A recent article in The Cleveland Jewish News by columnist Regina Brett was so good that I felt I had to share it. I do not usually post an article and ask you to read it, but here we are!
The above quote kind of sums it up. The only thing that I would add is that accepting aging does not mean that we should not do our best to keep ourselves healthy and in shape. In fact, the opposite is true; taking control of our futures in our senior years a key element of embracing the aging process. I know it is a part of my plan and those of my clients as well.
A lot has been written over the years about which is better overall: using free weights (dumbbells, barbells, kettle-bells, etc.) or weight machines? As we age, there are special considerations that can help us best answer the question. A recent article in IDEA Fitness Journal gives a good summary of the issues as well as recommendations.
Free weights have some advantages. If you do not belong to a gym, it is much easier and cost-effective to have dumbbells at home; this is the case with most of my clients. In general, exercises with free weights more closely resemble the kinds of activities we do on a regular basis like picking up bags of groceries, putting boxes on a shelf, or carrying suitcases. Because the machine does not do all the thinking for you, free weights require better form and more coordination. On the one hand that is a good thing because it replicates real life situations, but it can also result in injuries due to poor form or too much weight.
Weight machines also have advantages. Most have instructions right on the side telling you exactly how to do the exercise and what body parts will be affected. As long as you follow the instructions, it is difficult to get hurt on a machine. If you belong to a gym, there will be lots of machines and many opportunities to add more weight to the exercise to increase the degree of difficulty; with free weights, you have to go buy more equipment.
From a fitness standpoint, recent research indicates that both kinds of exercises are effective in different ways. For those looking to increase muscular strength, machines seem to be a bit more beneficial. For those looking to improve functional performance, free weights are better. The truth is that most older adults are looking to do both! As in many things in life, a combination of both is recommended for those who have access to free weights and machines and know how to use both safely. The guidance of a fitness professional can help to ensure that this requirement is met.
Most imporantly, make sure that resistance training is a part of your fitness regimen. Cardio is amazing, but we can raise our fitness and functional levels most when we include weights as part of the program.
The last several weeks (months?), I have been extraordinarily busy. In addition to my fitness business (which is doing great!), I am the part-time rabbi at a local synagogue and we have had our share of holidays recently and coming up. At the same time, I have been helping out at another nearby congregation where they are short a rabbi. Then there have also been some family events and a recent trip to Virginia for a Personal Trainer’s Institute. On top of this all, I still have my daily brain games and exercises that I do to help with my long-haul Covid brain-fog symptoms. I am busy for sure, but it has mostly been good things.
The one thing that has suffered is my blogging. I have a daily reminder on my phone to blog–even though I know that I will probably blog at most one time per week. I like having it on my to-do list each day, but I wonder if it is really counterproductive. It is so easy to just ignore it when it comes up every day; and now I see it has been over 3 weeks since my last post! I plan to turn my reminder to weekly rather than daily, understanding that I cannot casually click on the “done” button, but rather really have to sit down and write each week.
It struck me that falling off my blogging wagon is similar to what happens to many people with their exercise routines. We all have good intentions to keep physically active and we may even have a system in place (like reminders on our phones) to make good on those intentions. When things get busy, however, it can be easy to ignore that system and, before we know it, weeks or months have passed without exercising. This, of course, has serious consequences for our physical and mental well-being.
Perhaps our expectations of ourselves are unrealistic. If we say that we will work out every day, we may skip a day here and there, or we may end up skipping lots of days. It may just be better to lower the expectation and actually meet the goal. Just like with my blogging, it is better to do 50% of something than 100% of nothing. Do what works. Feel that sense of accomplishment, and then build on it.
Set goals that are realistic, work hard at it, and then re-evaluate. It may be necessary to re-work the plan–adding or subtracting sessions. When it comes to blogging, I will set my goal to once/week rather than daily. I hope to avoid the trap I seem to have fallen into.
My son told me that a blog is like a living thing; you have to feed it and take care of it. If you do not, it will die. Here’s to more regular care of my blog–and to the other priorities in our lives!
Almost two years ago, I blogged about the benefits of shorter workouts. Studies show that short bursts of activity have positive effects on one’s physical health; this is good news for those who do not necessarily have a lot of time in their day to exercise, but who might have smaller chunks of time throughout the day. Getting up from a desk or couch and engaging in moderate physical activity can still have a positive effect.
New research was reported on this week that not only can Quickie workouts have physical benefits, but they can also improve our brain health. A study at the Institute of Sport, Exercise, and Health at University College London found that people who spent even smaller amounts of time (6-9 minutes) in vigorous activity each day had higher cognition scores compared to those who did not. Vigorous activity was defined as aerobic dancing, jogging, running, swimming and biking up a hill–activities that boost heart rate and breathing. The researchers looked at how this affected participants’ short-term memory, problem-solving, and processing skills.
This is just one more important piece of research that proves how important exercise is–and reinforces the connection between physical activity and brain health. Although there are some brain games and other activities that help build brain health, the single biggest factor in improving cognition is physical activity; the more we exercise, the more blood our hearts pump to the cells keeping them properly nourished and doing their jobs. Of course, this includes all those cells in the brain.
In upcoming blog posts, I will explore this further and talk about ways that brain health can be boosted further by exercises that combine both physical and cognitive tasks.
Until then, get up off the couch–even if it is for less than 10 minutes–and get moving! Your body and your brain will thank you.
Today marks two years that I am working on my own as a Personal Trainer. November 15, 2020 was my last day employed at the local JCC. Last year I blogged about my thoughts on the one year anniversary; and it was an interesting read.
I wrote “sort of” in the title because I am not exacly all on my own any longer. The addition of Sam Kalamasz to my team means that I have someone who is helping me expand my territory and business. Sam will begin offering on-line classes aimed at a more beginner/intermediate level; my fitness classes are more on the challenging side. Once we get one class up and running, we will expand the offerings further. These classes will be offered virtually, so if you are interested or know others who would be, please contact me at email@example.com.
There are still many opportunities out there. I would like to get into the digital realm and hope that 2023 will be the year that happens. I will be in need of more help the east side of Cleveland soon as I have potential clients whom I have turned away. I am also eager to find ways to partner with others who serve older adults. It is all looking up.
It is important to mark milestones like these. It is a time for reflection–looking back and looking forward. For now, as we are about to head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for all the help and support.
As I studied to become a personal trainer, one of the concepts that I learned about was self-efficacy in exercise. Self-efficacy is the belief that one is capable of completing a task–in this case, exercising. The reason why it is important is that when we believe that we can exercise–in spite of impediments such as a busy schedule, being tired, feeling intimidated at the gym, etc.–we are more likely to actually carry out the physical activity. It sounds somewhat self-evident, but the issue is a little bit complicated.
It is not unusual for me when I am working with clients to hear them say something like, “Oh, I can’t do that,” or “I have never been able to do that before.” It is up to me to safely push them out of their comfort zones. Once they realize that they are capable of doing what I am directing, it builds up their confidence. Later on, I can refer to that success when confronting a new or challenging exercise; I may say, “Remember how you thought you could not balance on one foot for 10 seconds and you could? I bet you are also capable of doing reverse lunges that also involve an element of balance.” Each success builds on the other creating higher levels of self-efficacy.
The concept of self-efficacy goes beyond just exercise, and is particularly important for older adults. The scope widens to include a belief that we are able to influence the events in our lives. As we age, we often sense that we are losing control as our bodies do not function as they once did, and cognition declines. The greater our self-efficacy, the more likely we are to engage in the kinds of activities and practices that will help us to live longer and better. In other words, if we experience greater challenges carrying out activities of daily living, we may reach the conclusion that life will just be a long decline, so there is no reason to “bother” doing anything to improve our levels of health and fitness; on the other hand, if we feel like we can influence our health and fitness, we will act upon that. In both cases, it can create a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is why self-efficacy is so important for older adults.
How to start? Sometimes we have long-standing feelings of inadequacy; confronting those beliefs is difficult and may require help from a mental health professional. If, in general, we do feel adequate (or even proficient) in life, it becomes a matter of continually challenging ourselves to do more. This is why many older adults are attracted to fitness classes or personal trainers where clear directions are given with appropriate progression from easier tasks to more difficult ones. It lessens the likelihood that we will go easy on ourselves or convince ourselves that we simply are not capable.
As I have grown older, I have come to realize that there are certain things that I may longer be able to do. At the same time, there are other activities where I have doubted my ability and come through with flying colors. I would not say that it is all in our heads, but belief in our ability to influence the direction of our lives can have deep and long-lasting positive outcomes.
It has been clearly shown that living a healthy lifestyle (eating properly, exercising, and getting rest) can lower the odds of getting certain diseases. It can also contribute to greater brain health and longevity. These are all important data points, and they become all the more crucial as we grow older.
As we age, we know that there are many changes to our bodies; we can notice transformations in our appearance (wrinkles and graying or disappearing hair). There are changes in our cardiovascular system, in the musculoskeletal structures, in digestion, and in cognition. Every one of these area can be improved by engaging in regular physical activity, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.
What most articles about the effects of aging leave out is a topic that is of interest to many seniors. How will getting older affect our sex lives?
Women experiences changes before, during, and after the process of menopause. Hot flashes, hair loss, weight gain, and mood changes may occur. Some women have a diminished sex drive. There can also be other changes that make the act of sexual intercourse more difficult and even painful.
Men may experience erectile dysfunction. They may also have problems related to an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Libido may decrease as well.
These are natural occurences, but they can be exacerbated by other health issues, medications, drinking alcohol excessively, and smoking.
The good news is that there are ways to maintain sexual health in our senior years. The National Council on Aging published an article in late 2021 that outlines some of the ways that we can have better outcomes when it comes to matters of intimacy. There are three main strategies when it comes to a better sex life: 1. Talk to your doctor. It may seem embarassing, but s/he has probably heard it before; your doctor can help address whatever issues you are facing. Normalize talking with your health professional about everything that concerns you, including your sex life. 2. Talk with your partner. If you are in a long-term relationship with a spouse or partner, be open about the changes and what expectations are on both sides. Many older adults may find themselves in new relationships after being widowed or divorced. This will require open communication; do not make assumptions since everyone’s sexual history is unique. 3. Live healthy. Diet can help or hinder our sexual health. Those who exercise regularly may have greater stamina and less circulatory issues which can contribute to longer-lasting lovemaking, greater arousal, and better orgasms.
Sex is one of the great gifts given to human beings. As we age, there does not necessarily need to be a lessening of intimacy between loving partners. NCOA has excellent resources as will most physicians. Here is to love and joy in the golden years!
We all know that taking care of ourselves can lengthen our lives. The most important elements are eating right, exercising, and getting rest; of course, regular medical check-ups are key as well.
In August 2022, The Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, published the results of research of the National Cancer Institute on what activities were most effective at lowering the risk of early death. Over a quarter-million adults 59-82 answered questions as part of a 12-year study conducted my the National Institutes of Health and AARP.
The guidelines are still in place that adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. As always, any kind of activity is better than nothing. What gets the most bang for your buck though? According to an article at cnn.com that reported on the study, racquet sports reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 27%, with an overall reduction in risk of early death of 16%. In second place, running reduced the risk of death from cancer by 19%, with an overall reduction in risk of early death of 15%. Coming in third, is walking, which is very good news since so many older adults engage in this activity as their primary form of exercise.
The other good news is that any other kind of activity also reduces the risk of early death. The information shared in this study is helpful, but only if you actually participate in that exercise. If you really like riding a bicycle, doing aerobics, dancing, etc., stick with what keeps you motivated and interested. It is better to do 150 minutes of “something” on a regular basis than to only occasionally participate in a racquet sport or running if you really do not like them.
The weather in getting colder in many parts, so now is the time to plan for possible changes in our routines. Walking and running may need to move to indoor track. Tennis and pickleball may also need to come inside. Plan ahead so that you can keep active, feel healthy, and live longer!
It is just over two years since I trained my first client at At Home Senior Fitness. At the time, I was still working as a Personal Trainer at a local gym, but had decided that I wanted to branch out on my own. I worked both jobs for two months before giving my 2-week’s notice at the gym; I knew that in order to make my business successful, I would have to jump in with both feet.
Although I have always been busy, in June I got to the point where I could not take on any new clients virtually or in-person. I had all but stopped advertising since word-of-mouth was my biggest source of referrals, and I did not want to take out ads and then be unable to offer a spot on my schedule to those who would make inquiries. I began to consider whether I should hire someone to work with me. I was working with my SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) mentor to strategize and was about ready to make the move when “fate” intervened.
I mid-July I received an unsolicited inquiry from a certified group fitness instructor who was also studying for ACE certification as a Senior Fitness Specialist. After many years of working with older adults, she was interested in transitioning her career into fitness and wanted to talk to me about the work that I do. We set up a Zoom conversation and, after speaking, we both understood that working together could be a great fit (pun intended!). It was fortuitous for both of us.
I am very pleased to welcome Sam Kalamasz to the At Home Senior Fitness team! Sam will be training virtually as well as in-person in territory that I am unable to cover (Medina, Strongsville, and Brunswick, OH). Sam begins with her first client today! Over the coming weeks, we are looking to build her client base, so if you know people who might benefit from working with a kind, compassionate, and skilled personal trainer–either on-line or in her territory–please refer them to http://www.athomeseniorfitness.net.
I am so excited for this new stage for me and AHSF…and for Sam. We are honored to be able to help older adults live their best lives with improved strength, mobility, and independence!
If you were to ask anyone who participates in my group fitness classes or does personal training with me what are the top 3 phrases I use, one them would certainly be “engage your core!”
We hear a lot of talk about the core, but what exactly is it and why is it so important? The core is made up of the muscles surrounding your mid-section (sometimes called trunk); it includes the abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors. Some people define it as the area between the mid-thigh to just below the pectoral muscles.
The core important because it provides stability for doing many of the tasks of daily living, and supports everything above it. A weak core can lead to overloading other muscles, which often leads to back pain. Most of the activities in which we engage–both in the gym and out–depend on us having a core that is strong enough to support the movements required.
When I say, “engage your core,” what does that mean? I usually follow this term with the instruction to keep shoulders back, chest up, and belly button pulled back to the spine. This is an oversimplification, but it is a signal to my clients that they need to be aware of their posture. I often tell them to imagine the drill sargeant is about to come by and they need to stand at attention.
There are a number of exercises that help to strengthen the core. A popular one is doing abdominal braces. Basically, this involves tightening the muscles of the mid-section all at once. Imagine that someone is about to punch you in the gut; what muscles would you tighten to lessen the impact of the punch? This is what you do in a bracing exercise. There are all kinds of bracing exercises, many of which you can find with explanatory videos by using a simple internet search. Doing these exercises will give you a good idea of just how strong your core is (or isn’t!).
Other exercises to help strengthen the core include: Ab crunches, glute bridges, bird dogs, planks, side planks, and superheroes (formerly known as supermans). None of these exercise requires any kind of equipment; they can be done at home on a mat or other soft, but sturdy surface. If you want to make use of dumbbells you can add in: deadlifts, russian twists, wood chops (that also work the arms and shoulders), and over/unders. At the gym, there are machines that will also work the core and allow for varying the amount of resistance being used; ask a trainer or other employee to show you which machines they are and how to use them.
Getting to the core of the matter is an essential part of any exercise regimen. Lots of people like to focus on upper body and arms, as well as legs, but often leave out core. This is like building a home but leaving out the foundation. You cannot build a strong body without a strong core to support it all. Next time you are exercising, I hope you imagine me reminding you to “engage your core!”