As we age, flexibility becomes a concern. Experts agree that older bodies come with an ultimatum: Use it or lose it. If you aren’t maintaining an active lifestyle, you can expect accelerated muscle loss, decreased stamina, strength, range of motion, balance and flexibility.

There are “naturally- occurring” things that happen with aging.  One of those is decreased flexibility — if you don’t stretch and move, your joints start to get less flexible. It’s important to keep joints moving.

Some parts of our bodies suffer more than others. If we sit most of the time, our hamstrings become weak and tight, and our hip flexors become tight.  Both of which will affect our standing and walking posture.  Also, if we sit in front of a computer much of the time, we tend to bring our head forward and round our shoulders; this causes the muscles in the front of our shoulders and the back of our neck to get shortened and tight, while our back muscles become weak and inhibited.

There are so many kinds of stretching that it can be a bit confusing. The key is to warm up the muscle and then push its limits in terms of pliability and range of motion. There are basically two types of stretching exercises, static or dynamic.

Static stretching, or taking a position that elongates the muscle and holding it, is beneficial because it’s extremely low risk for injury while still improving range of motion and flexibility. Because static stretching doesn’t involve warming up the muscles first, it’s best to do the stretches during or following a cardio or strength-training workout.

Dynamic stretching, by contrast, involves taking a position at the end range of motion, applying slow, steady pressure to push that boundary and then returning. Because it is a series of exercises, it does double duty — warming up the muscle and then working to enhance flexibility and range of motion.

Choose stretches based on where you feel tightness. For static stretches, the typical recommendation is holding for 20-30 seconds per stretch performed in 3-5 reps. You will get the most benefit with daily stretching.

For dynamic stretching, think about your activity and how you use your body. Before you get started, do some slow motions to simulate the positions you’ll take during the course of your activity, i.e. golf, tennis, skiing.

But how do you know if you’ve taken a stretch too far? Your body will tell you when to stop the stretch.  You should feel “pleasant tension”; stretches should never be painful or forced into painful positions.


One of our clients, Richard Sobel, recently made the news! At the Illinois Masters Championships in Sterling, Illinois in February, Richard set a new meet master’s record for his age cohort at 4’10”.  This broke the previous mark set in 2010 and exceeded the national All American Standard for his cohort of 4’9.  His jump of 4’10 (1.47m) is an age-graded equivalent of 6’10 1/4 inches, or over 4 inches higher than he jumped during college. Sobel was a varsity track and field team member at both New Trier and Princeton. He is also writing a book about his track & field career, “Raising the Bar, An Upwards Memoir.”  Congrats to Richard!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT (from IDEA Fitness Journal, March 2013

Do you want your kids to perceive you as a lovable and talented dinner chef? Try adding vegetables to the nighttime meal.

In a recent study, published online by Public Health Nutrition (2012 [1–7]; doi:, researchers discovered that meal preparers were rated higher on qualities such as “loving,” “thoughtful,” “attentive” and “capable” when they included vegetables with the meal.

In one part of the study, participants evaluated the tastiness of the entree and the entire meal. When vegetables were included, the food received higher ratings. For example, steak by itself was rated as a 7.00, while steak with broccoli scored 8.08.

In the second part of the study, participants evaluated the personality of the unknown cook who either did or did not include vegetables with the dinner.

Cooks who served vegetables were seen as less “lazy” and better at “making the meal,” both for the experience and for the taste quality. The non-vegetable chefs scored 7.00 for “loving” and were rated higher for being “neglectful,” “selfish” and “boring,” while those who included veggies scored a 7.92 for “loving.”

With over 70% of vegetables consumed at dinner, and only 23% of dinners including vegetables, it may be time to intentionally link popularity with healthful veggies!


A major cause of overeating these days is distorted portion sizes. Many people do not know what a correct portion size is, partly due to restaurants serving gigantic portions. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed the MyPlate diagram to try to combat this issue. MyPlate was designed to provide people with an easy way to build a healthy plate. The basic idea is to use a plate that is no larger than nine inches in diameter and then designate specific areas for each food group. To determine how much you need of each food group visit

Below are ways to quickly determine portion sizes using just your hands or commonly seen items.

1/2 cup cooked rice = tennis ball
1 cup of pasta/spaghetti (2 ounces) = a fist
1 cup of cereal flakes (1 ounce) = a fist
1 medium baked potato (1 cup) = computer mouse/fist
1 medium size fruit = tennis ball/fist
1 oz. cheese = thumb (tip to base)
1 cup of ice cream = baseball
3 oz. cooked meat, fish, poultry = your palm/deck or cards/cassette tape
1 tsp. butter/margarine = stamp
1 TBSP regular salad dressing = ping-pong ball
2 TBSP peanut butter = ping-pong ball
1 oz. of nuts = one cupped hand
1 oz. of pretzels = two cupped hands


Spring is coming (trust me) and there will soon be no more excuses not to go outside and enjoy outdoor activities.  If you have been hibernating most of the winter, take it slow, but do get out there!