Hi! Welcome to Fit, Food, and Fun Fridays! Today we’ll talk about what every baby boomer ought to know about going to the gym. Visiting a fitness center can be intimidating. You find yourself surrounded by people years younger than you and wonder about which exercise equipment you can use safely.
Fitness centers have become an increasingly popular way to keep fit and healthy. You might want to go to one to maintain your fitness or to improve it, but you may be intimidated by the idea of being around younger people who are much fitter than you. You might feel that you look out of place, or that they might consider you to be an old person. So how can you relax and enjoy the experience? There are some simple tips that you can follow that will help you feel more comfortable.
When it comes to fitness centers, there’s a lot of info out there on what to expect. There are all kinds of questions you can ask the staff to help you make an informed decision, like:
- Who are you, what do you do and how much does the membership cost?
- What about the workouts you can expect?
- Are they intense enough to get your heart rate up, and will you be sore the next day?
- How much guidance will you get on nutrition and how to take care of yourself once you’re done?
- What about the equipment?
- You know that treadmill is important for working out, but do you know why?
As the baby boom population ages, more facilities are catering to an older crowd. If you’re ready to sign up for a gym membership, try these tips for managing the physical and social challenges.
Managing the Physical Challenges
1. Consult your doctor. Speak with your physician before starting an exercise program, especially if you’re overweight or have been sedentary for some time. Your doctor can advise you about any medical conditions you need to keep in mind, such as high blood pressure. If you need more guidance, ask for recommendations for an exercise physiologist or nutritionist.
2. Check out weight machines. Even frail seniors may be able to strength train with air-powered machines where you just hit a button if the load feels too heavy. Resistance bands are another option. On the other hand, if your balance is strong, you may be able to continue using free weights.
3. Focus on low-impact aerobics. Protect your joints and adjust for a decreased maximum heart rate. Try swimming and dance classes that keep your feet on the floor. If you’re concerned about falling off the treadmill, look for recumbent machines that offer more stability.
4. Stretch gently. End each session with gentle movements that build up your flexibility. Extending your range of motion can also help you to live independently longer.
5. Remain seated if you like. Many exercises can be performed without standing up. Browse online for yoga moves you can do sitting on a gym bench.
6. Pace yourself. Walking is a great way to start moving, and your first exercise sessions may last only a few minutes. Increase the intensity of your workouts slowly to avoid injury.
Managing the Social Challenges
1. Sign up for group classes. Maybe your gym schedules custom-designed classes for members over 50. Whatever you find on the program, classes are a convenient way to meet your fellow gym members.
2. Choose a spot. If you feel conspicuous standing up front, position yourself at the back of the room or off to the side. You can often see the instructor better from a distance.
3. Talk with the instructors. Qualified trainers will be happy to suggest modifications and substitutions to deal with any medical conditions or injuries you may have. Many seniors are concerned about falls. Ask your instructor to show you exercises that can help you to balance.
4. Find an exercise partner. Look around for gym members your own age. Workout buddies can watch out for each other and provide motivation.
5. Invite your friends. Your membership probably includes guest passes and discounts. See if anyone you know would like to join you. You’ll look forward to workouts more when you share them with your friends.
6. Adjust your schedule. Noisy gyms can be irritating for some seniors. Ask the staff about what hours of the day tend to be less busy. You may want to designate the early morning hours as your regular time.
7. Arrange your soundtrack. Speaking of noise, you may prefer Chopin to the newer dance songs booming over the loudspeakers. If you’re unable to locate a gym that plays quieter tunes, you may want to wear earplugs or listen to audio books with your ear buds.
By the age of 40, most adults lose 1% or more of their muscle mass each year. Slow down aging with regular exercise. Training at the gym can help you make new friends while you strengthen your body and mind.
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I really wanted to talk about this topic today because the overweight and obesity epidemic is at an all-time high! We are a fat society and it’s killing us prematurely. Not only do I truly believe that you have the power to lose weight to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of obesity so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you lose weight, and maybe reverse some of your chronic diseases. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices):
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Another alternative for dumbbells/free weights are resistance bands. They are great for physical therapy, yoga, strength training, and excellent for traveling:
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet, regular physical activity, and reducing stress are the best ways to maintain a healthy weight. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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