Fitness

Fitness

Move It – Exercise Now for Better Health Later

As people age and face the challenges of growing older, many turn to fitness programs to stay healthy and active.

When people enter their fourth, fifth or sixth decade, their bodies lose some resiliency. A well-rounded exercise routine can help reduce injuries and the onset or frequency of conditions associated with aging, such as heart disease, Type II diabetes, osteoporosis and some neurological conditions.

A RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

A fitness regime should include exercises that work on the cardiovascular system, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, balance or neuromuscular control, and proper nutrition.

It’s important to begin slowly and progress steadily. Exercise two to three times weekly at a minimum.

Strength training exercises should focus on the whole body. Lifting weights, pulling on resistance bands or using exercise machines, for example, can develop strength with proper use. Lift weights very slowly with proper form for best results.

FLEX IT

Over the decades, joint flexibility usually begins decreasing due to the natural aging of soft tissue and posture position. While it’s important to spend a lot of time stretching, it does not have to be intensely painful. Hold stretches for 20 to 30 seconds or longer in a position that causes slight discomfort.

A GOOD BALANCE

Weakness from muscle loss can lead to balance problems, especially when changing positions too quickly or walking on uneven or unstable ground.

Balance problems lead to falls and injuries. Simple drills such as balancing on one leg with the eyes open and then closed can help the nervous system stay “in tune” with the musculoskeletal system.

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Turn Your Walk into a Hike – Discover Nature by Foot

The truest sign of life is when something transforms into a more developed outgrowth — such as when a flower bud opens into a blossom, a chrysalis makes way for a butterfly or a walk evolves into a hike.

The Oxford Dictionary defines walking as “moving at a regular and fairly slow pace by lifting and setting down each foot in turn, never having both feet off the ground at once.”

On the other hand, hiking is “walking for a long distance, especially across country or in the woods.”

Local hiker and “60 Hikes within 60 Miles of Cleveland” author Diane Stresing simplifies it: “Walking is for transportation while hiking is for leisure exploration.” The biggest distinction is the sense of discovery inherent in hiking. You can walk around your block for predictable exercise on predictable terrain over a predictable surface. When hiking, you explore a new trail in a changed environment, and that can make your blood pump stronger even before taking your first step.

STARTING WITH A WALK

H. Michael (Mike) McCormick, 78, of Cleveland’s Brooklyn suburb, took his “first step” in 1991.

“I really began walking when I quit smoking. It started in the neighborhood, then I moved to the APT (All-Purpose Trail) in the Cleveland Metroparks.”

McCormick’s next step came with retirement at age 62 in 2000, after a career as a newspaper pressman at The Plain Dealer. Searching for some new pastime, he began leading hikes for school children at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Soon he was also leading city and park tours at Cleveland Metroparks’ CanalWay Reservation.

Hiking was a great reason for McCormick to get up in the morning. Not only were groups depending on him for leadership, but “the obvious benefit is health and strength,” he says.

“The biggest benefit was when I found out I had colon cancer.

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Get Happy- Lift Weights, Lift Your Spirit

For most people, much of what they do is aimed at improving happiness.

Careers can provide personal satisfaction and enhanced self-esteem from earning money and providing for others.

The same is true for many recreational activities, fulfilling marriages and some aspects of parenting (as a parent of three, I know firsthand that it’s not always fun, however).

Achieving happiness is often challenging. About one in six Americans experience anxiety for 15 to 30 days each month. Anxiety often results in feeling nervous, afraid or apprehensive. About 7 percent experience depression annually. Americans spend about $50 billion each year to treat depression. Anxiety and depression can lead to insomnia, pain, social withdrawal and poor health.

THE EXERCISE OPTION

Medications as well as psychotherapy can be effective for treating depression and anxiety. However, researchers from the University of Georgia studied another option: exercise. They found seven studies involving strength training in which anxiety levels were a measured outcome. Most people in the studies had moderate anxiety; two studies had people with high levels. All of the studies found that strength training reduced anxiety.

The research team looked at the effects of activity on depression. As a whole, physical activity reduces depression among all types of people (older adults, college students, cancer patients), Regardless of the initial depression level, strength training significantly cut depression. They found it was much more effective than low-intensity aerobic activities for reducing depression symptoms.

This leads to the next question: How does strength training improve mental health? Strength training increases the production of neurotransmitters, which are the chemical substances that send signals between nerve cells. One neurotransmitter is dopamine, which is responsible for delivering the message of joy that we feel after winning a game or receiving a gift. Strength training may also help create new blood vessels in the brain.

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Smart Choices for a Healthy Brain – Exercise Can Keep You Fit From Head to Toe

As we age, our mental abilities can begin to decline. Promising research shows that you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias through a combination of healthy habits, including eating right, exercising, staying mentally and socially active and keeping stress in check.

LIFESTYLE CHOICES ARE THE KEY

Researchers are racing towards a cure for Alzheimer’s. But as prevalence rates climb, their focus has broadened from treatment to prevention strategies.

Fears about Alzheimer’s may discourage you from taking action. By identify- ing and controlling your personal risk factors, you can maximize your chances of lifelong brain health and take effective steps to preserve your cognitive abilities.

Alzheimer’s is a complex disease with multiple risk factors. Some, like age and genetics, are outside your control. However, many others are within your sphere of influence. These factors can be quite powerful when it comes to your brain health.

The six pillars of a brain-healthy, Alzheimer’s prevention lifestyle are: regular exercise, healthy diet, mental stimulation, quality sleep, stress management and an active social life.

The more you strengthen each of these pillars, the healthier and hardier your brain will be. When you lead a brain-healthy lifestyle, your brain will stay working stronger, longer.

GET REGULAR EXERCISE – AND STICK TO IT

To maximize the brain-protecting benefits of your workout, aim for at least 20 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily. The ideal plan involves a combination of cardio exercise and strength training, but anything that raises your heart rate is a good place to start. Beginners can start with walking and swimming. Routine activities such as cleaning and gardening can count as exercise as long as they get you up and moving.

Build muscle to pump up your brain. Moderate levels of weight and resistance training not only increase muscle mass, they also help maintain brain health.

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Keep Moving with Jack from the Cleveland Marathon

Nothing can slow down Jack Staph, who recently turned 70. Staph, executive director of the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and a business/corporate lawyer with a private practice in Pepper Pike, hasn’t run in two years.

Although he endures issues with both knees (including missing cartilage), it doesn’t mean he won’t one day navigate a hiking trail to a mountain peak or enter a marathon walking category.

“It’s hard to say I’m only going for a walk,” Jack says. He still sneaks in a run at times for a few seconds. “When I see an incline, I push it as much as I can, and I may run to a telephone pole.”

Jack relishes any opportunity to be outside in the sun and even when it rains while he walks with his umbrella. He also enjoys all the responsibilities that come with overseeing the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon.

TAKING ON THE RACE

He bought the rights to the event in 2002, turning it into a year-round family business. His son Ralph helps run operations. The marathon and related events attract 40,000 runners, volunteers and fans. He’s always busy with race details and looking after elite athletes.

Staph, in fact, ran the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon only one time in 1978 – when the event began as the Revco Cleveland Marathon. He was general counsel for Revco, which asked him to take the helm the next year.

Over the years, however, Staph managed to run seven other marathons in West Palm Beach, Buffalo and Erie. He credits world-famous long distance runner Frank Shorter for inspiring him in the 70s when the running movement took off.

“Anyone who does something positive for others motivates me,” he says. “It’s not so much what they did but how they went about doing it.”

For now, Jack plans to continue leading the Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon and to see how he can challenge his body and his mind.

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Impact Your Life- Starting a fitness routine at any age has benefits beyond physical.

Fitness trends come and go, but weight training in particular never seems to come into style. Most people tend to reach the apex of their physical strength during their 20s and 30s, and it gradually declines from there. Once our strength starts to go, so do other things.

Muscular weakness is indelibly tied to not just our quality of life, but also to our life expectancy.

Two recent studies published in The British Medical Journal revealed that muscular strength is a remarkably strong predictor of mortality — even after adjusting for cardio-respiratory fitness and other health factors.

This conclusion was reached after an analysis of more than 30 studies that recorded physical attributes like bench press strength, grip strength, walking speed, chair rising speed and standing balance. What the researchers found was that poor performance on any of  the tests was associated with higher all-cause mortality — anywhere from a 1.67 to a threefold increase in the likelihood of earlier mortality.

Now, here’s the good news — despite the inexorable effects of aging, physical strength is an attribute we can control. As the science is increasingly showing, resistance training can add years to your life — and the earlier you get to it, the better.

HIT THE WEIGHTS, EVERYONE

As these studies indicate, not all exercise is equal. Resistance training (like lifting weights) in conjunction with high-intensity workouts (like aerobics and running) are key. It’s never too late to start. And, yes, women, that means you, too. “Bulking up” is a myth. It’s arguably more important for women than men to lift weights because of a greater propensity for osteoporosis.

Studies show that older individuals can still experience the benefits of gene shifting even if they’ve never lifted weights. It also results in an  increased production of growth hormones and testosterone and lower levels of cholesterol.

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STRONG BONES – Reduce Osteoporosis Risk with Proper Exercise, Diet

More than 52 million women and men have either osteoporosis or low bone mass. If current trends continue, the figure will climb to more than 61 million by 2020. It’s a widespread condition in which the bone loses its density, putting you at risk of fractures.

Wrist, hip and spine are the most common fracture points. The worst aspect of osteoporosis is that there is no warning. The first sign of the condition is often a broken bone after a minor fall.

HEALTH BENEFITS TO EXERCISE

Many people promote ‘weight-bearing’ activities as a way to halt

and reverse bone loss. Unfortunately, general activity will do very little to reverse bone loss. We do, however, know that human bone will adapt to a stimulus provided from progressively loaded strength training exercise. This exercise starts at the muscles and goes down to the bones; it affects all of the connective tissue in between, making for a more resilient drive train.

The health benefits of high-intensity strength training are far-reaching and impressive. There is evidence to suggest that high-intensity strength  training can increase our bone mass and bone strength and help prevent loss of bone mineral density as we age. This is exciting news, especially as significant improvements in bone health can be achieved from just two, 20-minute sessions of high-intensity strength training weekly.

BUILDING BONE STRENGTH

Walking, dancing, tennis, and yoga, however, have all been shown to benefit your bones. One exercise you can do at home to activate your muscles and help bone strength is a walking lunge. Here’s how to do it:

Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips.

Step forward with one leg, flexing the knees to drop your hips. Descend until your rear knee nearly touches the ground. Your posture should remain upright, and your front knee should stay above the front foot.

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