Category Archives: Fitness over 50

Exercise Balls – Great For Beginners

Exercise balls

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Flabby Arms? Triangle Pushups Best Solution!

Flabby arms

A lot of women over 50 (and yes some men too) develop the cursed “flabby arm” syndrome. Why? It could be one of or a combination of two things.  Loss of muscle mass and/or increase of fatty mass.

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles the aging process naturally involves loss of muscle mass beginning around the age of 40 and increases as we get older. This is called sarcopenia. Because of this it is very important for older people to include resistance or weight-bearing exercise to their fitness routines as well as cardio for the heart and lungs.

One of the areas of the body that seems to lose muscle mass the quickest in a lot of women (and paradoxically add fat at the same time) is the arms, more specifically the triceps muscle area.

One really effective exercise to fight the loss of muscle and tone up this underside of the upper arm is the “triangle push up”. The American Council on Exercise, one of the leading certification agencies for Professional Fitness Trainers, rate the triangle push up as the number one exercise to combat flabby arms!

Triangle push ups are performed just like regular push ups except instead of placing your hands beneath the shoulders you form a triangle with your pointing fingers and thumbs in front of your chest .  Be sure to keep your back and torso rigid and your head aligned with your spine while lowering and raising your body in a normal push up motion. This exercise has a medium to high level of difficulty so it can be done from your knees or even from the wall push up position.

Follow this link to read the ACE study on the Three Best Triceps Exercises. This is a PDF file so if you’d prefer to download it and read later you can simply right-click on the link and chose to save it to your computer.

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Exercise to Keep those Joints Healthy

Sore and aching joints can be the bane of good intentions. This time of year the gyms and fitness centers are all packed with men and women over 50 that have made one of their New Year’s resolutions to be fitter and more active in the coming months. As a long time member of various gyms I’ve seen it all before, fast start out the gate and then the crowds seem to start to dwindle beginning in March and I’d say more than half of those that started will not be around regularly by the beginning of summer. Is the culprit lack of motivation or laziness? Well sometimes but often not.

Beware Sports Injury

Often by the end of January the talk amongst a lot of us “baby boomers” in the gym is how much this or that hurts or is starting to bother us. Sometimes it starts with a little nagging injury that before you know it ends up knocking us out of the game completely and not only setting us back a few weeks but for many putting an end to our intentions to become more active all together. 

Some of the biggest complaints I’ve heard over the years is sore or aching joints.

Avoid Over Exercising

If you’ve been fairly inactive for months don’t attempt to make up for it all in one month. Too much exercise CAN cause major damage to the body of a person over 50 and especially to women over 50 who are more at risk for osteoporosis if they over exerecise and cut back on their calorie consumption. Osteoporosis affects over 20,000,000 people and usually starts after age 50 in women and age 45 in men.

Fit Muscles help Aching Joints

Joint pain is often caused by the lessening or lack of cartilage between the bones. Cartilage serves as a kind of shock absorber inthe body preventing the bones from bumping and grinding against each other. As the body ages and starts to lose some of this cartilage more of the weight bearing chores and activities you perform during the day are placed on the bones. To compensate for the decrease in cartilage it’s recommended that you maintain as much strong, healthy muscle as possible to do the lifting and moving, thus relieving some of the pressure from your joints and bones.

Multiple and Individual Joint Exercises

The excellent website Womenfitness.net has a list of the best 10 exercises for healthy joints. This list includes exercises for multiple and single joints and aims to make the muscles surrounding these joints stronger and longer enduring while also placing less stress on the joints while performing the activity. Double bonus!

 

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New Years Fitness Tips From the Pros

Fitness experts in Chicago say they see an average of 100 extra visits to their fitness centers and gyms in the month of January and while these numbers start to diminish by March there are a few ways to keep motivated throughout the whole year.

Their top 2 tips?

1. Work out in the morning. Less likely to become distracted or side tracked by the unforeseen events of the day.

2. Join a class. A group of fellow “sweaters” can do much to keep each other motivated and even add a social perspective to getting fit.

Be sure to read the article to find out more.
http://westchicago.m.mysuburbanlife.com/mslWestChicago/pm_32818/contentdetail.htm?contentguid=FoK3djiE

How little exercise is enough?

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.

Should I get a Personal Trainer | Fitness Over 50

Fitness trainer Billy Blanks shows a female wo...

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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?

  1. 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)
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

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Two simple beginner exercises that will burn the fat off

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.
http://www.thepostgame.com/blog/training-day/201108/lose-fat-2-exercises

4 Important Facts About Resistance Bands | Fitness Over 50

resistance bands for beginners

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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How to Raise Your BMR | Fitness Over 50

Burn Calories While You Sleep

In the previous articles about the importance of calculating your Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR) and how it should be the main factor when you’re trying to decide how many calories you need to cut in order to lose weight we went over just what BMR really is. For the benefit of those that haven’t read the previous articles I’ll go over what BMR is real briefly.

Basil Metabolic Rate is simply the amount of energy, measured in calories, that your body needs to maintain your current weight if you were in a state of complete rest. It’s the fuel that you r body needs to perform it’s most basic – hence basil – tasks like breathing, heart beat, digesting food controlling body temperature, regulating hormones and anything else the body simply must do to survive. Depending on your level of activity these calories can make up from half to seventy percent of all your daily caloric expenditures.

As mentioned this is energy or calories burned in a restful or even sedate state just to stay alive so if we can increase this number then we will burn more calories 24 hours a day, even while we’re sleeping!

Factors that control Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Among different individuals BMR can vary greatly. We all know someone that seems to be able to eat whatever, whenever they want well into their 50’s, 60’s and 70’s and seem to never gain a pound. We should all be so lucky.

The main factors in your own personal BMR are:

  • Body size and composition (lean muscle burns calories at rest – fat doesn’t)
  • Parent’s body size and composition
  • Sex (male or female, not whether you’re having enough)
  • Age (BMR decreases two percent per decade after the age of 20)
  • Body temperature (some people have a normal temp that’s higher or lower than others thus burning more or less calories at rest)
  • Exercise (I know I said BMR is about calories burned at REST but I’ll explain later how certain kinds of exercise will continue to burn calories HOURS after you finish your workout)
  • Diet (not only what you eat but more importantly for BMR WHEN you eat)
  • Stress
  • Sleep

There are many other factors but this list covers the main ones. As you can see some of them like heredity, sex and age are completely out of your control but believe it or not the main deciding factor outside of genetics is very much within your ability to change.

Building Lean Muscle the key to increasing Basil Metabolic Rate

It’s a fact. Muscle burns calories even at rest. The amount has been exaggerated over the years to as much as 30 calories per day for every pound of lean body muscle mass but current research shows that the real number is more like six.  Fat burns almost NO calories at rest maybe one or two at the most so muscle mass burns about 3 times as many calories AT REST than fat. Remember this is per pound! It can add up over time.

Resistance Training Burns Calories for Hours

The body converts food to energy when the body needs it at a cellular level in whats know as the mitochondria. The mitochondria is also responsible for providing the energy for rebuilding and repairing muscle tissue. As we age our bodies number of mitochondria naturally decreases leaving us with fewer of these little calorie burning internal furnaces. Exercising regularly has been shown to slow down the loss of these cells and even increase their number. This happens as the demand for immediate energy is received by the body while we are working out, especially during aerobic exercise  when it needs it although this spike in caloric burn last only for a short time after the aerobic activity is over only burning a lot of calories during and immediately after the exercise .

Resistance training works in another way to stimulate these cells for an even longer period. Resistance or weight bearing exercise actually tears down the muscle tissue, this is why it’s recommended to never work out the same muscle groups two days in a row. The body needs time to repair this cellular muscle damage and this is what the mitochondria does even while you’re at rest or sleeping! those little internal furnaces are still at work hours after you’ve left the gym repairing the damage and burning the calories while it does so.

Those are the two easiest ways to increase your at rest metabolism. Increase lean muscle mass by including some resistance training in your activities.

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Counting Calories

The Burger King "BK Stacker" sandwic...

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In our previous article about Basil Metabolic Rate (BMR)  we explained why it’s so important when making a weight loss plan to first know how many calories your own particular body needs each day simply to provide you with the energy it needs to perform all your daily tasks and functions. This as we have shown varies depending on factors such as age, gender, height and current weight.

In order to lose any weight and more importantly SUSTAIN any weight loss we must consume fewer calories daily than we need according to our BMR (use the BMR calculator found on this page if you haven’t calculated your Basil Metabolic Rate yet).

Determining Your Current Caloric Intake

This is extremely important and a step that is often skipped when trying to lose weight. Often one will just try to start cutting back on the calories in an attempt to shed some pounds without first considering exactly how many calories they actually need to eliminate from their daily intake to achieve the results they desire. In my opinion this lacks focus and doesn’t always work.

Consider this, let’s say an inactive person that weighs 180 lbs is determined to lose weight. This person decides he or she will eliminate a few things from their daily eating habits and cut back on about 500 calories a day. Sounds like a good plan right?

Not necessarily!

Unless this person understands that in the BMR for a person of his weight and activity level is about 2150 calories a day and to lose any weight he must drop below that level 500 calories a day may not be enough. What if he’s already unknowingly consuming 3000 calories. Well cutting back just 500 calories would bring him down to 2500 which means in a months time he would have actually GAINED 3 pounds! (BTW there is a way that his plan could have worked and we’ll go over that later).

Keep a Journal

Determining your daily caloric intake isn’t as difficult as most people initially think. No you don’t have to keep a list of every food on the planet and how many calories they all contain. The easiest way is to simply keep a journal or record of everything you eat for just one week!

That’s right one week. You see for most people 80 – 90 percent of what we eat is the same from week to week. As adults we already know what we like and we tend to stick with it. So for one week don’t even bother trying to keep up with how many calories are in every thing you put in your mouth, just make sure to make of list of what food it was, make sure to keep the days separate so as to be able to determine daily calories later.

At the end of the day or if you choose you  can wait until the end of the week you can use this USDA Nutritional Database to see how many calories each of the foods you consumed contained. I like to print the chart out for quick reference when I do occasionally eat something out of the norm for me.

Using this chart and your journal you can easily determine how many calories you are consuming a day. Are they more than your BMR? If so then you are slowly adding on more weight. Reduce the number below that of your BMR and the pounds WILL drop off. Reduce it to 100 calories below your BMR and you will lose 10 pounds over the next year, 200 below would add up to 20 pounds and so on and so on.

Okay now that we’ve covered the calorie side, remember in our earlier example I showed that our 180 lb inactive person that reduced calories by 500 would still gain weight if he was consuming 3000 calories before cutting back. I said that there IS a way to still make his 500 calorie reduction work towards a weight loss right? The answer is:

Part 4 – Raising Your Basil Metabolic Rate

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