Walking: Should You Consider It Exercise? 

Of all the activities that are recommended to us as part of a healthy lifestyle, walking is very high on the list. Because it’s already a learned skill, requires no equipment, and is doable everywhere, walking is a great activity for everyone. 

Let’s take a look at what produces the significant changes to our body systems when we engage in exercise. What causes our cardiovascular and respiratory systems to improve and our muscles and bones to become stronger? 

Answering these questions will bring us to a conclusion as to whether or not you should regard walking as an exercise tool. 

THE BODY’S RESPONSE TO POSITIVE STRESS

We don’t ordinarily regard stress as something positive, but in the case of exercise, it is exactly that. 

It was discovered over a hundred years ago that our bones respond to increased load forces over time by becoming denser and stronger. The actual inner architecture of the bone is transformed. It’s this fact that elevates resistance training to the top slot for combating the regressive bone tissue changes associated with aging. There is no osteoporosis drug available that can produce the results achieved from consistent resistance exercise. This form of exercise systematically stresses the bones by using them to move through greater forces than normal. 

The same type of responses take place within the cardiovascular and respiratory systems when subjected to the positive stress demands of exercise.  

Consider the latest lesson from our ventures in space. After spending significant time in an environment of weightlessness, our astronauts returned to Earth slightly taller and having developed a new source of back pain. They returned taller because their spines became straighter in the absence of gravity. One might imagine that in the context of being weightless, the aches and pains associated with the spine would disappear given the lack of gravity’s downward pull. On the contrary–without the normal gravitational pull experienced on Earth, the spine and its supporting components degenerated for lack of normal stresses.

Read more about it here:

http://www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2016/10/25/13392824/astronauts-back-pain-health-space-spinal-muscles                                 
What we can conclude here is that normal activity is necessary simply to prevent regression. This is not news, but an additional confirmation of the often cited ‘use it or lose it’ truism.

So let’s respond to the question posed in the title–is walking really exercise?  I recommend that you consider walking as normal activity necessary to maintain normal functioning. Being active is definitely better than not. 

If you use your walking to challenge your current fitness level by walking faster or going uphill and– your body is responding with an elevated heart rate and your breathing is at a faster pace —your body is being stressed in positive ways and, over time and with consistent effort, you will become stronger and your body systems more efficient. 

It is at this point of adding additional stress that walking becomes exercise. Until then, like the astronauts and the gravity on Earth, walking is simply business as usual and necessary to stay even. 

This distinction is critical for your progress. If you are taking the time to walk, make the slightly greater effort that will result in life-changing results through your consistent discipline! 

To Your Health and Wellness, 

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

If You’re Not Wearing Merrells, You’re Not Using Your Feet!

image “The human foot was made for running.”

Thus concludes an analysis of runners during 64 days covering 4,500 kilometers- – hit the link below:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/11/151130084002.htm

Your feet are mechanical marvels that deserve more respect.

Aside from keeping you upright, feet do fascinating things just getting you back and forth all the time.

I maintain, however, that when you box them up in layers of foam, fabric, and the latest shock absorbing technology, there are significant trade offs. Feet become more like immovable platforms hinged at the ankle than the magnificent transformers of energy that the forefoot allows them to be.

And this spring in the step is not just important to runners. It deserves your attention, as well, Seniors. “…older people, when they walk, take shorter steps than younger walkers, and rely less on the muscles around their ankles and more on the muscles around their hips to complete each stride than do younger walkers.”

A trained clinician can learn a lot about you simply by observing your gait.

A recent study concluded,
“To lessen the chance of such injuries (Achilles tendon) and potentially also maintain more of our speed as the years pass, he said, we probably should consider strengthening our calf and ankle flexor muscles. (The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends a variety of such exercises online.)
“Why Runners Slow With Age (And How Strength Training Can Help)”

http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/well/2015/09/09/why-runners-get-slower-with-age-and-how-strength-training-may-help/?

Last summer I posted about my experience becoming accustomed to the minimalist design of the Merrell Vapor Glove 2. There’s no endorsement connection here, just the honest revelation that wearing these shoes has significantly increased the strength of all aspects of my foot/ankle movement.
As mentioned before, it takes time to get used to being nearly barefoot and learning to step more intentionally.

(The Merrell Vapor Glove 2: part of my collection)

But there is no doubt that you will accomplish exactly what the study recommends–stronger ankle flexor and calf muscles–simply by giving your feet the opportunity to function as they should!

Alright; I exaggerated somewhat in the title of this post…barefoot also qualifies as ‘using your feet’.

Important note: I am not suggesting that a forefoot landing is a better running style. There exists a never-ending debate regarding the significance of heel versus forefoot landing in real world running.

Either way, my point still remains; that using the feet every day as closely as possible to the feel of being barefoot strengthens all the supporting structures in a safe and very significant way.

Just what the doctor ordered!


UPDATE: 7/7/16

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/07/160707083305.htm

10/1/16  More new data:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160928160742.htm


To Your Functional Feet,

Steven

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

The Newest Workout: Why It’s Not Enough

While you’ve been doing what you were doing and wishing you had more energy and stamina to do more of it, dozens of powerful fitness programs have appeared.

What’s happening with you?

Good health and physical fitness are, at their foundation, simple and basic principles. There are no extremes necessary and the time involved is amazingly minimal.

And there are no secrets.

Like any endeavor, the more you learn and practice, the better you will be. But it’s not like attempting brain surgery without practice.

Movement is life. More movement is more life.

Eating more calories than your body can effectively utilize will generally result in accumulation of fat.

If you don’t love yourself enough to care about your good health, the previous two points don’t matter.

You may be disappointed with the brevity of this post.

Don’t be.

If you’re disappointed, get over it and get started by taking the first step – – whatever you can do – – in the direction of your new lifestyle.

Get Started Now,

Steven Siemons

 

The Senior Health and Fitness Blog 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.