To Your Health

Over-50 Fit­ness

Bonita & Estero Magazine - - CON­TENTS -

"One must work with time and not against it,” wrote Ur­sula K. Le Guin in her utopian sci­ence fic­tion novel

The Dis­pos­sessed. Time in­evitably stamps its pas­sage on our phys­i­cal selves. No mat­ter how hard we ex­er­cise, no mat­ter how care­fully we eat, how many sup­ple­ments we take or any other thing we try, we can’t hold back time.

How­ever, this does not mean we must take a fa­tal­is­tic, non­proac­tive ap­proach to deal­ing with the ef­fects of time on our bod­ies. It means we do all we can to slow the ag­ing process but ac­cept the fact that time changes every­thing, even the way we fight back against it!

I tell all my per­sonal train­ing clients above the age of 50 (or even 40, for that mat­ter) that we can­not stop the ag­ing process ... all we can do is age as grace­fully as pos­si­ble. To do that one must have an ef­fec­tive fit­ness pro­gram that en­com­passes three el­e­ments: flex­i­bil­ity, car­diopul­monary health, and strength.

But how does the ag­ing process af­fect the ways in which we pur­sue those goals? Be­fore we dis­cuss the specifics of that, we need to con­sider that no two peo­ple ap­proach fit­ness with the ex­act same level of con­di­tion­ing and ex­ist­ing level of fit­ness. For ex­am­ple, the train­ing abil­ity of 50- to 60-year-olds who have con­sis­tently ex­er­cised and watched their weight over the course of their lives is much higher than those who haven’t.

The ca­pa­bil­i­ties of well-trained se­nior ath­letes al­low them to do much more than their seden­tary con­tem­po­raries. Their joints and mus­cles, along with their car­dio ca­pac­ity, flex­i­bil­ity and mus­cu­lar en­durance en­able them to train more like peo­ple many years younger.

For the seden­tary or out-of-shape over-50 man or woman, the rules are dif­fer­ent. Start­ing at the very bot­tom of the lad­der of fit­ness, the climb to health com­mences with sim­ply be­gin­ning to move more. Strength train­ing in the form of weight work and flex­i­bil­ity in the form of stretch­ing are still called for but on a dif­fer­ent level of in­ten­sity—slowly build­ing in­creased ca­pac­ity.


IN COM­MON? Think about how our fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment strate­gies change over the years. When we’re young, we can make risky in­vest­ments to seek a high re­turn. As we age, we make in­vest­ments with lower risk in or­der to pre­serve our sav­ings. It is the same with our fit­ness “in­vest­ments.” As we age, we still want progress, but we ac­cept a lower level of re­turn in or­der to pro­tect what we al­ready have. In a sim­i­lar way, our work­outs should be tai­lored for gains

but pri­mar­ily con­cerned with safety. Here’s what I mean: If there

are two strength ex­er­cises that work the same body part with a com­pa­ra­ble level of ef­fec­tive­ness, opt for the one that is safest. A spe­cific ex­am­ple would be the use of a leg press ma­chine for leg strength rather than the much riskier squat with a bar­bell and free weights.

Like­wise, there may come a time when road or trail run­ning of­fers too great a de­gree of risk (high im­pact on knees and back, risk of an­kle in­jury or other dam­age) es­pe­cially when run­ning on un­even ter­rain. The al­ter­na­tive is bik­ing or the use of an in-gym el­lip­ti­cal train­ing ma­chine that of­fers zero im­pact on joints and a high de­gree of con­trol over dif­fi­culty and pace. Ei­ther choice means that the heart ben­e­fits but there is not the risk of go­ing back­ward be­cause of in­jury. As we age, we can­not af­ford to go back­ward if we can help it.

So . . . work with time and not against it—leave the high-risk, take-no-pris­on­ers train­ing style to a younger gen­er­a­tion that can af­ford its po­ten­tial for loss. Tony Di­Costa is a Cer­ti­fied Per­sonal Trainer C.P.T. and fit­ness writer. As a com­pet­i­tive physique ath­lete in the Mas­ters Di­vi­sions, Tony has been the Over-60 Florida state cham­pion and holds nu­mer­ous re­gional and in­ter­na­tional ti­tles. Tony can be con­tacted at the Sani­bel Health Club.

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