Aging Gracefully Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Strength Training’

The Dumbbell Diet

Sunday, January 24th, 2016

Digital scale with blue tape measureTo slim down and shape up, should you focus on losing inches or losing pounds? The scale cannot differentiate between fat pounds and muscle pounds, so while your scale weight may not budge as you lose body fat and gain lean muscle, the proof will be in the fit of your clothing.

Your weight is composed of two separate elements: fat and lean body mass (muscle, bone, organs, and fluids). Body composition is the "quality" of your weight as opposed to the "quantity" of your weight as measured by the scale. You can gauge your body-fat status roughly by the fit of a favorite pair of jeans. One pound of fat takes up more space than one pound of muscle, so as you lose fat you literally shrink. (Think of meat on display at the butcher's: a 3-pound roast is small compared to 3 pounds of fat).

Some people who appear to be lean and are of normal weight according to the charts can be qualitatively measured as overfat or "skinny fat." For example, a 20-year-old woman who does not lift weights will gain about five pounds of fat and lose five pounds of muscle by the time she's 50. This means that even if you maintain your scale weight perfectly over time, subtle changes are occurring in your body composition that can affect your health and appearance.

Lifting weights will sculpt the contours of your body. You will have a flatter belly, shapelier arms, firmer legs, and you'll look great in a little black dress.  But body composition and body shape are about more than just looking good: they are also closely related to your health. With optimal body composition, including a high ratio of lean body mass to fat, you minimize your risk of developing diseases that are related to obesity, like heart disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis, gout, and some cancers.

Weight loss from exercise is primarily fat loss. As you exercise regularly, you will reduce fat stores from the whole body, and you will develop leaner, toned muscles instead. The gain in lean muscle tissue and loss of excess fat will result in trimmer contours and smaller circumferences regardless of the number of pounds lost.

(c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

 

 

Strength Training by the Decade

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Mother and daughter doing push-ups

Strength training sculpts the contours of your body and strengthens the bones within. By building lean body mass,it boosts your metabolism and your energy levels, making you resistant to the slow-down that occurs with age. A well-designed exercise program that includes weight training will impact your weight, health, fitness and well-being for decades to come.

At 20: A 20-year-old woman who does not lift weights will lose about 6 pounds of muscle and gain 5 pounds of fat by age 50. This means that even if you maintain your scale weight perfectly over time, subtle changes are occurring in your body composition that can affect your health and appearance.

At 30:Strengthening the muscles benefits the bones as well. Now is the time to put "bone in the bank" to fortify against the natural loss of bone that occurs gradually with age.  By age 25 to 30 you’ve achieved your peak bone mass, the highest bone content you’ll have in your lifetime. Although bone continues to renew itself, from this time on you will experience a natural decline in bone density that accelerates at the time of menopause before leveling off again.

At 40: Turning 40 is a wake-up call as many women begin to notice changes in their bodies that sound the alarm. You may be perplexed by creeping weight gain and stubborn belly fat. At around age 40, most women start to lose bone and muscle mass causing a decrease in metabolism of about 5% every decade. The slower metabolic rate contributes to mid-life weight gain when you eat the same amount of food but don't burn all the calories consumed. Strength training revs up the metabolism by maintaining muscle.

At 50: What causes midlife belly? The average weight gain during perimenopause is 10 pounds, and there is a natural tendency to store fat in the abdominal area. The combination of age, hormones, and stress all contribute to belly fat. With age, a woman's level of estrogen declines and the male hormone testosterone becomes more prominent. This causes fat to migrate to the gut from other parts of the body. Stress reaction has a similar effect on fat distribution as it releases another hormone, cortisol, which also encourages fat storage in the belly. Women who lift weights gain less abdominal fat than those who don't.

At 60, 70 and beyond: Sarcopenia, the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength, causes a generalized slow-down. Between the ages of 50 and 70, women lose almost 30% of overall strength, with dramatic losses after age 70. The fast twitch muscle fibers shrink in size, causing not only a loss of muscle mass, but also a loss of power and energy levels. With advancing age, it becomes more critical to preserve your  "functional independence" as measured by your ability to perform all your day-to-day activities, which together comprise a lifestyle. 

Strength training is the key factor in an active aging process. Strong people are more able-bodied and self-sufficient. Studies show that lifting weights can improve your quality of life into your 80s and 90s. Steady exercise can help recover lost vitality, reverse physical frailty, and manage chronic health problems like osteoporosis, glucose intolerance and type 2 diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. You are never too old to begin a weight-training program and the sooner you start, the longer you benefit.

(c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

Exercise Smarter, Not Harder

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Take a creative approach to exercise.  Not only is it fun to find innovative ways to shake up your normal routine, but all the body’s systems need to be surprised with diverse patterns of stress in order to continue to improve.  Use these simple tips to become more resourceful in your every day activities and watch your body redistribute as you shape up. 

Instead of doing the same old route when you're out for your usual walk/run, look for inclines to power up, stairs to hop down and places to throw in 20 jumping jacks.  By adding intervals of varying intensity, you are simultaneously building bone, tuning up your cardiovascular system and burning extra calories.

If your program is stale and needs rejuvenating, try something new.   Intervals of high intensity work can be adapted to resistance training as well as to cardio activity.  Try interspersing one minute of heart-pumping cardio into your strength training exercises.  You can use exercises like jumping rope, step-ups or running in place to keep your heart rate elevated. 

Use compound movements in your strength training. Combine upper and lower body actions to target 8-10 muscle groups for efficient toning and calorie expenditure.  For example, try combining a front lunge with a lat row, a squat with a biceps curl and calf raise, a plie with a shoulder raise. You improve your coordination and core stabilization in addition to getting a full-body workout in a shorter period of time.

Invent time-saving ways to fit exercise into your day-to-day.  If life intervenes and you can’t do your normal weight training session, at least do some exercises using your body weight, like push ups, squats, crunches and planks.  Do two sets of diagonal push ups after your walk/run, using a railing or back of a park bench for support. Practice balance by standing on one leg while brushing your teeth for two minutes.  Sit on a stability ball at your desk to add some core training as the muscles of the trunk work to keep you upright.

Ramp up your daily activities by becoming more creative in how you choose to exercise.  As you develop an active lifestyle in your daily routines, your body will thank you by becoming healthier and more energetic.  And the changes will be reflected in the way you wear your skinny jeans!

 (c) Copyright - Joan L. Pagano. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

 

 

Spring is the Season for Hip Fractures

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

New research reveals that most hip fractures occur in the spring in women over the age of 55.  Falls are the leading cause of these fractures in post-menopausal women, emphasizing the need for counseling to reduce the risk of falling both inside and outside the home.

As published In the current issue of the National Osteoporosis Foundation Report (April 2014), a group of researchers examined fracture data from 60,000 post-menopausal women from the US, Canada, Australia and seven European countries.  They found that only hip fractures showed a seasonal variation, with the majority occurring in the spring.  The main cause was falls resulting from slipping or tripping, both inside (52%) and outside (48%) the home.

One contributing factor could be lower levels of Vitamin D due to reduced exposure to sunlight over the winter which manifest in spring, however this was not studied. In addition to adequate Vitamin D, we need enough calcium to mineralize the bones.  Due to conflicting results of several major studies regarding calcium supplementation, experts recommend that the safest and most effective source of calcium is found in food choices, not supplements, and that exercise is key to bone health, specifically weight bearing and strength training exercise.

For more on the calcium controversy and types of exercise beneficial to the bones, please refer to this previous blog post.

10 Top Fitness Tips for the New Year

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Tone up, trim down, and stay in shape all year long! Use these 10 tips from Aging Gracefully Blog posts to create an exercise routine that you can keep up every day for long term benefits.

  1. Create a habit of exercise:  A new study suggests that habits may be more important than will power in the effort to change.  Read more...
  2. Be accountable:  Pew research reports that 70% of Americans now track some aspect of their health and fitness.  Read more
  3. Set SMART Goals:  Experts in the field of self-improvement state that your goals must be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic and Timed.  Read more
  4. Bounce back from set-backs:  Backsliding is no excuse to give up!  Be resilient and use a constructive attitude to deal with challenges.  Read more about new research on resilience and the 7 habits of resilient people.
  5. Take the mistake out of lifting weights:  These 5 strength training "don'ts" help you get started safely.  Read more
  6. Tune-up your cardio workouts:  Bust out of a stale cardio routine to get real results.  Read more
  7. Maximize the minutes in your workout:  Boost health and fitness benefits with Interval Training.  Read more
  8. Count the steps in your day to reduce your risk of disease.  Read more
  9. Think outside the box:  Expand your horizons and take your workout in the great outdoors.  Read about winter workouts here and easy ways to adapt your indoor workout to the outdoors here.
  10. Protect your joints:  Show your wrists some love; be kind to your knees.  Ease the pain of arthritis (Part 1 and Part 2)

Stay tuned for future blog posts with more practical tips on how to keep up with everyday exercise for lifelong fitness.

 

Confused by the Calcium Controversy? Play it Safe: Eat Right and Exercise!

Saturday, April 13th, 2013

Calcium supplements are in the news because of conflicting results of several major studies and recommendations by the US Preventive Services Task Force. The varying conclusions of researchers showed inconsistent findings, putting into question the benefits of supplements containing calcium to prevent bone loss.

The studies' conclusions ranged widely, finding that calcium pills:

  • Increase the risk of heart attack by as much as 30%
  • Decrease the risk of hip fracture by 35% in post-menopausal women with no increase in heart attack
  • Increase the risk of heart attack by 20% in men (who smoke), but not in women (in men and women aged 50-71).
  • Do not prevent bone fractures and may increase the risk of kidney stones

What do experts draw from this controversy? First, that better studies are needed to clarify the possible risks and benefits and to whom they may apply. Secondly, that the safest and most effective source of calcium is found in food choices, not supplements. And finally that exercise is key to bone health, specifically weight bearing and strength training exercises.

Like muscles, your bones get stronger when you make them work, training them to handle more stress or resistance. Exercise should maximize the load to the bones with a progressive (i.e. gradual intensification) program of weight bearing aerobic exercise and weight lifting. Assuming your joints are healthy, you should aim for:

  • High impact aerobic exercise: defined as activities in which both feet are off the ground at the same time, as in running, jumping rope, and high-impact aerobic dance; also sports like basketball, volleyball and gymnastics.
  • High intensity weight lifting: using the heaviest weights you can lift in good form for 8-12 repetitions with the last few reps being challenging.
  • Balance and stabilization exercises: using a stability ball, BOSU and foam rollers, which recruit the muscles of the core body as you master unstable surfaces. Improving your balance reduces your risk of falling.

Remember: To protect your joints from injury, use good judgment regarding high impact exercise and high intensity weight lifting. Be sure to increase the workload gradually.

If you've already been diagnosed with osteoporosis, downshift into low impact exercise to avoid jarring the spine and other vulnerable joints. The National Osteoporosis Foundation maintains that the benefits of calcium supplements are likely to outweigh any risks in women over 50 who have osteoporosis, broken bones or significant risk factors for fractures.

Of course, this information should not take the place of guidance from your own physician or other medical professional. Always consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program or becoming much more physically active.