Friday, July 29, 2016

Strength Training Over 50, Age is Only a State of Mind

Many people believe that once you reach the age of 50 your health and fitness start to decline.  That's an urban myth and here's why.  People who perceive themselves as old and feeble are more likely to stop participating in the activities that keep them healthy and fit, such as regular exercise.  On the other hand, people who have a positive attitude about aging tend to do the things that lead to life-long health and fitness.

Here's the truth, regardless of age every worn-out cell in your body is replaced every 11 months of your life.  So, every year your body is completely renewed.  Thus, your body is doing all it can to help you stay healthy by replacing old cells with new ones.  Now the question is do you have the right mental attitude to additionally aide your body in it's life-long effort to keep you healthy and fit?

The right mental attitude about aging leads you to do the things that help you stay healthy and strong your whole life, such as exercising on a regular basis, and having a healthy diet.  These are the things that help you thrive and not merely survive as you age.

The benefits of regular exercise as you age are many.  Here's some of the most important. (1)

  • Exercise helps older adults maintain or lose weight. As metabolism naturally slows with age, maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge. Exercise helps increase metabolism and builds muscle mass, helping to burn more calories. When your body reaches a healthy weight, your overall wellness will improve.
  • Exercise reduces the impact of illness and chronic disease. Among the many benefits of exercise for adults over 50 include improved immune function, better heart health and blood pressure, better bone density, and better digestive functioning. People who exercise also have a lowered risk of several chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and certain cancers.
  • Exercise enhances mobility, flexibility, and balance in older adults. Exercise improves your strength, flexibility and posture, which in turn will help with balance, coordination, and reducing the risk of falls. Strength training also helps alleviate the symptoms of chronic conditions such as arthritis.
  • Exercise improves your sleep. Poor sleep is not an inevitable consequence of aging and quality sleep is important for your overall health. Exercise often improves sleep, helping you fall asleep more quickly and sleep more deeply.
  • Exercise boosts mood and self-confidence. Exercise is a huge stress reliever and the endorphins produced can actually help reduce feelings of sadness, depression, or anxiety. Being active and feeling strong naturally helps you feel more self-confident and sure of yourself.
  • Exercise is amazingly good for the brain. Activities like Sudoku or crossword puzzles can help keep your brain active, but little comes close to the beneficial effects of exercise on the brain. Exercise benefits brain functions as diverse as multitasking and creativity and can help prevent memory loss, cognitive decline, and dementia. Exercise may even help slow the progression of brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

I can personally attest to the fact that age is only a state of mind.  I'm in my late 50s and I've been weight lifting on a regularly most of my adult life.  I'm still stronger than I was in my twenties.  Here's the key, I never let any negative thoughts about age linger and take root in my mind, and neither should you.

(1), Exercise and Fitness as You Age

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Strength Training Over 50; The Benefits

While I can personally attest to the benefits of strength training in my life, below is additional information from the Fitness Professional's Guide to Strength Training Older Adults by Thomas R Baechle, and Dr. Wayne L Westcott.  After reading this, you will not have any doubts about the value of incorporating a regular strength training program has in your life.

Research indicates that older adults may experience many health-related benefits from a sensible program of strength exercise that is performed at a relatively high effort level.  Some of the possible benefits include the following:

  • Better body composition with up to 4 pounds more lean weight, and 4 pounds less fat weight after 2 months of regular strength training.
  • Increased metabolic rate of up to 7 percent higher resting metabolism and up to 15 percent greater daily calorie requirements after 3 months of regular strength training.
  • Decrease low-back discomfort, as evidenced by approximately 80 percent of patients reporting less or no pain after 3 months of specific low-back strengthening exercise.
  • Reduced arthritic pain, as indicated by subjective ratings of symptoms in strength trained adults who have arthritis.
  • Increased bone mineral density that minimize age related bone loss and offer protection against osteoporosis.
  • Enhanced glucose utilization that may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Faster gastrointestinal transit that may reduce the risk of colon cancer and other motility disorders of the gastrointestinal system.
  • Reduced resting blood pressure, including lower diastolic readings and lower systolic readings.
  • Improved blood lipid profiles, including lower levels of LDL cholesterol and higher levels of HDL cholesterol.
  • Improved postcoronary performance resulting from higher muscular functional capacity and lower cardiovascular stress from routine and unplanned physical activity.
  • Enhanced self-confidence, as reported by previously sedentary men and women following 2 months of regular strength training.
  • Relieved depression in older adults clinically diagnosed with mild to moderate depression.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Strength Training Over 50; Exercise Reduces Low-Back Pain

Here's another great benefit of starting and staying on a regular strength training program.  Medical professionals estimate that four out of five American adults experience occasional or chronic low-back discomfort.  Low-back pain is responsible for more employee absenteeism and medical expense than any other ailment except cold and flu.  However, you can reduce your risk of developing lower back pain with low-back strengthening exercises.

Exercise is so effective because there is a strong, positive relationship between weak low-back muscles, and low-back discomfort.  Several years of low-back pain studies conducted at the University of Florida demonstrated that systematic strengthening of the lower back muscles significantly reduced or eliminated discomfort in up to 80 percent of their patients.

The University of Florida strength training program for the lower back was simple.  All the participates performed one set of low-back extensions on a machine using a resistance that permitted between 8 to 15 repetitions.  And, on average each participant trained 3 days per week for a 10 week period.  Furthermore, other studies have shown that developing a strong mid-section ( abdominal, internal, and external obliques) also compliment stronger lower back muscles and further reduce the risk of low-back discomfort.

Although low-back pain is a complex medical issue, an appropriate program of lower back, and abdominal strengthening exercises appears to provide better musculoskeletal  function, support for vertebral column components, and shock absorption which reduces stress and excessive wear and tear on the overall low-back structure.  Consequently, all of this reduces the risk of low-back injury, and structural degeneration that leads to lower back pain and discomfort.

The above information is from Fitness Professional's Guide to Strength Training  Older Adults by Thomas R. Baechle, and Dr. Wayne L. Westcott.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Sharon Simmons, Former Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Hopeful, Gives 8 Lessons On Aging Well

Sharon Simmons, Former Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader Hopeful, Gives 8 Lessons On Aging Well

A very inspiring article from the Huffington Post written by Anthonia Akitunde.  Below is an excerpt.

Last year as hundreds of beautiful and talented women auditioned for a spot on the Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleading team, only one warranted a number of stunned headlines: Sharon Simmons.
Simmons, then 55, tried out for a spot as a Dallas Cowboys’ cheerleader. “I thought, that’s something I never tried,” she told CBS DFW at the time. “I always wanted to try out. I got real close in my early 20s, but got busy raising my daughter. And I thought, why not now?”

Friday, June 24, 2016

Strength Training Over 50, Three Exercises to Strengthen Your Back

Performing a regular strength training program is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your muscle mass and strength as you age.  Below are three of my favorite exercises for developing and strengthening the muscles of your upper back which are critical for good posture, and reducing your risk of chronic neck and shoulder pain.

Exercise 1.  Lat Pulldown

The lat pulldown is a great exercise for strengthening and developing the upper back muscles that are critical for good posture.  People whose shoulders are slumped forward most likely have underdeveloped upper back muscles.

First, sit down and adjust the thigh pad to a position that firmly fits over your thighs.  Then select a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete.  If this is your first time doing this exercise, it may take experimenting at several weights before you find the right resistance.  Next, grip the bar a little wider than shoulder width, sit down on the seat and place your knees firmly under the pad.  Start with your arms fully extended and your chest held high.  This is your start position. Now, pull the bar slowly down to the base of your neck while squeezing your shoulder blades back and together.   Slowly return the bar to the starting position.  (It should take about three seconds to pull the bar down and about two seconds to return the bar to its starting position). Proper breathing is very important, so remember to exhale as you pull the bar down and inhale as you return the bar to the starting position. 

Exercise # 2 - The Seated Row

The seated row is also an exercise that targets the muscles of the upper back.  Place the pin in a resistance with which the last three repetitions are difficult to complete, again you may have to experiment to find the appropriate weight for you.  Sit on the bench, and place your feet on the foot rest.  Lean forward, and grab the attachment.  Slide back until your legs are almost fully extended and hold the attachment waist height with your arms fully extended.  This is your start position.  Lift your chest high, and slowly pull your hands to your naval, while rolling your shoulders back and pinching your shoulder blades together.  Then, slowly return to the starting position.  Your breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale when you are pulling in and inhale when you are returning to the starting position.

Exercise # 3 - Upright Rows

I like to incorporate three movements for the upper back because these muscles are often neglected and weak in most clients that I see.  Weak upper back muscles not only lead to posture problems, they also lead to neck and shoulder problems.  The upright row strengthens and develops the top portion of your trapezius -the muscle at the top of your shoulders that attaches to your neck.  Perform this exercise at the cable machine.  Attach a straight bar, and placing the pulley at the lowest level.  Grip the bar at a position where your hands are about an inch apart, and stand upright with your arms fully extended.  Position your feet shoulder width apart, slightly bend your knees, and lift your chest high.  This is your start position.  Pull your hands to the top of your chest, while keeping your elbows slightly higher than your hands. Then return to the start position.  Exhale as you pull the weight upward, and inhale as you return to the start position.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Strength Training Over 50, Three Exercises to Build Strong Legs

Having strong legs is the foundation of having a strong body, and if you are over 50 it's even more important to build and maintain your leg strength.  As a personal trainer I see a lot of knee and hip surgeries that probably could be prevented by a good strength training program.  The stronger the muscles are around your joints, the more stable your joints are.

Here are three of my favorite exercises to strengthen and build your legs:

Exercise # 1 - Leg Press

The leg press is one of the best exercises for overall strength and development of your legs.  First, sit in the seat, positioning your feet about shoulder width apart and chest high on the platform.   Adjust the seat height by pulling the handle and sliding forward until your thighs are parallel to the platform.  This is your start position (make sure that your lower back is pressed firmly against the back of the seat).  With your feet flat, slowly press upward until your legs are fully extended but short of locking.  Slowly return to the position where the weight almost touch the weight stack.  The breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale as you press up and inhale as you return to the start.

Exercise # 2 - Smith Machine Squats

A properly executed squat is one of the best exercises you can do for overall strength and conditioning.  Using the Smith Machine is a big aid in helping you perform squats correctly.  First, place the bar a little lower than shoulder height.  Next, position yourself under the bar, twist to unlock it and place the bar on top of your shoulders.  Now, place your feet in front of you about six inches, shoulder width apart. This is your start position.  Lift your chest, and keep your chin high.  Now, squat by leading with your butt until your thighs are parallel to the floor, then return to the start position.  Be careful not to round your lower back and that your knees do not extend over your toes anytime doing this exercise. (For the first few times, it’s best to have someone observe you from the side to make sure you are doing this exercise correctly).  Your breathing pattern is to inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up on this exercise.

Exercise # 3 - Step ups

Step ups are great for developing and strengthening the muscles of your butt.  With this exercise, you will do 10 repetitions on one leg followed by 10 repetitions on the other.  Hold a dumbbell in each hand and position yourself in front of a bench.  Place one foot flat on top of the bench, positioning you body to make a right angle at your knee.  With your chest held high and shoulders square, step up through your heel and lightly tap the bench with your other foot before returning to the starting position.  Breathing pattern for this exercise is to exhale as you step up and inhale as you step back down.