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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The over 50 workout routine that will serve you best depends a lot on your own definition of just what is fitness over 50.
For some it may be simply being able to ensure the ability to remain independent and mobile well into our 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. That’s a REAL goal for many and the 50’s are a great place to start.
Others may even go as far as to become competitive athletes in their fifties, competing in basketball leagues, marathons, iron man competitions and all kinds of other activities.
Whatever your desires are keep in mind that there is no “One size fits all” plan and way to achieve your personal fitness over fifty goals.
Sure there are somethings that are to be used as guidelines in any fitness program. Proper diet, enough sleep, aerobic and resistance training, but the way that you mix and match these components should be based on what you want to achieve.
You also want to include some variety and change in any fitness routine. I never go through a 3 month span with out changing my work-out routines almost entirely. A little here, a little there, and by the end of three months my routine looks nothing like it did when I started it. This keeps it fresh and it keeps my body and muscles from anticipating the next move that I’m going to make. The body has a way of making short cuts when it gets into a routine of knowing what’s next.
So my advice is to first sit down and put on paper what YOUR goals are. Keep it real but make it a challenge. Then determine how you’re going to get there. make it fit for YOU!
Toning upper arms is one of the quickest and easiest ways to reverse the appearance of aging . One of the best exercises to tighten up those flabby upper arms is the bench dip. Because this series of exercises are for beginners and one of the requirements was to find work out routines that can be done in the comfort of your own home with little or no additional equipment other than what can be found around the house we have substituted using a bench with a simple straight back chair.
Here are the steps:
Begin by sitting on the edge of a chair.
Lay your hands on the chair next to your bottom and grab the edge.
Feet flat on the floor 2 feet in front of you knees bent.
Lift off the chair so you are supported by your arms and hands.
Bend elbows, dropping (dipping) your body towards the floor. Dip as far as you feel comfortable.
Push back up, squeezing the muscles in the back of the arms.
You want to maintain a position with your back as close to the chair as possible to reduce shoulder strain.
My suggestion is to start out doing as many as you can in one minute. Try to work yourself up to 3 one minute repetitions 3 times a week, you’ll be amazed at the results in a month or so, the triceps respond to resistance training fairly fast.
If you’re over 50 and haven’t worked out in a while mastering the squat may be somewhat of a challenge but it’s first on the list for a very good reason.
Builds and strengthens the foundation – Squats target the largest muscle group of the body, the quads or thighs and glutes or butt. These muscles are called into use every day in normal activities that require lifting, pulling or pushing. They’re also important for maintaining balance. Strengthening these groups of muscles may help prevent falls and as an added bonus can help prevent osteporosis or porous bones that sometimes occurs when the bones grow weak with aging and become more susceptible to fractures and breaks.
Okay, so what’s the proper way to perform a squat?
At first for balance place a chair in front of you facing forward and place your hands on the back of the chair. You can also place a chair directly behind to prevent a fall when you go down and to keep the beginner from going down too far
You should be standing with feet about shoulder width apart
Your chest and stomach should be straight up and down with a slight curve in your back
Bend your knees, at first go only as far as you comfortably can, the goal is to eventually be able to go down until your thighs are a little past parallel to the floor.
Only using your legs, push back to the starting position. Use your grip on the chair only for balance unless you absolutely need to pull yourself up.
When you get better at it you will no longer need the chair. At this point you may even add some weight for more resistance.
For weight, use two milk jugs, dumbbells or whatever holding them at your sides as you squat.
This is the introduction to a series of post that we will be doing on exercises for over 50. The first of the series will focus on beginner work out routines and working our way up to a more strenuous work out plan.
These exercises are designed for those who have either never worked out or haven’t in a some time. Therefore the first order of business was to decide what kind of exercises would be best suited to a beginner over 50. We decided they had to meet at least at least 4 requirements.
Ease of Motion – No fancy dance steps or twists and gyrations. I personally have felt my body “pop” just getting out of the car, and I’ve been working out for years! We’ll leave the Tae Bo and Hip-Hop for further down the road (maybe)
Can be done at Home – I think that a lot of people and us over 50 especially are somewhat intimidated by the thought of going to a gym and being around a lot of people who are already toned and trim. A few weeks doing things alone in the privacy and comfort of home can build our level of confidence so that we wont feel like a complete newbie the first time in the gym.
Full Body Work Out – This one is important whether you’re a beginner or have been working out for years. It’s best to engage as many of the “large” muscle groups as possible with each exercise. For those of us over 50 this is especially true as it helps fight sarcopenia and battles the aging process. Doing 100 bicep curls will make you great at doing bicep curls and make your arm muscle bigger but it won’t do much for the rest of your body.
No Equipment Necessary – Okay maybe we fudged a little on this one but any equipment needed will be everday items found around the house. Or maybe even a part of the house (one exercise uses a wall for support). These work outs are designed to use body weight for resistance. The weight of your body along with a chair, the floor or a wall for support will be all you need. Of course as you get stronger you may want to add small hand weights (or milk jugs), resistance bands, or kettle balls for added resistance but they’re not needed to get started.
Although there are many exercises that could fit these basic requirements we decided on three really simple ones. Squats, wall push ups and lunges can all be done at home, are easy to learn and need no equipment other than a chair or wall. We added resistance bands to the list because their versatility, ease of use and low cost make them the best add-on to any home fitness routine.