Fitness Extremes or Fitness For the Finer Things?

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(photo of my training partner/coach, Hector)

Athletes who drive themselves to extremes inspire and enlighten; they challenge us to dream and show us what can happen when we do!

Fitness can be defined by raw numbers describing VO2 max, repetitions per minute, single rep maximums, and/or a mass of other scientific data.

Let’s make it simple; Let’s make it functional!

Fitness, as I am foreseeing the future, becomes the capability of enjoying the things that mean the most to me –not (necessarily) as an end in itself, but as an indispensable component of enjoying what life offers in all of its adventures. I will continue to enjoy training as something intrinsically rewarding, of course. To me, movement is life, and a side benefit is the contribution it makes to health. As Ralph Waldo Emerson penned a century and a half ago, “It is good health and appetite that impart the sweetness to the sugar…”

When your body is in a state of ill health and disease it’s difficult, if not impossible, to enjoy even the most basic of pleasures.

Allow me to take the liberty, then, of framing the concept of fitness in this most unscientific perspective: having the level of physical ability, including cardiovascular fitness, strength, and ability of movement, to enjoy what means the most to you!

Am I missing anything?

For the rest of my days, this becomes my training mantra, with sporadic episodes of peak performance along the way. It’s my journey, and of course, yours shall be yours and, happily, both are correct and true!

Individualism is part of the fitness trail, and a welcome and significant part, indeed.

I admire the strongest, the fastest, and the biggest. But the road I travel need not be theirs. It’s only important that I train for the strength and stamina to travel my own path–the one that brings me fulfillment and joy.

Fitness is photographed and marketed heavily. It has a beautiful face, a sculpted body, and the look of victory and determination.

Do not be discouraged about who you are and the road you are traveling. Give yourself the health and wellness you need that a fitness lifestyle will bring to you.

Take reasonable care of yourself and enjoy the finer things along the way!

The Secret Is…
there’s no secret,

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Training For Your Brain: Going Aerobic is Awesome!

Even though we’ve known for a long time that exercise is beneficial for the brain, along come new research results that really emphasize this phenomenon.

“How Physical Exercise Prevents Dementia”

“Now researchers at Goethe University Frankfurt have explored in one of the first studies worldwide how exercise affects brain metabolism.”

“Their conclusion: regular physical exercise not only enhances fitness but also has a positive impact on brain metabolism.”

(reference sources here: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170721090107.htm)

Understanding ‘Aerobic’

When you’re exercising at a moderate level that has your heart beating faster and your breathing rate elevated but sustainable for a long period, you’re in that zone.

Because aging lowers the maximum heart rate for everyone, regardless of how fit you try to be, there’s a rudimentary formula that can guide you to ‘your zone’.

I say rudimentary because the margin of error is a swing of about 10 bpm (beats per minute) in either direction.

220 – (your age) = approximate maximum heart rate

The reason we start with the maximum is because that’s not where we want to be. We want to be about 60 – 80 % percent of that if you’re new to exercise.

Let’s Make It Easier

Here’s a great way to recognize your aerobic zone without the mathematics:

Maintain a level of activity that increases your breathing pattern; but not quite to the point of gasping for breath. You should still be able to talk without straining for air. Engage in this level of activity, ideally, for 20 – 30 minutes.

‘Aerobic’ simply means ‘with oxygen’ and signifies the body’s specific energy system that processes oxygen to create a continuous supply of energy for your workout.

If you are new to exercise, a moderate to brisk walk can get you processing oxygen at an aerobic pace. Those of you who have been exercising regularly may be on the treadmill or in a fitness class getting it done.

Your goal should be at least 20 – 30 minutes daily of this level of activity. You can even break it up into two or three 10 minute sessions.

For those of you who are looking to incorporate the latest technology to make sure you’re in your zone, here are some data to help find ‘The Best Fitness Tracker’

The Best Fitness Trackers

However you can get it done, get it done!

For Your Brain,

Steven

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

Your Fitness Goals for Right Now–The Big 3 Should Be:

(My mother in law who, in her eighties, has trained with me at the gym) 

Let me help you prioritize your fitness goals. 

To do this, I need to clarify some basic but critical assumptions. Given that my posts are directed at Seniors, I am going to speak bluntly about maintaining and strengthening that which aging is taking away from us. This is a very different mindset than pumping up the arms to edify the male ego as in younger years. Vanity has given way to functionality in the future which, statistically, is a rather large number of years; even for those of us in our sixties. These are years that we want to have the capacity to enjoy and not simply be held captive by bodies that are weak and decrepit. You can’t stop aging, but there’s nothing that can turn back the clock like fitness. Interested?

These goals are the clear winners because they involve the most critical body systems in order of priority–and their function responds dramatically to exercise.

Improve Cardiovascular Fitness

If the cardiac muscle doesn’t function, everything else is secondary, right?
An aerobic workout is the beginning of every one of my exercise sessions–elevating the heart rate for twenty minutes. For me, the machine of choice is the stair step machine using the constantly moving steps. It gets the heart rate up with no joint impact. (Your workouts will be much more intense if you refrain from leaning on the side rails, but be careful). This also functions to warm up the entire body efficiently, lessening the possibility of injury from my weight training that follows. Some will debate about whether or not you burn more calories by doing cardio first; or whether strength is diminished in lifting weights following cardio–these are trivial issues compared to the overall objective here.

At the same time you’re improving cardiovascular fitness, your respiratory system is being challenged to become more efficient, as well.

http://wp.me/p45KYd-fo

Even your brain is benefiting from the increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients.

http://m.fastcompany.com/3054847/work-smart/can-exercise-really-make-you-grow-new-brain-cells?partner=rss&utm_source=feedly&utm_medium=webfeeds

Increase Muscular Strength 

(Which, At The Same Time, Increases Bone Density)

Aging brings with it a natural loss of muscle mass and bone density. When inactivity is added to the equation, it adds up to a potentially dangerous time ahead. For Seniors, the likelihood of slip and fall incidents, as well as their catastrophic results, increases dramatically as we age. This, alone, is important enough to place progressive resistance exercise right after Aerobic fitness in the hierarchy of importance. It also greatly increases the likelihood of you maintaining your ability to walk and enjoy your independence. Beyond any doubt, the most important exercise you can do to maintain your hip and leg strength is the squat.
http://theseniorhealthandfitnessblog.com/2016/01/07/squat-seniors-squat/
Maintain/Increase Range of Motion

Stretching is a very confusing topic because it’s frequently viewed and studied in the context of how it effects muscular performance. Forget that. We’re interested in your range of motion because life becomes more dangerous as your ability to move diminishes. I’m talking about what happens when an elderly person, while navigating the stairs, and due to limited strength and range of motion, missteps with horrible consequences.

There’s a syndrome called’ frozen shoulder’ which, some theories suggest, has as a cause simply the lack of using the normal range of motion of which the shoulder is capable.

When you lack the ability to reach overhead into the cupboard, it’s not simply inconvenient, it can also become dangerous.

Increasing your range of motion through stretching exercises is best done when the muscles are warmed up from sufficient movement. I incorporate it at the end of my routine, making it a ‘calming down’ experience, as well.

The most important points:
Hold a constant tension for about 30 seconds. Switch sides, then repeat–slightly increasing the range as you repeat.
All movement is smooth and fluid–no bouncing or quick movements.
Let the muscles relax between sets. Use the slow moves as a time to focus on breathing and relaxing as you stretch. Even just moving slowly and purposefully a few minutes daily to some of your favorite music will enhance your abilities to move! 

Whatever activity you choose, use this simple list of important fitness factors to see if you might benefit from an additional activity to fully achieve your important anti-aging activities!

To Your 2016 Fitness Goals,

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Aging, Exercise, and Your Contentment With Life

Looking back on my assumptions about what life would be like in my sixties, I must say that I am pleasantly surprised.

It’s about how great I feel at this age!

When contemplating how I might feel as a senior citizen from the vantage point of my young adult years, I imagined a life lived within the confines of a worn out aching body constantly reminding me of my years.

Thankfully, that just isn’t so!

I share this with you not from a sense of superiority, but with a purpose of encouragement.

It’s not too late to begin your lifestyle journey that includes proper nutrition, exercise, and a focus on wellness.

Challenging the assumption that people over 65 are generally a happy group, a 15 year study just released cites depression as a pervasive reality for many. “Key factors in these increases (of depression) include levels of physical impairment, the onset of medical conditions, particularly chronic ones, and the approach of death.”

(http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151113115607.htm)

My emphasis here is on the preventable status of ‘levels of physical impairment’ from which so much misery arises.

Your investment in your physical well being directly effects your happiness!

Contrast that gloomy outlook on living with what proactive looks like in this article from the Washington Post: ‘You can be a high level athlete whether you’re 20 or 70.’
https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/proof-that-old-age-and-high-level-athleticism-arent-mutually-exclusive/2015/11/10/d7a3c3b8-7cdb-11e5-beba-927fd8634498_story.html

(Please take the time to click on the link above and read it)

Make the decision to take charge of what you can change, and give yourself the gift of better health and more contentment along the way!

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven Siemons

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Mobility: Movement Is Life; Longer Life.

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“These findings suggest that any self-reported knee pain in osteoarthritis, as opposed to hand pain, seems to be a crucial factor leading to early cardiovascular mortality and is likely to be linked with decreased mobility,…”

This is the conclusion of a study involving middle age women over a period of 22 years…

http://www.m.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/news/20150327/painful-knee-arthritis-may-be-linked-to-premature-death?src=RSS_PUBLIC

First, let me confess at the outset that at this point in my early sixties, joint pain and stiffness are virtually nonexistent for me. For this fact, I am grateful. The biggest issue is the joint of my big toe – – it can be extremely sensitive and jolt me with shooting pains if abused. Those of you who know what burpees are will be able to understand that I have to gently get into the push-up position as opposed to hitting the deck in a hurry. So working out and training in Senior years involves various techniques of accommodation, which in itself is a topic to address at another time – – but its main component is adaptability.

I share these seemingly minor details with you to let you know that I am in no way capable of understanding all the issues surrounding the debilitating pain and discouragement that are a part of living with severe arthritis. So that when I discuss below the critical need for movement and mobility exercises, do not think that I underestimate the degree of difficulty on the part of those of you who are afflicted. But in spite of your difficulties, any movement you can accomplish to improve over time must be attempted to the best of the abilities that you have, or those abilities, as well, will continue to diminish.

‘Use It Or Lose It’ is true regardless of your level of fitness; regardless of how you feel.

Even in the severest cases of rheumatoid arthritis, movement and exercise – – however modest and limited it may be – – is recommended! The resulting lack of mobility experienced by the study participants noted above, was, most likely, the prime factor in their decline of overall health. Eventually, the lack of cardiovascular exercise takes its toll, frequently, in the sudden and catastrophic form of cardiac arrest–a bit too late, by this time, to make good on intentions to start effective exercise solutions. And the imperceptible changes taking place in the structure of your bones due to neglect doesn’t hit home until the doctor describes your skeleton as “brittle.” This can be a devastating word when you contemplate its implications.

Starting on the road to pain relieving medications is always a complicated journey.

I’ve shared my experience of being hospitalized from the effects of NSAIDS:
http://theseniorhealthandfitnessblog.com/2014/03/24/believe-the-warning-labels-my-near-death-experience-with-ibuprofen/

Every chemical that you put in the body– even simple over the counter medications–changes the body chemistry. Sometimes, especially with continued use, there are unintended results that are not recognized until years later. You can only make the best choices for yourself by trying to learn and understand these consequences. Undoubtedly, you will need to make these choices regarding your well being which always have the tradeoff issues of potential benefits vs side effects. Do not ignore this dynamic. If it’s recommended that you need a CT scan, for instance, you’re trading off your body’s exposure to harmful radiation – – sometimes hundreds of times the exposure of an X ray–for the information gleaned from the greater detail revealed in the CT scan. Is that tradeoff worth it? Don’t surrender the analysis to your doctor. Healthcare is a business and the CT scanners generate income – – that’s life (and death)! See this from Consumer Reports:
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/01/the-surprising-dangers-of-ct-sans-and-x-rays/index.htm

Individual differences regarding the perception of pain and the functional solutions available vary enormously.

I say this to highlight the fact that the answers to the complications of aging are going to be different for everyone. Pain is an intense and personal experience that will drive us each to our own individual coping techniques. Indeed, there is no doubt that movement–however you accomplish it – – is much more than mobility… it is life itself!

To Your Health and Fitness,

Steven,

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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The Myth of ‘Senior Fitness’: It’s Simply Business As Usual!


(my bearded days) 

You’d think that given the title of my site, I’d be revealing all the ‘secrets’ regarding golden years goodness.
No Secrets.

Same page, different day, as they say.

Lest you’re tempted to cut it short because I have no secrets to reveal, keep reading, my friend, because you need this.

Here are a couple of observations from this writer who has exercised consistently for five decades and wants you to ‘get it’:

You’ve always needed what exercise does for the human body, but now you seriously need it!



You may remember that just a few years ago you were able to do things that you can’t do now; or are now accomplished with a much greater degree of difficulty. We learned back in the 60’s (you’ll never forget that decade) how quickly the body changes without being exercised when studies were done to determine the effects of inactivity on potential astronauts. We were astounded by how quickly even a top flight athlete could be weakened by being confined to a bed for extended periods. Nothing’s changed since then, except the size of the American waistline and the incidence of diabetes for lack of activity and bad eating habits. Muscles, bones, the brain and your heart still respond positively to the positive stresses of exercise. Don’t fret over what you didn’t do; but by all means, don’t continue to make the same mistake of the sedentary killer lifestyle. ‘Use or Lose’ has never changed and it will not during the course of your lifetime.

 It wasn’t easy then, and it’s certainly not easy now! 



After all these years of frequenting major health clubs, I can authoritatively say that Seniors are, and always have been, conspicuously absent. Sad, because we are the ones most in need of stronger bones and muscles simply from a standpoint of personal survival! If you can’t perform the ‘Activities of Daily Living’ you’re not capable of living independently. Simple and scary. What are you waiting for? Now you’ve got to deal with the feelings of fear and self consciousness of ‘not fitting in’. But those were the same issues that have always kept you on the sidelines, right? Find a friend or a group that will finally help you take the important first fitness step!

Please Do It Now,

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Imagine The Difference That Fitness Could Make!

This morning as I surveyed the news landscape for articles pertaining to health and fitness, something in particular caught my attention. 

This article from ‘Time’  reveals the potential for exercise to effectively prevent depression:
http://time.com/3713268/exercise-depression/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+time/topstories+(TIME:+Top+Stories)

Please read my post, “Exercise As A Prescription For Anxiety” regarding a major study from Australia:
http://theseniorhealthandfitnessblog.com/2014/09/01/exercise-as-a-prescription-for-anxiety/

Let me connect the dots for you.
Exercise represents one of the most powerful and important tools in existence to change the course of our physical and emotional lives, yet it is virtually nonexistent in preventive and therapeutic practice!

It’s not for lack of scientific proof. It’s sad but true – – in one of the psychological journals evaluating the efficacy of exercise in treating depression–they concluded that the effect of exercise was only temporary – – once the subjects stopped exercising, the effect diminished. It was therefore concluded that exercise could not be a workable treatment modality.

And once I stop bathing, I start to stink.

Don’t wait for mental health professionals to figure this one out – – put on your running shoes, get the dumbbells in hand, learn to squat and get it done! Multiple times a week. Case closed (successfully)!

Imagine the difference in our society – – from the cost of health care to the enjoyment of life itself –if we just got up and made the effort!

Get it done,

Steven

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog by Steven Siemons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.