Read Chuck’s interview on senior fitness that was featured in the June 2012 issue of the Santa Clarita Valley Signal!
Balance for Seniors
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
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.
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.
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.
The Ten Commandments of Healthy Eating
- Drink at least 8-10 glasses of water a day. Cold water burns more calories than warm water.
- Consume 5-6 small meals a day, never let more than 4-5 hours pass between meals.
- Each meal should contain proteins, carbohydrates and fat. Eliminating any one of these will lead to more fat storage.
- Choose carbohydrates that are low in their Glycemic level; this will lead to more efficient fat loss.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.