Fit for a lifetime

Vicky Hallett and Denise Austin
MisFits columnist; Fitness expert
Thursday, January 21, 2010; 1:00 PM

MisFits columnist Vicky Hallett and fitness guru Denise Austin discussed Austin's tips for staying in shape at any age. Austin has sold 20 million workout videos and DVDs, written a library of books -- including the newly released "Denise's Daily Dozen" -- and spent 21 years hosting her own TV show.

They were online Thursday, January 21, at 1 p.m. ET to take questions.

For more fitness tips, follow the MisFits on Twitter at


Vicky Hallett: Good afternoon everybody! Since fitness goddess/guru/legend Denise Austin is here, I'm going to let her do most of the chatting today. But I'll pitch in when necessary -- looks like A LOT of you have questions...

Denise Austin: Glad to be here! I'm so excited to be in the Washington Post chat today. I want to teach you simple steps to get fit and improve your overall well-being. Because life is GREAT!


Burke: Does working out twice in a day -- for example, a run in the morning followed by a swim in the afternoon -- provide the same benefits as a total of two workouts on separate days?

Denise Austin: Yes as long as they're different workouts, which is what you're doing. But personally, I like to space it out a little more, but as long as you're feeling refreshed for each workout, you're doing great! Just make sure you add some streching to the end of the workout.


Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks for taking my question. My mother is a very, very young looking 64. She refuses to exercise though. What should I do? She won't go to the gym. She feels that she doesn't know what to do when she's there. She had a trainer but didn't like her. Any ideas?? She needs exercise!!

Denise Austin: Sure! If she could get out and walk, three days a week for at least 20 minutes, she'll be on her way to improving overall. It doesn't take that much to get in good shape -- just get out and walk (and move) as often as possible!


Nova: Can I just say I love Vicky, and I love the fitness chats! Both the Misfits and the old Lean Plate Club chats were so helpful. I miss them! A regular fitness/healthy eating chat would be so nice.

Vicky Hallett: Can I just say I love you? But while we're not doing regular chats anymore, we're still doing some (like this one!) and we're trying to communicate with readers in other ways. Our newest thing: Twitter. We're @postmisfits (and Eat Drink columnist Jennifer Huget is @jhuget). We'll be linking to stories, events, news, fun stuff. Follow us!


Sprinfield, Va.: Good afternoon Vicky and Denise,

I am a soon to be 47-year-old male. I've been running for 34 years, the first 10 of which was competitive, after that just 25 to 28 miles a week or so. My goal is to run into my seventies or longer. My knees are doing pretty good. I've been taking glucosamine with condroitone for the past few years and really find that it works well. Do you believe in glucosamine? I also do visits to the chiropractor. Denise, do you use a chiropractor? Thanks.

Denise Austin: Sounds like you're doing everything to keep yourself healthy to run for the rest of your life which is great. Yes, I believe in glucosamine -- my husband's been taking it for his knees, and it seems to help him too (he played professional tennis and still does at a high level). I personally, have never gone to a chiropractor, but that doesn't mean I don't believe in them. As long as you stretch and keep your muscles and spine strong (and your abs strong!), it will keep your core strong for future running. Keep it up!


Hanover, Md.: Is this a book of exercise and diet with recipes? If recipes, are they easy to follow with everyday items in the pantry? As a working mother and student who has to feed a family of four, I need recipes that are quick and easy to follow. Thanks!

Denise Austin: Yes, I'm a mom myself and work full-time so I understand how to get the family fed quickly with a nice dinner on the table each nice. So these are my recipies that I feed my family, too. And all the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. Plus, they taste great because I LOVE food. Food is fabulous, but it's how much we eat which is important, too. I know you'll love my eating plan.


Potomac Falls, Va.: Hello, ladies. If you are at your ideal weight and have a muffin top and saddle bags how do you tone your midsection without losing more weight? I'm 61 inches and weigh 105 pounds. I'm 40 and a mother of an 8 1/2 and 5 year olds. I'm a big fan of yours, Denise. Please help. My belly has shrunk but then it has left loose skin. Thanks.

Denise Austin: You sound pretty perfect already, but here's some great ways to firm it up in the middle. It's a three-prong attach to zero in on losing inches around your tummy. 1-keeping a low fat, healthy diet is important. 2-keep cardio going to burn fat from the whole body. 3-targeted excercises to shape and tone to strengthen abs and sides of waistline SUCH AS plank pose, side crunches, and I love the bicycle ab exercises to work the whole waistline. But, good posture keeps a key role in keeping your tummy tight. Nip up your abs throughout the day and tighten up the abs like you're wearing a corset. Always feel like you're re-educating the muscles to zip up and in -- this helps throughout the day.


Fairfax, Va.: I've heard conflicting things on the news re: fitness. Some camps say half of an hour of exercise per day is adequate; others say much more is needed. What is your advice?

Denise Austin: It all depends how quickly you want results, but personally, I believe 30 minutes most every day is great to maintain fitness. But, if you really need to lose weight and you're committed, an hour is fantastic. Whatever best suits you and your time, you can go for it. But, MINIMUM daily requirement, that I do, is 30 minutes most days.

The President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommends 2 1/2 hours a week, minimum.


Frederick, Md.: Denise, I've been a fan for longer than I wish to say. Thanks to your ideas and encouragement, I am as fit as I was in college, and weigh only 2 lbs more. At age 60, I refuse to rust and hope to continue following your fitness program!

Denise Austin: Thank you so much! Keep it up! You sound great :-)


Baltimore, Md.: You're never too old to start exercising! My 90-year-old mother moved into a retirement community that has a small gym, and there's a trainer there who showed her how to use the equipment. Now my mother uses a seated stepper machine 20 minutes a day, seven days a week and this has greatly reduced her arthritis pain in her knees. It works better than the prescription arthritis drugs that cost $135 per month! She never did any formal exercise program before this, because it hurt too much to walk.

Vicky Hallett: What an amazing story! And it sounds like the key here is that her trainer knew how to work with older clients. I got an e-mail from a reader yesterday who said he was fed up going into gyms that only seem to cater to buff, young bods. But certainly there are lots of places -- particularly YMCAs, JCCs and rec centers -- that offer great stuff for seniors. (And as the population ages, I think we'll see a lot more of that everywhere.)


DC: Vicky and Denise: What's your opinion of interval training vs. "regular" training? I exercise a lot but am not making much progress in weight loss and was told that interval training is superior. Thank you.

Denise Austin: I love interval training -- it's one of my favorite ways to shed extra pounds because you get quick bursts of harder workouts with short recovery time. This is how I work out three times a week for 30 minutes. This is how athletes train as well. So, for instance, you could do interval training in many facets of fitness like in a 30 min walk, every five minutes try running for one min. It's a good way to see quicker results and get in shape faster.


Baltimore, Md.: Hi Denise,

Love ya Love ya!!!!! Can you explain interval training? I keep hearing different definitions and want to know how to incorporate it into my exercise program.

Denise Austin: Thank you, thank you! Another way to interval train is through a combination of cardio and weight training. Here's what I do: three minutes of cardio, two minutes of weight training. I do that for 30 minutes. So now, I've gotten 30 minutes of cardio and toning in one workout. Plus, before you know it, you've worked your whole body, head to toe.


Washington, D.C.: Denise, I think you are very inspiring! Do you do ab work every day? I always read that there should be a day of rest between working out the same muscle group.

Denise Austin: I do three minutes of ab exercises without weights most every day, and when you need time to rest your muscles, it's usually when you're dealing with heavy weights and weight training.


Washington, DC: Why is drinking 8+ glasses of water so important?

Denise Austin: I'm a big believer in drinking water -- 64 ounces or eight glasses a day -- for many reasons. #1-to keep my energy level up. #2-to keep feeling full so I don't over eat. #3-it helps my skin, hair, and hydration.

I've been doing this for more than 25 years and feel great.


Washington, DC: I am in a pretty busy time of year at work, where 16 hour days (plus commute) are the norm for weeks on end. I'm still getting up early to work out in the morning, but that's leaving me often with only three or so hours of sleep a night. At what point is sleep more valuable than the workout?

Denise Austin: Wow -- sounds like you're overworked. Sleep is very important. Is there any way you can get up out of your chair throughout the day to help with circulation and muscle tone? Every hour you sit, if you can be up out of the chair for a few minutes can truly help you with your muscles and circulation.

I do certain "fidgetcizers" -- arm exercises, stretching, anything -- to move those muscles. Tighten up your tummy for five seconds and release. Do that for your rear end as well -- these isometrics all help. But, try to get a good night's sleep tonight. Good luck!


Washington, DC: I read you were developing plans for a new show. Can you tell us a little about it? Your shows always stand out with your positive messages.

Denise Austin: I'm still in the planning stage, but production will begin soon. I'll have updates on my Web site in the spring!


Catonsville, Md.: Hi, Denise. What is your fitness regime? How are you able to maintain all these years? I can get back into shape, but I can't seem to maintain it.

Denise Austin: I mix it up constantly, adding some yoga, pilates, cardio, light weights and a little kettlebell-inspired workout to my regimen throughout the week. Changing my workouts constantly keeps me fresh and feeling good.

I wake up in the morning and try to squeeze in a 30 minute workout with my husband, and then on weekends, I enjoy other activities such as hiking and tennis. On days I don't feel like working out at all, which I do have those days, I just tell myself, I'll just do 12 minutes today. Eventually, after the 12 minutes, I'm still going. Getting started is the hardest part, even for me. Another thing I do in the morning is put on my workout clothes, keeping them onsite so I'm ready to workout. As soon as I lace up my shoes, I'm ready to go mentally.


Boston, Mass.: Hello. Thanks for addressing my question. I am 45, very petite and am in a constant battle to keep the belly fat down. Overall, I weigh only 105 pounds and am fairly good at regulating my weight to around that level. But keeping the belly fat down is another thing! With increasing age it gets tougher and tougher. I try to do 35 to 40 minutes of cardio three times a week, some free weights and stomach crunches. I see -some- improvement, but not as much as I would like. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks.

Denise Austin: Keep up the good work! As we age, a lot of our fat accumulates around the middle, but fight it all the way because tummy fat is the worst since it's closest to the heart. It increases our health risks for diabetes and heart disease, to name a few.

Add one more day of cardio -- something different like spinning, kickboxing, etc that's out of the box for you -- and I think you'll see a difference. Always zip up the abs throughout the day and make a conscientious effort to pull it in with good posture. You are your own architect by the way you sit and stand. Shoulders down and back, and pull in the tummy. You can do it! It's worth it!


Anonymous: So Denise, are you saying if we use dumbbells for strength training we needn't give a days rest in between workouts using the same muscle the next day? Thanks for answering my question earlier. I'll follow your advice.

Denise Austin: It all depends on how heavy those dumbbells are, and maybe one day do upper body and the next do lower body. That would help balance out your routine. But, it all depends on how much weight you're talking about.


Alexandria, Va.: I just started doing the Wii Fit about two weeks ago and find it really fun. I do at least 30 minutes per day about five times a week. After every workout, I don't sweat or do not feel that I really worked out. I mostly do the strength training and yoga. Is this really working for my body? Thanks a bunch.

Denise Austin: Of course, any exercise is better than nothing, and it does take time to see results! But if I were you, I'd add some cardio workouts to round out your fitness program. Three elements of fitness are important: cardio to burn fat, toning for strength and stretching for flexibility. Throughout the week, you should touch on each of these so by the end of the week, you've hit it all.


Re: not liking the trainer: Please tell your mom that finding a good trainer is like finding a good hair stylist. You have to find the right fit. Encourage her to check out several trainers, ask them lots of questions and ask for a sample session.

Vicky Hallett: So true. Personality-wise, they can be like drill sergeants or your best bud. And, of course, some are just better than others at keeping you engaged by switching up the exercises and providing motivation. Also a good idea: Find out what certifications they have.


Washington, D.C.: You are a great example to us all. Your enthusiasm and the fact that you look half your age is inspiring. How often should one increase the weight of the machine or free weight if lifting weights three times a week? Also, if moderately active, how many calories should a 50-year-old woman in weight loss mode consume daily? Thank you!

Denise Austin: I suggest you try about 1500 calories a day, but what you choose as those calories is so important: three fruits, three vegetables, three lean protein, two whole grains, and one healthy fat. That's my daily dozen.

To know how much to increase weight, here's a rule of thumb. When you do one set of 12 reps, you should really be able to feel the last two reps. If it's too easy, you're ready for the next increment of weights.


losing weight: I gained 5 pounds over the holidays. How long should it take to lose 5 pounds? I already eat very healthy and exercise so it seems like I will have to either increase my exercise quite a bit or decrease what I eat to lose the weight. Do you have any suggestions as to which method works best? Or any tips?

Denise Austin: Well, you've got it. To lose weight, it's all about calories in and calories out. How many you're eating and how many you're using.

It takes a little of both exercise and calorie reduction to lose weight. Five lbs you can lose in two weeks easily and still the healthy way.


Fairfax, Va.: Just wanted to thank you for all the videos (showing my age here LOL) and now DVDs that have helped me get in shape, stay in shape through two pregnancies, get back in shape each time and motivate and encourage me. I love your honesty, humor and feel like you really care about all us gals. Keep up the wonderful work. It really does a make a difference in our lives. Thanks for sharing your gifts, and God bless you

Denise Austin: Thank you so much. What a great message! This is what keeps me going, knowing I'm out there helping people get fit, healthy and happy!


Vicky Hallett: For the gamer in Alexandria, you might want to take a look at the research the American Council on Exercise did on Wii games. You can get the PDF here:

They found it definitely burns calories, but not as many as you'd probably like it to. So I agree with Denise (of course!) that you should add other activities to your routine.


Potomac Falls, Va.: Denise, I use 3 pounds to 5 pounds because that is all my petite frame can handle. I'm the one with the belly fat and ideal body weight. Thanks again.

Denise Austin: That's great! Keep it up! Using lighter weights on smaller muscles like triceps is great, and using heavier weights for larger muscles around your back is perfect.


Oakton, Va.: I'm a 44-year-old stay-at-home mom of two young children and don't have time (or can't afford) to join a gym. I'm not overweight, but I'd like to tone up what I've got. What exercises can I do around the house in about 20 minutes that will tone my thighs, butt, upper stomach and upper arms?

Denise Austin: Here's some of the exercises you can possibly do:

Walking lunges and leg squats around your house for the bottom half

Abs for the mid-section, sit ups and planks

Pushups for the upper body

Stretching on the floor is great for the whole body-and you can do that while watching your kids!


Baltimore, Md.: Hi, Denise. You mention kettlebells in one of your previous answers. Do you talk about this in your new book? If not can you briefly explain a kettlebell routine? Also where can I purchase your book?

Denise Austin: I do a kettlebell-inspired workout one day of a week, a 12 minute routine, with a dumbbell since most people don't have or don't want to buy a kettlebell. The workout uses a flowing motion with the dumbbell as a fulcrum to work with moment and engage your whole body in a workout. I love my bootcamp workout that also has a 20-minute kettlebell-inspired routine with the use of just dumbbells, and there are also 12 exercises in my book that are kettlebell-inspired (and only 12 minutes!)

My book is sold in bookstores and also at


Southwest, DC: I've started working out again after a prolonged absence, but I am worried about keeping it up. I have played this song-and-dance before, working out for two to six weeks and then getting lazy or unmotivated for two or six months. I am trying to do low-key exercises so I don't burn out, but what else can I do to make sure I keep this up?

Denise Austin: Just start off small to get into the habit of a set, carved out time slot in your day, such as 12 minutes in the morning. Then, build from there so it becomes more of a positive habit for you like brushing your teeth. Then, increase to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes until by the end of the month you're at 30 minutes for most days of the week.

Find something you really enjoy like walking with friends or doing a dvd with a group at someone's home so you hold each other accountable and won't cancel. Another tip I do is have great music as a motivator. Fun, energetic music will get you moving more.


Arlington: Denise, we're the same age but my fitness level is hardly the same! I walk somewhat regularly but that's about it. Although I have access to a complete home gym, I really don't know what to do in there. I need to lose about 30 lbs, and I know I need weight training and to do something about my core. I'm intrigued by yoga, but I hate the thought of going to classes with other people. Which of your videos would you recommend for someone like me? You're an inspiration.

Denise Austin: I think you would really love my 3-week Bootcamp DVD because there are two different 20 minute fat-burning workouts. One day, you could do the first 20 minutes, the next day a whole new workout. So it's great variety. And I promise to lead you through the exercises as you follow along, encouraging you all the way.

Plus, there's a six-minute ab bonus to get your tummy tight. I also have a Yoga Body Burn DVD to try in the privacy of your own home.


Oakton, Va.:

What do you typically try to eat on a daily basis? What foods are important for women in their fifties?

Denise Austin: I try to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats. For instance, today I had the following:


Spinach and tomato omelet with a touch of cheese


Tuna fish salad


Trying to figure out our family dinner right now! Probably something with chicken (since that's in my fridge!), but of course, with veggies.

I love avocado for my healthy fat. I even put it in my tuna salad along with spinach leaves.


Alexandria: Denise, thanks for chatting with us. My husband and I have recently begun following a pilates video. We are both horribly inflexible and are just barely following along with the video. No way can we remember to hold in our stomachs, extend our legs fully, breath correctly all the time, etc. Plus, my right foot seems to cramp up the second I point my toes. Do we still benefit from this? Just keep at it until we are better? Thanks!

Denise Austin: Of course, you benefit from it tremendously. Pilates is so fantastic for strengthening your core muscles and back. And your spine is your lifeline.

Yes, just keep it up. You're doing great. It's normal to have feet cramp when you haven't pointed your toes normally. That will subside as you get stronger. When I teach on my pilates dvd, I try to give you all the tips for getting good form and technique, but just do what you can. Eventually, you'll be able to do it all. I promise! It just takes time and patience. Keep it up!

And good for you to get your husband doing it, too!


Baltimore, Md.: Hi, Denise. Any suggestions for improving flexibility.

Denise Austin: Yes, stretching is an important component of a well-balanced fitness plan! But one of the best things to remember is to warm up your body for about 5 minutes and then stretch after your muscles are warm. That helps improve your flexibility and all its benefits.

I stretch most every day to feel good and to prevent injuries and do it after a workout, holding each stretch for about 20 seconds.


Atlanta, Ga.: Hi Denise,

Does walking really help you lose weight? In my commute to work, I walk about 45 minutes to and from MARTA (it's a complicated commute). So technically I am working out 45 minutes five times a week but it doesn't fee like much. I keep a workout log (I belong to a gym, too) and feel like I'm cheating when I list my walking exercises.

Denise Austin: You are NOT cheating doing your walking. That is fantastic! keep it up! It will keep your weight down, and it's so great for your heart, too. Walking is one of the best ways to lose weight, and it's great that you couple that with some toning workouts at the gym!

I'm proud of your walking to work. That's awesome!


Vicky Hallett: I'm feeling lazy because Denise just did all the work here. But she's so good at it! Anyway, thank you all for joining us (and a special "thank you, honey!" for Denise). Now, everybody, time to sign off and do your daily dozen!

Denise Austin: Keep fit! You're worth it!

Thank you!


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