By JERRY HITCHCOCK
Slowly but surely, the image of senior citizenship is changing. The perception of older people as a group of sedentary, gotta-use-a-walker-to-get-anywhere shut-ins has morphed into a much more active lifestyle.
It has become more important to retirees to remain in charge of their own destiny, and health and fitness are no different in that regard.
And with the cost of health care, no wonder people are trying to find a way to stay vital and continue a lively, energetic lifestyle for as long as possible.
Senior centers and 55-and-over living facilities are offering more fitness classes and people have also taken to walking, yoga and other fitness regimes to keep the ability venture out and to participate in activities either by themselves or in a social setting.
Strength training plays an important role in senior fitness.
New studies have shown that the induced muscle wasting (scaropenia) in seniors as an inevitability is a myth. It is true that muscle mass and strength in general declines with age, but studies of those with injuries and disuses have shown that senior inactivity is a main cause of the loss of muscle mass.
So what can you do?
Simply put, strength training, regardless of your fitness background, has been shown to help maintain — and even build up — muscle mass in seniors.
Dumbbell workouts can offer a great workout for seniors. After consulting a physician, routines can be started with 1-pound weights before working up to heavier dumbbells.
Resistance training is also a good alternative, since new products allow for a great workout without the need to lift weights, which can slip and cause injury. Pilates and yoga classes have become popular as well, as people congregate en masse for an added social benefit.
A strength training regiment will allow for multiple benefits. The ability to walk is greatly enhanced. Studies have shown up to a 40 percent gain in distance easily covered after 12 weeks of weight training. The added endurance makes the everyday tasks such as shopping and keeping up with the grandkids easier to accomplish.
Seniors living alone gain the ability to be more self-sufficient through weight training. The ability to carry groceries from the car to the home, sit and get out of chairs, and accomplish household chores not only keeps you independent, but allows for a much cheaper cost of living.
Weight training can improve your balance and agility, greatly reducing the chances you will suffer a catastrophic fall. It can also build bone mass throughout your body, but especially in the spine and hips, which are anchor points critical to a strong body.
Arthritis and osteoarthritis sufferers benefit greatly from weight training. Flexibility and range of motion can be greatly improved. Reduction of stress on joints not only decreases pain, but allows for greater activity in all walks of life.
Weight loss is another side benefit of weight training. Your body will burn more calories and your metabolism will increase, as long as you don’t overdo it on meals and snacks. Proper diet goes hand-in-hand with a good workout plan.
Weight training has also been shown to aid in more restful sleep in most participants, and mild to moderate depression can also be eased.
All the above is really nothing new.
Jack LaLanne, the pioneer in senior fitness, just carried on a fitness routine he began in his late teens.
One of his more famous sayings was “Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together and you’ve got a kingdom.”
LaLanne’s “The Jack LaLanne Show” lasted 34 years on television.
LaLanne died at 96, still working out until he contracted pneumonia.
I’ll leave you with another quote that Jack made when asked why he worked out:
“You see, life is a battlefield. Life is survival of the fittest. How many healthy people do you know? How many happy people do you know? Think about it. People work at dying, they don’t work at living. My workout is my obligation to life. It’s my tranquilizer. It’s part of the way I tell the truth? —? and telling the truth is what’s kept me going all these years.”