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The model and actress says her workouts have changed over time, especially after having a partial knee replacement at 53.
Shields now focuses on low-impact workouts and building stability and strength.
Brooke Shields has made her health a top priority—but when the coronavirus pandemic changed life as we knew it, she had to get creative to keep up with her fitness routine.
“When COVID hit, I couldn’t go to a gym or see a trainer, and I needed to keep some semblance of control in my life,” Shields told Prevention.com in partnership with Life Happens for Life Insurance Awareness Month.
In 2018, Shields had surgery for a partial right knee replacement. “I never thought I’d have knee problems, and I’ve got nothing but knee problems,” she says, explaining that her knee function has gotten incrementally worse over the years. Overhauling her approach to fitness has been a key aspect of her recovery.
So, she began virtually working with trainer Ngo Okafor and sharing her at-home sweat sessions on Instagram Live—building an active social media community along the way. “Doing these little workouts was sort of the only area that I felt I had an ounce of control,” she explained.
Shields took her workouts indoors throughout quarantine, using equipment you could find anywhere, like water bottles, soup cans, and resistance bands. “I’ve always maintained a very active life,” the former dancer says. “I’ve done it for health and strength reasons, because I noticed that I’m also healthier minded when I’m physically active.”
Ahead, Shields dishes on her top fitness tips at 55.
1. Learn to activate different muscle groups.
To help regain strength in her knees, Shields began educating herself with a trainer. “I really started reintroducing myself to the many different muscles we have in our bodies that lay dormant or don’t become activated,” she explains. “I started feeling much more balanced and stronger, but instead of being incredibly dominant in one area and weaker in another, I became much more overall activated as far as my muscles were concerned.”
2. Low-impact workouts are key.
“Before I got my partial knee replacement, I worked out for a year just to prepare myself so that my recovery would be faster,” Shields says. “So I exercised to maintain the strength and the stability in and around the area that’s been the most compromised.”
The actress says her left knee now seems to be “heading towards full replacement,” so she’s working to build up strength and stability with that knee, too. “I hope that maybe I will be able to avoid a full replacement by doing every other thing that’s an option for me,” she says.
Strength and stability are key, so she focuses on low-impact workouts with her trainer. “Lunges are not for me,” Shields admits. “I’m not at the ability to do that, but everything is low impact and is geared towards the different muscles on and around my knees and my abs.”
3. Make time to move every day.
“I think sitting is the new bizarre addiction,” Shields says. “It’s detrimental to health, because what happens is that your body shuts down.”
So, whenever she has to sit for long periods of the time, she also makes it a priority to move. “There are tiny things you can do while you’re sitting down, or you can do an oblique workout in five minutes,” she says. “It’s just a matter of sending a message to your muscles,” she adds, so they don’t weaken over time.
On top of that, she moves every day no matter what—and it doesn’t have to include treadmill sprints. “Find something you like to do,” she says. “During COVID, my daughters and I would just dance like crazy around the living room. And we were sweating! We felt better afterwards, our adrenaline was higher, and we were invigorated.”
Shields, who’s currently filming a Netflix film in Scotland, gets her exercise in on the road by cycling and horseback riding. “I’m pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but it’s kept me motivated to keep doing it. It’s definitely hard when you get out of your routine,” she says. “The key is to find something online that’s energetic and fun. Try to think creatively and do little things that you will see over time will start to have an effect.”
4. Recovery is just as important.
Getting a massage isn’t just for relaxation, according to Shields. “I do body work not because of the luxury and pampering, but because it is alignment, it’s osteopathy, and all of these things that get me through the next week,” she says.
Research shows that massage therapy has tons of physical and mental benefits, improving everything from stress to fatigue to joint pain to sleep. “You have to be able to treat your body in the way it deserves to be treated, so you have it longer,” Shields says.
5. Don’t underestimate the power of self-care.
As a mom of two, Shields knows first-hand how tough it can be to find time for yourself–but it’s so important. “We have to realize that, the stronger we are, the better moms we are. And if we carve out time for ourselves, it can’t be looked at as a luxury or something for your vanity or your idol,” she says.
She compares the body to a house or a car, explaining that you have to take care of it so everyone living within it can be safe. “It’s like any machine that you have, you’ve got to keep oiling the car. You have to paint the house. Otherwise, the people that you love are impacted when you deplete yourself by only thinking of them and not you,” she says.
For people who think they’ve missed the boat on their wellness goals, Shields has an important message: “It’s never, ever too late to make healthy changes,” she says. “And they don’t have to be drastic.”
“I think what people start doing, is thinking, ‘Oh, I’m 50 or older’ or ‘I’m however many pounds overweight,’ and you set yourself up for failure and for insecurity by judging yourself,” she continues. “I say it’s never too late to start and it doesn’t have to be excessive. Start with a little bit of something and see if you can build up. You have to be really conscious of a body that’s been taking care of you for so long.”
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