Revisited: “Squat Seniors–Squat!”

It’s been a while since I’ve focused on one of the most important movements in exercise, so let me share some insights with you.

The basic foundation for mobility!

First, a few fundamentals to notice from the picture above:

There’s no weight on the bar. Form is critically important. If you can’t handle light weight with proper form, you will be a danger to yourself with excessive weight. In fact, for my in-home clients exercising to restore and maintain mobility, bodyweight only, done properly, produces excellent results. In these cases, however, it’s important to build up to the total movement little by little. From ankles to knees to hips; focusing on range of motion, strength and flexibility, the pieces of the puzzle come together. The older you are, the more significant this fact becomes. Increasing the weight is not the only way to increase the workload. A much safer way is to slow the tempo–do the movement slowly and evenly from start to finish for fifteen reps. Complete three sets each session (three times a week) and I guarantee you will experience significant gains in strength–safely. Also–and even more critcal –the slower pace and higher reps give tendons and ligaments a much better opportunity to respond. These tough connecting tissues require more time than muscle to respond to exercise. Tendon and ligament injuries are serious. Frequently I notice Seniors in the gym doing fast and jerking motions using machines and free weights…do not exercise that way!

Notice also in the picture that the legs and feet are angled away from the body center. Because of anatomical differences, preferences on stance will vary. You will find a particular width and angle that produces the minimum stress on your knees and hips. As you exercise more, you will become increasingly aware of this important feedback from your body. Pay attention and adjust accordingly.

For the beginner, the backwards movement of the hips as you descend is awkward. It takes repeated efforts to adjust your balance response. To make that effort safer, I recommend the kitchen sink. Actually…the front edge–which is generally easy to hold on to and about the correct height to be functional. You will soon become comfortable enough with your balance to squat safely and correctly without such aid.

This exercise, along with a consistent stretching regime, has me feeling great about my mobility!

To Your Health and Wellness,

Steven

‘For The Quality of Your Life.’

Whatever the passion is that moves you to action and brings you joy, having the good health to thoroughly experience those moments is priceless.

This time of the year brings into focus what really matters to each of us. After being with family and friends to celebrate our traditions, thoughts of new possibilities form in our minds as we plan the future.

Let me share some encouragement with those of you who are focusing on better health; especially if you’ve experienced difficulties in the past.

The bedrock of your fitness foundation needs to be activities that you enjoy which involve movement–the bigger the better. And if you can incorporate some resistance training for muscle and bone health, cardio for the major body systems, and add some functional fitness along the way, you’ll be well on your way to total transformation!

Dance, do aerobics, enjoy the morning walk during the quiet moments; it’s all good.

Your need to use and challenge your physical and mental capacities throughout life does not go away. When you respect this aspect of who and what you are, the differences are profound. As much as science has discovered already about the transformative effects of exercise, much more remains to be learned. Undoubtedly, it is the most effective and comprehensive anti-aging tool we possess.

Make this year different by putting aside half-hearted resolutions and create a personalized revolution that will establish a different style of life!

If you want to start feeling different, provide your body with the exercise, nutrition, and rest that it has been needing all along.

Decide

Act

The human will is a powerful force–and like other dimensions of our personalities, it must be used and developed to become an effective tool for change.

This is where health and fitness begin: when you decide that you are worth the effort it takes to achieve this goal.

You are and you can,

Steven

Connective Tissue: Limiting Your Movements, Changing Your Life

As you age, the way you move–in very subtle ways over time, becomes more a function of tendons, ligaments, and supporting structures rather than muscular strength

And because these structures that literally bind our bones and muscles together are so strong, it is a long-term task creating changes. Muscles react relatively quickly to exercise. Within a matter of weeks a beginner, at any age, will notice significant strength gains from a properly designed resistance training program. The mindset to achieve significant range of motion changes must be focused on the longer term. The process itself is more tedious and involves a regular program of stretching.

Proper exercise remains your best tool for not only maintaining what abilities you now have, but working to increase them–at any age!

The restoration of normal patterns of motion can be critical for personal safety.

Yoga is an ideal way to focus on this vital aspect of your health and wellness.

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven

Dancing: Good For Your Body, Great For Your Brain!

We all know that staying active is what keeps us going now and for the future. And dancing is simply so much fun, you don’t think about it the same way as exercise, right?

In the study below, comparing dance to standard exercise routines, it turns out that dancing also was shown to have an even greater impact on the brain than the exercise plan of about equal intensity!

But there’s a twist…

What made the difference in the dancers greater cerebral response to exercise was having to memorize the patterns of movement.

Please read ‘DANCING CAN REVERSE THE SIGNS OF AGING IN THE BRAIN’: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/08/170825124902.htm

Let’s generalize

Understanding this explains why learning the movement patterns of Tai Chi (not a quick or easy task) compounds the effects of the exercise.

Learning to speak a new language and learning how to play a musical instrument are the two best ways to keep your mind sharp. Notice in the study the mention of how music excites the brain–literally!

So it absolutely makes perfect sense; the movement, the music and the memorization!

Skip the gym routine today, put the music on, and learn a new dance routine.

Steven

Simply Senior Fitness by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Weight Loss: Just 5% Can Make a Difference in Your Knees!

Losing weight results in numerous health benefits. If you have problems with your knees, read the good news in this excerpt from a recent study:

“The most exciting finding of our research was that not only did we see slower degeneration in the articular cartilage, we saw that the menisci degenerated a lot slower in overweight and obese individuals who lost more than 5 percent of their body weight, and that the effects were strongest in overweight individuals and in individuals with substantial weight loss,” Dr. Gersing said. Light to moderate exercise is also recommended to protect against cartilage degeneration in the knee.” (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/05/170502084050.htm)

Understanding Why

In the picture above showing the bones of the knee, notice the small surface area of contact where the movement occurs. The smooth white coating you can see on the ends of the bones provides a slick surface where the bones meet–the ‘articular cartilage’ mentioned above.

From the laws of physics, the smaller the area of contact of an object, the more force it exerts on the surface below. For sure we can’t change the small contact area of our knee joints, but you can significantly reduce the tremendous force and stress of movement by reducing your weight.

Doesn’t it make sense to take charge of your health when you have the opportunity to do so?

Steven

Simply Senior Fitness by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Shotokan Basics For Seniors: The Ideal Functional Fitness Routine?

The short answer is yes; the foundations of Shotokan Karate combine all the elements of functional fitness that make an incredible neuromotor workout for everyone… even seniors!

The obvious drawback for seniors is the hard and fast style of the martial art itself. It’s simply not appropriate for seniors (unless they are among the few who are already doing so from consistent training) to be involved in exercises utilizing rapid punches and kicks.

Done slowly and deliberately while emphasizing good posture and form, the basic Shotokan movements become a powerful tool that seniors can use, I believe, with better results than Tai Chi.

Tai Chi, of course, is what comes to mind when you think of seniors and martial arts training–it has been the subject of numerous significant studies demonstrating its important impact on senior fitness. The flowing and soft style combined with strong basic stances and movements create a challenging workout for both beginners and advanced. Tai Chi has been shown to have a positive impact on balance, coordination and maintenance of bone density in the critical area of the hips. This hip strengthening effect is due to the constant shifting of body weight as one moves through the stances, spending most of the time with the weight concentrated on one leg or the other.

What’s the Shotokan Difference?

Unlike the circular movements seen in Tai Chi, which are often a redirection of the opponent’s energy, Shotokan makes use of basic blocks, strikes and very linear movements. All of these techniques derive their power from the connection to the body center (a concept common to many martial arts). Without this connection, the movements appear shallow and lacking power. This is the starting point for the beginner–learning the patterns of movement first; and then, along the way, developing that powerful connection and coordination of the body center with each block/punch/kick/stance. It can definitely be said that the difference between levels in any martial art is this understanding and development of one’s core connection linking feet on the ground to technique at the end point.

All of this, even when translated into slow and deliberate movements, fully defines and demonstrates the essence of functional fitness: the development of balance, coordination, range of motion training and cardio–it’s all there.

I believe that the basic karate movements and dynamics represent the most practical and powerful core/hip, posture and mobility functional fitness workout there is!

One of the most important aspects of its practicality is that hip development and range of motion can be successfully achieved without the need of awkward static stretching movements on the floor. For many of my clients, that’s extremely important.

This is the type of training that will most significantly reduce the likelihood of slip and fall catastrophes!

The three years I spent immersed in the study of Shotokan Karate has been the reason for the flexibility and range of motion that I enjoy in my senior years–thirty years after I stopped training!

The featured image above is from a short clip shown here on YouTube;

You’ll notice in the video that my kicks are not fully extended and the movements lack focus. The overriding factor at this stage is the respect for connective tissue limitations. All that is removed when we change the tempo.

The only piece of the puzzle missing is the slow and deliberate movement that is characteristic of Tai Chi.

I am convinced that this type of training practiced in the same slow manner as Tai Chi will yield the same benefits regarding the prevention of bone loss in the vital hip area. The benefits from Shotokan, however, will be superior to Tai Chi because of the constant use of Hip rotation! (We’ll learn more about that very important and timely issue in future posts).

When it comes to Functional Fitness for my clients, Shotokan in the Slo Mo is King!

Steven

Simply Senior Fitness by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Seniors: Use This Benefit/Risk/Alternative Model When Choosing Your Exercises!

Information is critical to making wise decisions. To be useful, it must be reliable, timely and relevant.

If you’re like me, you ‘just Google it’ but then you’re confronted with millions of possibilities–many of which are misleading or even blatantly wrong.

There’s no substitute for using some functional critical thinking skills.

Making good choices regarding your fitness journey means you’ll have better results, enjoy it more, and be safer along the way.

We each start with our own priorities of needs, unique capabilities, and most importantly–a health and wellness profile that’s our most important starting point in the process!

You, more than anyone else, know the unique physical issues and challenges that you must consider.

And it’s important that you do.

It’s very easy to walk into a health club, sign papers and wander into a fitness class. When you sign the waiver forms it’s for the club’s protection, not yours.

The trainer on deck has no knowledge of your health status.

I say this not to disparage the group fitness concept, but to encourage you to move at your own pace, know your body, and take responsibility.

Remember, your aging process has taken place over a period of time; little by little. As a senior, it makes sense to moderate your pace and efforts more so than in the past.

It’s a fitness journey, not a fitness boot camp.

The ‘Boot Camp’ training setting and mentality can be a great fitness tool because the individual pushes beyond his/her normal limits. I participated in the Marine Corps version and understand the concept completely.

Using the Analysis Tool

  • BENEFIT: What’s the specific outcome you’re seeking? Improved balance? Better posture? Losing weight?
  • RISK: This would include specific risks (which might not be obvious) such as the possibility of aggravating a previous injury by using an inappropriate movement. You can even include here logistical issues – – things in your life that might make it more difficult to participate in a class you’re considering – – transportation, cost, convenience, etc.

ALTERNATIVE: Rather than risk injury from a difficult movement, if a safer technique, done properly and with the correct form can produce similar results– it becomes the better alternative. If going to Yoga class isn’t possible could you, at least for now, participate in a different program that would still be of benefit?

For example: Because of an arthritic condition in the joint of my big toe, there is very little range of movement before pain happens quickly and sharply. A very useful leg exercise is the lunge. You have the picture already in your mind of what happens to the back foot in the lunge position – – stability depends greatly on the flexed and planted toes.

This exercise is not for me.

My favorite alternative is the squat, where the downward force is directed to the heel and my toes are happy. Happy toes are good toes.

My other issue involves bursitis in my shoulders. I used to think my father was simply using it as an excuse to avoid exercise years ago.

Now I understand.

In the featured photo you noticed the little blue sacs surrounding the shoulders–the bursae. Their job is to facilitate smooth, cushioned movement. The most visible shoulder muscle, the deltoid, is missing from the picture. It covers the bursae you see. When those bursae are inflamed, the pain is chronic and can, at times, create an acute ‘stabbing’ sensation.

Fortunately for me, the condition is one I can tolerate and still exercise my shoulder and back area, though much differently than in prior years.

Because lack of use allows everything to deteriorate more rapidly, I choose to use it as best I can, while I can, and tolerate the discomfort along the way.

Our fitness journey, because of aging, will definitely involve trade-offs and substitutions.

Guiding you through the process,

Steven,

Simply Senior Fitness by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.