“Exercise Improves My Immune System?”  

Yes, it does! And this vital link between exercise and our very important first line of defense is seldom discussed, so let’s take a closer look.

Our skeleton friend shown above is modeling his lymphatic system for us, featured in a dramatic green tone so it will be easy for you to see. Since it could be easily confused with the circulatory system, he’s going to show you the difference below by revealing his arteries in red and his veins in blue…

(lymphatic and circulatory systems)

I agree, he really does look amazing! And he hasn’t even put on his nervous system yet.

An Incredible Filtering System

It’s easy to understand the function and value of a filter. They’re all around us; cleaning our drinking water, keeping the lint off the clothes in the dryer, extending the useful life of the oil in our car–they’re everywhere. And when we neglect to clean or replace these filters, things get disgusting, right? Fortunately for us, our lymphatic system just keeps doing what it’s supposed to do without us even thinking about it, just like all the other amazing things inside.

Just The Basics…

Let’s take a look at how the lymphatic system functions so that you appreciate the unique importance of movement to its proper functioning.

Essentially, the lymphatic system absorbs and transports cellular waste and toxins from the surrounding fluids. It accomplishes this without a pump and moves the fluid, against gravity, toward the neck. The filtering process takes place at hundreds of nodes throughout the system. The spleen, tonsils and adenoids are also important parts of the lymphatic system.

Two major transport forces are at work here: the lymphatic vessels themselves utilizing contraction; and the movements of the surrounding muscles effectively moving the fluid upward. This movement of the skeletal muscle system throughout the body is critical to the healthy functioning of the lymphatic system!

update 10/03/2017: Rediscovering the amazing brain connection – –

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171003111111.htm

The fact that this entire lymphatic system–our ‘first line of defense’–is so closely linked to our bodies in motion should speak clearly and emphatically to us as to the nature of the healthy lifestyle; movement is life!

Are you listening?

Steven

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

My skeleton friend wanted you to see him with his nervous system showing (in yellow).

Exercise Form: Why Attention To Detail Matters…

image

It’s the January Effect at the gym – – “Gympocalypse” as someone has described it, and I love the word–which means it’s the perfect time to remind beginners and old timers, as well, that form matters.

Good Form Matters Greatly!
To categorize it simply, your form of movement is either helping you or hurting you.

Let’s understand why…

1. Proper form and a full and safe range of motion produce maximum results.
Let’s talk about the ever popular barbell curl. Watch how many times guys load up the bar and turn it into a back exercise to handle more weight by jerking backwards. Many will perform a partial range of motion for the same reason. Hint: If you extend the arms all the way down, you can probably skip the set of preacher-bench curls. Proper form is more difficult to do… but isn’t that why you’re there? Isn’t that what your goal is… maximum workout per time spent?

2. Proper form means a safer workout.
This is a particularly important point for my Senior fitness friends. Whether you’re new to training or not, aging brings a heightened respect for the possibilities and consequences of injury. But don’t think, at any age, that sloppy movements can’t injure you… especially if you’re handling too much weight. This is the primary culprit. Give yourself the time you need to grow, and respect your body’s signals along the way.

3. Proper form takes discipline and effort to learn.
Although it appears a simple matter to pick up weights and move them around, those of you who train understand that even a slight change in grip can change the dynamic of the effect. As in any sport, you need to be a student, first and always. There are many details such as a grip change, elbow orientation on a triceps exercise, or angle of the feet on a squat, that won’t be a part of what you notice when you first step into the gym, but you need to learn about such things. How you learn them is up to you, but be sure to set your ego aside when necessary so that you can move forward faster.

You Already Train Hard; Keep It Safe, Too!

Steven

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

“Squat, Seniors… Squat!”

image

Interested in continued mobility? Would you like to improve your odds of surviving an increasingly likely fall?

Let me make my case for you regarding the overwhelming importance of strengthening your hips.

And as you can see from the title, the best exercise to make sure your Senior years are safer is the squat.

All the following statements in bold print are quotes from the CDC website:

In 2010, there were 258,000 hospital admissions for hip fractures among people aged 65 and older.

More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, most often by falling sideways onto the hip.

One out of five hip fracture patients dies within a year of their injury.

One in three adults who lived independently before their hip fracture remains in a nursing home for at least a year after their injury.

In both men and women, hip fracture rates increase exponentially with age.

People 85 and older are 10 to 15 times more likely to sustain hip fractures than are those aged 60 to 65.

To help prevent falls, older adults can:
Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, AND THAT THEY GET MORE CHALLENGING OVER TIME.

The emphasis in the last point is mine, not in the original.

Here’s its importance: bones become denser in response to increasing stress loads, and lose density if not stressed. There’s no middle ground here; even the best drugs for treating Osteoporosis cannot do what weight bearing exercise can do.

Click on this YouTube link to see how it’s done:
How to do a Perfect Squat: http://youtu.be/zaC133_Frj0

Don’t waste another minute. 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.
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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.

Redefining Exercise: A Necessary Step

You have a very good idea in your mind of what exercise is. It’s not rocket science, as they say, but it can be analyzed on such a level, if that floats your boat. But let’s keep it simple.

For many, exercise ranks in the same category as taking out the trash–something that you need to do on a regular basis, even though you don’t really want to, right?

Asking my friend Google about the definition of exercise results in the following response: “engage in physical activity to sustain or improve health and fitness; take exercise.
“she still exercised every day”
synonyms: work out, do exercises…”

By defining exercise based on how and why it works we can get a much better picture of what actually constitutes exercise.

Let’s consider it to be: The use of positive physical stressors on the body systems that results in increased strength and/or improved functioning.

(The specification of ‘positive’ stressors indicates those which would be considered safe and beneficial from the standpoint of intensity, technique, duration, etc.)

Now…let me underscore why this definition is important with a specific example.

If you are able to walk, by the definition above, you’re not really exercising by going for a walk. You certainly are burning more calories than if you were sitting, but since walking is something that your body is accustomed to, it is not being stressed by that activity to become stronger.

If you walk significantly faster and elevate your heart rate, or achieve the same result by walking up and down hills, your body is being challenged to become stronger. This is considered exercise. By doing this on a consistent basis you progress to a higher level of fitness. Got it?

Understanding this concept will clarify questions about your everyday activities. Is cleaning the house considered exercise? It would be if you do all the same activities in half the time. Otherwise, dusting the coffee table is better than sitting on the couch, but it simply isn’t exercise.

This critical concept is the cornerstone of all progress in fitness: Positive stress on the body systems makes them stronger and more efficient. If you progressively lift heavier weights, your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments will strengthen. If you do nothing, no matter what your current physical condition is, your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments will atrophy.

The same holds true for cardiac conditioning. Your heart will only strengthen if it is positively stressed through exercise to pump more blood.

Every system in the body responds this way, including the brain. Exercising the brain means using it in new and creative ways. The most significant exercises for your brain are learning a new language and learning to play a musical instrument. Amazing neuronal activity takes place when you engage your brain in these novel ways.

Focus your attention, as I have outlined, on what exercise really is and your methods and goals for becoming fit will always be in focus.

To Your Positive Stressors,

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.

Weight Training: After 50 Years, It’s Still Number One!

Everyone has their own reasons why they derive joy from one form of exercise and not another. Fifty years is a long time to be doing anything, so let’s look at a few of my reasons, shall we?
Fitness Goals

It’s important to address these components of fitness in one’s training routine:

1. Strength movements
2. Aerobic Conditioning
3. Movements challenging balance and coordination
4. Range of motion and flexibility movements

Achieving these goals, for me, involves a combination of weight training, treadmill/stairclimber time (always with fast/slow intervals), and dedicated stretching time (after main workout).

The Utility of Weights

While I incorporate bodyweight movements in my workouts–and certainly they can be, by themselves, an incredible routine–here are my reasons for preferring iron plates and dumbbells:

1. Total control of weight/movement

2. Ability to train specific areas effectively with varying degrees of resistance and range of motion.

Here are the real world benefits of the points above…

Being able to begin a fitness program using very minimal resistance and very basic moves is important. I love the functionality of the chin up, and use them instead of curls for my biceps routine–but most people aren’t capable of lifting their own body weight. This point is critically important to the population of Senior citizens who desperately need resistance training to have hope for battling osteoporosis. There is no better way to strengthen bones than consistent progressive resistance training!

Beyond the beginning stages, strength training with equipment becomes what one wants to make of it. With compound movements such as squats, and minimal rest time between sets, a challenging aerobic workout can be accomplished.

This ability to train safely and with such incredible variability of movement, resistance, and range makes weightlifting my favorite for strength training!

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.