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senior fit

The Case for Fitness & Healthy Aging

An important principle that has emerged throughout my writing on “healthy aging” has been the issue of fitness and the role being fit plays in preventing illness and injury, yielding a fulfilling and vibrant life – a “life well lived”. The point of healthy aging is to be in a position as we grow older “to do what we want when we want without getting hurt”. I have always believed that my level of fitness would yield positive results as I got older emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually – and so far I have been proven right in my own life. The “fitness lifestyle” is a consciousness issue just as healthy aging is as well. I make choices everyday that are designed to enhance my ability to live the way I choose. This always includes high intensity, focused training which will (hopefully) prepare me for the challenging years ahead.

Speaking, traveling, teaching, program design, consulting, writing and other activities that I wish to do in my future will require focus, high energy, inspiration, imagination, and physical stamina and endurance. The ability to train the way I am now will translate into the future actions that will yield the result I envision for audiences in the years ahead. Planning for a future that requires me to be prepared to do my work at a high level will also demand that I be as fit as I can be in order to give me the strength to help as many people as I possibly can – while I can. This is my mission – and my purpose.

This article is about something I think about EVERY day. Each of my actions, decisions, and thoughts are applied to the outcome that I seek with every step I take in becoming stronger, faster, quicker, more powerful, balanced, imaginative, flexible and skilled. My purpose is to be able to PERFORM at a high level even as I approach my 70’s and this is the point of my plan – and these articles in this series. How fit are you today for the future you envision for yourself? Does your vision inspire you to reach beyond your grasp? Does it “pull you forward” so that you will take the actions necessary to enable and empower you for the journey ahead? Only you can answer this question! Do it now!

Power, speed, quickness, strength, endurance, balance & flexibility:  the “core” of healthy aging and growing old – not old.

I think of training in terms of performance and so much of fitness today is “gimmicks” – programs designed for the “few” in America who are NOT the obese, overweight, poorly trained, seniors, and youth. The “fatting” of America does NOT include practical programming on TV, the internet – or anywhere for that matter – that appeals to the average, untrained individual struggling just to live a ‘moderately’ happy life. I see this huge “hole” in our society everyday when I go out into the world where the “connection” between being fit and “regular” people is NEVER being made. To most of the world, fitness – or becoming fit – means acquiring a gym membership with all the “hassles” that implies and THAT isn’t healthy or inspiring at ALL!

I worked in the Nautilus and Bally’s systems as a trainer for over ten years and I never once saw the effort being truly made to help people “realistically” ACHIEVE anything. The world outside the gym is a giant “blank” for over two thirds of the population. The only thing I see that is visible today is elementary lifestyle “advice” on Dr. Oz and other related sophomoric network shows that really change nothing. The other major factor in the sales “pitch” to America on fitness comes in the form of “infomercials” that literally “sucker” people into buying USELESS stuff that will never really help them – EVER! The latest gimmick is the “abdominal belt” that will ‘melt” fat away with just 10 minutes a day! This is just the latest in the same old scam – “sell them anything and make a buck in the process!” What a disgrace and a shame that we have resorted to “hucksterism” in this country in order to sell the virtues of being fit! Jack Lalanne’s legacy has almost been completely forgotten today and I want to make sure I play my role in carrying the work he started so long ago forward with me. At least he TAUGHT simple exercises to people of all ages in the 50’s and 60’s with passion AND led them every step of the way during his shows. Those days are long gone!

When we think of helping people to become fit and healthy, we must always remember to train ourselves FIRST so that we can inspire others to do the same. I will not TELL anyone anything because for each of us our understanding and perspectives are different – just as each of us is different. I will always side with “being the example of the change I wish to see in the world” – the theme of my first article in this series. How do I retain my skill level with the “seven keys” of fitness highlighted above? I maintain them – and will elevate myself to higher levels of performance in the future – through my weekly weight training program, running 40 to 50 miles a week, stretching, and meditation. This dedication to fitness will hopefully allow me to do what I want, when I want, without injury and live with joy the active future of service I am envisioning for myself. I believe that with each passing day we are ALL falling ‘behind the fitness curve’ in life – whether we are training or not – and it is imperative that we translate our passion for being fit to others through our example. If we CAN’T DO IT, WE SHOULDN’T BE TEACHING IT!

Conclusion

My primary commitment to myself each day is to NEVER GIVE UP. If I am not sick or injured, I am training – training for my life to come and the role I have chosen for myself as “an agent of change in the world”. Each of us MUST decide what it is WE STAND FOR so that others can be inspired by our example. Jack LaLanne taught me through his example – as John Wooden did – that it is WHO WE ARE on the inside that will be the ‘key’ to inspiring and encouraging others to reach beyond their current grasp and strive for more than they ever dreamed possible. I am convinced every day by what I see in the world that what we have to offer the ‘many’ is desperately needed now more than ever. If we do not take up this challenge, who will? When will the REAL change come? It will only come when we change ourselves (on the inside – healthy aging is an inside job, remember?) and that is the greatest challenge that we will ALL face in life. It is worth fighting for this principle every day of our lives. Will you take it upon yourself TODAY and join me in this “journey of change” – and touch millions of lives in the process? I hope your answer is a resounding YES!

Article reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop. 


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

The Exercise Box Is Too Small!

How do you feel about exercise?

Is it a necessary evil?

A consuming passion?

Something you have to do so that you can eat what you want?

What box do you put exercise in?

Or do you feel like Mark Twain;
“Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes away.”

Or like this unknown author;
“I wish I loved exercise as much as I love drinking wine and eating everything.”

While exercise is gaining recognition for its role in supporting disease management and prevention, unfortunately, exercise is still primarily associated with weight-loss, bodybuilding, and sports performance. This is an unfortunately small box for exercise to occupy.

There is so much more exercise can do for improving our lives that have nothing to do with weight-loss and sports.

So, we need a bigger box.

Here are some more things to put in the exercise box:

  • Improving mood and anxiety
  • Improving hormonal balance
  • Maintaining a high quality of life
  • Improving sleep
  • Improving self-esteem
  • Reducing, and possibly even removing, unwanted musculoskeletal sensations (like pain and discomfort)

Wait a minute… what?

I thought exercise caused pain?

If done improperly it can cause pain. (In fact, that’s the dirty little secret of the exercise world – that this exercise thing people are doing to get and stay healthy is actually causing ill health and disease (orthopedic disease to be specific).

However, properly targeted, applied, and dosed exercise can help contribute to the attenuation of musculoskeletal pain and discomfort.

It’s an untapped aspect of exercise and with the overdosing of Americans on opioids and unnecessary surgeries the time has come for folks to became familiar with exercise’s role in pain and discomfort.

How can exercise have such a profound role on how people feel? How can exercise be an answer for people that couldn’t find solutions from the more common interventions like pain medication, injections, physical therapy, stretching, or massage?

How can the thing that so many people don’t like, and perhaps the thing that so many can’t do BECAUSE of their pain, be the answer?

The answer lies in the relationship it has with the control of movement and the human nervous system.

Check this out.

To exercise is to control bodily motion and position. To physically stimulate your body in order to make some change in it. While most people think they can’t move because they are in pain, we flip the script. As a Certified Muscle System Specialist, I propose that you may be hurting because you don’t move well. That begs the question, “what is responsible for us controlling our bodies?” The only thing that can move you is your muscles. So, it’s the muscles I am concerned with. More specifically, the muscle system in its entirety. The higher the quality of your muscle system, the better you move, the better you feel. The way to improve the muscle system’s quality is via exercise – putting forces on the body. Exercise’s usefulness in contributing to the removal of pain lies in the details. The amount and duration of force, the positions the person is in while receiving the force, the direction and speed they are moving, all contribute to the precise dose of interaction (exercise) the person receives. When the position, motion, and dose is right, the body responds by restoring muscle system quality. This means that the stuff that moves you – muscle – works better, so you move better and ultimately feel better.

Written by Greg Mack, Charlie Rowe and Jay Weitzner of Physicians Fitness. Reprinted with permission.


Greg Mack is a gold-certified ACE Medical Exercise Specialist and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. He is the founder and CEO of the corporation Fitness Opportunities. Inc. dba as Physicians Fitness and Exercise Professional Education. He is also a founding partner in the Muscle System Consortia. Greg has operated out of chiropractic clinics, outpatient physical therapy clinics, a community hospital, large gyms, and health clubs, as well operating private studios. His experience in working in such diverse venues enhanced his awareness of the wide gulf that exists between the medical community and fitness facilities, particularly for those individuals trying to recover from, and manage, a diagnosed disease. 

Charlie Rowe joined Physicians Fitness in the fall of 2007 after spending 9 years as the Senior Personal Trainer at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, New York. He has also worked within an outpatient Physical Therapy Clinic coordinating care with the Physical Therapist since joining Physicians Fitness. Charlie has earned the Cooper Clinic’s Certified Personal Trainer, the NSCA’s Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, the American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist, Resistance Training Specialist Master Level, and American Council on Exercise Certified Orthopedic Exercise Specialist Certifications. 

Jay Weitzner, MS is a Certified Medical Exercise Specialist through the American Academy on Exercise (ACE); he holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in Exercise Science/Human Performance with an emphasis on exercise physiology. Jay specializes in working with clients with musculoskeletal issues — his clients have problems or concerns about their quality of movement and their physical health.

Trainer helping senior woman exercising with a bosu balance

Creating Fit and Functional Older Adults

Beginning in the seventh grade, I became fascinated with age—specifically how our bodies’ functional capacities decrease with the passage of time. When I once shared this perception with my 98-year-old grandmother, she said, “Just wait until you’re 80.” I’m still far from 80, so I can only imagine how difficult it will be then to stand up from a chair or run around the neighborhood.

The biggest factor in the decline in physical capacity with age is level of physical activity. When your clients remain active throughout adulthood, they can retard the aging process and continue to live a life worth living. I know 70-year-olds who are fitter than 30-year-olds.

Physiology of the Older Adult

After age 30, most physiological functions decline at a rate of approximately 0.75 to 1 percent per year. Perhaps the biggest functionally-related physiological change with age is a decrease in muscle mass, called sarcopenia, which is due to a loss of motor units (a motor neuron and all the muscle fibres it connects to) and atrophy of fast-twitch muscle fibres. With the loss of motor units comes denervation of muscle fibres (a lost connection between the motor neuron and the fibres within the motor unit). This denervation causes the muscle fibres to deteriorate, resulting in a decrease in muscle mass, which significantly decreases the older adult’s muscle strength and power, making certain activities of daily living difficult.

Men and women generally attain their highest strength levels between ages 20 and 40, after which the strength of most muscle groups declines, slowly at first and then more rapidly after age 50. Muscle strength decreases approximately eight percent per decade after age 45, with greater strength losses occurring in women compared to men. In both men and women, lower body strength declines more rapidly than upper body strength.

With the loss of muscle mass also comes a loss in mitochondria, which decreases muscular and aerobic endurance. Mitochondria are unique in that they have their own specific DNA, so when older adults lose mitochondria, they also lose mitochondrial DNA. If your clients want healthy functioning muscles as they age, they need lots of healthy mitochondria.

Cardiovascular fitness also declines with age, in part due to a decrease in maximum heart rate and stroke volume (the volume of blood the heart pumps per beat). With a lower maximum heart rate and stroke volume comes a lower maximum cardiac output (the volume of blood the heart pumps per minute), a decreased ability to deliver oxygen to the muscles, and thus a lower VO2max (the maximum volume of oxygen the muscles can consume). VO2max decreases by 8 to 10 percent every 10 years after the age of 30 in healthy, sedentary adults. When maximum cardiovascular functioning declines, so does the workload that can be tolerated at a given percentage of the (lower) maximum. Decreases in VO2max with aging can be variable, particularly if your clients remain active. But if not attended to, a youthful run becomes an aged walk.

Training the Older Adult

Although many physiological factors decline with age, up to 50 percent of this decline is due to deconditioning rather than aging. With proper training, your clients can lessen the physiological effects of aging and remain fit and functional.

Arguably, cardiovascular exercise will always be more important than strength training throughout your client’s life because heart disease is the most common cause of death for both men and women. No one has ever died of a weak biceps muscle. But people die of weak hearts every day. One cannot live very well or very long without a strong heart. Since the risk of heart disease increases as people age, older adults need cardiovascular exercise just as much or even more than do younger adults. Like younger adults, older adults should do at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise on most, if not all, days of the week. The more physically fit one remains, the slower the rate of cardiovascular decline. Maintaining exercise intensity, rather than a higher volume of training, is the key to minimizing the loss of aerobic fitness as your clients age.

Strength training also becomes more important as people age. Given that aging is accompanied by a decrease in muscular endurance, strength, and power, resistance training should take on greater weight (pun intended) when training an older client. I’d even go as far to say that every person over the age of fifty should strength train because that’s about the age at which people start to lose a significant amount of muscle mass. And that loss in muscle mass with age affects your client’s ability to function. If you’ve ever seen a senior citizen try to stand up from sitting in a chair or witnessed how catastrophic a fall can be to a senior, you know how much benefit strength training can have. The positive effects of strength training on bone density, muscular strength and endurance, balance and coordination (which reduces the risk of falling and fractures), functional mobility, physical aesthetics, and self-esteem cannot be denied.

Train older clients with heavier weights and fewer reps per set to target improvements in muscular strength, or with lighter weights lifted quickly to target the fast-twitch muscle fibres and improvements in muscular power. Greater strength gains occur at intensities of 80 to 90 percent of the one-rep max (the maximum weight that can be lifted just once). Although we tend to think of power training as something done to improve athletic performance, it has big implications for older adults, whose muscles lack strength and power. Research has shown power training to be very effective for strength and power development in seniors. Since it takes longer to recover from workouts as people age, give your clients more time between intense resistance and cardio workouts.

If you train older adults with higher intensity, less volume, and more recovery between workouts, not only will they be fitter and stronger, they may even be able to keep up with my 98-year-old grandmother.

From CanFitPro magazine. Sept./Oct. 2017.  Reprinted with permission from Jason R. Karp, PhD


Jason Karp, PhD, is the 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, 2014 recipient of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership award, and creator of the REVO₂LUTION RUNNING™ certification. He has more than 400 published articles in international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of eight books, including Run Your Fat Off and The Inner Runner, and speaks at fitness conferences and coaching clinics around the world. Get training programs and autographed copies of his books at run-fit.com.

couple coastline

Healthy Aging: Establishing a Vision for Your Future and Planning for Success

I have never stopped believing in the power of a vision that captures one’s imagination and fuels a deep seated passion to make a difference in life and leave legacy of contributions that is remembered long after we are gone. The idea of creating a vision that fuels my desire to live life fully forms the foundation for a life that is built on purpose and serves to open doors of opportunity for others as well.

In the context of aging healthfully we can draw from the idea that “pulling us forward’ is an inner desire to NOT live life on the “edges” but become completely engaged and energized by what it is that we do on both the professional and personal levels. I believe in the power of a vision that yields purpose and also creates a deep sense of responsibility and accountability to one’s goals. This idea of creating a vision is at the heart of how I view my life now. I have spent a lifetime making decisions about both personal and professional matters that were limiting and not empowering. When I finally created my vision I learned I had become committed to my purpose and felt free to live my dream without fear –or reservation.

Here is my vision as it is currently written: “Healthy aging is a consciousness issue. It is not merely the death of our cells but is a complex and dynamic process that is grounded in change as life unfolds for each of us. The challenge as I see it is discovering the potential that lies within each of us to become all that we were meant to be mentally, physically and spiritually. This potential can carry us to living lives of fulfillment, peace, and prosperity if we remain present during each moment of our lives – living consciously. Learning about who we are from the ‘inside –out’ while acting upon our choices in the present moment, enables and empowers us to live a life of great accomplishment. This is my vision of a world that is possible.” Implied in this statement of purpose is the idea that my health and my evolving needs as I grow in time are dependent on the present circumstances as I understand them.

Supporting this vision is what I call my ‘core beliefs’ that define WHO I am as a human being – and as a professional. Some of these beliefs are:

  • Everything that we desire in life comes through relationships.
  • The mind of man is unlimited in its potential and responds to specific demands made upon it.
  • The “Triple Win” (created by me in the 80’s); “As I help you win, we win; as we win those we touch win.”
  • The purpose of life is to discover, develop and share our natural gifts.
  • What we put out in terms of energy and actions comes back to us multiplied. (Karma)
  • The rewards in life are directly proportional to your service to others.

My values are clear. Without my health I can accomplish nothing in my life. This notion fuels my desire to train mentally, physically and spiritually each and every day in order to expand the borders of my consciousness and be of service in ever expanding ways.

I have lived in my “shell” a long time and now I feel the presence of growth in all areas of my life. These articles are helping me to clarify my message and become more than I ever dreamed possible. It is about time after all I have lived 66 years, right? The programs I develop around these ideas will form the nucleus of what it is I am here to do (including publishing my book – no excuses!). I am also going to be “pushing back” a bit against the increasing influence of technology in our lives because every moment we spend tweeting, texting, checking our iPhones and communicating constantly online pulls us away from the ‘moment’ – the present – and this is only point of power through which we can change our lives for the better.

The world is “attached” to technology now and we no longer acknowledge each other – we are just too busy!  Make the time to meditate, imagine, feel, think and enjoy your life. If prayer works – pray by all means. Making time to take the “inner journey” everyday will make a world of difference in how you view and live your life – now and in the future. This work has paid off in spades for me. I am running faster and getting stronger everyday because I have taken the time to be with “me”. I have begun to prioritize my needs as they become apparent to me so that my life continues to move forward with meaning and purpose enabling me to be able to maximize the time I have left – whatever that turns out to be. (Remember the 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday?) Be strong and know that you have something unique in you that only you can give the world. Let your light shine and see what happens!

Article reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop. 


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

new year

Fitness New Year’s Resolution Tips

The holidays were here and there was plenty of running around and parties to attend. As we said goodbye to 2018 and hello to 2019, we are ready to take on the new year. Many individuals have decided to make fitness a resolution and made the commitment with themselves to get into better shape.

Many individuals do not plan for this transition and end up stopping within three months. There are some things you can do to be successful if fitness is on your list of resolutions.

The first thing you want to do is to choose a fitness facility where you feel comfortable. By comfortable I mean, do you like the atmosphere? Is the gym to big or small for you? When you look into fitness facilities, make sure they’re not too far from your home. If the gym is too far, you’re less likely to go consistently. Try to plan for when the best time would be to go. Decide if morning, afternoon or evening works better for you and your schedule.

When you find your gym and figure out a time, make an appointment for an assessment and consultation. There are some people who decide to do this after a couple months of joining. Try to see a fitness professional within the first two weeks. We are able to help you figure out a plan for your workout and keep you on track. Some fitness centers call new members after the first week to see how everything is going.

It’s also important to not have an “all or nothing” mentality. If you decide to go to the gym three days a week, but sometimes fall short, it’s OK! Just get back to your schedule the following week. It will take about three months to adapt to your new transition.

Another tip is to have fun! Look at class schedules and try new classes. If you are new to classes, don’t worry about keeping up with everyone else. I always suggest that clients show up to class ten minutes early. This enables you to speak with the instructor about any injuries or concerns you may have. You can also leave class early if you need to. Some new students may only be able to do a warm up and have to leave. Remember that everyone in the class was in the same boat as you at some point.

It may seem tough to add fitness to your life at first, but it will get easier. You will start to feel better overall. Many people are able to sleep much better, bring down their blood pressure and cholesterol, reduce stress, and prevent osteoporosis. The benefits are really endless! The best thing is that you are setting the stage for a healthy lifestyle as you get older. You will be able to do more and live independently longer.

Good luck to everyone this year who has fitness as one of their resolutions. You will be able succeed if you keep positive and plan for success. Have a happy and healthy new year!


Robyn Caruso is the Founder of The Stress Management Institute for Health and Fitness Professionals. She has 15 years of experience in medical based fitness.

Woman Doing Stretching Exercises In Gym With Trainer

Physical Activity and Menopause

Menopause is bad.

Exercise is good. 

More exercise is the solution!

Is that it?

It’s not quite that simple, although most things you will read will tell you that any form of physical activity is helpful. There is a lot of truth to it. Physical activity at any age is beneficial and for women during mid-life exercising carries additional substantial health benefits. The menopausal transition is associated with many health risk factors such as increased risk for cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, decreased bone mineral density, metabolic syndrome, and musculoskeletal symptoms. Exercise prescriptions for those health risks are the same as for non-menopausal women.

However, according to my research, not all forms of physical activity are of equal benefit in helping with menopause symptoms. In fact, some forms of exercise can exacerbate certain types of symptoms such as hot flashes and insomnia.

I believe that it is important to pick the type of exercise depending on your symptoms rather than just exercise to exercise.

So how do you know which exercise is best for you? You start by reading this article! 🙂 To help you find your way through the labyrinth of research that is out there, I’ve consolidated the findings of the last 20 years of research on this topic so you don’t have to.

First I want to highlight the overall benefits of exercising regardless of symptoms…

Exercise Increases:

  • Benefits brain function and functional capacity
  • Increases beta endorphins
  • Quality of Life
  • Strength and balance
  • Increased Bone Mineral Density
  • Increase in quality and length of sleep
  • Maintenance of healthy BMI
  • Self-perceived physical condition
  • Sport competence
  • Body image & physical self-worth

Exercise Decreases:

  • Vasomotor Symptoms
  • Somatic & psychological symptoms
  • Depression (1 exercise session/week = 22% reduction)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Body Mass Index
  • Musculoskeletal symptoms
  • Cardiovascular Disease (50% reduction)
  • Overall mortality (20% reduction)

Exercise has many benefits but can also be stressful on the body.

Too much exercise and/or intensity can:

  • Decrease sleep quality and length, which in turn is correlated with adverse physiological and psychological outcomes
  • Increase circulating cortisol levels, which can lead to increased abdominal fat (read last week’s post for more info on this)
  • Have negative effects on thermoregulation as it causes substantial increases in metabolic heat production and core temperature (during exercise, metabolic heat production can increase by ten to twenty-fold and recent studies suggest that hot flashes are triggered by small elevations in core body temperature)

Moderate intensity appears to have the most benefits…

  • Highest menopause-specific quality of life
  • Lowest number of symptoms
  • Increased sleep, energy, confidence, mood

The following exercise guidelines are specific to helping you with menopause symptoms as well as increased quality of life throughout the menopausal transition. These recommendations do not apply to overall physical health.

Type of Exercise 

  • Endurance/aerobic training best for increased sleep
  • Strength training for body image, strength, body aches
  • Yoga for vasomotor (VMS) symptoms and overall menopause-specific quality of life (Hatha yoga for cognitive function (memory, concentration)
  • Walking at ~3-3.5 mph for anxiety and depression

Duration & Intensity

  • Moderate Intensity (60-70% Target HR)
  • Min. 3 x week (more days = decreased severity of symptoms)
  • Programs lasting at least 12 weeks

Special Considerations

  • Keep body core temperature at comfort level to avoid increases in VMS
  • Focus on activities that are enjoyable to you. Forcing yourself through workout regimens that you dislike can have negative effects on quality of life. I hear too many people say: “I think I should run more” and my question to them is “Why? Do you like running?”. “No, but it’s good for you”. Really? Is it? I don’t believe in doing things just because someone said they’re good, especially in regards to exercise. If you don’t like it, you won’t stick to it. It’s as simple as that. And when it comes to working out, consistency is the key. So find activities that you truly enjoy. Not only will you continue doing them and reap the physical and mental benefits but doing things you love will help you reduce stress and keep off that unwanted meno-pod (if you don’t know what a meno-pod is, you have to read last week’s post).

All information is based on peer-reviewed research. I usually add a reference list of all the articles I read to put together an article but this one would be way too long. If you’re interested in finding out more about specific research articles used for this blog, contact me.

Article reprinted with permission from Dr. Maria Luque.

 


Dr. Maria Luque is a health educator and fitness expert that specializes in helping women take charge of their own wellness. A native of Germany, she pursued a career driven by a passion for health and fitness. Dr. Luque currently teaches at the College of Health Sciences at Trident University International, in addition to conducting workshops, group/personal training, and writing. She’s an IDEA Fitness Expert and has been published in the IDEA Fitness Journal as well as appeared as a guest at local news channel to talk about quality of life and menopause. Visit her website, doctorluque.com

fall-walking

The Mind/Body Connection – Programming For Year Round Success

In the fall of each year, as summer fades from our view, we often find ourselves having to work diligently to “restart” our fitness activities in preparation for the holidays – and the year to come. As the seasons change to shorter days and cooler weather becomes a reality, we have to “re-think” our fitness plans/goals and address the changes that are coming – thoughtfully and carefully – in order to ensure continued growth and results.

Being able to understand the “cycles” of life and how the changing seasons affect us is important in programming your fitness activities for the balance of the year. Success comes when we plan and evaluate again what it is we want to achieve with our fitness activities and then “re-set” our priorities to account not only for the change in the weather – but our lives as well.

I will share with you some tips on how you might maintain your momentum when it comes to fitness programming following the summer months of mostly fun activities that don’t fit the mold of “exercise”. Remembering exercise can be a form of “play” is important when transitioning to the fall and winter months that lie ahead. Let’s be creative and hopefully this article will spark a thought (or two) or maybe an idea that might help you move into the fall and winter months ready to continue challenging yourself – and not just “working out” – or “exercising”.

The Mind/Body Connection

The key to transitions in life – as well as with fitness activities – is the thought that goes into planning the program. Very often, the mind conceives of an idea that captures what it is we REALLY want to get out of our fitness activities but the heart never gets fully engaged in the plan. We THINK our way to a new plan, but do we ever really FEEL our excitement about the plan (and its possibilities) as well? This question relates to having exercise BE FUN so that you return to it again and again.

I connect my mind (thoughts) to my heart (feelings) every day when I go into my “quiet time” – visualizing and then appreciating the training I have planned for the day. What is missing in my opinion – and the most common reason people quit on their fitness activities – is that they never connect the mind – which conceives the plan – to the heart – which “experiences” the plan. If you love what you are doing – you will do it for life – just as I have done with my running program over the past 52 years.

A Note of Caution

Technology is killing physical activity and squeezing out the present moment. I see this every day at my gym: people mindlessly peddling on a stationary bike, watching TV, looking at their phones and completely disregarding the activity – and the moment. No wonder people are bored – and quit – they are not present and have no way of knowing if what they are doing is in any way fun – or useful to their purpose (if they have one in mind at all). Smart phones DO NOT need to be in the gym or constantly with us. Taking a break while we exercise is a GOOD thing. This is a time for you to enjoy and promote your own well being. Let’s release the stresses of life for even a few minutes – and learn something new about ourselves in the process!

What Should You Do?

You should connect your mind to your body BEFORE starting your training session so that you can enjoy what you have chosen to do. This inexactly what I do. This way, I first “see” with my mind’s eye and then experience it in my imagination before I even get to the gym to train. When the “hard” days come – and they will – (especially when you have been away from planned fitness activities for a while), you need your heart and mind to communicate regularly with each other to ensure success with your plan.

When I say everything in life starts with a thought and gets carried out into the world through the feeling side of our nature, I am saying that life is constantly communicating through our senses – thought, feelings, and intuition. With thoughts and feelings working together in harmony, you will not have to make excuses or have any regrets later because you are totally committed to your purpose. This is true personal power.

In order to be successful in executing your plan you must engage your WHOLE being in order to maximize your results. This is HOW you get through the fall and winter months – by preparing in advance with purpose – and setting goals you really want to achieve. In enjoying the journey – and learning more about yourself in the process –  you can rest in the knowledge that your life works! This sounds pretty great to me!

Adherence

The issue of adherence is being answered today through technological advances that help you track your progress and also assist you in managing your behavior. By this I mean there are innumerable devices on the market that will tell you how well you have done, whether you have met your goals and also show you what you can do to improve your results. The problem as I see it is that you are still accountable and responsible for your results regardless of how much you use technology to keep you “on track”. How much fun is that?

I solved the problem of adherence early in my life by falling in love with being active as a child and then finding new ways to engage my body – and mind – as I got older. I later came to believe in recording my sessions in writing and this behavior allowed me to learn even more about my own capabilities – and potential – in the process. I found a method for staying on track naturally that worked for me and today I have complete running records dating back to 1979. I know what I have done, what I am capable of doing – and am able to set goals going forward that are based upon my results from my past and current work.

Looking back through my running records I can learn a great deal about my current capabilities based upon the goals I have accomplished. This knowledge gives me the opportunity to set my course for the coming year – and define what I want to achieve going forward. (Run a 6 minute mile on my 80th birthday for example?) It is in the process of envisioning your goals – and experiencing the results before they occur (in your mind) – that you will succeed – enabling and empowering yourself as you move toward success. Remember that everything in life – as well as fitness programming – starts in your imagination first and then gets revealed in the “real” world through your choices and activities.

Always start with what you enjoy doing most and then add additional activities as you go. Change is inevitable and if you embrace it willingly – and allow yourself the opportunity to make new choices – you will grow in confidence and commitment to your purpose. If what you are doing seems natural and fun to you – keep going and enjoy it! If not, make minor adjustments at first – and then if necessary – more significant changes later. Nothing ventured, nothing gained is the rule here.

Activities, lots of choices

The internet has many options and “meet ups” are a good way to go. There are groups for running, cycling, walking, hiking, swimming, sports related activities such as volleyball and handball or racquetball – and any interest you can imagine. Meet ups are pretty much everywhere and if not you can start your own meet up group right where you are – from workplace relationships to volunteer activities to church activities – whatever suits you.

If you find people who have a common interest in what you would like to do, the group will “keep you on track” while you share, learn and build new friendships as you accomplish your goals together. Team sports – which is another way to go – (softball, basketball, etc.) can also keep you motivated and interested in your physical wellbeing by holding you accountable to a group that needs you to participate to be successful (bowling, swimming meets, road races etc…) Going through the “tough” months on your own can be challenging, so finding support with other people who care as you do is always a great strategy.

The gym setting can be challenging because you are on your own most of the time (unless you hire a trainer). The times where you can interact with others and form mutually supportive bonds with other like-minded individuals is through group exercise programs (there are many options) such as aerobic or yoga classes. Each method has value and both can be lots of fun while you learn what suits you as an individual. These and other group activities are very popular because they bring people together – enabling you to learn and share your journey together (yoga classes are particularly powerful in this way).

In the summer of 1982 when I joined Nautilus Plus after my wife left me, I went to as many as five aerobic classes a week because they were fun, challenging, and the music and moves helped me forget my pain for a while. I eventually went back to running but I never forgot the great help I received by participating in those classes. The instructors were young, enthusiastic, talented and absolutely LOVED teaching the classes. All in all it was a very positive and supportive experience that helped me get through a rough summer of questioning and uncertainty.

Final Thoughts

  • Think of the change in the seasons and the advancing winter months as an opportunity for personal and physical growth. Don’t think along the lines: “I have to get back to exercise”. Think about the opportunity to balance out your life – and help your body in the process.
  • Do commit your best effort to planning – and “feeling” – your desires and hopes for your fitness goals.
  • BE PRESENT while doing your fitness activities
  • Let others be a part of your plan. Include anyone who wishes to succeed with you.
  • Define your activities around things you enjoy doing and continue to expand your thinking to include new and possibly exciting activities you can do by yourself – or with others if you so choose.
  • Meet ups are a great way to engage other people with you as you work toward your goals. Shared goals always have a better chance for success.
  • Remember burning calories should be FUN! Program fun into your goal setting
  • Finally, DO NOT be afraid to change your mind about your goals – or your activities. There is NEVER one right answer for a particular challenge. There are always many possibilities. Take time to consider as many options as you can and then pick one – and KEEP ON MOVING!

Originally posted on healthynewage.com. Reprinted with permission from Nicholas Prukop. 


Nicholas Prukop is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & a Health Coach, a fitness professional with over 25 years of experience whose passion for health and fitness comes from his boyhood in Hawaii where he grew up a swimmer on Maui. He found his calling in writing his first book “Healthy Aging & You: Your Journey to Becoming Happy, Healthy & Fit” and since then he has dedicated himself to empowering, inspiring and enabling people of all ages to reach for the best that is within them and become who they are meant to be – happy, healthy and fit – and be a part of a world where each person can contribute their own unique gifts to life.

High intensity interval training workout

How Much High Intensity Exercise is Too Much?

Are you doing too much high intensity exercise? High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been the holy grail of fitness trends for the past several years. Is it the Holy Grail for YOU? Here’s what a recent study says and how to interpret that if you’re a woman flipping (or wanting to) her second half with flare.

Exercise is stress. High intensity exercise is greater stress. Stress causes cortisol.

Cortisol plays two roles in our lives. It’s both the stress hormone and the energy hormone. The perfect amount of stress makes you feel alive and thrive. Too little or too much cortisol each causes problems.

When you’re exercising with the right amount of “overload” or stress you create a positive, not negative, stress response. That’s not to say (because I hear you saying that’s how you negate stress) that exercise doesn’t relieve stress. It can. But we sometimes don’t give ourselves the right dose, frequency or intensity to optimally relieve stress without having it come back to bite us you-know-where.

Better Stress

The key is to find your personal optimal exercise. I’m an advocate for the right exercise for you right now. Women in midlife are more susceptible to the negative effects of stress as they go through other major hormone changes. What worked once – even as recently as months ago or last week – may not be your ideal exercise this week.

That doesn’t mean you’re going to suffer, gain weight, get moody or any of the above. If you adjust your exercise according to what’s going on, respond to it even if you can’t predict what changes will be, you’ll sail through those years from peri-menopause to beyond menopause better. That sets you up for a full Flipping 50 (49-99) feeling as young as your habits will allow you. It’s habits that determine how your genetics express or suppress (epigenetics).

What’s the best exercise?  The answer is not the same for you and for every other woman over 50. We’ve got common denominators but your details are unique to you. If you’re deconditioned, conditioned, or an athlete it changes your exercise prescription. If you’re in adrenal fatigue, you’re estrogen dominant, or have low testosterone will change what I suggest you do. If you have osteoporosis, are trying to prevent it, or you have 20 or more pounds to lose, each of these (and more) will change the exercise plan that’s best for you.

A recent study of weight training performed as high intensity interval training (HIIT) was created to determine if HIIT weight training was better than traditional weight training. Researchers asked, is heavy weight training better than the moderate-to-light weight training recommended for decades?

A side note here: the fear of “bulk” from strength training is legit. The three sets of 10-to-12 repetitions taught for decades, as some kind of gold standard actually IS a bulk-building protocol. Ten or fewer repetitions is the optimal strength, bone building, and fat reducing/lean increasing protocol while higher repetition ranges are best for performance enhancement and influencing smaller muscle activation.

Your personal exercise protocol is also influenced by whether you’re a mesomorph, endomorph, or ectomorph. Each body type can respond differently to a protocol.

ACE Research

According to the study performed by the American Council on Exercise, a leading authority in fitness, moderate or average exercise should occur between 70 to 80 percent heart rate intensity, HIIT training requires at least 85 percent heart rate intensity, the study says. Les Mills’ researchers (creators of Body Pump) wanted to determine how to best achieve a healthy balance between one’s HIIT volume (minutes of HIIT per week) and one’s positive stress response. Their hypothesis was that more than 30 or 40 minutes of weekly HIIT volume would prompt a reduced positive stress response.

“A positive stress response to exercise is a critical part of creating the bio-chemical changes in the body that help build new muscle and improve fitness,” the study says. “The stress response can be measured effectively by examining cortisol and testosterone concentrations in saliva.”

Not to repeat myself but as mentioned earlier, this is really what we refer to as the principle of overload in fitness. The stimulus of exercise must be adequate to provide overload such that the body responds after (when between sessions fitness occurs IF you have adequate rest, food, and sleep).

Remember Your Hormones

It’s key for YOU to remember, Flipping 50 friend, that you have another thing to consider. The status of your hormones, not just of your mind’s desire to lose fat, or get in shape needs to be considered when designing your exercise program. Pushing through … following lame social media memes suggesting that “sweat is fat crying” can backfire on you and increase fat storage when stress goes the wrong way. When you read “move more” interpret it as walking down the hall to deliver a message as opposed to going to boot camp 6 days a week or doing two-a-days.

Let me take a step back here and describe what it feels like to lift at a level defined as HIIT. There’s a lot of confusion about HIIT. Anything that gets you breathing slightly harder is NOT HIIT. Lifting with a weight that causes fatigue at 10 repetitions correlates with 80% intensity. So in order to lift and a HIIT level of 90% as per the study, you’d be lifting a weight closer to 5 repetitions.

Don’t panic. You definitely progress to this point. You also can reduce the weight slightly and use power, increasing speed on the lift but always controlling the lowering (eccentric) phase of exercise to achieve this overload without a heavy weight. You do this in daily life… the wind grabs the car door, the door to a store is heavy, or you heft the garbage bag out to the curb… so if you’re worried about injury (valid) do consider whether your daily activity warrants the work so you’re prepared.

Fatigue vs Tired

Moving fast to get breathless is not necessarily overloading the muscles in a way that muscle changes and creates lean muscle tissue that assists in fat burning.

THIS is a key distinction most program creators and attendees fail to make. Going to a boot camp where you’re moving fast from a strength exercise to a cardio exercise to a core exercise will likely tire you. Tired is not muscle fatigue. Muscle fatigue must be reached so your body changes.

Will it burn calories right now? Yes. Will it change your body, your body composition, and set you up for years of a stronger leaner body? No.

The study used strength training as the mode of high intensity exercise. Researchers compared one set of 5 repetitions for each of 10 exercises to 1 or 2 sets of 10 repetitions for 10-12 exercises. The subjects were both male and female and ages up to 59.

The results showed body fat decreased significantly for both groups. Blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol decreased only for the HIIT group.

“When it comes to HIIT, adding volume doesn’t deliver better results,” the report says.

“It actually hinders. To get the full benefits of HIIT and prevent overreaching, our recommendation is to…

Do a maximum weekly HIIT sessions that are above 90 percent maximum heart rate for 30-40 minutes…

…and balance them with other less demanding workouts.”

“It’s also imperative that you let your body recover properly after a HIIT session. This way, you’re likely to perform better when you do your HIIT workouts and benefit from the positive results,” researchers added.

The key exercise flips:

  1. More is not better when it comes to High Intensity exercise
  2. An understanding of what constitutes high intensity interval training is key if you’re to reap benefits
  3. The more health markers (blood pressure and cholesterol) you’re trying to target with your exercise, the more HIIT could benefit you done with adequate progression
  4. low volume of HIIT (no more than 40 minutes a week) is far better for results (and reduction of injury) than more volume (frequency, or duration)
  5. If you’re doing high intensity exercise that is also high impact cardio or high intensity strength training every day you may be inhibiting your recovery and results.

This distinction of when to work hard and when to recovery is so important. It’s not intuitive for a generation that witnessed the work harder, get better results discipline of our parents.

Article reprinted with permission from Debra Atkinson. Originally printed on flippingfifty.com.


Debra Atkinson is the #youstillgotitgirl who is flipping 50 and changing the way thousands of women think about their second half. She’s the host of the Flipping 50 TV Show and the Flipping 50 podcast. As a master personal trainer, strength and wellness coach with over 30 years fitness industry experience, she works with women who are pro-aging with vitality and energy. She is an international fitness presenter, author of hundreds of articles and multiple books. Visit her website, flippingfifty.com