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On this page: 1. Work-out Schedule
2. Training Principles 3.
4. Warm up/Cool Down 5.
Studies: Older exercisers have youthful
By IRA DREYFUSS --
Older exercisers have youthful potential to gain
strength, if they work hard at it, researchers find.
Leg muscle strength increased up to 84 percent over
16 weeks among men ages 60-75 who did weight-training-type exercises at an
intensity that matches gym rats in their 20s, the researchers found. And the
older exercisers' increases in muscle fibre size were proportionate to the
gains showed by younger exercisers.
"Elderly men cannot only tolerate these very high
workloads, but will exhibit muscular changes similar to their younger
counterparts," said one of two studies on the men, both published in the
Journal of Gerontology.
Ohio University scientists looked at healthy men
who kept active but did no regular weight training. Nine were put on a
training program that had them doing leg extensions. The men first did 10
repetitions at 50 percent of the maximum they could lift at one time. They
then did three sets of 6-8 repetitions at 80-85 percent of their one-time
maximums. The men did this twice a week. The other nine did no weight
training and served as a comparison group.
Although both groups were similar at the start, the
exercisers had pulled well ahead at the end of the 16 weeks. They averaged
50 percent better on the extension, 72 percent better on the press and 84
percent better on the half squat, the study said.
The scientists also found the exercisers gained
endurance -- the men's hearts had to work less hard at a given intensity in
a treadmill test. There was no such improvement in the non-exercising
The researchers also took raisin-sized samples of
muscle tissue by biopsy. They found the exercisers had fewer Type II B
muscle fibres, a type associated with inactivity, and more Type II A, a
trained-muscle form that increases with exercise. The workout regimen
apparently triggered a transformation in fibre type similar to that seen in
The exercise paid off in lifestyle improvements.
"All of them indicated they felt better," "They were doing more
things. They felt much more comfortable and much more strong in their daily
The companion report in the journal took a closer
look at changes in the size of the cells. The cells in the exercisers grew
by 30 percent, the study said. That's similar to what's found in men in
their 20s who weight train.
The research is in line with other studies on
resistance exercise, even at high intensities. The gains can be dramatic
among people who have done no previous exercise.
The idea that older people must resign themselves
to inactivity and frailty is old-fashioned,
Although age does mandate limits on how much
strength an exerciser can gain, researchers increasingly are unsure what the
limit might be. "It is not easy to identify a plateau in their strength
For sedentary older folks, the gains can be
dramatic, and even in veteran masters athletes, some gains may be possible.
"They will reach a limit." "I don't think we know what
that limit is, which is the interesting question."
KNOWING THE BASICS
Physical fitness is most easily understood
by examining its components, or "parts." There is widespread agreement that
these four components are basic.
Cardio-respiratory Endurance - the ability to
deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, and to remove wastes, over
sustained periods of time. Long runs and swims are among the methods
employed in measuring this component.
Muscular Strength - the ability of a muscle
to exert force for a brief period of time. Upper-body strength, for example,
can be measured by various weight-lifting exercises.
Muscular Endurance - the ability of a
muscle, or a group of muscles, to sustain repeated contractions or to
continue applying force against a fixed object. Push-ups are often used to
test endurance of arm and shoulder muscles.
Flexibility - the ability to move joints and
use muscles through their full range of motion. The sit-and-reach test is a
good measure of flexibility of the lower back and backs of the upper legs.
Body Composition is often considered a
component of fitness. It refers to the makeup of the body in terms of lean
mass (muscle, bone, vital tissue and organs) and fat mass. An optimal ratio
of fat to lean mass is an indication of fitness, and the right types of
exercise will help you decrease body fat and increase or maintain muscle
How often, how long and how hard you
exercise, and what kinds of exercises you do should be determined by what
you are trying to accomplish. Your goals, your present fitness level, age,
health, skills, interest and convenience are among the factors you should
consider. For example, an athlete training for high-level competition would
follow a different program than a person whose goals are good health and the
ability to meet work and recreational needs.
Your exercise program should include
something from each of the four basic fitness components described
previously. Each workout should begin with a warm-up and end with a
cool-down. As a general rule, space your workouts throughout the week and
avoid consecutive days of hard exercise.
Here are the amounts of activity necessary
for the average, healthy person to maintain a minimum level of overall
fitness. Included are some of the popular exercises for each category.
WARM-UP - 5-10 minutes of exercises such as
walking, slow jogging, knee lifts, arm circles or trunk rotations. Low
intensity movements that stimulate movements to be used in the activity can
also be included in the warm-up.
MUSCULAR STRENGTH - a minimum of two
20-minute sessions per week that include exercises for all the major muscle
groups. Lifting weights is the most effective way to increase strength.
MUSCULAR ENDURANCE - at least three
30-minute sessions each week that include exercises such as callisthenics,
push-ups, sit-ups, pull-ups, and weight training for all the major muscle
CARDIO RESPIRATORY ENDURANCE - at least
three 20-minute bouts of continuous aerobic (activity requiring oxygen)
rhythmic exercise each week. Popular aerobic conditioning activities include
brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, rope-jumping, rowing,
cross-country skiing, and some continuous action games like tennis and
FLEXIBILITY - 10-12 minutes of daily
stretching exercises performed slowly without a bouncing motion. This can be
included after a warm-up or during a cool-down.
COOL DOWN - a minimum of 5-10 minutes of
slow walking, low-level exercise, combined with stretching.
The keys to selecting the right kinds of
exercises for developing and maintaining each of the basic components of
fitness are found in these principles:
Specificity - pick the right kind of
activities to affect each component. Strength training results in specific
strength changes. Also, train for the specific activity you're interested
in. For example, optimal swimming performance is best achieved when the
muscles involved in swimming are trained for the movements required. It does
not necessarily follow that a good runner is a good swimmer.
Overload - work hard enough, at levels that
are vigorous and long enough to overload your body above its resting level,
to bring about improvement.
Regularity - you can't hoard physical
fitness. At least three balanced workouts a week are necessary to maintain a
desirable level of fitness.
Progression - increase the intensity,
frequency and/or duration of activity over periods of time in order to
Some activities can be used to fulfil more
than one of your basic exercise requirements. For example, in addition to
increasing cardio respiratory endurance, running builds muscular endurance
in the legs, and swimming develops the arm, shoulder and chest muscles. If
you select the proper activities, it is possible to fit parts of your
muscular endurance workout into your cardio respiratory workout and save
Heart rate is widely accepted as a good
method for measuring intensity during running, swimming, cycling and other
aerobic activities. Exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate to a certain
level and keep it there for 20 minutes won't contribute significantly to
The heart rate you should maintain is called
your Target Heart Rate. There are several ways of arriving at this figure.
One of the simplest is: Maximum Heart Rate (220 - age) X 70%. Thus, the
target heart rate for a 40 year-old would be 126.
Some methods for figuring the target rate
take individual differences into consideration. Here is one of them:
1. Subtract age from 220 to find Maximum
2. Subtract resting heart rate (see below)
from maximum heart rate to determine Heart Rate Reserve.
3. Take 70% of heart rate reserve to
determine Heart Rate Raise.
4. Add heart rate raise to resting heart
rate to find Target Rate.
Resting heart rate should be determined by
taking your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes. When checking
heart rate during a workout, take your pulse within five seconds after
interrupting exercise because it starts to go down once you stop moving.
Count pulse for 6 seconds and multiply by 10 to get the per-minute rate –
simply add a nought.
The Warm-up and Cool-Down
Most aerobics instructors will include a warm-up at the
beginning of class. If they don't, jump on the stationary bike, jog around
the gym or leave the car at home and walk to class. It takes five to 10
minutes to warm up your muscles, get your heart rate elevated and break a
sweat (a sign that you're ready to proceed).
A cool-down is important to allow your heart rate to descend gradually. If
your instructor fails to include one, you should do it yourself by walking
around the aerobics studio or riding a stationary bike at a slow to
moderately slow pace.
Be sure to stretch the following major muscle groups after you warm up to
prevent injury and again after exercising to promote flexibility and prevent
When it comes to fitness
regimens, stretching usually comes in a distant third — behind aerobics and
strength training — probably because it isn't directly associated with
weight loss or dramatic changes in appearance. Yet without a good stretch,
all your hard work at the gym would not be complete. Stretching before and
after physical activity will not only help prevent injury, but can also
improve sports performance by increasing your range of motion and improving
your coordination. Even if you aren't going to get a full workout, spending
20 minutes a day stretching can have a wonderful effect on your general well
being. It will free your body of muscular tension, improve circulation and
enhance muscle tone. Stretching now will also help you avoid some of the
unpleasant hallmarks of aging, such as decreased flexibility, poor balance
and stiff joints.