Fitness Guidelines for those 55+, by Judy Torel

The question of whether to exercise when over 55 years old is a non-debatable one. Every expert agrees that no matter what age, there are benefits from an established routine designed to maintain and improve a human body. And newer research is disclosing that for humans over the age of 55 it becomes even more […]
55+ Fitness guidelines
The question of whether to exercise when over 55 years old is a non-debatable one. Every expert agrees that no matter what age, there are benefits from an established routine designed to maintain and improve a human body. And newer research is disclosing that for humans over the age of 55 it becomes even more imperative to include exercise in your daily life because unlike when younger, exercise is now necessary to slow down the degrading of the body tissue and systems. Unfortunately, the information that we ingest from the media, internet and even from fitness professionals is effective for younger stages of life but the appropriate guidelines for 55 plus are different. But if you know the difference, exercise becomes life enhancing and can prolong the youth in your body.

A 55+ body needs certain things to counter the effects of aging:  more flexibility to counter less elastic, drier and older tissue, more balance to counter neurological and muscular-skeletal changes, more resistance training to slow or reverse the decrease of muscle BUT using the correct weight and repetitions to avoid joint injuries and more cardio to increase calorie burn from a slower metabolism/decrease of muscle/ and issues with vascular transport BUT must be the correct amounts of moderate and intense output.

Flexibility & Balance
Flexibility is enhanced through exercise methods like Yoga, Pilates, sport stretching and stretching in general. You can choose to attend formal classes and workouts which is a great option however there are many types and levels of group classes. As a senior (even a very fit one) it is important to choose a class that is geared more towards lengthening and holding positions then something fast moving, more of an athletic workout or includes a significant amount of advanced arm balances. Your primary objective is to elongate muscle tissue and open up joint spaces. You can also participate in flexibility workouts through on-line options such as YouTube, yoga vibes and other websites offering in home options to follow.  
One of the benefits of flexibility workouts is that they also enhance stability at the same time. If you are required to stand and perform a movement like Warrior II in yoga, you are lengthening your leg muscles and opening your hip joints but you are also doing something that requires your brain to engage with your body so that you can hold the position and not just fall down. In this way you are working on stability as well as flexibility. All flexibility programs have stability included because you can’t have one without the other.

You also get balance workouts in your flexibility/stability exercises because you have to have balance to do many of the movements and so by doing ones that are slightly challenging you are improving balance too. Once you have mastered positions on the floor you can further add to your balance training by the addition of an unstable surface. Amazon and other stores that sell fitness equipment all have a variety of wobble boards, plastic blow up discs and other small, inexpensive equipment that are designed to add an extra training effect for balance. You can do a body weight squat on the floor but if you are standing on a wobble board, that exercise is now more of a balance challenge and your brain/body will become more efficient at balance when using these tools.  However, progression is necessary. Many trainers are having seniors do exercises on unstable surfaces before they have mastered that exercise on a stable surface. If you can’t squat with out losing your balance on the floor do NOT try to do it on an unstable surface until you have; regardless of what your trainer may tell you.

Strength Training
Strength training is ABSOLUTELY necessary for anyone over 55 years old and especially women. Everyone is losing muscle mass over the course of their lives once past 30 years old but women are more at risk than men due to the lower amount to start and hormonal differences that make it harder to gain muscle. But once past menopause, bone density can rapidly decrease due to the absence of estrogen and strength training will not only reverse muscle decline but simultaneously works on increasing bone density because muscles attach to bones and so any increase load on muscles puts increase load on bones. That said, it is very important that a 55+ woman use weights that are heavier than things she lifts in every day life. 10 lb. dumbbells are not going to have a training effect if you are regularly lifting your 30 lb. grand-daughter. That said, women need to perform heavier weight lifting but need to have help to ensure that form and execution do not fail and lead to injury. It is a good investment to hire a trainer who is at least 50 years old themselves to help design a program for you to follow.

55+ aged men also need to do strength training but men need to hold back from the weights they remember they were able to do when younger. It is important that your body doesn’t experience trauma and injury from doing something too much too fast. Men need to probably do lighter weight then they think. A rule of thumb I use for senior men is start with 60% of what we think the maximum they could do for one rep is and then progress up from there. Just like with women, it is a good idea for senior men to work with a 
masters aged trainer to develop an initial weight range for about 6 main exercises along with a formula for how to progress in loading over the course of 6 weeks. For both men and women, having a progressive, CONSISTENT and targeted program for muscle and bone enhancement is very important in order to gain the benefits while avoiding injury and trauma.

Cardiovascular
Cardiovascular exercise may be the most important type for seniors because the hottest, newest research is disclosing that specific intensities of cardio exercise is linked to an increase in mitochondria and an increase in mitochondria is like a direct link to the fountain of youth! Let me back up. Cardio exercise is anything where you increase your heartrate and sustain it for a minimum of 10 min. Cardio exercise is NOT doing intervals of weights in a circuit or bootcamp or metabolic enhancing weight training workout. Cardio is a rhythmic sustaining of movement, heartrate and breathing rate and includes activities like brisk walking, jogging, biking, hiking, swimming, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. Establishing a regular practice of cardio movement on a daily basis is imperative to counter the effects of a slower metabolism, loss of lean mass and enhanced blood flow to the brain which helps prevent

 

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