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.
Even your brain is benefiting from the increased delivery of oxygen and nutrients.
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.
Maintain/Increase Range of Motion
Stretching is a very confusing topic because it’s frequently viewed and studied in the context of how it affects 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!