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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?