Category Archives: Health over 50

Resistance Training – Fighting Muscle Loss With Age

In a previous post I covered the causes of sarcopenia and discussed how the muscle loss associated with age can effect our health and quality of life. In this article I will go over how resistance exercises can help us avoid or reverse this.

The medical community has shown that all healthy adults benefit from some type of exercise which will raise their pulse for at least ten minutes at a time. This should be done for a total of at least 30 minutes a day 3 – 5 days a week.

This is known as endurance exercise and while the benefits are many, improved cardiovascular health, strengthened joints, increased mental sharpness, increased metabolism and more energy come to mind, this kind of exercise really does little to build muscle so is ineffective at fighting the loss of muscle mass.

To prevent or reverse losing muscle mass requires some kind of resistance training, exercises that cause the muscle to work against an opposing force. This causes the muscles to grow or at least not decline. An added benefit is that it also helps the bones retain their strength and density.

In a study of women aged 50 to 70, the women who strength trained gained 1% more bone density in the hip and spine while the group that did not lift weights lost 2.5 % bone density. Those who trained had strength increases from about 35 to 76% above the control group. Balance improved 14% and general physical activity increased by about 27%.  – About.com
Resistance training is optimally done using weights but the typical weights found at the gym can be subsituted at home by using cans from the pantry, milk jugs filled with water or even socks filled with sand. It’s important to note here though that the stronger one gets the more resistance one will need in order for the training to remain effective.

A lot of older people that I know swim on a regular basis. Swimming is an excellent resistance exercise and it combines the benefits of endurance exercise.

Another good choice is resistance bands. They’re cheap, portable and can be stored in a drawer.

Whatever your choice make sure you incorporate some resistance and strength training, 8 to 10 exercises of 8 to 12 repetitions, twice a week into your fitness plan.

Next time I’ll cover some examples of the best exercises for resistance training for those over 50.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sarcopenia – The Keys to Reversing the Signs of Aging

In the previous post about aging I covered sarcopenia, the term that scientist use when discussing the loss of muscle mass, stooped posture and slowed uncoordinated movement that often besets older people. This is the combined result of biological changes in the body that include a slowing of synthesis of needed proteins, a loss of the hormones testosterone and HGH (human growth hormone) and the dieing off of neurons that the body uses to stimulate the muscles to action.

According to a USDA website these normal aging processes begin to occur at around the age of 45 when we start to lose about one percent of muscle mass per year. The loss is accelerated at the age of around 60.

Leading a sedentary life will make the effects of sarcopenia worsen as we grow older. This has been proven over the years by tests performed by NASA who noticed “old age” type symptoms of otherwise very fit astronauts who returned from long periods in space where their movement and exercise where extremely limited.

Doctors and scientist have discovered  that sarcopenia and the  muscle degradation that the astronauts faced have  a common cure: resistance training . Doctors have long recommended at least 30 minutes of moderate daily exercise like jogging or walking. This kind of exercise is great for the cardiovascular system, it may even add a little muscle, but resistance training that requires the use of weights to build muscle is what is needed to have any real gains. Multiple  studies since the late 1990s point to resistance training  as the best  tool against sarcopenia, many physical therapists and doctors  are advising resistance training  over aerobic exercise.

Beginning resistance training in mid-life delays and reduces the appearance of sarcopenia later and  one study showed that elderly people aged 78 to 84 who went on a program experienced an average increase in protein synthesis of 182 percent. Another study, funded by the USDA, found that elderly participants who trained  for 45 minutes three times a week for 12 weeks saw an average increase of 32 percent for muscle fiber and a 30 percent increase in strength.In effect, reversing the signs of aging!

Exercises for Fitness Over 50

Enhanced by Zemanta

Aging Is Inevitable – Or Is It Really?

95 y.o. woman holding a 5 month old baby boy (...
Image via Wikipedia

If you’re over 50 your fitness depends on many factors,  some we can control and unfortunately some we can’t. Many of the ones that we have no control over are hereditary, they just “run in the family”. These would be things like heart disease, diabetes and even obesity. One thing beyond everyone’s ability to do anything about though regardless of who their parents are is aging. Or is it really?

As the body ages it sometimes tends to stoop, the skin begins to sag, movement can become slower and uncoordinated. This is all a result of loss of muscle mass, a condition known as sarcopenia. For most of the history of mankind these traits were considered a given. Part of the aging process and nothing could be done about it. Luckily today research upon research has determined that sarcopenia or at least profound sarcopenia is NOT inevitable.

True, there are some contributing factors of sarcopenia that are still beyond our reach such as disease and environmental factors but as it pertains to getting older the main causes that we CAN affect are hormone changes, protein deficiency and motor unit restructuring.

Muscle is made up of proteins. The body is in a constant state of trying to reach a balance between making more protein and using what protein there is available for energy. These processes are called synthesis and metabolism respectively.

The body can produce some proteins itself by converting amino acids. Other needed proteins cannot be made by the body and are acquired from outside sources, these are called “essential proteins” and are derived from the foods that we eat.

As we age, withstanding disease or trauma, we never stop metabolizing proteins but we do steadily lessen the ability to synthesize our own internally. It is thought that this is due to the decrease in hormones testosterone and HGH or human growth hormone. This is where protein and hormone loss contributes to the aging process.

Motor Unit Restructuring happens when the signaling mechanisms (motor neurons) that control the muscles start to die off. There are two types of these neurons, ones that control fast movement and ones that control slower movement. It seems that the ones that control fast movement die first, when this happens the other slower neurons step in and take their place. This is good because other-wise the muscle would die too, but it does noticeably slow the reaction time between thought and movement. It also can cause slooped posture and sagging skin.

Next time I will talk about ways to minimize or reverse the effects of sarcopenia.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Fitness Over 50 – My Journey

Being fit over 50 can mean different things to different people. Do you aspire to compete in an over 50 age group marathon or iron man competition? Or are you more like me and simply want to maintain or improve your quality of life as the senior years approach. I assure you that I’m no threat to finish in the top 10 of any marathon (probably not even the top 50) but when I look around at others my age I do think that I’m healthier and fitter than at least 80 percent of my age group.

It hasn’t always been that way. My fitness journey began back in 2007. My employer partnered with the local medical center and had an on-site “wellness” check for any employee that signed up. This was a yearly event that I had skipped in the past but decided that with the big  five ohh fast approaching (I was 48 at the time) that it would be a good idea to see just where I was physically. Sure I knew that I had gained a few inches around the middle and I did feel rather lethargic some days but I just chalked it up to sitting behind a desk all day, other than that I considered myself in pretty good shape for a person my age.

The results of the wellness check shocked me. My blood pressure was alarmingly high, my cholesterol and triglyceride levels were way off and i had elevated levels of protein in the blood. Thank God that I didn’t pass on the wellness check any longer.

I  immediately started going to the gym (I had been a member for years but rarely went), slowly changed my diet (I was surprised when one day I realized that I hadn’t picked up the salt shaker in weeks), and started learning how to better manage and in some cases eliminate stress in my life.

For the first 2 years I was almost obsessed with getting fit. Fit over 50 became my mantra. What I found out eventually  though was that it  doesn’t take as much effort to stay in shape as it took to get in shape. So today I spend 4 or 5 hours a week in the gym and although I watch what I eat I do allow myself a treat every now and then – okay maybe more often than every now and then. Today although I’m not about to compete in any Iron Man events, I am much healthier and happier than I was just a few years ago.

Enhanced by Zemanta