It’s never to late too change your lifestyle
Staying younger and healthier longer might be said to be the goal of the baby boomer generation. Because they are turning 50 in record numbers now, the health food industry, the medical establishment, and the athletic clubs are paying close attention to their needs.
Of course, what’s benefiting boomers now is also helping those in their 70s and 80s. Like the discovery that fitness can be recovered at any age.
Maybe the two words, though, that keep coming up in research, in popular magazines, on Oprah are: keep moving. In other words, don’t just sit there, exercise.
Movement comes in all forms, from your daily walk with the dog to a work-out program at your gym, with dancing somewhere in between.
Exercise is constantly reinventing itself to keep people interested.
Take aerobics, for example. Many a baby boomer came to exercise via aerobic dance, often consisting of routines that routinely blew knees as well as other joints. The mid 1980s saw high impact aerobics morph into low impact, or step aerobics-a good thing, considering that pounding pressure on any joint could predispose it to arthritis.
Or take workouts with neat sounding names like Tae Bo, Pilates, PACE, even Yamuna Body Rolling. Surprisingly, one of the hottest trends is also one of the oldest-yoga. Mike Carville, 39, part owner and general manager of South Yuba Club in Nevada City, says “yoga is our fastest growing class.” Then comes “spinning,” which offers a great cardiovascular workout to music on a stationary bike. And lastly body pumping or lifting weights to build muscle.
The statistics for this thing called muscle mass are alarming.
Carville says that after age 35 we start to lose 1 to 1 ? percent of muscle mass every year if we are relatively inactive. “By age 70 we could have lost ? of our muscle. That makes it hard to get out of a chair, climb stairs, hold groceries and easier to gain weight. A good rule of thumb is that you need to be able to carry your own weight on your back.” That’s daunting to think of carrying 150 pounds or more around all the time.
Muscle is also one of the three keys of preventing arthritis because they provide a support system for the joints and help stabilize knees, hips and shoulders.
It seems though that people are getting the message about muscle.
Carville says he’s seeing a huge surge of people over 50 coming to his club with weight training on their agenda. They come, too, because there’s a huge difference in working out alone on your BowFlex and having the stimulation of socializing with others in the class, not to mention the attentiveness of a trainer who has your best interests at heart.
Should you be one of those who resist exercising, though, you’re in good company. None other than singer Barbra Streisand says she hates to exercise. While she goes to the gym three days a week she does the “bare minimum.” Come on Babs, you can do better than that.
Keeping active also applies to the mind, says Sandra Kramer, 53, marketing director of the nonprofit Eskaton Village, Grass Valley, a multiservice retirement community. “It’s so important,” she says, “to keep the mind active even if a person is physically inactive. We provide such mentally stimulating activities as mind games (puzzles, backgammon), computer classes, discussion groups, creative writing, even line dancing.”
Seeing itself as an educational leader in senior lifestyle, Eskaton produces booklets on such topics as diabetes, sleeping issues, and fraud which it provides free of cost just by calling (530) 273-1778 (also available at the two Chambers of Commerce and the Senior Center).
Often, Kramer says, seniors lack the stimulation of companionship as well, opting to remain isolated in their home of 30 years out in the country because it’s familiar and change is so often dreaded. This is such a major issue that Eskaton has in the works a booklet entirely devoted to facing change, whether that be failing health or finding oneself suddenly alone.
Debbie Wagner of the hospital’s Wellness Center agrees that
isolation can affect brain health, and adds volunteering as a great way to help both oneself and the community.
She boils down her advice to people 50 years old and older to three things:
1) Stay flexible with simple stretches like touching your toes in a hot shower.
2) Built strength with biking, walking, pushups, and the gold standard: weight lifting. “This,” she says, “builds the all important muscles, which in turn helps you maintain your weight, which in turn helps you cut down on the risk of diabetes and heart disease and your balance, which cuts down on falls.”
3) Keep moving, as in aerobic dance or step and jogging (although its wise to start a program slow and easy; you’d don’t want to damage joints and face osteoarthritis).
Banister, 57, says most of his friends around his age, unfortunately, are overweight and under active, which puts his active lifestyle in sharp juxtaposition. He skis, hikes, walks daily and watches his diet. One of the results is the absence of “the gut” rolling over the belt, something often thought of as an inevitable harbinger of aging.
One serious mistake older people are making, says Banister, is not getting enough antioxidants in their diet. Putting a cause and effect point on the example of eyes: the antioxidants Vitamins C and E, as well as the carotenoids, have shown promise in staving off some forms of cataracts, and beta carotene (the safe form of Vitamin A) helps in the prevention of macular degeneration, both of which are problems associated with growing older. Given that no one in her right mind wants cataracts or macular degeneration (or many other nasty conditions as well), why wouldn’t one eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables or even take supplements?
Something just as important in the art of taking care of oneself so as to live a reasonably long life is dealing with stress. Fooling oneself has got to go at this point in your life, says Banister. “If that stressful job is killing you, at 50 you’re running out of reasons to put up with it.
It’s time to act in accordance with what you’ve spent a lifetime learning about yourself.” He points to his own example. “I need some time every day to be alone, so I take a lunch break by myself.”
This recuperative time allows him to return to his office refreshed rather than worn out after having run around doing chores or chatting over a quick lunch in a restaurant.
Mike Carville’s tips for the beginner exerciser:
1) Educate yourself with books and videos
2) Get yourself a trainer. Athletic clubs often have trainers free with your membership. They provide an invaluable service by helping you set up a program that will yield results according to clear and realistic monthly goals you’ve set for yourself and offering support as you go. “The recidivism rate, unfortunately, for those going it alone is 93%, he says.”
3) Go slowly. Develop a roadmap with your trainer of incremental steps that will get you through the first 3 months at a pace you can sustain.
4) Go group. Taking part in group exercise keeps you more happy and motivated than if you do the treadmill all alone.
5) Get help the minute you feel your motivation slipping or that you aren’t getting the results you expected. In other words, turn to your trainer.
6) Make exercising as much of a habit as brushing your teeth. “It’s not an extra to do only when you find the time.” If you keep a day planner, jot down the days of the week you plan to go to the gym, or take a walk. And, by the way, if you choose walking as an introduction to exercise, says Carville, just remember that the body adjusts in 8-12 weeks and you’ll need to ratchet up the intensity to continue seeing improvement in your fitness level.
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