Exercises for Older Adults

NOV 9

Irregular Heartbeats in Senior Athletes and Exercisers

Virtually all doctors agree that exercise helps to keep you healthy and to prolong your life. People who exercise into later life live longer than non-exercisers and are at reduced risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, premature death, diabetes, strokes and even some cancers. Endurance bicycle racers who participated in the Tour de France from 1947 to 2012 live an average of five years longer than their countrymen (European Heart Journal, 2013, 34 (40):3145-3150). Fit people are less likely to suffer a particular form of irregular heartbeat called atrial fibrillation, and a regular exercise program reduces a person’s chances of developing atrial fibrillation (Circulation, April 22, 2015). More than 36,000 middle-aged women were followed for 10 years, and those who exercised regularly were far less likely to develop atrial fibrillation (Heart, May 27, 2015).

However, extreme endurance exercisers such as bicycle racers, cross country skiers and long-distance runners who compete into their 40s and beyond may be at increased risk for atrial fibrillation (American Journal of Cardiology, October 15, 2014;114(8):1229–1233). The incidence of atrial fibrillation appears to be more common in older athletes than in the general population (J Am Coll Cardiol, 2005;46:690–6). Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other popular media have suggested that athletes who continue to do extensive fast mileage or train for extreme endurance events in later life may be doing more harm than good. I feel that these articles have caused a tremendous amount of harm in the exercising community.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Each heartbeat starts when a “battery” in the upper heart (atrium) sends an electrical impulse through the upper heart to make it contract to squeeze blood toward the lower heart (ventricle). Then the electrical impulse reaches another “battery” in the lower heart to make the lower heart squeeze blood forward. Atrial fibrillation means that the upper heart quivers and does not push blood forward, while the lower heart beats independently.

Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and do not know that they have this condition until it is discovered during a routine physical examination. Symptoms may include:

• Palpitations (a feeling that the heartbeat is racing, uncomfortable, or irregular)

• Muscle weakness

• Reduced ability to exercise

• Fatigue

• Lightheadedness

• Dizziness

• Confusion

• Shortness of breath

• Chest pain

These symptoms are usually harmless, but on rare occasions an irregular heartbeat can cause sudden death by stopping the heart from pushing blood through your body.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular heartbeat. It occurs in 1.5 to 2 percent of the general population and risk increases with age. It affects 10 percent of 75-year-olds and 20 percent of those over 85, because aging increases the risk factors for atrial fibrillation such as blocked arteries, high blood pressure or diabetes.

How Atrial Fibrillation Can Harm You

When a person has an upper (atrial) heart that is fluttering, a clot can collect there and pass to the brain to cause a stroke, or to the lungs to block blood flow through the lungs. This is so dangerous that most doctors prescribe anti-clotting agents to everyone with atrial fibrillation. I believe that athletes with atrial fibrillation are far less likely to suffer clots that cause strokes than non-athletes with atrial fibrillation, but I have not seen any studies to support my belief. Healthy athletes can have occasional irregular heartbeats that will not harm them, but at this time, doctors treat atrial fibrillation in athletes the same way they treat their other patients.

Extreme Exercise May increase Atrial Fibrillation Risk

Two studies raised the concern about extreme amounts of exercise in older athletes. In the first study, 29 elite athletes were given MRIs to look for heart muscle scarring that increases risk of atrial fibrillation. They were Olympic or national team runners and rowers who had competed throughout their lives, including some who had completed more than 100 marathons. In the older group of 12 athletes ages 50 to 67, half showed some heart muscle scarring (J Appl Physiol, June 2011;110(6):1622-6). Those who had trained the longest and hardest had the most scarring. None of the 17 younger athletes (20-42) or the control group of 20 older non-athletes showed this heart muscle scarring.

In the second study, on rats, a 16-week program of daily one-hour treadmill running caused widening of the upper part of their hearts and scarring in the heart muscle that could increase risk for irregular heartbeats (J Am Coll Cardiol, July 2013;62(1):68-77). The scars in the upper heart remained after the rats stopped exercising.

Risk Factors for Atrial Fibrillation
• High blood pressure is the most significant risk factor for atrial fibrillation (Hypertension, 2012 Feb;59(2):198-204). Blood pressures greater than 140/90 significantly increased risk (J Am Soc Hypertens, 2015 Mar;9(3):191-6).
• Diabetes
• Overweight (J Am Coll Cardiol, Jul 7, 2015). A program getting people to reduce their excess body weight markedly reduced symptoms in patients who already had atrial fibrillation (JAMA, 2013;310(19):2050-206).
• Alcohol
• Smoking
• An over-active thyroid
• A very low heart rate, below 50 beats per minute (Circ Arrhythm Electrophysiol, 2013, Aug;6(4):726-31).
• Abnormal coronary artery calcium score, even with no heart symptoms (Am J Cardiol
, 2014 Dec 1;114(11):1707-12). This test can be ordered by any doctor.

• Lack of exercise. Exercise helps to prevent atrial fibrillation; fit men had a 23 percent lower susceptibility for atrial fibrillation (Am J Cardiol, 2012 Aug 1;110(3):425-32).

• Aging. The older you are, the more likely you are to suffer atrial fibrillation. Walking or cycling is associated with a decreased risk in older people (Heart, 2014 Jul;100(13):1037-42).

• Possibly extreme ultra-endurance exercise.

My Recommendations

Exercise reduces the chances of a person developing atrial fibrillation. Nobody has shown that exercise in itself causes atrial fibrillation, and it is only extreme ultra-endurance exercise that some doctors believe may increase risk for atrial fibrillation. I think that nutrition, exposure to pollutants and other lifestyle factors are also important. I do not believe that just exercising will give you adequate protection from heart disease. To protect your heart, you should follow all of the rules that apply to everyone whether you compete in ultra-endurance events, exercise moderately or just sit on a couch.

• eat lots of fruits and vegetables

• severely restrict sugar-added foods and drinks

• restrict red meat and fried foods

• avoid smoking, second-hand smoke and third-hand smoke

• restrict alcohol

• avoid overweight

• exercise

However, some doctors disagree with me. Even if you are healthy and do not have any heart problems, your doctor may recommend that you avoid strenuous workouts. If you have atrial fibrillation or other heart problems, some doctors will even tell you to stop exercising altogether. After all, on rare occasions irregular heartbeats can kill you. If you already suffer from atrial fibrillation, or you already have blocked arteries leading to your heart, you have to depend on your doctor’s advice.

One Senior Athlete’s Exercise Program

I am 80 years old and do not have atrial fibrillation or known heart disease. I race with others 20 to 30 miles on my bike three times a week and know that I have to back off when my leg muscles start to feel stiff and heavy. I race for the sheer pleasure of riding fast. There are no trophies or financial rewards. On my other four days, I try to do controlled 50-pedal-stroke intervals until my legs feel heavy or hurt.

For most of my life, first as a marathon runner and then as a cyclist, I had exercise-induced injuries all the time. It took me more than 70 years to learn when to go slow and when to take a day off. Most mornings, my leg muscles feel heavy and ache from my previous day’s work out. If my legs do not feel better after riding my bike for 10 minutes, I take the day off or ride very slowly. I do not ever plan to do slow junk miles and I do not care how few miles I put down in my diary. I usually have to take off one day a week and go slowly one day a week. I also follow all of the rules I have listed for a healthful lifestyle.

NOV 6 ARE YOU OVER 40.50,60,or 70 GOOD WORKOUT 

NOV 05

Healthful Lifestyle Reduces Risk of Dying from Prostate Cancer

Almost all North American men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough. However, fewer than five percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will die from that disease and the 15-year survival rate is 96 percent.

Data from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study show that men who participated most frequently in vigorous exercise had a 30 percent reduced risk of developing advanced prostate cancer and 25 percent reduced risk of dying from prostate cancer than those who exercised the least (European Urology, October 22, 2018). Men in the highest group of intense exercisers did the equivalent of 25 minutes of running daily in various activities including bicycling, swimming, heavy outdoor work or playing sports such as tennis or racquetball.

Nearly 50,000 men, 40-75 years old, were followed for 26 years, during which 6,411 developed prostate cancer and 888 developed the aggressive type that can kill. Half of all prostate cancers contain the gene, TMPRSS2:ERG. If you have this gene, insulin, certain growth factors and other metabolic factors increase your risk for developing prostate cancer. This could explain the link between physical activity and reduced risk for developing or dying from prostate cancer. This genetically-driven prostate cancer now appears to be a metabolic disease and all the rules for preventing and treating diabetes and heart attacks also may help to prevent and treat these cases of prostate cancer.

The same group of researchers published a paper in the same journal issue showing that measuring PSA levels in mid-life can predict the likelihood to develop aggressive prostate cancer later on in African-American men (European Urology, October 22, 2018). The group reported earlier that PSA screening in mid-life can also be used to predict aggressive prostate cancer in Caucasian men.

Lifestyle Factors that Increase Risk for Prostate Cancer

• Most risk factors for diabetes and heart attacks are also risk factors for developing prostate cancer: high blood sugar, high insulin levels, high cholesterol, and diabetes (Horm Cancer, April 2016;7(2):75-83).

• Prostate cancer is six times more common in Western than non-Western countries and in countries that are richer rather than poorer (Eur Urol 2012, 61:1079-1092).

• Obesity is associated with increased death rate, more advanced stage disease, and higher Gleason scores once a man has prostate cancer (Int J Oncol, Mar 2006;28(3):737-45). Doctors look at prostate cancer cells under a microscope and use the characteristics of the cells, called the Gleason score, to predict how likely the cancer is to spread through the body.

• Full fat cells produce high levels of potential cancer causing leptin, interleukin-6 (IL-6), heparin-binding epidermal growth factor-like growth factor (HB-EGF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and adiponectin that can cause cancer cells to spread through your body (Int J Oncol, Mar 2006;28(3):737-45 and J Clin Endocrinol Metab, Mar, 2001;86(3):1341-5).

• High blood sugar (fasting sugar over 100) in men diagnosed with prostate cancer markedly increases risk of them dying from prostate cancer (Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis, June 2013;16(2):204-8).

• Eating a diet that has a high glycemic load (foods that cause a high rise in blood sugar) increases risk of developing prostate cancer by more than 26 percent (Ann Oncol, Jan 2013;24(1):245-51).

• Exercise is associated with reduced risk for both slow growing prostate cancer and the type that can kill (Journal of Urology, November 2009;182(5):2226-2231).

If You Already Have Prostate Cancer

After a man is diagnosed with prostate cancer, the same risk factors associated with the disease also increase risk for the prostate cancer progressing and being fatal. Men diagnosed with prostate cancer are less likely to have the prostate cancer spread and kill them if they:

• avoid smoking, maintain a healthy body weight, exercise regularly and intensely, and eat a high vegetable diet that includes tomato sauce (lycopene), cruciferous vegetables, non-saturated vegetable fats and coffee (World J Urol, 2017 Jun; 35(6): 867-874).

• restrict eggs, red meat and poultry (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2010; 91(3): 712-21; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012; 96(4): 855-63; Cancer Prevention Research (Phila) 2011; 4(12): 2110-21). These foods are sources of choline that colon bacteria convert to TMAO, which is a carcinogen.

• restrict saturated fat in meat and eat polyunsaturated fats in vegetables (annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. April 19, 2016).

My Recommendations

Most risk factors for heart attacks are also risk factors for prostate cancer (Journal of the American College of Cardiology: Cardiovascular Imaging, December 2015). I believe that the most beneficial diet to prevent and treat prostate cancer includes eating lots of fruits and vegetables, and restricting refined carbohydrates, red meat and processed meats, and fried foods (BMC Medicine, March 24, 2015;13:3). I also recommend that you try to exercise every day and work to lose excess weight if you are overweight.

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NOV  01

Exercises for Seniors to Improve Strength and Balance

In Canada and around North America, falls are one of the leading causes of injury and death for senior citizens. However, you don’t have to fall prey to slops & falls  By exercising, you can improve your balance and your strength, so you can stand tall and feel more confident when walking.

Read on to find 14 exercises seniors can do to improve their balance.

Exercise 1: Single Limb Stance

It’s best to start off with a simple balance exercise for seniors. Here’s how you do this one: stand behind a steady, solid chair (not one with wheels), and hold on to the back of it. Lift up your right foot and balance on your left foot. Hold that position for as long as you can, then switch feet.

The goal should be to stand on one foot without holding onto the chair and hold that pose for up to a minute.

Exercise 2: Walking Heel to Toe

You might read this and wonder, “How is walking an exercise to improve balance?” This exercise makes your legs stronger, which enables you to walk without falling.

Put your right foot in front of your left foot so that the heel of your right foot touches the top of the toes of your left foot. Move your left foot in front of your right, putting your weight on your heel. Then, shift your weight to your toes. Repeat the step with your left foot. Walk this way for 20 steps.

Exercise 3: Rock the Boat

Stand with your feet apart, so that the space between them is the same width as your hips. Make sure both feet are pressed into the ground firmly. Stand straight, with your head level. Then, transfer your weight to your right foot and slowly lift your left leg off the ground. Hold that position for as long as possible (but no more than 30 seconds).

Slowly put your foot back onto the ground, then transfer your weight to that foot. Slowly lift your opposite leg. Start by doing this exercise for balance five times per side, then work your way up to more repetitions.

Exercise 4: Clock Reach

You’ll need a chair for this exercise.

Imagine that you are standing in the centre of a clock. The number 12 is directly in front of you and the number 6 is directly behind you. Hold the chair with your left hand.

Lift your right leg and extend your right arm so it’s pointing to the number 12. Next, point your arm towards the number three, and finally, point it behind you at the number 6. Bring your arm back to the number three, and then to the number 12. Look straight ahead the whole time.

Repeat this exercise twice per side.

Exercise 5: Back Leg Raise

This strength training exercise for seniors makes your bottom and your lower back stronger.

Stand behind a chair. Slowly lift your right leg straight back – don’t bend your knees or point your toes. Hold that position for one second, then gently bring your leg back down. Repeat this ten to 15 times per leg.

Exercise 6: Single Limb Stance with Arm

This balance exercise for seniors improves your physical coordination.

Stand with your feet together and arms at your side next to a chair. Lift your left hand over your head. Then, slowly raise your left foot off the floor. Hold that position for ten seconds. Repeat the same action on the right side.

Exercise 7: Side Leg Raise

You’ll need a chair for this exercise to improve balance.

Stand behind the chair with your feet slightly apart. Slowly lift your right leg to the side. Keep your back straight, your toe facing forward, and stare straight ahead. Lower your right leg slowly. Repeat this exercise ten to 15 times per leg.

Exercise 8: Balancing Wand

This balance exercise for seniors can be performed while seated. You’ll need a cane or some kind of stick. A broomstick works well for this – just remove the broom’s head before you start.

Hold the bottom of the stick so that it’s flat on the palm of your hand. The goal of this exercise is to keep the stick upright for as long as possible. Change hands so that you work on your balance skills on both sides of your body.

Exercise 9: Wall Pushups

As long as you’ve got a wall, you can do this strength training exercise for seniors.

Stand an arm’s length in front of a wall that doesn’t have any paintings, decorations, windows or doors. Lean forward slightly and put your palms flat on the wall at the height and width of your shoulders. Keep your feet planted as you slowly bring your body towards the wall. Gently push yourself back so that your arms are straight. Do twenty of these.

Exercise 10: Marching in Place

Marching is a great balance exercise for seniors. If you need to hold onto something, do this exercise in front of a counter.

Standing straight, lift your right knee as high as you can. Lower it, then lift the left leg. Lift and lower your legs 20 times.

Exercise 11: Toe Lifts

This strength training exercise for seniors also improves balance. You’ll need a chair or a counter.

Stand straight and put your arms in front of you. Raise yourself up on your toes as high as you can go, then gently lower yourself. Don’t lean too far forward on the chair or counter. Lift and lower yourself 20 times.

Exercise 12: Shoulder Rolls

This is a simple exercise for seniors. You can do it seated or standing.

Rotate your shoulders gently up to the ceiling, then back and down. Next, do the same thing, but roll them forwards and then down.

Exercise 13: Hand and Finger Exercises

The following are exercises to improve flexibility. You don’t need to stand for these.

In the first exercise, pretend there’s a wall in front of you. Your fingers will climb the wall until they’re above your head. While holding your arms above your head, wiggle your fingers for ten seconds. Then, walk them back down.

During the second exercise, touch your hands while they’re behind your back. Reach for your left hand while your right hand is behind your back. Hold that position for ten seconds, then try with your other arm.

Exercise 14: Calf Stretches

These strength training exercises for seniors can be performed sitting or standing.

To do calf stretches while standing, find a wall with nothing on it. Stand facing the wall with your hands at eye level. Place your left leg behind your right leg. Keep your left heel on the floor and bend your right knee. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat two to four times per leg.

If you want to stretch your calves while sitting, you’ll need a towel. Sit on the floor with your legs straight. Put the towel around the soles of your right foot and hold both ends. Pull the towel towards you while keeping your knee straight and hold it for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the exercise two to four times per leg.

OCT 30

You Can’t Exercise Too Much

Dramatic results in a new study from the Cleveland Clinic show that:

• You can’t exercise too much: Elite athletes who do tremendous amounts of exercise have a much lower risk of dying than non-athletes.

• Exercise is healthful: Not exercising is worse for your health than smoking, diabetes or heart disease. The vigorous exercisers had nearly a 500 percent reduced risk of death during the study period, compared to the non-exercisers (JAMA Network Open, Oct 19, 2018;1(6):e183605).

More than 120,000 patients, average age 53, were given an exercise stress treadmill test between 1991 and 2014 and were followed up at the Cleveland Clinic. The researchers used the stress test results to classify their fitness level as low (the bottom 25th percentile), below average (25th to 49th percentile), above average (50th to 74th percentile), high (75th to 97.6th percentile), and elite (above 97.7th percentile). By January 1, 2018, 13,637 of the participants had died.

The study results were overwhelming. The more fit a person was, the less likely he was to die. There was no limit to the increase in benefits from improving fitness to very high levels. The elite athletes had an 80 percent reduction in risk for death. The greatest differences were seen among patients who had high blood pressure in the high and elite groups compared to those in the low fitness group. The lead researcher concluded, “We found that there was no ceiling for benefit . . . with no toxicity at the higher end.”

Can Extreme Amounts of Exercise Be Harmful?

This new study counters the findings of earlier studies on elite athletes that suggested they are at increased risk for irregular heartbeats, increased arterial plaque size or thickened heart valves.

• Even though master athletes may be at increased risk for irregular heartbeats (atrial fibrillation), they can still benefit from continuing to exercise. Compared to non-exercisers, they appear to be at reduced risk for suffering from serious side effects such as clots. See Irregular Heartbeats in Senior Athletes and Exercisers.

• Elite athletes may be at increased risk for larger plaques in their arteries than non-exercisers, but narrowing of arteries by plaques does not cause a heart attack. Heart attacks are caused by plaques breaking off from arteries, and exercise helps to prevent heart attacks by making plaques more stable and less likely to break off. See Exercisers Have More Stable Plaques.

• Vigorous exercisers may be at increased risk for thickened heart valves, but compared to non-exercisers, athletes with thickened heart valves still have stronger heart muscles so that they are less likely to suffer heart failure. See Exercise to Prevent a Heart Attack

Exercise Reduces Inflammation

Aging is associated with inflammation, an overactive immune system. Your immune system is supposed to kill germs when they attack you, but as soon as the germs are gone, your immunity is supposed to dampen down. However if your immunity stays active all the time, it attacks you in the same way that it kills germs. It can punch holes in arteries to cause plaques, break off the plaques to cause heart attacks, destroy your DNA to cause cancer, cause various auto-immune diseases and so forth. As you age, inflammation increases to cause loss of muscles and bone, osteoarthritis, loss of cell function associated with aging, and other harmful effects. Exercise helps to dampen down inflammation, and thus helps to prevent diseases and prolong life. One study of 111 women, ages 65 to 70, showed that replacing 30 minutes of sitting time with the same amount of time in light or moderate exercise very significantly reduced markers of inflammation (C-reactive protein and fibrinogen) and diabetes (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, July 2018).

Intense Exercise is More Beneficial than Casual Exercise

This new study agrees with many earlier studies that have shown greater benefits from vigorous exercise than from low-intensity exercise:

• The SUN Study on 18,737 middle-aged people showed that those who exercise intensely have half the rate of heart attacks as those who did the same amount of exercise less intensely (Am J of Cardiology, Sept 11, 2018).

• Increased time spent exercising intensely gives adolescents a healthier metabolic profile than more time spent just exercising (PLOS Medicine, Sept 2018; 15 (9): e1002649).

• Vigorous exercise is associated with a much lower rate of metabolic syndrome and diabetes, compared to low-intensity exercise (American J of Prev Med, April 2017;52(4):e95–e101).

My Recommendations

I think everyone should have a regular exercise program, and it is never too late to start. See How to Start an Exercise Program. Do not start an intense exercise program until you have spent several months exercising at a casual pace.

Socialization usually improves the length of time, intensity and enjoyment of exercise, so it is best to join a group, exercise with your mate, or do your exercise regularly with friends (Am J Alzheimer’s Dis Other Demen, June 2014; 29(4): 372–378).

CAUTION: Intense exercise can cause a heart attack in a person who has blocked arteries or heart damage. Check with your doctor before you start a new exercise program or make a sudden increase in the intensity of your existing program.

OCT25

Swimming May Slow Down Aging By Decades

From cradle to grave, swimming might just be the best exercise ever. Here, eight health benefits of taking a lap or two. 

Swimming is good for just about everyone. It accommodates all ages, stages, abilities and disabilities.

There’s also evidence it can slow down the aging process.

A long-term study at Indiana University Bloomington’s Counsilman Center for the Science of Swimming found that Masters Swimmers (over age 35) who swam roughly 3,200 to 4,500 metres (about 3.2 to 4.8 kilometres) three to five times a week, postponed the aging process. And not just for a few years but for decades, according to traditional age markers like muscle mass blood pressure and lung function.

But you don’t have to be a Masters Swimmer to benefit from swimming. Far from it.

“The health and well-being benefits start with a minimal amount of swimming,” Counsilman Centre Director Joel Stager is quoted as saying in the university’s newsletter. “If you want the fitness effect, you’ll need to look at getting your heart rate up and boosting the intensity.”

Another study, by Dr. Steven Blair at the University of South Carolina, has shown swimming dramatically reduces the risk of dying. The study spanned 32 years and followed 40,000 men, aged 20 to 90. Those who swam had a 50 per cent lower death rate than runners, walkers and those who didn’t exercise at all.

Here are some other known benefits to swimming:

1. It’s kind to your joints and improves flexibility: “Swimming is a form of exercise that’s suitable to people of all ages because it’s so easy on the joints,” says Belgium-based Christophe Keller, who so loves the sport he created a website solely devoted to it, called enjoy-swimming.com. “The water supports the body so only a fraction of your weight has to be supported by your limbs. It also favours smooth circular movements rather than quick jerky movements that can strain joints.”

2. Helps you lose weight: Swimming for half an hour can burn as much as 250 calories. Even a gentle swim can burn 200 calories. Since water is about 800 times denser than air, your body has to work harder in the pool, even though it might not feel like it is. Gliding through the water can be a glorious feeling.

3. Improves mental health: The British website swimming.org reports that swimming promotes feelings of well being, something the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention confirms. “For people with fibromyalgia it can decrease anxiety, and exercise therapy in warm water can decrease depression and improve mood.”

Article Continued Below

4. It’s a great aerobic exercise: Swimming increases your lung capacity and gives them a solid work-out. It’s also been identified as a good form of exercise for people with asthma.

5. Choose where you want to tone up: Since swimming involves a variety of strokes that use different muscles, you can target the areas you most want to tone – be it legs, upper arms, or stomach muscles. Keller’s website includes techniques for doing each stroke.

6. It’s cheap: Unlike some sports which require a lot of equipment, swimming just requires a swim suit, bathing cap and a pair of decent goggles and of course a pool, which most cities and mid-size communities have. It’s also a great summer exercise since you can cool down and work out at the same time.

7. Suitable for all ages: That’s why they say swimming is ‘cradle to grave.’ You simply adjust the pace to your age and ability.

8. It’s social: “If you swim regularly you’ll most likely make new friends of all ages,” says Keller, “since people not only swim at the pool but also like to relax, socialize and talk. My impression is that swimmers are usually positive and in a good mood.”

If you aren’t already a swimmer, but think you might like to start, first check with your doctor to make sure there aren’t any health issues to take into account. You might even want to enroll in swim lessons. An instructor can not only help build swimming skills, but alleviate any fears you might have about the water.

“Take it slow in the beginning and progress at your own pace,” suggests Keller. “Don’t try to measure up to a 20-year-old speeding through the water. Instead, enjoy the experience of swimming – of floating and moving through the water.”

OCT 18

Cooling Down After Intense Exercise

“Cooling down” means that after you exercise intensely, you slow down and exercise at low intensity for a while before you stop exercising for that session. The scientific literature is controversial on whether cooling down helps to reduce next-day muscle soreness to help muscles to recover faster. I believe that cooling down may help you to heal faster from muscle soreness after intense exercise, which allows you to recover faster from intense workouts. There is some evidence that cooling down augments your immune system response to help muscles fibers heal faster from the Z-line damage caused by hard exercise (Sports Med, July 2018;48(7):1575-1595; Nat Rev Immunol, 2011;11:607-615).

You can tell you are damaging muscles when you exercise vigorously enough to feel burning during exercise and when you get soreness in those muscles that develops 8-24 hours later (Strength & Conditioning Journal, October 2013;35(5):16-21). This is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS); see my report on DOMS below. The old explanation that cooling down helps muscles recover faster by ridding them of lactic acid does not adequately explain any improvement in recovery time after intense exercise. Lactic acid build-up from intense exercise lasts, at most, for only a few minutes even if you do not cool down. Muscle soreness that starts more than four hours after stopping exercise is not caused by lactic acid accumulating in muscles; it is caused by damage in the muscle fibers.

Cooling Down May Help You Recover Faster

Many coaches and athletes believe that cooling down helps muscles heal so the athlete can resume intense workouts sooner and thus become a stronger athlete. However, there is conflicting scientific evidence whether cooling down helps to prevent DOMS. There is some evidence that cooling down does help to relieve DOMS three days after intense exercise (J Strength Cond Res, Oct, 2012;26(10):2777-82), but smaller studies on non-competing athletes fail to show that cooling down reduces next-day muscle soreness (J Hum Kinet, Dec 2012;35:59-68; Aust J Physiother, 2007;53(2):91-5), or helps athletes to recover faster (J Hum Kinet, Mar 2012;31:121-9). There is data to show that cooling down reduced pain when pressure was applied to muscles with DOMS 48 hours after intense exercise, more so than on the muscles of those who did not cool down (J of Human kinetics, Jan 26, 2013;35(1):59-68). A recent review of the scientific literature concluded that cooling down does not enhance same-day or next-day sports performance, even though it may help to clear lactic acid in blood faster, but cooling down may partially prevent immune system depression and promote faster recovery of the heart and lungs (Sports Med, Jul 2018;48(7):1575-1595).

Known Benefits of Cooling Down

• Cooling down can help to keep you from feeling dizzy or passing out after very vigorous exercise (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, Sept 1994;26(9):1095-1101). Most people who pass out in races do so after they stop running suddenly at the finish line. In one study, all of the runners who collapsed had an excessive drop in blood pressure when they went from lying to standing, and the few cases of collapse away from the finish line were far more serious and were often caused by diseases such as asthma, heart damage or heat stroke (Physician and Sportsmedicine, 2003;31(3):23-29).

• Cooling down can help to clear lactic acid and relieve oxygen debt after intense running (J of Applied Physiol, Nov 6, 1966;21(6):1767-1772).

Cooling down has NOT been shown to improve fitness level, make you stronger (J Strength Cond Res, Nov 2012;26(11):3081-8), or to prevent injuries.

My Recommendations for Recovery After an Intense Workout

• Before every intense workout, warm up by going slowly until your muscles feel fresh.

• After every intense workout, do a prolonged cool down of at least 10 minutes (Sports Science Exchange, 87:15, 2002; J Sports Sci Med, 2004 Sep; 3(3):131-138).

• Drink fluids for a faster recovery (Journal of Sports Sciences, January 2004).

• Add salt on hot days if your muscles feel excessively fatigued or if you develop cramps (Can J Appl Physiol, 2001;26 Suppl:S236-45).

• Eat as soon as you finish your intense workout (J Sports Sci Med, 2004 Sep; 3(3): 131–138). It doesn’t matter what you eat in your post-intense-workout meal, as long as it contains lots of protein and carbohydrates (Am J Clin Nutr, Jan 2017; Med Sci Sports Exerc, Oct 2008;40(10):1789-94). In one study, fast foods such as French fries, hash browns and hamburgers helped athletes recover just as quickly from hard workouts as sports nutrition products such as Gatorade, PowerBars and Clif Bars (International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, March 26, 2015).

• After each intense workout, get off your feet and do as little walking as possible.

• Try to sleep within a few hours after your intense workout as you may recover faster by sleeping than remaining awake (South African J Research in Sport, Physical Education and Recreation, Jan 2012;34(1):167 – 184). Loss of sleep can impair exercise performance (European Journal of Applied Physiology, April 2017;117(4):699-712).

• Do not take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve muscle soreness. NSAIDs can block gains in strength and endurance (

OCT 11

More Reasons to Exercise as You Grow Older

Muscles are made up of thousands of muscle fibers just as a rope is made up of many strands. Each muscle fiber has a nerve that innervates it. With aging you can lose nerve fibers that, in turn, cause you to lose the corresponding muscle fibers, but exercising against resistance will make the remaining muscle fibers larger so they can generate more force.

A recent experiment measured the force that a rat’s muscle fiber generates when it is electrically stimulated at the nerve or at the muscle. Electrically stimulating the muscle directly showed that the muscles of young rats generated 40 percent more force than those of old rats. On the other hand, when the nerve endings were stimulated electrically for five minutes, the muscles of the old and young rats generated the same amount of force. The authors suggest that loss of strength with aging is primarily due to loss of nerve function rather than just muscle function (Experimental Gerontology, March 2018). The repetition of a regular and consistent training program teaches your brain how to contract your muscles more efficiently.

Researchers at the University of Guelph have another explanation why people, even those who exercise regularly, lose muscle size and strength as they age. They showed that aging causes loss of mitochondria, the tiny furnaces in cells that turn food into energy (Cell Reports, March 13, 2018). This causes the accumulation of breakdown products called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that delay healing and weaken muscles (Cell Metabolism, March 2017;25(3):581–592)

More New Studies on Muscle Growth for Older People

Osteoporosis: Lifting weights helps to strengthen bones of postmenopausal women who suffered from osteoporosis (J of Bone and Min Research, February 2018;33(2):211-220).

Protein Intake: Several studies show that older people do not gain any additional muscle size or strength from increasing their intake of protein above the current RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of 0.8 gm/kg of body weight/day. Even older men who are taking extra testosterone do not gain any extra strength or muscle growth from increasing their intake of protein to 1.3 g/kg/day (JAMA Internal Medicine, April 2018).

High-Plant Diet after Menopause: Older women who follow a Mediterranean-type diet (based on plants, with fish but restricting red meat and added sugars) have larger muscles and bones after the menopause than women who eat the typical Western diet (ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society annual meeting in Chicago, March 19, 2018).

Recovery Time: Older people who do strength training need to realize that their muscles will not heal as fast from workouts as muscles of younger people because aging causes their mitochondria to become smaller in number and size (Cell Metabolism, March 2017;25(3):581–592).

Starting a Resistance Program

The most effective way to slow down the loss of muscle strength with aging is to start a resistance exercise program that includes using strength training machines or lifting weights. A review of 25 well-designed and performed scientific studies shows that resistance training can grow larger and stronger muscles in older men and women (Sports Med, Dec 2015;45(12):1693-720). Older people who use strength training machines two or three times a week can make themselves stronger to decrease their risk for falling, breaking bones, and suffering osteoporosis, arthritis, heart attacks, diabetes, and premature death (Am J Prev Med, Oct 2003;25(3 Suppl 2):141-9). See Slowing Loss of Bone and Muscle Strength with Aging

Preventing Muscle Loss

Before you start a new weight training program, check with your doctor and get expert advice from a trainer so you can learn proper lifting techniques for the equipment you will be using. Most beginners will be far more successful on weight lifting machines, rather than using free weights. The machines are safer because they can guide the way you move the weights with the specific muscles for each machine.

How to Make Muscles Stronger

Just exercising does not make a muscle stronger. The stimulus to make a muscle larger and stronger is to exercise that muscle against resistance to the point where you feel a burning in that muscle. However, if you continue to exercise after you start to feel that burn, you run the risk of injuring the muscle, so most older people can prevent injuries by stopping each set of lifting as soon they feel a burn in their muscles. You can exercise to the burn by using heavy weights with few repetitions or by using lighter weights with more repetitions. Older people gain the most strength by doing more sets of lower repetitions per set than using fewer sets with higher numbers of repetitions per set (Experimental Gerontology, March 29, 2018;108:18-27). The lighter the weight you use, the more repetitions you have to do to feel the burn. For example, several sets of three repetitions each is safer than performing fewer sets of the same weight with sets of 10 repetitions. For more detailed suggestions see Strength Training Guidelines from Dr. Richard Winnett of Virginia Tech.

My Recommendations

Aging can take away much of your quality of life unless you keep your muscles strong enough to perform all of your daily activities. A regular strength training program will help you to move faster, walk with more security, be less likely to fall and hurt yourself, and have more confidence in every movement of your body.

OCT 1

Should You Breathe Through Your Nose?

People who exercise with their mouths closed aren’t working very hard. You can’t get enough air through your nose to meet your needs for oxygen when you exercise vigorously. The cross sectional area of the openings in your nose is less than one tenth the opening in the back of your mouth. That space is so narrow that when you pick up the pace, you could turn blue.

You don’t need to breath through your nose when you exercise in very cold weather. Your nose warms the air much more than your mouth does, but exercise causes your body to produce such large amounts of heat that air taken through your mouth at 40 degrees below zero Fahrenheit during exercise will be warmed almost 100 degrees before it reaches your lungs. Breathing air that cold hurts so much that you lose interest in exercising and seek shelter.

Your nose clears pollutants far more efficiently than your mouth does, but people with healthy lungs can exercise safely on polluted days. Pollutants that you breathe in through your mouth can be quickly cleared from your lungs. Your air tubes are lined with small hairs, called cilia, that sweep pollutants towards your mouth where you swallow them with your saliva and they pass from your body.

Lifter-for-life-1

SEPT 22

Weight Lifting for Middle-Age and Beyond

Many middle-aged and older people have started to lift weights, since extensive data show that lack of muscles increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks and premature death (British Medical Journal, September 2009; Journal of Physiology, September 2009). However, within the first few weeks of their new weight-lifting programs, most get injured and quit.

Often they get injured because they try to train like younger me, by picking the heaviest weight that they can lift ten times in a row, resting and repeating that set two more times. Then they feel sore for the next few days and when the soreness lessens, they lift heavy weights again, usually two or three times a week. This type of training almost always injures older novice weight lifters and ends their training program.

The safest way for most older men and women to start a program to gain strength and increase muscle size is to join a gym and try to use 15 to 20 Nautilus-type machines every day or every other day. On each machine they should pick the weight that they can lift and lower 10 times in a row comfortably, without straining or damaging their muscles (which would make their muscles feel sore on the next day). If they feel the least bit sore, they should take a day or days off until the soreness is gone. As they become stronger and the weights feel very easy for them, they should try to lift 15 times in a row, then perhaps 20 times.  Only when they can lift that weight at least 20 times in a row and not feel sore the next morning, should they try to increase the resistance by going to the next heavier weight.

The key to this program is to avoid injuring their muscles by lifting weights in a single set and increasing the number of repetitions gradually so they do not cause next-day muscle soreness. They should not increase the weight (resistance) until they can lift a set of at least 20 daily and not feel sore the next day.

Before any older or out-of-shape person starts an exercise program, he or she should check with a physician to rule out serious problems that might be aggravated by weight lifting.

This program is for beginners and is intended to prevent injuries that plague older people when they first try to lift weights. It will not build very large muscles. It will, however, increase strength and provide the other benefits of a weight training program. After many months (injury-free) on this program, if a person wishes to build larger muscles, he or she can transition to a more traditional weight training program. 

SEPT 20

Exercise for Arthritis

When you have arthritis, your joints hurt every time you move. When you wake up, your muscles and tendons are so stiff that you can barely get out of bed, but you force yourself to get up and as you keep on moving, the pain lessens and you can move a little faster.

Is your body trying to tell you something when you muscles and joints feel better after you start to move? Dr. Ronenn Roubenoff of Tufts University Medical School published a paper in the Journal of Rheumatology showing that rest worsens arthritis, and strength training helps to control the pain of arthritis.

Most people think that when they have arthritis, they are supposed to rest their muscles and joints, but resting is the worst thing that a person with arthritis can do. Arthritis means that the gears that are formed by cartilage in your joints are damaged, causing your joints to hurt. Resting weakens your muscles and makes your joints wobble even more when you walk. Your car works in a similar fashion. When your car goes over a bumpy road, the shock absorbers dampen the shock of each bump. When you walk or run, the cartilage in your joints act like rubber to absorb the shock. Resting weakens cartilage and increases its likelihood to break. Resting weakens muscles so they can’t control the joint, allowing more wobble of the joints with each movement and therefore increasing cartilaginous damage.

People with arthritis should exercise, but they should not walk fast or run. When you walk or run, your foot stops moving suddenly when it hits the ground with a force that is transmitted up your leg to your knees and hips. This force can break cartilage. So people with arthritis should not run, walk fast, jump, or play tennis or basketball because the jarring breaks joints. On the other hand, these people can pedal a bicycle because pedaling is done in a smooth rotary motion that does not stop suddenly to jar and break the cartilage in joints.

People with arthritis should also lift weights because this strengthens muscles to stabilize joints, and strengthens cartilage to protect it from breaking. Ideally, everyone with arthritis should gain access to weight machines and be taught how to lift weights with proper form, in sets of ten, two or three times week. They should also pedal a bicycle several times a week. The combination of smooth continuous exercise on a bicycle and supervised weight lifting on a machine can help protect people with arthritis from further joint damage and reduce pain. Swimming, rowing or any other activities that use smooth motions can be substituted for cycling.

SEPT 5

More Reasons to Exercise as You Grow Older

Muscles are made up of thousands of muscle fibers just as a rope is made up of many strands. Each muscle fiber has a nerve that innervates it. With aging you can lose nerve fibers that, in turn, cause you to lose the corresponding muscle fibers, but exercising against resistance will make the remaining muscle fibers larger so they can generate more force.

A recent experiment measured the force that a rat’s muscle fiber generates when it is electrically stimulated at the nerve or at the muscle. Electrically stimulating the muscle directly showed that the muscles of young rats generated 40 percent more force than those of old rats. On the other hand, when the nerve endings were stimulated electrically for five minutes, the muscles of the old and young rats generated the same amount of force. The authors suggest that loss of strength with aging is primarily due to loss of nerve function rather than just muscle function (Experimental Gerontology, March 2018). The repetition of a regular and consistent training program teaches your brain how to contract your muscles more efficiently.

Researchers at the University of Guelph have another explanation why people, even those who exercise regularly, lose muscle size and strength as they age. They showed that aging causes loss of mitochondria, the tiny furnaces in cells that turn food into energy (Cell Reports, March 13, 2018). This causes the accumulation of breakdown products called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that delay healing and weaken muscles (Cell Metabolism, March 2017;25(3):581–592).

More New Studies on Muscle Growth for Older People

Osteoporosis: Lifting weights helps to strengthen bones of postmenopausal women who suffered from osteoporosis (J of Bone and Min Research, February 2018;33(2):211-220).

Protein Intake: Several studies show that older people do not gain any additional muscle size or strength from increasing their intake of protein above the current RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of 0.8 gm/kg of body weight/day. Even older men who are taking extra testosterone do not gain any extra strength or muscle growth from increasing their intake of protein to 1.3 g/kg/day (JAMA Internal Medicine, April 2018).

High-Plant Diet after Menopause: Older women who follow a Mediterranean-type diet (based on plants, with fish but restricting red meat and added sugars) have larger muscles and bones after the menopause than women who eat the typical Western diet (ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society annual meeting in Chicago, March 19, 2018).

Recovery Time: Older people who do strength training need to realize that their muscles will not heal as fast from workouts as muscles of younger people because aging causes their mitochondria to become smaller in number and size (Cell Metabolism, March 2017;25(3):581–592).

Starting a Resistance Program

The most effective way to slow down the loss of muscle strength with aging is to start a resistance exercise program that includes using strength training machines or lifting weights. A review of 25 well-designed and performed scientific studies shows that resistance training can grow larger and stronger muscles in older men and women (Sports Med, Dec 2015;45(12):1693-720). Older people who use strength training machines two or three times a week can make themselves stronger to decrease their risk for falling, breaking bones, and suffering osteoporosis, arthritis, heart attacks, diabetes, and premature death (Am J Prev Med, Oct 2003;25(3 Suppl 2):141-9). See Slowing Loss of Bone 

Before you start a new weight training program, check with your doctor and get expert advice from a trainer so you can learn proper lifting techniques for the equipment you will be using. Most beginners will be far more successful on weight lifting machines, rather than using free weights. The machines are safer because they can guide the way you move the weights with the specific muscles for each machine.

How to Make Muscles Stronger

Just exercising does not make a muscle stronger. The stimulus to make a muscle larger and stronger is to exercise that muscle against resistance to the point where you feel a burning in that muscle. However, if you continue to exercise after you start to feel that burn, you run the risk of injuring the muscle, so most older people can prevent injuries by stopping each set of lifting as soon they feel a burn in their muscles. You can exercise to the burn by using heavy weights with few repetitions or by using lighter weights with more repetitions. Older people gain the most strength by doing more sets of lower repetitions per set than using fewer sets with higher numbers of repetitions per set (Experimental Gerontology, March 29, 2018;108:18-27). The lighter the weight you use, the more repetitions you have to do to feel the burn. For example, several sets of three repetitions each is safer than performing fewer sets of the same weight with sets of 10 repetitions. For more detailed suggestions see Strength Training Guidelines from Dr. Richard Winnett of Virginia Tech.

My Recommendations

Aging can take away much of your quality of life unless you keep your muscles strong enough to perform all of your daily activities. A regular strength training program will help you to move faster, walk with more security, be less likely to fall and hurt yourself, and have more confidence in every movement of your body.

CAUTION:People with blocked arteries leading to their hearts can suffer heart attacks with exercise. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program or increasing the intensity of your current program.

AUG 31

Even a 100-Year-Old Can Improve with Training

A new research report shows that you can improve athletic performance with proper training, even if you are over 100 years old. Traditional feeling among scientists is that aging is progressive and inevitable, and that your genetic programming causes you to age no matter what you do. This paper shows that physical training can reverse established markers of aging (J Appl Physiol, February 15, 2017).

A few weeks ago I reported on Robert Marchand, the 105-year-old cyclist who had improved his world record for how far he could ride a bicycle in one-hour from 15.07 miles (24.25 kilometers) at age 101 to 16.73 miles (26.92 kilometers) at age 103. That is an 11 percent improvement in a world record after just two years of serious training, an impressive accomplishment at any age.

Marchand’s Training Program

For two years, from age 101 to 103, Marchand trained by riding 3000 miles (5,000 km) per year, with 20 percent of his workouts doing hard, intense riding and 80 percent doing slow recovery riding. He spun his pedals at a cadence between 50 and 70 rotations per minute.

This new study documents his training program and the improvements in his markers of aging. Athletes can run, ride, swim or ski faster if they improve their maximum ability to take in and use oxygen (VO2max) and their peak power output (strength). These same measurements are used by scientists to track aging in non-athletes. Marchand’s VO2max (maximal ability to take in and use oxygen) increased 13 percent, from 31 to 35 ml.kg-1.min-1, and his peak power output increased by 39 percent, from 90 to 125 watts.

These factors improved in Marchand because he was able to increase his maximal pedaling frequency by 30 percent, from 69 to 90 rotations per minute, and his ability to take in air through his lungs by 23 percent, from 57 to 70 liters per minute. His maximum heart rate and body weight did not change.

Training That Reduces Measures of Aging

Here is a program of training that is typical of the way competitive athletes in endurance sports work to become faster.

Muscle-sugar-depleting workout (one per week): You must exercise long enough to use up most of the sugar stored in your most-used muscles. Muscles use primarily fat and sugar for energy. You have an almost infinite amount of fat stored in your body, but only a very limited amount of sugar stored in the liver and muscles. Sugar requires less oxygen than fat to fuel your muscles, so when you run out of sugar stored in your muscles, you have to slow down. Exercising long enough to deplete muscles of their stored sugar supply increases the amount of sugar they can store and also increases your ability to move faster longer. The faster you move, the quicker you use up your muscles’ stored supply of sugar. The average runner can use up most of his stored muscle sugar supply while running fairly fast for two hours, and the average bicycle rider can use up his stored muscle sugar in three hours.

Intense oxygen deficit workout (two per week): The limiting factor to how fast you can move is the time it takes to move oxygen into muscles. You can increase your ability to take in and use oxygen by using interval workouts in which you run up severe oxygen debts and gasp for breath. You also have to damage muscles so that when they heal, they become stronger. To do this you must put great pressure on your muscles by moving very fast.

Type of Intervals: A short interval lasts less than 30 seconds. You can do lots of them in a single workout because in less than 30 seconds, you do not build up much lactic acid and do less muscle damage. A long interval lasts longer than two minutes and you should do only a limited number of these intervals because they cause considerable muscle damage and can take a long time for muscles to heal and recover.

Recovery workouts (at least four per week): Intense interval workouts cause considerable muscle damage, and it usually takes at least 48 hours for muscles to heal, so each intense workout requires easier workouts on the following day. If you are training twice a day, each intense workout is usually followed by three recovery workouts.

Example of a Weekly Training Program

Sunday: race or depletion workout

Monday: recovery workout

Tuesday: short intervals

Wednesday: recovery workout

Thursday: long intervals

Friday: recovery workout

Saturday: recovery workout

How to Apply These Concepts to an Ordinary Exercise Program

While exercisers who are not competing are likely to spend far less time in their sport, they can still benefit from following the same training principles. Increasing evidence shows that intense exercise is more effective than casual exercise, so plan to introduce at least some intense intervals into your program. You can gain the health benefits and help to prevent injuries if you:

• Plan to exercise every day

• Realize that if you are training properly, your legs are likely to feel sore every morning. If your legs do not feel fresh after a 5-to-10-minute warm up, take the day off.

• Stop your workout immediately if you feel a tightness, discomfort or pain in one area.

• As soon as your legs start to feel heavy during a workout, stop for the day.

Caution: People with blocked arteries leading to their hearts can be harmed by intense exercise, so check with your doctor if you have any questions.

AUG 11

Exercise Keeps You Younger

The decline in brain and body function with aging is caused more by inactivity than it is just by aging. A new study of 85 male and 41 female fit amateur cyclists, aged 55 to 79, found that most of them were physically much younger than most people of the same age (The Journal of Physiology, published online January 6, 2015;593(1)). All rode their bikes for recreation and none were serious competitive athletes. The men had to be able to ride a metric century (62 miles)averaging only 10 miles per hour, and the women 60 kilometers (37 miles), averaging a slow 6.7 miles per hour.

The older bicyclists’ test results were close to those for younger people for:

• endurance,

• pedaling power,

• metabolic health (control of blood sugar levels),

• balance,

• memory function,

• bone density and

• reflexes.

The single best test that correlates with aging is called V02max, the maximal amount of oxygen that a person can take in and use during a given time period. Many population studies show that VO2max drops significantly with aging. In this group of older bicyclists, VO2max was just a little lower than the results in the younger ones.

Incredibly, the older cyclists had test results similar to younger cyclists for lung power and exercise capacity; and even more incredibly, the memory of the older cyclists was just as good as the memory of the younger cyclists. This confirms many other studies that show that a high level of regular exercise prevents your brain from deteriorating. Several thousand years ago, the Romans knew that when they greeted each other with “Mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body).

Older Bicyclists Did Lose Strength

By studying only older men and women who are very active and ride bicycles most days, the authors were able to select a group of older people who are not like the general population in England. Thus this study shows that older people who exercise regularly have bodies and minds that are similar to those of much younger people. The conclusion is that the rapid decline in mind and body with aging is caused far more by inactivity than by aging.

The oldest cyclists were stronger than non-exercisers, but they had much smaller and weaker muscles than cyclists in their 50s and early 60s. This shows that aging makes you weaker, no matter how much you exercise. However, other studies show that while you lose strength rapidly with aging, you lose endurance and recovery time from intense exercise far more slowly.

What You Should Learn from This Study and Others Like It

If you want to be able to run, cycle or walk long distances fast as you grow older, you should try to exercise every day and try to go a little faster on some days. The majority of older people have chosen to be frail, weak and uncoordinated because of their lifestyles, not their ages.

• If you have never exercised, start now.

• If you exercise regularly, continue to do so.

• Find an exercise in which you can keep moving almost every day: dancing, walking, various exercise machines, cycling, skiing, and so forth.

• Those who choose to ride a bicycle should worry more about being hit by a car than about the disabilities associated with aging.

• In our modern societies, people are living longer and often spend many years suffering terrible disabilities of both mind and body. Most North Americans over 70 cannot walk fast. One in eight people over 70, and one in two over 85, suffer from dementia. Exercise helps to slow damage to your mind and body associated with aging.

• Lack of exercise is associated with increased risk for overweight, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, many different cancers, and premature death.

Caution: People with blocked arteries leading to their hearts are at increased risk for heart attacks when they start to exercise or increase the speed or amount of exercise. Check with your doctor.

AUG 4

Weight Lifting for Middle-Age and Beyond

Many middle-aged and older people have started to lift weights, since extensive data show that lack of muscles increases risk for diabetes, heart attacks and premature death (British Medical Journal, September 2009; Journal of Physiology, September 2009). However, within the first few weeks of their new weight-lifting programs, most get injured and quit.

Often they get injured because they try to train like younger me, by picking the heaviest weight that they can lift ten times in a row, resting and repeating that set two more times. Then they feel sore for the next few days and when the soreness lessens, they lift heavy weights again, usually two or three times a week. This type of training almost always injures older novice weight lifters and ends their training program.

The safest way for most older men and women to start a program to gain strength and increase muscle size is to join a gym and try to use 15 to 20 Nautilus-type machines every day or every other day. On each machine they should pick the weight that they can lift and lower 10 times in a row comfortably, without straining or damaging their muscles (which would make their muscles feel sore on the next day). If they feel the least bit sore, they should take a day or days off until the soreness is gone. As they become stronger and the weights feel very easy for them, they should try to lift 15 times in a row, then perhaps 20 times.  Only when they can lift that weight at least 20 times in a row and not feel sore the next morning, should they try to increase the resistance by going to the next heavier weight.

The key to this program is to avoid injuring their muscles by lifting weights in a single set and increasing the number of repetitions gradually so they do not cause next-day muscle soreness. They should not increase the weight (resistance) until they can lift a set of at least 20 daily and not feel sore the next day.

Before any older or out-of-shape person starts an exercise program, he or she should check with a physician to rule out serious problems that might be aggravated by weight lifting.

This program is for beginners and is intended to prevent injuries that plague older people when they first try to lift weights. It will not build very large muscles. It will, however, increase strength and provide the other benefits of a weight training program. After many months (injury-free) on this program, if a person wishes to build larger muscles, he or she can transition to a more traditional weight training program.  

AUG 2

Weak Muscles Increase Risk for Dementia

Many studies show that having excess fat in your belly is associated with increased risk for dementia, but a new study shows that as a person ages, lack of muscle size and strength appears to be an even stronger predictor of dementia than having excess belly fat (Clinical Interventions in Aging, July 5, 2018;13).

The authors followed 353 men and women, average age 69, and found that those who had both excess body fat and small, weak muscles had the worst memory, speed in answering questions and executive function such as making intelligent decisions. Those who had the weakest and smallest muscles had even worse mental function than those who were just obese and did not have excessive muscle weakness. Another well-performed study of more than 5000 people, with an average age over 70, also found that low muscle size is associated with increased risk for dementia (Age and Ageing, March 2017;469(2):250–257).

Significance of “Skinny Fat”

This new study found that many people who do not have conventional measures of obesity such as excess weight or a high BMI (Body Mass Index) can still be at high risk for obesity-related diseases such as dementia, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, certain cancers and premature death. The authors call this “skinny fat,” a combination of low muscle size and strength and high fat mass that significantly increases risk for dementia. Sarcopenia (loss of muscle size and strength) and obesity are part of the aging process for many people, and can both be used to predict potential mental decline, dementia, and diseases associated with aging. These conditions can be caused by sedentary behavior, weight gain and an unhealthful diet.

Testing and Treating People with “Skinny Fat”

Strength testing can be as simple as measuring a person’s grip strength with a simple inexpensive hand-held dynamometer. Excess fat can be measured with belly circumference or thickness of the fat layer underneath the skin near the belly button. An MRI of the body will be more accurate but is far more expensive and time consuming. People with weak grip strength or high belly fat are at increased risk for dementia with aging, even if they appear otherwise to be thin and healthy. An earlier study showed that a program of strength training and aerobic exercise and a healthful diet can help slow the frightening loss of muscle size and strength and increase in body fat in people as they age (Clinical Interventions in Aging, August 6, 2015;1267—1282). A recent review of many studies showed that the typical Western diet (high in sugar, red meat, processed meat and fried foods) is associated with a marked increase in the incidence of mental decline and dementia throughout the world (presented at the 2018 Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, July 22, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois). Another study of 2200 people, presented at this same conference, shows that people who consume the equivalent of two-and-a-half teaspoons or more of added sugar a day have a 54 per cent increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. A high rise in blood sugar can damage every cell in your body, particularly your brain.

To prevent blood sugar levels from rising too high, your pancreas releases insulin which lowers blood sugar by driving sugar from the bloodstream into the liver. However, if you have a lot of belly fat, you are also likely to have a liver full of fat, and a fat-filled liver cannot accept sugar from the bloodstream. Contracting muscles can lower blood sugar just by pulling sugar from the bloodstream without even needing insulin. A single bout of exercise will allow your muscles to pull sugar out of your bloodstream without needing insulin for up to 17 hours after you finish exercising. Lack of exercise and low muscle size are associated with high blood sugar levels and increased risk for both diabetes and dementia.

My Recommendations

A high rise in blood sugar after meals is a major risk factor for dementia. You will help to prevent dementia by preventing high rises in blood sugar if you:

• grow larger and stronger muscles

• avoid foods that cause high rises in blood sugar

• avoid having excess belly fat that specifically causes high rises in blood sugar

july 30

More Reasons to Exercise as You Grow Older

Muscles are made up of thousands of muscle fibers just as a rope is made up of many strands. Each muscle fiber has a nerve that innervates it. With aging you can lose nerve fibers that, in turn, cause you to lose the corresponding muscle fibers, but exercising against resistance will make the remaining muscle fibers larger so they can generate more force.

A recent experiment measured the force that a rat’s muscle fiber generates when it is electrically stimulated at the nerve or at the muscle. Electrically stimulating the muscle directly showed that the muscles of young rats generated 40 percent more force than those of old rats. On the other hand, when the nerve endings were stimulated electrically for five minutes, the muscles of the old and young rats generated the same amount of force. The authors suggest that loss of strength with aging is primarily due to loss of nerve function rather than just muscle function (Experimental Gerontology, March 2018). The repetition of a regular and consistent training program teaches your brain how to contract your muscles more efficiently.

Researchers at the University of Guelph have another explanation why people, even those who exercise regularly, lose muscle size and strength as they age. They showed that aging causes loss of mitochondria, the tiny furnaces in cells that turn food into energy (Cell Reports, March 13, 2018). This causes the accumulation of breakdown products called Reactive Oxygen Species (ROS) that delay healing and weaken muscles (Cell Metabolism, March 2017;25(3):581–592).

More New Studies on Muscle Growth for Older People

Osteoporosis: Lifting weights helps to strengthen bones of postmenopausal women who suffered from osteoporosis (J of Bone and Min Research, February 2018;33(2):211-220).

Protein Intake: Several studies show that older people do not gain any additional muscle size or strength from increasing their intake of protein above the current RDA (recommended dietary allowance) of 0.8 gm/kg of body weight/day. Even older men who are taking extra testosterone do not gain any extra strength or muscle growth from increasing their intake of protein to 1.3 g/kg/day (JAMA Internal Medicine, April 2018).

High-Plant Diet after Menopause: Older women who follow a Mediterranean-type diet (based on plants, with fish but restricting red meat and added sugars) have larger muscles and bones after the menopause than women who eat the typical Western diet (ENDO 2018, the Endocrine Society annual meeting in Chicago, March 19, 2018).

Recovery Time: Older people who do strength training need to realize that their muscles will not heal as fast from workouts as muscles of younger people because aging causes their mitochondria to become smaller in number and size (Cell Metabolism, March 2017;25(3):581–592).

Starting a Resistance Program

The most effective way to slow down the loss of muscle strength with aging is to start a resistance exercise program that includes using strength training machines or lifting weights. A review of 25 well-designed and performed scientific studies shows that resistance training can grow larger and stronger muscles in older men and women (Sports Med, Dec 2015;45(12):1693-720). Older people who use strength training machines two or three times a week can make themselves stronger to decrease their risk for falling, breaking bones, and suffering osteoporosis, arthritis, heart attacks, diabetes, and premature death (Am J Prev Med, Oct 2003;25(3 Suppl 2):141-9). 

Before you start a new weight training program, check with your doctor and get expert advice from a trainer so you can learn proper lifting techniques for the equipment you will be using. Most beginners will be far more successful on weight lifting machines, rather than using free weights. The machines are safer because they can guide the way you move the weights with the specific muscles for each machine.

How to Make Muscles Stronger

Just exercising does not make a muscle stronger. The stimulus to make a muscle larger and stronger is to exercise that muscle against resistance to the point where you feel a burning in that muscle. However, if you continue to exercise after you start to feel that burn, you run the risk of injuring the muscle, so most older people can prevent injuries by stopping each set of lifting as soon they feel a burn in their muscles. You can exercise to the burn by using heavy weights with few repetitions or by using lighter weights with more repetitions. Older people gain the most strength by doing more sets of lower repetitions per set than using fewer sets with higher numbers of repetitions per set (Experimental Gerontology, March 29, 2018;108:18-27). The lighter the weight you use, the more repetitions you have to do to feel the burn. For example, several sets of three repetitions each is safer than performing fewer sets of the same weight with sets of 10 repetitions. For more detailed suggestions see Strength Training Guidelines from Dr. Richard Winnett of Virginia Tech.

My Recommendations

Aging can take away much of your quality of life unless you keep your muscles strong enough to perform all of your daily activities. A regular strength training program will help you to move faster, walk with more security, be less likely to fall and hurt yourself, and have more confidence in every movement of your body.

CAUTION:People with blocked arteries leading to their hearts can suffer heart attacks with exercise. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program or increasing the intensity of your current program.

JULY 18

Update on Aging

By Dr. Phil Maffetone

It’s more than immunity and hormones, posture and gait play key roles too.

The ageless Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Satchel Paige said it best: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” Too many people would say they feel or look older than they are. If that is the case, change it!

We can all update our age, and always strive to be younger. While we know that most debilitating chronic illnesses are preventable, including heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s, so is poor aging. Large numbers of today’s elderly are living longer through heroic measures such as heart, lung and liver transplants, around the clock care and other medical means. For most, those ‘extra years’ come at the end of the lifespan, unfortunately, when life is less vigorous and productive. But we can significantly control what may be the most important factor of aging—quality of life. And the sooner we start the better.

All humans do it. The months and years pass and we get less efficient with our bodies and brains. We slow down, and it happens whether we are couch potatoes or Olympians. There is no stopping it—anti-aging is a myth. We can, however, significantly control the pace at which aging occurs by being healthier and more fit. The difference is physiological versus chronological aging.

A normal, healthy life includes aging. And while some illness and death may come from factors beyond our control, most unhealthy conditions that slow people down, or kill them at too early an age, are avoidable. This means we control aging to a great degree by choosing a lifestyle that allows us to be more like an average 40-year old even if we were born 50 years earlier, or a 45-year old even though our driver’s license says 1953.

Chronological age refers to the years that have passed. But when we are healthier and more fit, we function like someone younger. That is our physiological age. It’s related to better blood sugar regulation, brainpower, endurance and strength, and other lifestyle features we influence. This also includes our posture, gait and how we physically move.

While the whole body plays a role in graceful aging, three areas in particular do much of the work: the brain and neuromuscular mechanism, hormones, and the immune system. These areas of the body are continuously repairing and replacing themselves, relying on raw materials from the foods we eat. Adelle Davis’ 1950s mantra, “you are what you eat” still holds true today.

These and other aging factors are so integrated into our whole body that it is difficult to discuss each one in isolation. For example, hormones are an essential part of immunity, and muscle function reflects physical, chemical and mental health. In particular, one of the most common images of aging—posture and gait—is also a sign of how well we are doing it.

The Bent Spine Syndrome

Among the most common images of poor aging are people who do not stand erect. On closer examination, they don’t sit or move that way either, especially when walking. Their lower (lumbar) spine is flexed, and they are “bent” forward having lost their natural spinal curve, which usually helps maintain a healthy-looking upright posture. With a “bent” spine, individuals become shorter. While this typically occurs in the elderly, younger people can begin developing it too. This condition is well recognized by clinicians and researchers, and is called the bent spine syndrome, BSS, originally referred to as camptocormia, derived from the Greek camptos (bent) and kormos (trunk). (See “Camptocormia: the bent spine syndrome, an update.” European Spine Journal. 2010 Aug;19(8):1229-37.)

The BSS is a spectrum disorder, going from mild and moderate to a more severe condition depending on a person’s level of health. Two common causes of BSS include muscle imbalances, often a reflection of various neurological and biochemical problems, and psychological disorders.

The BSS affects the whole body, not just the spine. An example is how proper spinal function can help balance a key component of the body, the autonomic nervous system, which regulates many aspects of health from blood pressure, heart beat and breathing, to gut function, sexual arousal and controlling all stress.

As a functional problem for most individuals, BSS is rarely due to permanent changes in the bones or discs of the spinal column. This is evident when lying down—in this relaxed position people with BSS have relatively straight spines.

In addition, BSS may or may not be associated with pain, but the posture and gait are typically irregular, with related body-wide function that can be significantly reduced. The result is poor aging.

Physical and Chemical Causes

There are a number of physical causes of BSS, perhaps the most common one being muscle imbalance (muscles directly control the skeleton, especially the spine). In most cases, these imbalances are due to some type of neurological dysfunction between the brain and muscle. These weaknesses are not only in muscles directly controlling the spine, but throughout the body too, including those in the feet, pelvis, abdomen, and neck—areas that can significantly affect spinal posture and movement.

Another aspect of muscle dysfunction is reduced energy due to chemical imbalance. Muscle fatigue develops quickly in those with BSS during standing, walking, and even easy physical activities. This is typically due to poor aerobic metabolism.

Other biochemical factors include abnormally high levels of fat found in the muscles of those with BSS. The cause of this may be of hormonal, primarily high insulin due to the ingestion of too much refined carbohydrate. Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol also can influence the brain, often significantly. This is typically due to the combination of physical, chemical and mental stressors, which, in turn, can affect muscle balance.

At any age, BSS is associated with, often caused by, other chemical disorders that include chronic inflammation. This is usually directly associated with the balance of fat in the diet. The ongoing inflammatory disorder is the first stage of many chronic diseases.

Other hormonal imbalance can play a role too. Especially important are conditions of low testosterone and low thyroid function—both can occur in men and women. In addition, low levels of vitamin D, typically from inadequate sun exposure, and sarcopenia, the loss of muscle during aging, are both very common problems of epidemic proportion that can speed up the aging process.

More severe cases of BSS are often seen in patients with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or other neurological diseases.

Psychology

It has long been know that posture and gait, in addition to being a manifestation of physical and chemical dysfunction affecting muscle contraction, can also reflect ones psychological state. Bent spine syndrome was first observed and researched in young soldiers psychologically affected by war. Whether old or young, images of an aging spine can reflect mental and emotional states.

Growing Younger

Just being aware of ones posture is the first step to improved function. By avoiding the common age- or fatigue-related slumping and making sure the lower spine is not slowly losing its natural curve, one can keep the body healthier and not only more youthful looking, but physiologically younger. By simply sitting up straight, standing, walking and running more erect, we can maintain better balance, and our bodies will function better.

In addition, yoga, tai chi, respiratory biofeedback and other self-therapies can be very effective in maintaining good posture when practiced properly.

Regardless of how much or little you run, bike or lift weights, walking can also do wonders to help train the brain to better maintain proper postures. Walking erect is part of an optimal walking gait. In order to do this effectively, the knees must be gently locked as you land more on the front of your heels. This is different from the running (or jogging) gait, where knees should never lock and landing on the foot is farther forward. (By striking on the back of the heels, often encouraged by wearing thicker shoes, many runners do lock their knees, which can directly cause knee and other physical impairments, poor gait, and wasted energy.)

While most of us are too familiar with the images of aging, we sometimes don’t see it in ourselves. We can control the process significantly. With increased health and fitness we can age more gracefully and have additional active years at the end of our natural lifespan.

july 13

Knee Cap Pain

The most common long-term running injury is called runner’s knee. It is caused by the back of the knee cap rubbing against the femur, the long bone behind it.

When you suffer from runner’s knee, the back of the kneecap hurts when you walk or run, particularly when you walk down stairs. It usually does not hurt to pedal a bicycle. If it hurts to push the kneecap against the bone behind it, you have runner’s knee.

The back of the kneecap is shaped like a triangle with the point fitting in a grove in the lower part of the bone behind it. During running, the knee cap is supposed to move up and down. If it moves from side to side, the back of the kneecap will rub against the front of the bone behind it and hurt. Treatment is to stop the kneecap from touching the bone behind it which is usually caused by the knee cap being pulled toward the outside (laterally), while the lower leg twists the bone behind it inward (medially). When you run, you land on the lateral bottom of your foot and roll inward, causing the lower leg to twist inward. At the same time, three of the four quad muscles attached to the kneecap pull the kneecap outward and cause the knee cap to rub against the bone behind it.

People with runner’s knee usually can pedal a bicycle with their seats set lower than normal to prevent their knees from straightening completely. Orthotics, custom- fitted inserts in the shoes that restrict pronation, may help. They can also use special exercises that strengthen the vastus medialis muscle above the kneecap that pulls the knee cap inward when they run or pedal. Running backward may also help (1).

july 11

Repairing Damaged Knee Cartilage

The ends of bones are soft, so they must be covered with a thick white gristle called cartilage. Once damaged, cartilage can never heal. When knee cartilage is damaged, the person spends the rest of his life losing more cartilage until it is completely gone and the knee hurts 24 hours a day.

If only a small area of the cartilage is damaged, it may be treated with cartilage extracted from your own body. (If cartilage is taken from someone else, your immunity will try to kill it, but it does not try to kill your own cartilage.) Your extracted cartilage is grown in special culture dishes and then injected into a hole in your own cartilage and secured in place. This procedure works very well if you have only a small piece of cartilage missing. The doctors just fill the hole. However, unless they can enclose the entire area for the donor site, the cartilage will not stay where it was put and will not be beneficial. That is why this procedure cannot be used to treat a cracked cartilage in the knee. Remember they have to cover the articular surface that meets the cartilage from the other side of a joint.

When all the cartilage in your knee is gone, the only effective treatment is to replace the whole knee. Knee replacements are now lasting for twelve to twenty years or more, and most remain pain-free.

If you have damaged cartilage in your knee, you should protect that knee for the rest of your life. Running, fast walking and jumping cause further damage, while pedaling and swimming usually do not. When the knee hurts all the time, your doctor will check to see how much cartilage is left. If it’s gone, you will probably be told that you need a knee replacement.

JULY 11

Strengthen Quad Muscles to Help Your Knees

Doctors have known for many years that having weak quad muscles (in the front of your upper legs) increases risk for damage to the cartilage in your knees. A study from Purdue University showed that strengthening these muscles slows down knee cartilage damage and may even improve knee function (Arthritis & Rheumatism, October 2006). The researchers placed 221 adults in their sixties and seventies either on a program of strengthening their muscles in their upper legs or just moving their knees in a series of range-of- motion exercises. The subjects exercised three times per week (twice at a fitness facility and once at home) for 12 weeks. This program was followed by a transition to home-based exercise for 12 months. Older people weaken naturally with aging, but the range of motion exercisers lost more strength than those who exercised against progressive resistance. The strength training helped retain joint space, signifying that this group had less loss of cartilage.

The knee is like two sticks held together by four bands called ligaments. Strength training stabilizes the muscles that support the knee and helps to prevent loss of cartilage with aging. People with knee pain should get a diagnosis from their doctors. Most will be advised to do exercises that strengthen the knee, such as pedaling a bicycle or performing knee strengthening exercises that involve bending and straightening the knees against resistance. People with knee pain should avoid exercises that jar the joints, such as jumping or running.

july 1

Kettlebells Build Hard Bodies

Kettlebells (or girva, as they are called in Russian) are traditional Russian cast-iron weights that look like a cannonball with a handle. They have become a popular exercise tool in the United States largely because of the enthusiasm and effective marketing by strength and flexibility coach Pavel Tsatsouline and kettlebell lifting record holder Valery Fedorenko.

Though kettlebell lifting competitions are relatively new in the United States, they have historical significance in other parts of the world. Recently, kettlebell training has been “discovered” by U.S. athletes and particularly mixed martial arts fighters.

Kettlebell workouts are designed to increase strength, endurance, agility, and balance. Both the muscle and cardiovascular systems are challenged through dynamic total-body movements. They are used by both men and women.

Commonly asked questions are . . .

What makes kettlebells different than dumbbells or barbells?

Why has kettlebell training become so popular with women?

Are they safe?

Are kettlebells appropriate for seniors?

What sizes do they come in?

What weight should a beginner buy?

What is good kettlebell design?

What makes kettlebells different than dumbbells or barbells?

All are free-weights used for strength training, muscle building, and all-around fitness. However, since practically any KB exercise can also be executed with a dumbbell, it is reasonable to ask why you should use a kettlebell instead?

The kettlebell shape (remember the “cannonball with a handle” description) makes the weight displacement different from a dumbbell’s. The off-center weight of a kettlebell makes it more unwieldy, requiring the use of more stabilizing muscles to control it. By the nature of their design, nearly all kettlebell lifts are compound movements that work the body as a whole, rather than isolating muscles. Common kettlebell lifts also tend to work muscles through a longer range of motion, which improves flexibility.

So while barbells and dumbbells are certainly good free-weights, keep in mind that the unique unwieldiness of kettlebell training is precisely the reason many athletes use them today. When comparing dumbbells to kettlebells, it really comes down to being a matter of personal preference.

Why has kettlebell training become so popular with women?

Many of the most common kettlebell exercises, such as swings, cleans, windmills, and snatches, really work the hips, hamstrings, glutes, and waistline. And when done in higher repetitions they are great cardiovascular exercise. Combined with proper nutrition, KB workouts will burn off fat better than almost anything you can think of. And they are fun to use.

Are they safe?

Get some instruction from a good DVD video or coach/teacher. Kettlebell lifting is somewhat different than lifting other free-weights. I am not aware of any reported serious injuries, but you sure wouldn’t want to bonk yourself on the head or drop one on your foot. Ideally, some sessions with a competent instructor is a good way to go, although I’ve seen some excellent video instruction, too. Either way, once you know and practice proper form, kettlebells are certainly no riskier than lifting other free weights such as barbells and dumbbells.

Are they appropriate for seniors?

 

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Used properly, all free weights are senior friendly. Good judgment is the key to safe, successful kettlebell training, just as it is with barbells and dumbbells. But always consult with your doctor before starting any exercise/fitness program. Then begin with modest efforts, perfect your form, and gradually work up. If a particular lift or exercise irritates an existing problem area – don’t do that exercise. It is really a common sense issue.

What sizes do they come in?

The common kettlebell weights follow:

8 lbs

12 lbs

18 lbs

26 lbs

35 lbs

44 lbs

53 lbs

70 lbs

80 lbs

88 lbs

97 lbs

105 lbs

What weight should a beginner buy?

Most kettlebell exercises can be done with a single bell. Or they can be done with a pair of bells of the same weight. Most people start with a single KB and many continue lifting singles.

Next, you must consider your present strength and fitness level when deciding what weight to start with. A rule of thumb is that handling a kettlebell will be more challenging than a dumbbell of the same weight. Most of the companies selling KBs offer beginner guidelines for what weight(s) to buy. I would rely on their advice.

As your strength grows you can buy a heavier bell and sell the lighter one or keep it for higher repetition work.

Best of all, if you can attend a KB training workshop before you buy, or find a trainer nearby, you can try out different weights at the same time you are receiving some coaching.

JUNE25

Senior Exercises for Slenderizing the Waistline

The best approach for you to slenderize their waistline is a healthy diet, 150 minutes of cardio and two strength training sessions each week. Including abdominal exercises in strength training sessions will tone the stomach muscles, which will become visible after overall weight loss occurs. A strong core contributes to good posture and eases the challenge of standing for extended periods of time. In addition, becoming physically fit can make daily tasks, such as showering or carrying objects, easier for older adults. You should consult with your physician before starting an exercise program.

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Burn Calories

Burning calories and expending more than you consume is the only way to lose weight. Mowing the lawn, climbing stairs or going on a walk with friends are all examples of cardio exercises that contribute to weight loss, including the stomach area. The treadmill, elliptical and recumbent bike are all cardio machines available at most gyms. The rowing machine is a good option if you want to challenge your midsection while doing your cardio. Water aerobics and swimming are non-weight bearing cardio workouts that don’t strain the joints, making them a good option if you have joint problems or arthritis. Complete at least 10 minutes of cardio exercise during a session to ensure benefits and contribute to your weekly goal of 150 minutes.

Make a Bridge

The bridge is an abdominal exercise that strengthens the glutes, lower back and stomach muscles. Lie on your back, bend your legs and place your feet on the floor, directly under your knees. Tighten your abdominal muscles and rest your arms on the floor, next to your hips. Push through your heels and lift your hips and lower back off the floor. Align your knees, hips and shoulders. Squeeze your glutes and hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds.

Twist and Turn

Trunk rotations tone the abs while strengthening the arms. Hold a light weight with both hands. Stand up straight, bend your knees and position your feet shoulder-width apart. Lift the weight in front of your waist, straighten your arms, then slightly bend your elbows. Tighten your stomach muscles. Twist your torso and rotate your trunk and arms to your right. Do this without moving your hips or lowering your arms. Twist back to the center, pause, then rotate to your left to complete your first repetition. Complete eight to 10 reps, stopping when your stomach and arms fatigue.

Tighten Your Abs

Pelvic tilts tighten and tone the abdominal muscles. Lie on your back, bend your legs and place your feet on the floor, under your knees. Squeeze your stomach muscles. Throughout the exercise, imagine that you are trying to balance a grape in your belly button. This will help you maintain the contraction. Simultaneously, push your lower back against the floor and slightly lift your hips off the floor. Hold for six to 10 seconds, then release. Complete eight to 10 repetitions.

JUNE 23

The Best Kettlebell Workout for Women Over 50

Women in their 50s often gain weight, experience changes in posture, and lose muscle mass because of menopause. Doing two to three kettlebell sessions a week can help combat some of those physiological changes. Kettlebells increase muscular strength and endurance, and improve balance, core strength, coordination and posture. The workout has cardiovascular benefits as well. Most of the exercises are functional and incorporate the entire body, which makes the workout more efficient and less time consuming than traditional strength training with free weights.

Program Design

Pay careful attention to form and technique when learning how to use kettlebells. It is better to begin with a light weight to master form to prevent injury to the back, shoulders and knees. If you work out regularly, begin with a 10- to 15-pound kettlebell. Try a routine two to three days a week that consists of two to three sets of eight to 10 exercises. Cross train on alternate days with Pilates, yoga or a moderate-intensity cardiovascular activity.

Short Circuit

A circuit kettlebell routine can help banish the excess adipose tissue that accumulates around the midsection during menopause. Include two to three sets of 10 to 15 squats, deadlifts, snatches and swings. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between each exercise before continuing. Finish with two to three bodyweight planks before you stretch. The moves can help you burn calories, aiding in fat loss and increased lean muscle mass.

Muscle Up

You may be dismayed as you progress through your 50s to realize that you are losing tone in your lower body, particularly in the derrière. A kettlebell routine that targets the lower body can prevent things from going further south. Warm up with joint mobility exercises. Perform two to three sets of walking lunges, single-leg squats, figure eights between the legs, single-leg deadlifts and single-arm swings for 15 to 60 seconds. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between exercises.

Upper Body Training

Banish batwing arms with upper-body exercises involving 5- to 8-pound kettlebells, such as snatches, high pulls, bentover rows, alternating shoulder presses, farmer’s walks and overhead triceps extensions. Consult a certified fitness professional to watch your form when you are learning how to use kettlebells.

june 19

Kettlebell Exercises for Seniors

Kettlebells are traditional Russian weights that look like a cast-iron cannonball with a handle. Used properly, they are senior friendly and can be used for maintaining and increasing muscle strength and bone density, and for a cardiovascular workout. They are available in weights from 2 lbs to over 100 lbs. Women should start with about 8 lbs, while men can begin at 16 lbs. Use common sense: If a particular exercise aggravates an existing problem or injury, don’t do that exercise.

Two-Arm Swing

The two-arm swing is the most basic kettlebell exercise and should be mastered before moving to other exercises. Use an overhand grip with both hands on the handle and allow it to hang between your legs. Stand with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Start swinging by rocking your hips rather than using your shoulders and use momentum to raise the bell so that it swings to about shoulder height, then back between your legs. Perform for at least one minute, or for a desired number of repetitions.

Single-Arm Swing

The single-arm swing uses the same basic movement as the two-arm swing, but only one hand is used. Remember to swing upward by thrusting the pelvis forward rather than lifting from your shoulders, and allow gravity to bring the kettlebell down in a smooth, controlled movement. Keep the free arm at the side of the body. Perform for one minute or a desired number of repetitions, then change arms and repeat.

Body Pass

Begin in the same body position as for the two-arm swing. Release one hand from the bell, and swing the bell behind your back with the other hand. Grasp it with the free hand at the back and bring it back around the other side to the front again. Make sure you grasp it firmly and breathe throughout the movement. As the weight moves from hand to hand, your arms will loosen and tighten. After the required number of repetitions, repeat in the opposite direction.

Figure Eight

The figure eight is an advanced version of the body pass and should not be done until you have mastered that move. Instead of passing the kettlebell around your body, you pass it from one hand to the other between your legs from the front of the body to the back and from side to side, so that it creates a figure-eight pattern. This gives you an excellent workout. After the required number of repetitions, repeat in the opposite direction.

june 15

Kettlebells for the Aging Population

Swinging and lifting kettlebells may sound like a form of training best left to weightlifters, hardcore athletes, and members of the younger generations. But the reality is that everyone, especially seniors, can benefit from properly training with kettlebells. In 2010 the American Council of Exercise (ACE) at the University of Wisconsin conducted a survey about kettlebell training and its effects on individuals. Researchers found evidence supporting the positive implications of kettlebell training’s potential to strengthen the core muscles by 70 percent, especially for elderly people. One of the research leaders, John Porcari, Ph.D. says, “I think that’s huge because the stronger people are through the core, the less low-back pain they are going to have.” He also pointed out the importance of how working out with the unique weights can affect and improve balance for older kettlebell users. “Older people who are doing some sort of kettlebell-like training are going to be more likely to avoid dangerous falls,” he says.

Kettlebells training can also improve bone density (preventing osteoporosis), combat against age-related muscle atrophy, and help control blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels among the older generations.

Due to the many health benefits and quality of life improvements associated with kettlebell training, kettlebell classes and workout videos for older age groups are cropping up all over America. Of course, as with any other type of workout program for the elderly involving weights, the key to getting a safe workout is using wise judgment. It is also advised to consult with a physician before starting any kettlebell training, to begin slowly and gradually increase intensity and weight, and to pay close attention to proper form to avoid injuries. 

Here are just a few typical activities you regularly engage in that require some form of pulling, pushing, lifting, and/or balancing objects that have a displaced center of gravity (meaning they’re not centered and balanced in your hand):

picking up a child or pet

mowing the lawn

operating the vacuum cleaner

toting bags of groceries

catching your balance when you start to slip or fall

walking your dog

playing a sport

carrying a full laundry basket

lifting a suitcase or gym bag

Beginner Kettlebell Exercises for Older Adult

Kettlebells are a centuries-old exercise tool originally used by Russians to develop strength, stamina and endurance with a single piece of equipment. Seniors can use these weights to perform exercises that build muscular strength, improve heart health and increase bone density. Limit your use of a kettlebell to simple exercises using a light weight as you begin to learn how to use this increasingly popular piece of fitness equipment.

Step 1

Perform biceps curls, a simple exercise you can do standing or sitting, to work the muscle on the front of your upper arm. Start with the kettlebell hanging at your side with your palm facing forward. Bend your arm at the elbow, bringing your palm and the kettlebell toward your shoulder. Hold for one or two seconds, then lower the kettlebell. Perform this exercise one arm at a time or using two kettlebells at once. If you can stand while you perform the exercise, curl the kettlebell across your stomach instead of up to your shoulder. Balance yourself with one hand against a chair or wall if you exercise standing up.

Step 2

Perform triceps extensions using a kettlebell to work the upper backs of your arms. Without using the weight, practice putting your hand behind your head with your palm facing your back. Extend your arm at the elbow, turning your hand outward so your palm faces forward when you’re finished. Decide if you can perform this exercise with the weight of kettlebell you have chosen without losing your balance or straining your back. If you can safely perform the exercise, add the weight of the kettlebell.

Step 3

Perform rows, a simple exercise you can do while kneeling on a bench. Place one knee on the bench and one hand on the seat in front of you for support and hold the weight straight down with your palm facing your body. Raise and lower the weight to your chest, bending your arm at the elbow. Keep your elbow tucked into your side and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you raise the weight. This exercise will work your biceps and the fronts of your shoulders as well. Change positions to work your other arm.

Step 4

Add kickbacks to your workouts, which start from the same position as rows, using a slightly different movement to emphasize your triceps and rear shoulder muscles. Raise the kettlebell to your chest, bringing your elbow back behind you with your palm facing your body for your starting position. Extend your arm at the elbow, bringing the weight backward without changing the position of your elbow and upper arm. Return to the starting position by bending your elbow. Switch positions to work the other arm.

Step 5

Work your forearms, chest and the fronts of your shoulders with arm raises. Hold the kettlebell at your side with your palm facing behind you while you are in a standing or sitting position. Raise your arm straight ahead, up to shoulder level. Hold the weight still for two seconds, then slowly lower it. Switch sides.