Catherine Carrigan, president of Total Fitness, recently became a certified Older Adult Fitness Trainer through the American Institute of Fitness Educators. Although most of us are aware of how important it is to lift weights, few know that weight lifting becomes even more important as we exceed the age of 50.
If we are sedentary, we lose 6 percent of our muscle mass each decade after the age of 50. Because 70-75 percent of our metabolism is based on our lean body mass, this drop in muscle tissue lowers our metabolism and is a primary cause of weight gain in older adults.
Strength gains of greater than 30 percent have been documented in older adults within the first several months of heavy resistance training, reversing two entire decades of strength loss.
After the age of 74, 28 percent of men and 66 percent of most American women can’t lift even 10 lbs.
Aerobic exercise does not preserve type 2 muscle fiber. This is a crucial concept to understand! Although many older adults opt for what they perceive as easy forms of exercise—walking, swimming, biking -weight-lifting is critical because type 2 muscle fiber makes up about half our muscle tissue.
The best form of weight training for most older adults is not machine-based training.
Once again, most older adults who do start weight training join gyms with lots of impressive-looking equipment. My mentor in exercise training, Paul Chek, believes the entire fitness industry has been corrupted by companies that sell machines and fake so-called sports foods. Machines generally focus on a single joint and don’t call on the core muscles to stabilize the body during movement.
What’s best? Whole-body, multi-joint functional exercises using free weights or your own body weight that call on the muscles around the spine. In my practice, I have seen countless older adults who have spent years working out in health clubs on machines and developed multiple muscle imbalances that actually cause them pain—back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain —the kinds of pain that make even walking or putting on a coat difficult. Come to Total Fitness and learn how to balance your muscles and burn more calories with multi-joint exercise.
One of the most interesting pieces of research has proven that older adults need to lift weights year-round. Why? Because older muscle tissue atrophies so quickly. Even younger people lose 50 percent of their rate of gain if they stop lifting weights. With older adults, exercise has to be viewed as an ongoing process—lift 2-3 times per week or lose it!
Weight lifting can be adapted as successful therapy for many common forms of ailments— not only can easy weight lifting help arthritis, but even chronic illness like fibromyalgia, osteoporosis and diabetes can be significantly improved with supervised weight training, according to scientific research.
Sad But True: Junk Food Can Kill You
I am always telling my clients that there is more than one reason to eat whole, unprocessed organic food. Now comes research that sounds almost like a bad joke: junk food like French fries and potato chips can kill you.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says that acrylamide is a probable human carcinogen. Acrylamide is formed when carbohydrate-rich foods are cooked at high temperatures, such as baking or high-heat frying. Cigarette smoking is also a source of acrylamide. Boiled food does not form acrylamide.
In studies performed in Sweden for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.-based nutrition group, fast-food French fries had 39 to 82 micrograms of acylamide—several hundred times the 0.12 micrograms allowed by the U.S. E.P.A. in a glass of water.
Unfortunately, French fries, potato chips, taco shells, and corn chips aren’t the only junk foods that contain large doses of acrylamide—you can also find loads in bread, cookies, biscuits and cereal. Your best bet to lower your risk of cancer: When you sit down to eat any meal, make sure half your plate is filled with organic vegetables and/or organic fruits. Limit or eliminate highly processed foods in your diet. My motto is, “If it comes in a box, read the label very carefully before eating it.”
Cellulite Solutions: Real Research for Real Women
One of my favorite fitness researchers is Len Kravitz, a doctor of exercise science from the University of New Mexico. Len has the capability to take serious subjects, make them understandable to all concerned, and offer practical advice. In a recent lecture at a fitness conference,
Dr. Kravitz offered this kind observation—in a study of 1,000 women of all shapes and sizes from all continents, all 1,000 had cellulite. If you are a woman over the age of 30—when cellulite is most likely to appear– do not feel that you are the only one! The dimpling that appears typically on the back of a woman’s buttocks and thighs is actually a distension of the underlying adipose tissue (fat) through the connective tissue into the dermis (skin).
Liposuction may actually exacerbate cellulite, Dr. Kravitz says, because there is no way to make the fat removal an even process. Doctors can’t insure they are taking the same amount out of the second or third layer of fat cells. Cellulite seems to look worse when we gain weight and when there is irregularities in the sub dermal connective tissue caused by inflammatory responses. The most important ways to prevent cellulite?
Avoid gaining weight.
When you go on a diet, plan to lose weight gradually—no more than 1 1/2 lbs. Per week. Abrupt fat loss affects the integrity of connective tissue.
Make sure you engage in regular aerobic exercise and weight training.
Develop the muscles in your thighs and buttocks. Firm muscles that are less flaccid have less appearance of cellulite. Female athletes have been found to have less cellulite.
Do not use cellulite creams. 25 percent of users have allergic responses to the creams. The most common ingredient is caffeine.
Best exercises to prevent the appearance of cellulite: lunges, squats, hip abduction and hip adduction (working inner and outer thighs), leg extentensions and leg curls (working the quadriceps and hamstring muscles).
Variety is key to your workouts. Vary your weight training intensity from lifting heavy, light and moderate weights throughout your week.