What is Your Best Option for Staying Active?
As a Senior Fitness Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer, I work mostly with clients 50 and older. Many conversations start with hesitation and concern in getting back into fitness or in working with a trainer. They see people around them in the gym doing burpees, lifting heavy weights, and/or doing intense running or cardio drills. I see the same thing when I go to the gym too, so I can completely understand their concerns, especially when most of my clients have previous injuries, daily pain, and weight gain, despite not changing their day-to-day habits. They want to stay active and healthy, but often do not know how to do that without following most of the mainstream ways of “fitness.” I am here to help you with some different ways I like to approach activity with my clients.
Strength training is probably the most popular in the new wave of working out and losing weight, for good reason.
Strength training is the only scientifically proven way to lose weight and keep it off long term. It increases your muscle mass which increases your Base Metabolic Rate (BMR), the calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. If you increase your muscle mass (and I’m not talking getting bulky), then you will burn more calories each day because your body requires more calories just to maintain basic functions. Strength training uses weights (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.) to increase your muscle mass. It is extremely important to work with someone when you first start to strength train because improper form can lead to serious injuries. Strength training is great if you have a basic knowledge of form or are working with the right trainer.
Resistance training, unlike strength training, is using any sort of resistance to increase muscle mass, whether that is your own body, bands, machines, and/or traditional weights. This is typically where I start with most of my clients. We focus on functional training using primarily body weight exercises or resistance bands. As we age, we lose bone density and balance, which can lead to falls or the inability to do simple tasks that were once easy. One of the most common I see is getting to the ground and standing back up without holding on to anything. Using a chair, a stair, and maybe a band or two, you can effectively work your entire body in a way that is oftentimes much safer than traditional weights and easier. You can do a very effective, safe, and functional full-body workout right from your own home!
Cardiovascular work is extremely important for maintaining our heart health. Cardio can range from walking, running, elliptical/bike work, and a variety of cardio classes (most dance classes, kickboxing, etc.). The key here is your heart rate. With more injuries and issues around joints/pain, I recommend a low impact form of cardiovascular work to start–or even long term. This could look like a brisk walk a few times a week or elliptical/bike workouts. I tend to lean towards steady state cardio, keeping your heart rate in a fat-burning zone or around that mark without getting too high. To calculate your maximum heart rate, take 220 and subtract your age. Multiply that number by .7-.75 and you will get your fat-burning zone.
Flexibility is another thing that decreases as we age, so it is crucial to stretch at the end of a workout, but I also recommend it daily. Two of the best times to stretch are first thing in the morning when you get up or before you go to bed. Most of my clients feel a significant difference with 10-15 minutes of stretching in the morning and after each workout. For a person with moderate flexibility (can touch their toes), I spend about 10 minutes stretching at the end of a workout, focusing on the parts of the body we worked on that day. There are always a few problem areas that vary person to person, so it is a good idea to learn a few stretches that target your problem areas (most common is lower back pain, but that can come from the back, hips, or glutes) and incorporate those into your daily routine.
Keep in mind, there is a lot of information out there, almost too much. In general, keep it simple and remember: something is always better than nothing when it comes to moving!