I CAN SPEAK FOR SENIORS
I am one. Yes, a senior who loves to stay active. George Bernard Shaw said : “We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing”. My main issue is an unwillingness to accept the ravages of aging. This is compounded by the many people I see that are much younger that seem much older. Still, reality comes home to roost and I have learned to be content with my physical shape, even with wrinkles, thinning hair and other signs of aging. This doesn’t bother me as long as I continue with my daily workouts and see progress.
A septuagenarian is what I am. A what? Am I secretly hoping that either nobody knows the meaning of this word or that nobody will bother to look it up? Or that other septuagenarians will keep the secret?
The National Health Service (NHS) says that adults who are over 65 and who are “generally fit and have no health conditions” should be active daily and should accomplish the following each week:
- 150 minutes of moderate cardio (aerobic) activity (walking or cycling), plus
- Strength exercise for the upper body and legs at least twice per week
- 75 minutes of more vigorous exercise – running or tennis (singles, not doubles), plus
- The same strength exercise cited above
- A moderate / vigorous mixture, for example two 30 minute runs and one walk of 30 minutes, plus
- You guessed it. The same strength exercise seen above.
The above may seem rather easy for an entire week. For most of my post – 65 years, I played tennis (singles, never doubles) at least 3 times per week, generally 2 hours each time. But I see very little senior activity in my neighborhood, except walking. The same people do the walking, however; about 3 out of a possible 30-40 in the senior category. In fairness, they don’t see me either, since I work out at home.
Every year after age 25, we are losing muscle mass at the rate of 3-5% per year. Our bones are also becoming more porous. Balance and agility can become problematical. If we have grandchildren, we must be flexible and agile enough to keep up with them, let alone care for them.
With the loss in muscle mass, it becomes essential to incorporate resistance training in our daily schedules. Start with bodyweight: push – ups, squats, leg raise and planks. Consider resistance tubes or light dumbbells. Go from there.
Check out this video on resistance tubes
Also this post and video on the use of dumbbells
Cardio exercise is great for your heart, mind and bones. This is especially true for seniors, but has significant application to anyone. To differentiate “cardio” from “aerobic” exercise – cardio elevates your heart rate, while “aerobic” indicates energy derived from oxygen.
Cardiologist Victoria Shin, M.D. says “The heart is a muscle and, like all muscles, it can become stronger and more efficient with exercise. By enabling the heart to pump more blood with every beat, cardiovascular exercise can lower your resting heart rate. It can also reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels to help lower your risk of heart disease,”
Even further benefits include better weight management, increased insulin sensitivity and lung capacity, stronger bones and less stress and anxiety.
Weight – bearing cardio exercises are generally recommended – walking, tennis, dancing. It is important for seniors to do low impact movements to lessen stress on bones. Treadmill walking is an excellent weight – bearing exercise that can begin and continue with a low impact. See NordicTrack treadmill review
Before beginning any resistance or cardio program, it must be constantly emphasized that it all begins with a visit to a health professional – your primary care physician, perhaps your cardiologist or sports medicine doctor….but begin with the doctor who has more of your health history. As we become seniors, we drastically differ in our health issues. There is no “one size fits all” exercise program for seniors, only recommended choices to make.
It is also essential to pick a workout program that we personally enjoy. Otherwise our discipline may wane.
OUR EXEMPLAR – JACK LALANNE
Jack Lalanne was born in 1914 and died in 2011 at age 96. He was a fitness pioneer. He achieved a mythical status, not unlike that of Paul Bunyan. But Jack was a real person. I remember him well.
I wonder how many people know that Jack Lalanne was a “junk food junkie” who loved sugar until he reached the age of 15. He opened one of the first fitness gyms in 1936. It is said that he personally constructed most of the equipment.
He was a very successful businessman. He introduced fitness to a televison audience and presided over the longest running fitness show in our history, “The Jack Lalanne” show”, which ran for 34 years. Jack was the first to introduce weight training to women, the elderly and the disabled.
He didn’t solely preach the gospel of exercise. Jack was also a nutrition expert. He designed and sold juicers and they are still on the market today. His personal diet was as follows: “He ate two meals a day and avoided snacks. His breakfast, after working out for two hours, consisted of hard – boiled egg whites, a cup of broth, oatmeal wiith soy milk and seasonal fruit. For dinner, he and his wife typically ate raw vegetables, egg whites and fish. He did not drink coffee”.
Author James Clear describes Jack’s incredible physical feats:
- He swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, while wearing handcuffs.
- At age 42, he did 1,000 push – ups in 23 minutes
- At age 45, he did 1,000 jumping jacks and 1,000 pull – ups in an hour and 22 minutes
- At age 60, he again swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman’s Wharf. He not only wore handcuffs; he also pulled a 1,000 lb. boat
- At age 70, Jack swam 1.5 miles along the California coast. He did this while wearing handcuffs and shackles. Oh, by the way, he was towing 70 rowboats holding 70 people.
JACK’S MORE MEMORABLE QUOTES
- “Probably millions of Americans got up this morning with a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a donut. No wonder they are so sick and fouled up”.
- “Yes, exercise is the catalyst. That’s what makes everything happen: your digestion, your elimination, your sex life, your skin, hair – everything about you depends on circulation. And how do you increase circulation?”.
- “I do it as a therapy. I do it as something to keep me alive. We all need a litle discipline. Exercise is my discipline”.
- “So many older people, they just sit around all day and they don’t get any exercise. Their muscles atrophy and they lose their strength, their energy and vitality by inactivity”.
- “Do you know how many calories there are in butter and cheese and ice cream? Would you get your dog up in the morning for a cup of coffee and a donut?”
- “Remember this. Your body is your slave. It works for you”.
- We don’t know all the answers. If we knew all the answers, we’d be bored, wouldn’t we? We keep looking, searching, trying to get more knowledge”.
And my favorite Jack Lalanne quote, showing that he had a sense of humor: “I can’t die. It would ruin my image”.
AND IN CONCLUSION
We seniors must certainly be motivated by the life of Jack Lalanne and we must understand the simple precepts he showed us – the value of a daily routine and the importance of setting goals.
Let’s begin cautiously if we have not led a life of fitness. We need slow, methodical gains. The progress is inevitable. If we have indeed been active for most of our lives, let’s not stop in our years of maturity. Nobody wants to be a dotard.
Let me know if you have questions or comments. See the “Comments” box below or e-mail me – firstname.lastname@example.org. Be well!