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Aging (Do we have to?) part 1

By Hawkins Williams
Certified Fitness Specialist for Older Adults

Let's define aging. Aging is the diminished capacity to regulate the internal environment, resulting in a decreased probability of survival according to Dr. Roy Shepard. Allow me to help you understand the previous statement. As you become older your body's internal functions loose their ability to work as well as they did when we were younger. It is estimated that by the year 2030 there will be 70 million Americans that will be 65 years of age. As a nation we are becoming less active, and the health care system is being tasked beyond belief. Let's face it, it's no fun growing older; however, there is something that you can do to slow the process down. When you were younger, most of you were very active. You played in the yard, participated in sports, along with a host of other activities. Most of you became parents and spent more time guiding your children through love and wisdom. Parents know that raising children is a full-time job, and it does not leave much time for your own personal needs which includes your good health. Well, the good news is now that the children are gone and have their own families, it's time to become more concerned about your well being.

The number one reason most American's die is due to cardiovascular disease (CVD). I would say that it is a lack of activity in your life which can lead to CVD. If you have seen the T. V. commercial that states diabetes kills, it's not that diabetes kills, it's the lack of controlling diabetes that kills. Well, it is the same for most other causes of death. You must become proactive in the fight of illness. The great news is that it's not too late to do something about your health. Most of you probably own your homes and would like to keep them. Living in a nursing home doesn't seem to be a pleasant thought to anyone. Becoming more active can be one way to stay out of a nursing home. There are times when you have to visit someone in the hospital, and you wonder if you will end up in one. Let's look at a list of leading causes of death in the Unites States: Cardiovascular disease, cancer, accidents, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, (C.O.P .D.), diabetes mellitus and Alzheimers Disease. While becoming more active cannot cure diseases alone, we should now discuss what becoming more active can do for you.

Exercise has now been researched for decades and the findings are well documented. The Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas performs hundreds of studies each year. Their studies show us that by becoming involved in an aerobic and strength-training program we can reduce the likelihood of disease. Cardiorespiratory, or as it is commonly called, aerobic training is just one of the components of a well-balanced exercise program. Training your cardiorespiratory system can increase your heart's ability to pump out more blood with less effort from your heart. This it important because your heart is not placed under heavy stress. As you know, the heart is a muscle as well are an organ. One benefit of working muscles is that they become stronger and more efficient. I will discuss this more in the next newsletter. Until then, remember my goal is to EMPOWER YOU WITH THE KEYS TO FITNESS.

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Aging (Do we have to?) part 2

By Hawkins Williams
Certified Fitness Specialist for Older Adults

Muscle is the most metabolic tissue in the body. In past years researchers discovered a correlation between muscle loss and some degenerative diseases as you age. While it is true that a natural part of muscle loss is related to aging, there is a way to increase muscle or at least maintain what muscle you have. There are many benefits of becoming involved in a strength-training program that affect other metabolic functions. I personally hear stories about older adults falling and breaking a hip or a leg. This is due to a lack of balance. Studies on seniors involved in weight lifting show improved muscle mass as well as improved strength. Older men and postmenopausal women have improved their muscular- skeletal structure and increased their daily activity levels through strength training.

The following is a list of benefits of strength training: Reduced low back pain, decreased arthritic pain, increased bone mineral density, improved muscular fitness, increased metabolic rate, improved ability to utilization of glucose, improved body composition and better balance.

There is a higher cost of health care, and it is rising each year in this country. As older adults, a problem you probably don't want to deal with is disease and other health concerns. One great benefit of strength training is that it may decrease the onset of some diseases. The two diseases that come to mind are obesity and diabetes. As I mentioned earlier, as you age you lose muscle. When this happens you can increase body fat if you eat the same amount of calories that you did when you were younger. It is estimated that one pound of muscle uses thirty-five calories to maintain itself. Over time this can be a real problem. As you know, having too much body fat is associated with a host of other health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. I see older adults almost every day using a walker or needing assistance getting out of a car. Most of the time this is due to muscle loss that has led to dysfunction. I cannot believe that this quality of life is enjoyable. A simple hip fracture may lead someone to a nursing home which costs a great deal of money. You can reduce the likelihood of a broken hip or leg if you have stronger bones and greater balance.

Allow me to share with you one finding of a study on strength training that used older adults. The average age in this study was fifty-six. This study lasted eight weeks in which the participants performed twelve exercises three days a week. At the end of the study the subjects gained four pounds of muscle and lost four pounds of body fat, which means they increased their metabolism and improved their body composition. This alone may have decreased their chances of falling which could have led to a broken bone. Just a little note: researchers have seen people in their sixties through eighties gain as much muscle as people in middle age.

If you have not thought much about exercising, here are some other reasons you might consider. Most of us have said in our minds, 'that could not happen to me' or 'I feel fine' or 'that always happens to the other guy.' When you become sedentary your whole body is affected. Things like your joints, memory, nervous system and digestive system, just to name a few, can become less responsive. The lack of exercise is emerging as an important risk factor for some cancers. I could go on and on, but the important thing I want to get across is that becoming more physically active is a win-win situation not only for you but your loved ones as well. Strength training, like other forms of exercise, takes some knowledge. Personal trainers can assist you with achieving your exercise goals which can lead to decreasing the likelihood of diseases and injuries.

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Aging (Do we have to?) part 3

By Hawkins Williams
Certified Fitness Specialist for Older Adults

There is nothing that we can do about chronologically getting older; however, the effects of exercise do slow down most things related to aging. As stated in part two, there have been many studies that have shown that exercising regularly improves your metabolism, reduces pain at joints and can increase muscle tone. Walking is a great way to start a physical fitness program. Researchers have proven that aerobic exercise does not support muscle strength or mass as we age. What has been shown to increase muscle strength, muscle endurance and lead to greater bone development is a progressive weight-lifting program.

Muscles along your spine are called erectors, and they, together with deep muscles of the trunk, help keep us standing upright which allows us to have good posture. Muscle is stimulated by what is called the overload principal. This principle is described as a muscle group working harder than what it is used to. Your muscle begins to repair itself on your day off from weight lifting. During this time your muscles might notice a sense of becoming more involved in daily activities. You might find that things are easier to do and less stressful. The average time of muscle repair may take anywhere from forty-eight to ninety-six hours to complete the rebuilding process. Two to three days a week have been suggested to weight train in order to see positive results.

The one benefit the senior will notice with the assistance of a personal trainer is improved balance and a feeling of confidence that an injury will not happen. While training on machines is somewhat safer, there does not seem to be much carry over when it comes to function. What I mean by this is when you are on a machine the machine decides what direction you will lift the weight. With free weight or tubing, the small muscles of your joints are much more involved. So when it comes to lifting an object off the floor or from a high shelf, you may not have as much stability when performing these tasks. Most seniors have grandchildren, and they can be a hand full. As a grandparent involved in an exercise program, you can attain greater endurance, feel stronger and have more energy. These are just a few of the physical benefits. If you have arthritis, physical activities can also help reduce pain in joints and help prevent osteoporosis.

Here is what you may experience from a health point of view. You can reduce the likelihood of coronary heart disease and high blood pressure and reduce the risk of cancers like colon, lung, prostate and breast. You can control diabetes, improve blood lipid levels, nerve conduction (the ability to react quickly), the ability to use oxygen, sarcopenia (muscle weakness), decreased loss of muscle mass and becoming frail.

Life does not have to go down after age sixty-five. There will be many genetic considerations we have to be aware of before starting an exercise program. Some seniors may have a misconception about becoming physically active if they never have been an exerciser. Without the proper guidance of a fitness professional, an injury can occur. The Center for Disease Control encourages seniors to become more active as they get older. A sedentary life style may lead to early death and decrease the ability to carry out everyday activities. Just a few years ago my farther retired, and he tells me that on the days when he sits around the house he feels awful. However, on the days that he finds things to do, he says that he feels more energetic and a lot better about himself. So you see, you have everything to gain by starting an exercise program. Please get permission from your doctor before you start, and enlist the help of a personal trainer.

List of benefits

  • Reduce some cancers
  • Decrease high blood pressure
  • Help control diabetes
  • Reduce arthritis pain
  • Prevent osteoporosis
  • Reduce back pain
  • Improve blood lipid levels
  • Improve self-confidence
  • Improve metabolism
  • Increase bone density
  • Develop muscle strength and endurance
  • Improve balance
  • Improve lung function
  • Stay independent

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