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Your Health & Wellness, Iss #80 -- Baby Boomers --- Hit the Weights to Remain Young In Body And Mind
August 17, 2011
(Guide to a Healthy Lifestyle)
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Baby Boomers -- Hit the Weights to Remain Young In Body And MindAre you north of 50 and considering resistance training for the first time, or returning to it after a period of inactivity? Let me encourage you to go for it.
All studies on the effects of weight training on baby boomers and older are positive. It doesn't matter if you are 59 like myself or 80 like my mother, weight training will make you stronger, build your bone density, and keep you out of nursing homes.
A natural phenomena known as sarcopenia happens to us all if we live long enough. Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass. With that loss goes bone density, strength, and muscle function.
The New York Times says the following: "...[S]arcopenia [age-related loss of muscles] affects about 10 percent of those over 60, with higher rates as age advances ... Causes of the loss of muscle mass or strength might include hormonal changes, sedentary lifestyles, oxidative damage, infiltration of fat into muscles, inflammation and resistance to insulin..."
Age-related muscle wasting begins at around the age of 40, and accelerates at 75. But no one has to stand idly by and let it happen.
But caution is advised for anyone who begins weight training for the first time or after a long period away from it. This goes for someone in his 20s as well as AARP-aged people like myself.
The first thing you want to do is make sure that your body is thoroughly warmed up. This is especially true for the muscle or muscle group that you want to train. Warming up means simply that you get the blood flowing throughout your body.
Some people like to warm up by doing some type of cardiovascular activity such as riding a stationary bike. Others like myself prefer to warm up by using the specific movement that they will be using in their working sets. The only difference is that they will use a much lighter weight, and perform more repetitions.
Say for instance that you want to do squats. To properly warm up you will use a much lighter weight -- say anywhere from 50 percent to 70 percent lighter. Do 10 to 15 repetitions for 2 to 4 sets. Take your time and listen to your body. If you feel you need to perform more sets -- do more sets.
There have been times when all I did were warm-up sets. It all depends on how you feel.
Make certain you do the movement in good form. By cheating you only cheat yourself out of any benefit and you might cause a painful injury.
I suffer from a bad lower back from when I did squats while in my early 30s. I threw caution to the wind and lifted heavy and with poor form. Take it from me, it is not worth it. If you are not sure about any weight exercise, ask someone.
Warm ups are a godsend. It not only gets your body in a state where it can safely be stressed, but it also lubricates your joints and cartilage. When thoroughly warmed up, you'll be able to take a specific muscle through its entire range of motion (ROM.)
An added benefit to properly warming up is the ability to use a greater amount of weight. When your muscles are cold and you attempt to lift a weight, it appears to be much heavier than it really is. That's because your muscles are cold and stiff. They must be adequately prepared for the trauma which is to follow.
Resistance or weight training is not an exercise in speed. Take your time and do it correctly. Form and control are essential.
I have seen many a bodybuilder train without control. When doing squats they'll drop down into a squat so fast that you'd think they were out to break a speed record. Or they'll bench press by overly arching their backs and bouncing the bar off their chests.
Out of control movements such as these can severely injure you. Be in control of the weight at all times.
The purpose of resistance training is to build muscle strength in order for you to remain independent into and throughout your twilight years. Ignoring good form and control defeats that purpose.
Weight training should be performed at a certain tempo. It shouldn't be overly slow but neither should it be too fast. It you're interested in speed, run a 50-yard dash.
Weight training for seniors is equally beneficial for women as well as for men. Everything that has been said applies to them also.
It's going to take time for your body to acclimate itself to resistance training. Your muscles have get used to and adapt to this new form of stress you are imposing on it. That's another reason for you to take it slow and easy.
If you attempt to do too much too soon, you will pay the price within the following 24 to 48 hours. You will be sore but you can minimize that soreness by training intelligently. I can't count the number of times I have let my enthusiasm get in the way of better judgment. But I paid dearly the following week or two with extreme soreness.
I also advise that you train a bodypart once a week. You know the old saying -- too much of a good thing.
How often should you train, and for how long? Three to four days a week is adequate. I currently train four days a week. Weight training should not be a marathon. Forty-five minutes to an hour is more than enough time to work your muscles. Any more than that is counterproductive.
Joseph Elijah Barrett, Webmaster
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