. Let’s say you want to start each morning with 5 minutes of meditation. Do this RIGHT AFTER you brush your teeth or walk the dog. Makes it super-easy.

7. Choose fun

If exercise feels like a drag, you’re less likely to do it. Choose something that’s fun for you, no explanation or apology to anyone. Weightlifting, yoga, jogging, dancing… Whatever gets you moving!

8. Keep track of yourself

Take a photo and record measurements when you start. Record progress weekly, even if it seems minor. Here’s why: Small progress adds up, and when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, there’s nothing more motivating than reviewing your record… and seeing how far you’ve come.

Talk to us about all these ideas and more. We want to see you in here long past the strong “resolve” part of “resolutions” goes away. It’s consistency you’re after, and we are here to help you achieve it.

More of Your Fitness Questions – Answered!

We love hearing your questions about fitness. Here are some we are asked most often. Food for thought!  Question: Older people don’t need to lift weights, right?Answer: Wrong! Resistance training is ESSENTIAL for everyone as we age, for many reasons that are indisputable. Humans start to lose muscle mass regularly in our 30s, and if we don’t work to build muscle, we eventually become frail and weak. That leads to balance problems, falls, broken bones, and more. Plus, lifting weights helps to keep us lean, to sleep better, and to regulate blood pressure and cholesterol. Q. Does muscle really weigh more than fat?A. No. A pound is a pound is a pound. BUT muscle is denser than fat and takes up less space in our bodies – about 22% less space.  Q. Is the “no pain, no gain” idea for real?A. No, it is not. Some discomfort might be normal when starting a new activity, but many types of pain are not – like joint pain and tendon strains. If you’re new to exercise, don’t ignore pain. Talk to a trainer or healthcare professional to help you distinguish between normal and concerning discomfort. Q. Do I have to go to the gym every day?A. Absolutely not. We recommend two or three times a week with us to start. Health experts suggest everyone needs 150 hours a week overall of moderately strenuous cardio exercise, and at least two strength training sessions a week. You can break that up into chunks of time that fit your schedule, and you don’t have to do it all here.  Q. When will I start seeing results?A. Everyone is different, and it depends on your goals, but most people report that they start seeing differences within the first two to three months. Many also notice that that they start to feel better and move better within a few weeks. Q. Do I need expensive clothes and shoes?A. Not at all. Don’t be worried by “fitness fashion” you might see in the media or in the stores. Dress comfortably in whatever you have and don’t worry about “looking good.” We just want you here and moving! Q. Should I focus just on losing weight?A. No way! Losing weight is a common goal. But don’t get too hung up on that number of the scale. There are so many more benefits. You’ll feel better, move better, and look better. If you also lose weight, that’s good, too.  Q. Can I work out even though I have arthritis?A. Yes, you can – and should. It might seem counterintuitive but think about exercise as providing lubrication for your body. It lessens pain and stiffness by taking pressure off aching joints, and it can ease joint inflammation and stiffness. What questions do you have? We’re here with answers!