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Read Chuck’s interview on senior fitness that was featured in the June 2012 issue of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal!


 


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Balance for Seniors
Older adults generally demonstrate a diminished ability to maintain balance and posture control  with the result that they often have an increased propensity for falls.  Although a healthy nervous system is crucial for the proper maintenance of balance, it represents only one of many variables that interact to control an individual’s posture and prevent falls.  These other factors include the visual system, vestibular system, somatosensory system, muscular strength, joint flexibility, and body composition.  The ability to maintain the body in properequilibrium (balance) is vital.
Because many factors can influence balance there may be a number of compensatory mechanisms available to older individuals to help prevent falls.  Environmental considerations, such as providing a firm surface underfoot and increasing room lighting, can help enhance the sensory information related to maintaining equilibrium.  Improving the muscular strength of the core area, ankle, knee, and hip can prove beneficial to the maintenance of balance.  Even adults in their nineties can experience strength gains by following a strength-training program. A strong core allows a person to perform activities of daily living with greater ease.
How’s your balance these days?  Does it seem to be getting worse as you age?  Many senior citizens assume that sub-par balance is just another side-effect of aging.  If poor stability was really caused by old age, then all seniors would have balance problems.  Obviously, that’s not the case. Instead, I think it is a by-product of a lifestyle that fails to properly “exercise” your sense of balance.
We’ve heard the familiar cliché, “use it or lose it,” in reference to your health and fitness.  The idea is that if you don’t exercise and use your heart and muscles, they will get weaker over time.  The body responds and adapts to the demands (or lack of demands) you place on it. Your balance is no different.  If you don’t regularly put yourself in situations where you need balance, your sense of balance will diminish from disuse.
To make sure you stay in the “active group” you need to consistently engage in activities that exercise your balance.  Just about anything that involves standing and moving will accomplish this.  Try to walk several days a week for a half hour.  Do your own cleaning and gardening.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Work with a Personal Trainer. Try a new sport.
Access your daily life and consider the amount of time you spend sitting in comparison with the amount of time you spend moving.  Then ask yourself what kinds of things you might be able to do to introduce move movement into your life. And understand that the amount of activity you engage in now will greatly influence the quality of your balance in the future.
At Pro-Fitness we create specific workout routines to access your specific balance needs by strengthening your core, legs, knees and ankles and improving flexibility.  By providing experience in overcoming challenging balance situations we will help you add to your ability to maintain stability.
Flexibility and Stretching

 Flexibility refers to the achievable range of motion at a joint or group of joints without causing injury.  When joints are not regularly moved through their normal range of motion, muscles and ligaments shorten in time, and flexibility decreases. Most fitness participants underestimate and overlook the contribution of good muscular flexibility to overall fitness and preventive health care.

The most significant contributor to lower flexibility is sedentary living.  With less physical activity, muscles lose their elasticity, and tendons and ligaments tighten and shorten.  Inactivity also tends to be accompanied by an increase in adipose tissue (fat), which further decreases the range of motion around a joint.

A decline in flexibility can cause poor posture and subsequent aches and pains that lead to limited and painful joint movement.  Daily activities may require us to make rapid or strenuous movements that we are not accustomed to making.  By abruptly forcing a tight muscle beyond its achievable range of motion we risk injury.  Improving and maintaining good range of motion in the joints enhances the quality of life.  Good flexibility promotes healthy muscles and joints.  Improving elasticity of muscles and connective tissue around joints enables greater freedom of movement and our ability to participate in many types of sports and every day activities.

Taking part in a regular stretching program increases circulation to the muscle being stretched.  Mild stretching exercises, in conjunction with calisthenics are helpful in warm-up routines to prepare for more vigorous aerobic or strength training exercises, and in cool-down routines following exercise to facilitate a return to a normal resting state.

Because of decreased flexibility, older adults lose mobility and may be unable to perform simple daily tasks.  Similar to muscular strength, good range of motion is critical in older adults.  Adequate flexibility is important for driving.  Individuals who lose range of motion with age are unable to look over their shoulder to switch lanes or to parallel-park, increasing the risk for automobile accidents.  Lack of flexibility also may be a cause of falls and subsequent injury in older adults.  A vicious circle ensues as physical activity and exercise are hampered severely by a lack of good range of motion and pain, the condition usually worsens with further inactivity.  A simple stretching program can alleviate or prevent this problem and help people return to an exercise program.

Muscular flexibility relates primarily to genetic factors and physical activity.  Joint structure, joint cartilage, ligaments, tendons, muscles, skin, tissue injury, and adipose tissue (fat) all influence range of motion about a joint along with body temperature, age and gender.

The Rules of Fitness

Do:

1.  Write down your fitness goals.  You’re more likely to stick with a program once you have set some specific goals.

2.  Always strive to eat a well balanced diet that includes ample servings of vegetables and fruits.

3.  Break down your meals so you are eating several mini meals per day.

4.  Assess your current fitness level before starting an exercise program.  By doing so, you’ll be able to establish goals that meet your specific fitness needs.

5.  Talk with your health care provider before embarking on a fitness program, particularly if you are struggling with a health condition such as diabetes or obesity.

6.  Supplement your diet with essential fatty acids.  You can do this by eating two servings of fish per week.

7.  Choose alternatives to satisfy your cravings when possible.  Consider frozen fruit over ice cream or opt for a mini chocolate instead of the whole candy bar.

8.  Always stretch before and after your exercise routine.

9.  Don’t overdo it!  Try doing too much at once and you’ll burn out swiftly.  Slowly increase the intensity of your workouts.

10.  Diversify your workout routine.  If you do the same exercises day after day, you’ll quickly tire and will be more likely to skip workouts.

11.  Work out with a friend (or Personal Trainer).  You’ll help motivate each other.

12.  Keep healthy snacks available at all times.  You’re less likely to grab junk food if something good for you is readily available.

Don’t:    

1.  Over-train.  Your body needs time to recover in between workouts.

2.  Skip breakfast.  Eating breakfast will jump start your metabolism and provide you with the energy you need to get through the day.

3.  Skip stretching.

4.  Skimp on sleep.

5.  Set unrealistic goals.  A healthy rate of weight loss is 1-2 pounds per week.  If you have 50 pounds to lose; don’t expect it to come off overnight. You’ll set yourself up for disappointment.

6.  Compare your successes and failures to others.

7.  Work out randomly.  Work out regularly to maximize the benefits you’ll reap from a consistent fitness routine.

8.  Give up.  Consider talking with a friend in times of discouragement.

9.  Forget to reward yourself on occasion.

Senior Fitness

Older adults who exercise enjoy better health, increase their quality of life, and live longer than physically inactive adults. At Santa Clarita Fitness, understanding the effects aging has on specific physiological systems assists us in working with adult-aged populations and in incorporating the principles of task specificity, inter-individual variability, and intra-individual variability.  Age related changes within muscle, the central nervous system, and the skeletal and sensory systems are of particular importance when the motor performance of older adults is examined.

With increasing age, there is a gradual change in muscle fiber type composition.  The proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers increase, while the proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibers decrease.  Total muscle size and muscle strength decrease as well.  In the general population, muscle size is a good predictor of muscle strength; individuals of high muscle strength seem to have large muscles.  In older adults recent research studies suggest that the way the nervous system activates muscles may be an important determinant of muscle strength.
Motor behavior in an adult may be altered because of deteriorated neural pathways, but the brain does have the ability to adapt to adversity by maintaining existing pathways or creating new ones.  The aging brain is also susceptible to the reception of an inadequate amount of oxygen.  When the nerve cells of the brain are denied adequate amounts of oxygen their function and longevity are affected.  Motor performance aspects that are associated with the proper functioning of the central nervous system include reaction time and balance.  Improving the muscular strength of the ankle, knee, and hip can prove beneficial to the maintenance of balance
Perhaps no other age group can experience more health benefits from a supervised, individualized, exercise program than those over 50 years old.  A well designed, balanced program (at Santa Clarita Fitness) of flexibility training (stretching), aerobic activity, and resistance training can prevent muscle tissue loss and metabolic slowdown; and control, improve or prevent many diseases.  Even adults in their nineties can experience strength gains by following a strength-training program.
The Ten Commandments of Healthy Eating
  1. Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day.  Cold water burns more calories than warm water.
  2. Consume 5-6 small meals a day, never let more than 4-5 hours pass between meals.
  3. Each meal should contain proteins, carbohydrates and fat.  Eliminating any one of these will lead to more fat storage.
  4. Choose carbohydrates that are low in their Glycemic level; this will lead to more efficient fat loss.
  5. Never miss breakfast; this meal is most important because it tells your body that there is plenty of food around.  This will keep your metabolism well tuned.
  6. Some fats actually help us to burn fat and are essential to life.  Keep in mind to avoid foods that are high in saturated fats.  Eat foods that are rich in the essential fatty acids like omega 3’s and 6’s.
  7. Remember, in our society it’s not just fat that is making us fat, instead it’s our poor carbohydrate choices that are making us fat.  Beware of low fat foods.  They are full of empty calories.
  8. Avoid all fad diets.  Any diet that you cannot do for the rest of your life is a waste of your time and will ultimately cause you to regain the weight you lost…plus more!
  9. The Law of Thermodynamics states that if you burn more calories that you take in; you will lose weight.  Therefore resistance and cardio training are very important to burn a lot of calories and thus lose body fat.
  10. Consistency in healthy eating is a must to effective fat loss; choose one meal a week where you have a “cheat meal”.  This will help keep you focused (knowing you can fulfill your cravings on your cheat day) and it also helps to spike your metabolism, aiding in additional fat loss.

Hiking in the Veruga Mountains of Rwanda at Volcanoes National Park to see mountain gorillas, representing the quality of life when one is healthy and fit.

 

 

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