For a large number of us that are 50 and older time hasn’t been as good to us as we would have liked. Some of it may be our own fault , overweight, complications from smoking, aches and pains from old sports injuries. A lot of it is just genetics or natural aging processes, diabetes, arthritis , sarcopenia. Whatever the case may be it is harder for some of us to move around and stay active than others.
There is one workout plan that can usually accommodate just about any level of mobility and fitness. Water Workouts a Great Alternative: Study – Health News and Views – Health.com
In this article Dr. Martin Juneau of the Montreal Heart institute stresses that exercising in water will give you the same cardio and aerobic boosts as doing it out of water. The good news is that because of the buoyancy of the water against your body you are putting significantly less stess on the joints and bones as you do on land. This produces less wear and tear on the body.
Another surprising finding was that the pressure of the water on your lower body actually aids in your blood circulation, it helps the bloods return to the heart meaning you can get the same aerobic benefit from exercise with a slightly lower heart rate!
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims the swimmers have almost 1/2 the risk of death as people that don’t exercise.
The gym I frequent offers classes throughout the day in the pool. These range from the comparatively beginner Aqua-fit type classes that are designed for the beginner or those that may have mobility issues to the popular Water Zumba classes that are every bit as challenging as the land based programs.
Two things I’ve noticed about all these water exercises that I think are the big reasons that once you start you’ll want to keep at it (and isn’t that the most important thing about ANY exercise program), the water keeps you cool while you get your workout in and it’s really a lot of FUN!
I don’t think there is a gym anywhere in America that you enter where you won’t find at least one exercise ball. I’ve been in gyms that didn’t have a jump rope or maybe was missing the resistance bands but NEVER have a seen one without the exercise ball and there’s a few good reasons why.
- They’re Fun!That’s right, I don’t think that there is a more child-like piece of equipment in the gym. There are literally hundreds of different exercises that you can do with them and you ‘re bound to find one of them that’s easily within your range of difficulty if you search or just ask one of the gym staff if you’re at the gym.
- They help maintain good form and improve posture. I can’t stress this enough to newbies. Form and posture is MUCH more important than amount of weight or number of reps when you’re just starting out. Why? Well for one thing it sets the foundation for more advanced exercises and moves. If you learn the correct way in the beginning you’re more likely to continue to use correct form when the routines and workouts become more physical and demanding. Secondly proper form ensures that you are working the targeted muscle groups. When you cheat a little by changing your posture or form even just slightly you may be bringing different muscles into play that the exercise was not designed to engage. Lastly and most importantly, SAFETY! Using an exercise ball stabilizes your core, helps maintain the natural curvature in your back when doing floor exercises and actually forces you to constantly adjust you posture just to stay balanced.
- Versatility. As I mentioned there are hundreds of different exercises created for the ball. A great place to start is with this Complete Guide to Ball Exercises. There you will find workouts of varying degrees of difficulty for just about everyone.
A recent article in US Today suggest that as little as 15 minutes a day has significant health benefits. The article reports on an eight year study done on over 114,000 subjects and the results have been repeated by several other smaller studies around the world.
Fifteen minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week, like a brisk walk was shown to reduce the participants risk of death by 14 percent and added three years to their expected life span.
More is better
Of course it’s still recommended that adults do at least 30 minutes of exercise 4 – 6 days a week but this should motivate those who may feel that if they don’t have the time or are otherwise unable to do 30 minutes than there is no need to even start.
Sure more may be better but even half of whats recommended is still beneficial.
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Benefits of a Personal Fitness Trainer if You’re Over 50
I’ve been hitting the gym for a few years now and until recently had never really considered using a personal trainer. I don’t know if it’s the male pride thing or that I think that I can just simply figure it all out or what. You know kinda like the man who gets lost on an out of town trip yet refuses to stop and ask one of the locals for directions.
Well I finally decided to try one out. The new gym that I joined a few months ago offers one free session with a trainer with membership and to be honest I didn’t even think about it but they called me one Saturday and I decided what the heck and made an appointment.
The benefits I walked away with from just one session?
- Motivation and Accountability. OK, I’m somewhat of a gym regular so this isn’t a real big issue with me, but it so happened that the day that I had set the appointment for I just wasn’t feeling it and probably would’ve skipped going to work out had it not been for the commitment I had made to someone else. I understand that for the trainer time is money and If I didn’t show up he might not get paid (even though this was a free lesson for me)
- Personalized workout plan based on my own fitness goals. As someone over 50 that has managed to lose almost 20 pounds over the last 5 years or so my main goal now is to maintain or possibly increase my lean muscle mass as I age. This is important to keep my metabolism high and fight sarcopenia. The trainer pointed out that I was basically doing the same routine that I had done to lose the weight and that some of that might be counter productive to my new goals. He suggested a few easy changes that should help me get to where I want to be.
- Technique and safety. I had mostly picked up all my technique from watching other people in the gym who looked like they knew what they were doing. I mean they looked like whatever they were doing was working for them so why wouldn’t it work for me right? Well it tuned out that my trainer says that 80% of the people in there hadn’t a clue of the proper and SAFE way to lift weights. They were basically doing what I had done! Just copying someone else’s bad moves. He showed me how I could get a lot more resistance (and effectiveness) out of using a lot less weight IF I used proper form. This would also decrease the likelihood of injury which can be a major concern for someone trying to get fit over 50.
- Variety. Lastly I was glad to add some new exercises to my routine so that it wouldn’t be so routine. (ok, bad joke but you get the point) He gave me list of different exercises that I could do every day for 2 weeks and never repeat the same one unless I wanted to.
So bottom line? Will I continue to use the trainer? Probably. But not on a regular basis. I think it’s good to get a little professional advice occasionally no matter what your current fitness or fitness knowledge is. We can all learn a little something but for me I like flying solo so I’ll just make a plan to gt one session a month. Call it a tune up. I discussed this with the trainer and he was all right with it, thought it was a good idea considering I already have a consistent record of working out going on.
My suggestion to you would be to find a gym in your area that offers a free trail or maybe a single session purchase and give it a shot. I found it worthwhile even if I would have had to pay for it!
Here are two really great beginner exercises from Men’s Health (don’t worry, they’re good exercises for women too) that can be done at home that will really raise your basil metabolic rate (BMR) therefore burning extra calories long after the exercises are over.
The routine is based on using simple, easy to do moves in what’s called a “count down” sequence. 15 reps of each then 14 reps without stopping and so on until you reach 1 rep.
This will probably be too challenging for some but the great thing is it’s scalable and you can start at fewer if you choose, the author of the article suggest eight.
The article contains instructions on how to do the routines, both written and excellent video (although I would wager nobody over 50 doesn’t remember doing squat thrust). Oops, I guess I gave away one of the exercises. Told you it was a simple one that you could do at home. Now click on the link below to find out what the other one is.
One of the best and most versatile pieces of fitness equipment is often times NOT found in a lot of gyms and fitness centers. The lowly resistance or exercise bands are sometimes thought not worthy of the same status as free weights, treadmills, elliptical machines or some of the other resistance weight machines found in the gym but nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE going to the gym when I have the time to get a good workout in, but pound for pound (and dollar for dollar) resistance bands can deliver a top notch workout in a fraction of the time without ever leaving home. Here are 4 important facts to consider about the advantages of including a set of bands in your fitness routine.
- Low Cost – A quick check on-line will show you that there is a wide range of prices when it comes to resistance bands. I found some priced below $5 for a simple band and some sets with multiple bands of different lengths and handles that included guides and videos that were over $100. Personally since I use them only as ONE of the tools in my fitness tool box I have a few of the cheaper ones of varying length but I can easily imagine someone using them as their primary exercise tool of choice.
- No Gym Required – For a lot of people, myself included at times, going to a gym for a workout can be a hassle. While I am lucky that my gym is only 5 minutes away and on my way to or from work (see Choosing the right Gym), there are still days when I don’t have the time or want the hassle of changing and showering at the gym. On days like that I can get a perfectly fine workout in the comfort and privacy of my own home in less than an hour. There are other times when I just CAN’T make it to the gym like when I’m on vacation. This leads us to the 3rd important fact about Resistance Bands.
- Resistance Bands are Portable – Bands can be folded up and placed in a suitcase, carry-all, or even in the glove compartment. Many of the ones on the market today even come with their own little bag or carrying case.
- Resistance Bands are for ANY fitness level – I am sure there are those that believe that resistance bands are great for beginners but can’t deliver the desired resistance for someone who has been training for a while and already at a mid to upper level of fitness. WRONG! Using the right form and taking advantage of the varying angles of motion that these bands offer you can get just as much resistance (or as little) as you can handle. Not only that but when you’re lifting weights you only feel the resistance one way, on the lift, while bands give you resistance though out the entire motion! Not only are they perfect for any fitness level but they are suited for any age both the young and the fit over 50!
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Is there such a thing as too much exercise?
We all know that if you’re over 50 it’s important to avoid a lifestyle that consist of just watching TV and lying around the house. It’s really necessary to maintain a fitness routine that includes cardio and weight or resistance training, but can too much exercise be as dangerous as none at all?
As with most things in life we have to strike a balance between the two. While lack of exercise can lead to heart disease, weight gain and loss of muscle mass or sarcopenia as we get older the risk involved with over training can be almost as debilitating.
The web site Simplicity Training list some of the risks of over training as
• Chronic muscle pain
• Increased substantial heart rate
• Depressed immune system
• Decrease of muscular strength
Over training leaves us more susceptible to injuries (that could set us back in reaching our fitness goals), viruses, illness and can actually decrease our energy levels and make us weaker.
As we age we need to give ourselves a little more recovery time between work-outs if we are doing any type of strenuous training. This past year I have changed my weight lifting schedule from 4 – 6 days a week to 3 – 4 days with a day of cardio in between days as long as I’m not feeling too fatigued. My body has responded well and I am happy with the results. Not only have I maintained my desired weight but I’ve managed to actually increase my muscle mass, which at the age of 52 is one of my primary goals.
I also suggest following good form when performing an exercise or lifting weights. Perfect form makes it hard to lift more than your body can handle. If you find that you have to “cheat” to lift what you usually do then you’re probably lifting too much or your muscles need a little more time to recover
I also suggest limiting your work out to 45 minutes to an hour. Believe it or not the greatest benefits are achieved in the first 40 minutes. I like to go all out for about 45 minutes or so and then taper of for the last 15.
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Should you eat before or after a workout?
Generally speaking most experts on exercise and nutrition say that it’s a matter of personal preference as long as you eat something within a one hour window either before or after your workout routine. I know some people that become nauseous and feel ill if they try to eat before going to the gym and I know just as many people that feel light headed and weak if they don’t. But if you’re over fifty I think it’s beneficial to eat a little something before exercise and not doing so consistently may even be counter productive to achieving your fitness goals.
How the body uses fats and carbs and protiens during exercise
During exercise the body normally uses a combination of fats and carbohydrates for fuel. The ratio of this mixture varies with the intensity of the workout. Carbohydrates provide a quick source of energy and therefore while moderate to intense exercise burns more carbs than fat you must also be aware that moderate to intense exercise also burns more calories in the same amount of time as a low intensity workout would.
The body usually burns very little or no protein during exercise, protein is not a good source of quick energy. It is only during really strenuous workouts that the body may turn to protein as an energy source – or when the needed carbohydrates and fats are depleted.
Protein – The key to avoiding muscle loss over 50
In a previous article I wrote about the importance of resistance training over 50 in combating sarcopenia or muscle loss that is a natural part of aging. I explained how after the age of 40 most of us will experience a slow but definite decrease of muscle tissue in our bodies that will only accelerate over time and make us feel and look old.
In addition to resistance training we can also fight this with proper nutrition. One of the most important nutrients in this battle is protein. I’m sure you’ve heard it before “proteins are the building blocks of muscle”
Since proteins are so important for building and maintaining muscle tissue that is so critical to keep a youthful appearance it is necessary that we guard against burning these proteins as much as possible while we exercise, more so than when we were younger and still able to build and maintain muscle easily.
Fueling up before exercise helps prevents loss of protein and muscle
A snack an hour or so before your workout should provide you plenty of energy to fuel your exercise routine without the danger of burning muscle. If you’re following most of the fitness experts suggestions and eating 5 or 6 small meals a day instead of the traditional 3 big meals than your’re probably never on “empty” and should be ready to workout any time during the day. I normally exercise in the morning within an hour after I awake and have found the liquid protein shakes to be the thing for me. Since they’re liquid they deliver energy within 20 or 30 minutes and they not only give me the needed carbs to fuel my workout but provide a little extra protein to my diet to help me recoup after the routine.
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I know that for some people including a partner in their work-out routine can make it a little more fun and possibly make the time pass faster. When done the right way and both people stay engaged and in constant motion it can be a good thing.
The problem that I see when I look around most gyms though is that usually when one person is working a set or routine the other is often standing around waiting to use the same equipment or perform the same routine. This essentially cuts your productive time in the gym in half and also makes it difficult to maintain the intensity and heart rate that is necessary for a beneficial work-out.
Most studies show that for the best fitness results we need to maintain an elevated level of intensity for 30 – 40 minutes per work-out 3 – 5 times a week. If you are just starting a fitness program you can probably achieve this while including a partner but after a month or two if you’re really sticking to it you’ll find it takes more effort and increased intensity to get to the same heart rate. This is a good thing, it means your body is able to do more with less excursion. Your cardiovascular system, heart and lungs are improving. The flip side to this is that you will have to step up your program to get greater gains, this means either spending more time in the gym or being more productive with the time that you’re already spending there. I prefer the latter.
Interval training is my solution. Interval training involves staying in constant motion during your work-out, alternating between low and high intensity routines. This can be done with a partner or group but it would require the use of two or more pieces of fitness equipment at the same time. This can be difficult to arrange if the gym is crowded unless you’re participating in a class that has the equipment reserved for an hour or so.
Working out alone you can easily move from machine to machine and get a great interval workout in 30 minutes. Some studies show that 15 minutes of interval is just as effective as 45 minutes of a normal workout that includes rest periods between exercises.
So you see while training with a partner is a good way to get started on the road to better health it might be a good idea at some point to cut the cord and go solo. Are you ready?
If you’re over fifty when determining how often and how much you should workout there are a few things that have to be taken into consideration.
The first thing to think about is your present physical condition. If you’ve been leading a fairly sedentary lifestyle for years or have existing medical or health conditions I strongly suggest that before beginning any fitness routine that you see a health care professional first to find out if you need to take any precautions or avoid any particular exercises. In fact if you’re over 50 and haven’t been to see a doctor in a couple of years or so then it may be a good idea to go anyway, just to get a clean bill of health and believe me it’ll put your mind at ease.
If you have been fairly inactive for a long time then I recommend taking in slow and easy in the beginning. I’ve seen a lot of people start out with too much intensity in the beginning only to be derailed by injury or loss of interest because it becomes a stresser instead of a way to relieve stress and even have a little fun.
For the previously inactive you should probably try two or three days a week at first.
The LEAST amount of resistance training recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine is 8 to 12 repetitions of 8 to 10 exercises, at a medium level of intensity, twice weekly. What is medium intensity? You should be somewhat winded while performing the exercises but still able to talk and hold a conversation.
Of course you can get added gains if you increase your intensity or frequency but as you progress you will become more in tune with your body and know when it’s time to up the ante.
Sessions should last no more than and hour.
Examples of some basic resistance and strength training exersises are:
Generally speaking, each muscle that you train should be rested one to two days before being exercised again in order for them to recoupe and rebuild.
And remember, NO PAIN – NO GAIN IS A MYTH. It’s normal to feel a little tightness and strain for the first ten minutes or so of a workout. If you continue to feel it after getting into the routine and have warmed up then STOP – move on to something else. Our bodies sometimes have a way of telling us what not to do. It could be just a temporary thing that last only a day or two or it could be more serious. You will learn how to listen to your body for clues.