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- Less than 25 percent of Americans over 45 engage in resistance training, which may be the most important exercises you perform to stay fit and healthy
- Researchers found seniors who incorporate resistance exercises enjoy a higher perceived quality of life and psychological health
- Resistance training is associated with a reduction in age-related muscle mass and strength loss, improved balance and cognitive performance and a reduction in body fat with better weight management
- It is never too late to start resistance training, but pay close attention to any physical restrictions from medical conditions, wear appropriate clothing, start slowly, keep your eyes open and do the exercises with proper form and posture
By Dr. Mercola
“Strong body, strong mind” is not just an expression. Scientific evidence demonstrates regular exercise improves your productivity, sleep quality and blood flow to your brain,1 while reducing the development of damaging neurological plaques.2 Unfortunately, less than 25 percent of Americans over the age of 45 engage in resistance exercises,3 which are among the most important exercises to stay fit and healthy.
In fact, your muscle strength begins decreasing in your 30s by as much as 3 to 5 percent of muscle mass per decade4 after 30, unless you do something to stop it.
Resistance training, also called strength training, is the strategy you use to stop this natural decline of strength and muscle mass. But, gaining strength is only one of the benefits of resistance training, as this form of exercise also helps prevent osteoporosis, improves your range of motion and improves your ability to do your functional day-to-day activities with greater ease.
When done properly, strength training can even be a form of aerobic exercise and will help you lose weight. After nine months of studying the effects of resistance training on senior citizens, researchers also found the participants enjoyed improved psychological health.5
Study Reveals Resistance Training Affects Your Psychological Health
During this study, the researchers investigated the effect of resistance training on the psychological health of seniors, as opposed to focusing solely on physical changes. The study’s lead author and Ph.D. candidate at University of Jyväskylä, Tiia Kekäläinen, commented on why the team began the study of the mental effects strength training has on this age group, saying:6
“The importance of resistance training for the muscular strength and physical functioning in older adults is well-known, but the links to psychological functioning have been studied less.”
The researchers sought out 104 healthy participants between 65 and 75 years who did not meet the minimum physical activity recommendations for aerobic exercise by the World Health Organization (WHO) and had no previous strength training experience.7 The participants were randomly assigned to one of four groups.
Three of the groups were assigned resistance training and the fourth was the control group, who continued their usual activities. The strength training groups underwent an initial practice and training in resistance work twice per week for three months to familiarize themselves with the workout. Following this, they underwent progressive strength training for the following six months.8
Over these nine months the participants completed assessments that evaluated their psychological functioning. These occurred at the start, before any training began, and then at three months, six months and nine months when the study concluded. The participants were also asked about their aerobic capacity and had a physical strength test completed.
Health Is Not Just the Absence of Illness
The researchers measured quality of life, sense of coherence and symptoms of depression. Sense of coherence is a concept developed by Aaron Antonovsky in 1979 to describe why some people get sick in stressful situations and others don’t.9 The scale measures a mixture of optimism and perception of control over your environment.
Quality of life was measured using a WHO questionnaire that examined the perception of the participant’s position in life relative to their own expectations, concerns, goals and standards within their culture and value system. It captured the quality of life in the participant’s physical, psychological, social and environmental domains.10
The assumption of the researchers was that the health of an individual is measured by more than the absence of illness or disease. The researchers found that at three months, the participants in the training groups exhibited greater environmental quality of life over those in the control group. Environmental quality measured satisfaction with the individual’s physical safety, leisure activities and access to care.
By month nine, at the end of the study, there was also a significant improvement in sense of coherence in the group that participated in resistance training twice a week.11 The results of the study suggest that the ability of seniors to manage their environment and their life may improve with the addition of resistance training. The researchers proposed further study to differentiate the benefits between consistency and frequency in resistance training.
Strength Training Benefits Your Whole Body
The benefits of strength training go beyond improving your mental and psychological health. As strength training builds lean muscle mass it also increases your caloric burn during exercise and afterward, helping you lose weight and maintain weight loss. In a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology,12 researchers found aerobic exercise helped reduce body fat while resistance exercise improved lean body mass.
This is good news for those who incorporate strength training into their weekly routine since you can easily do aerobic and resistance training at the same time, reducing your time commitment and boosting your results. Strength training stresses your bones, which increases your bone density13 and reduces your risk of osteoporosis. Resistance training improves muscle strength and mass supporting your large joints, such as your knees and hips that bear much of the stress when you are walking and moving.
This strength reduces pain related to osteoarthritis14 and reduces your risk of injury.15 Additionally, exercise, including strength training, has demonstrated improvement in cognitive performance. In a study published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, researchers concluded:16
“The present study demonstrated that regular resistance exercises could provide significant gains on the upper and lower body strength concomitant to positive improvements on cognitive capacities of elderly women, bringing enhanced life quality.”
Resistance training also has a positive effect on anxiety. In a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers found those who practiced low-to-moderate intensity resistance exercises enjoyed a reliable reduction in symptoms of anxiety.17 These results appeared to be consistent across a diverse range of populations.
Resistance Exercises May Prevent Long-Term Care in the Elderly
Aging Americans are more concerned about losing their independence and moving to a nursing home than they are about dying.18 Falls are a top cause of accidents in people over age 65 and a real threat to the ability to continue to live on your own.19 The National Institute on Aging recommends physical activity and regular exercise to improve balance and strength while reducing your risk for falling.20
Research has demonstrated that progressive strength training in the elderly can reduce sarcopenia (age-related muscle loss), and helps you retain motor function.21 Age-related decline in muscle mass and strength may be an early indicator of the potential for falls in the elderly, even those who are not frail.22 Studies have also demonstrated that resistance training improves balance in the elderly,23and may be more effective in reducing the risk for falls than aerobic or cardiovascular training.24
In 2015, the cost to Medicare exceeded $31 billion to cover the health care needs of elderly who had fallen.25 Every year over 800,000 are hospitalized due to an injury after a fall and the average hospitalization is over $30,000.26 In a study of nearly 875 community-dwelling women near the age of 70, 35 percent reported they had fallen, 33 percent of those had fallen twice or more and over 70 percent reported being afraid of falling.27
Improving strength and balance in the elderly may reduce the number of those who fall and the overall direct and indirect medical costs to families and the community. A reduction in falls and in the anxiety seniors feel about falling may also improve overall quality of life.
Easy Strength Training for Seniors
You don’t have to go to the gym three times a week to participate in a resistance program to improve your balance, strength and mental health. Instead there are exercises you can do at home that accomplish those goals and can be done at your convenience. Before plunging headlong into the latest YouTube home workout, think about the following:28
Consider your medical history
If you have a current medical condition, such as arthritis or cardiovascular disease, or a current injury, you may want to work with a physical therapist or certified personal trainer who has experience designing and adapting exercises to your personal situation. Include strength training with flexibility activities that help improve balance and your range of motion.
Choose times of the day when any inflammation or pain is at the lowest level. Avoid exercising when your stiffness is at the worst, such as first thing in the morning.
Whether you have a form of inflammatory joint disease or not, it is important to warm your muscles and joints using gentle stretches or lower intensity exercises. Muscles and joints that are warmed up have additional blood supply that may help reduce your risk of injury.
When starting resistance exercises you may easily overdo it and suffer from inflamed muscles that can sideline you for weeks. If you have an inflammatory condition such as arthritis, consider balancing your exercise and rest carefully. You may find water workouts are a better choice until the inflammation has receded.
Wear comfortable, nonrestrictive clothing so you can easily perform all movements within your body’s range of motion. Avoid wearing rubber soled shoes, as they may increase your risk of tripping. Leather soles are ideal, but it’s also important you wear what’s compatible with the surface you’re working on as you don’t want your feet to slide unexpectedly.
Do not close your eyes during the exercises as it dramatically increases your risk of losing your balance. During exercise you may feel relaxed, fatigued or think you’ll be able to concentrate on the exercises better with your eyes closed. Resist the temptation.
Pay close attention to your form and posture while performing exercises. Unbalanced or improper weight distribution may lead to injury. If you are frail or have poor balance, be sure to perform all exercises with supervision and assistance.
I have three different resistance workouts developed that may help you get started. Remember, it is never too late to start! In the first, “Basic Exercise Guide for Older Seniors and the Infirm,” there are seven basic seated and standing exercises that help you get started.
The second, “Easy Strength Training Moves for Seniors,” are exercises that help you perform everyday activities with greater ease and confidence. The third, “Majority of Adults Need More Muscle Strengthening Exercise,” includes more advanced exercises, some of which may still be done at home.
Adapted from: https://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2017/12/15/resistance-training.aspx
Make sure to check out this amazing article below, The Sneakiest Strength Exercises to Do at Your Desk, by Elizabeth Millard, adapted from MyFitnessPal.
The Sneakiest Strength Exercises to Do at Your Desk
By Elizabeth Millard
Picture adapted from MyFitnessPal
In many workplaces, being sedentary is the default. Even with standing desks, parking at the other end of the lot, walking to meetings and trying to walk at lunch, most people still spend the majority of their workdays sitting.
Fortunately, there’s a way to sneak muscle-building exercises into your 9–5 — even if your day is packed with meetings. The trick is using isometrics — moves that use contraction and relaxation to engage muscles.
HOW ISOMETRIC EXERCISES WORK
On a basic level, muscles contract in three main ways. Concentric contraction happens when a muscle tenses as you’re shortening it. Eccentric contraction occurs when that muscle tension is prompted through lengthening — such as resistance or lowering a weight.
For example, with a bicep curl, you’d have concentric action as you bring the weight toward you, and eccentric contraction as you lower the weight.
With isometric contraction, muscles tighten without changing length, and there is no movement in a joint, according to Australian-based strength and conditioning coach Andrew Read. He notes that examples include pushing against an immoveable object like a wall or holding plank pose — you’re in one position without movement, but still doing plenty of work.
Sometimes called “static strength training,” isometric exercises can be so effective they bring muscles to fatigue quickly, Read says. The effects last long after they’re done. “Isometrics work, just use them like any other high-intensity method,” Read says. “A little goes a long way.”
Try peppering these isometric exercises into your workday. Although they seem like modest moves, they can help to keep your muscles working:
Clasp your hands or press your palms together in front of your chest, elbows bent, exerting equal pressure in both arms. Hold each press for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat 5–6 times. This will work your biceps, chest and triceps — perhaps while you’re reading emails
Sit up straight in your chair, with shoulders relaxed. Breathe deeply and engage your abs as if you’re bracing for a punch. Hold for 5 seconds, then breathe out while “crunching” your abs upward as if you’re doing a sit-up. Exhale completely, take a few breaths, then repeat. This can be an especially good exercise during boring meetings, since the action is subtle and no one will know you’re doing a major ab workout while you’re taking notes.
Strong glutes help to protect your back, especially when you’re chair-bound for most of the day. A simple isometric exercise is to squeeze your glutes and hold the contraction for 10 seconds, then release.
To get some movement in your shoulders and engage your core, stand about 3 feet from a wall and place your palms against it at shoulder height and width apart. Press firmly against the wall for 10 seconds, then release. You can also make this into a push-up by lowering your torso toward the wall and pressing back up.
PUTTING ISOMETRICS TO WORK
Keep in mind that the main benefit you’ll see is stabilization of the muscles, according to Edward Laskowski, MD, of the Mayo Clinic. “Since isometric exercises are done in a static position, they won’t help improve speed or athletic performance,” he says. “Isometric exercises don’t effectively build strength but can help maintain muscle strength.”
He adds that isometrics are often used in physical therapy to rehab injured muscles, so if you’re trying to bounce back after injury or other issues, putting some isometric exercises into your everyday schedule can be useful.
There’s also another advantage, especially for work: Isometric exercises can help lower blood pressure, Laskowski notes. That means you might de-stress and sneak in some workout moves at the same time.
Read’s recommendation is to incorporate a few exercises per day, and do them at about 30% of your max effort. From there, you can start to build more into your workdays and increase intensity over time.
Adapted from http://blog.myfitnesspal.com/sneakiest-strength-exercises-desk/
In men, regular exercise appears to be a natural Viagra: It’s associated with a lower risk of erectile problems. In one study, sedentary middle-aged men assigned to participate in a vigorous exercise program for nine months reported more-frequent sexual activity, improved sexual function and greater satisfaction. Those whose fitness levels increased most saw the biggest improvements in their sex lives. Research in women has found that those who are physically active report greater sexual desire, arousal and satisfaction than women who are sedentary.
In addition, physical activity — especially strength training — can increase levels of testosterone, which may boost sex drive in both men and women. It’s worth noting that overtraining can have the opposite effect: A recent study found that men who do very vigorous exercise on a regular basis tend to have lower libidos. Although this is a potential concern for elite athletes or others who push themselves to the max without adequate recovery, it’s not something that most of us need to worry about.
A review of 66 studies on exercise and sleep concluded that regular exercise is comparable to sleep medication or behavioral therapy in improving the ability to fall asleep, as well as sleep duration and quality.
Researchers aren’t sure why, but they suspect physical activity may help by affecting body temperature, metabolic rate, heart rate or anxiety levels, among other things, in a way that helps us fall asleep and stay asleep.
Because exercise also revs up your body, conventional wisdom has it that exercising in the evening can interfere with sleep. But overall, research has failed to support this assertion. For example, a small study of young adults found that doing vigorous aerobic exercise two hours before bedtime did not impair their ability to fall asleep or sleep soundly. Likewise, a small study of a group of older men and women showed that low-impact aerobic workouts done between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. were just as effective as morning workouts at improving their self-reported sleep quality. And a larger 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America poll found that while responders who exercised in the morning reported the most favorable sleep quality, those who vigorously exercised in the evening said they slept just as well, if not better, on days they exercised than on those that they did not.
Of course, everyone is different, so it’s possible that nighttime exercise may make it harder for you to sleep. But the only way to know for sure is to try. You may be pleasantly surprised at what a little pre-bedtime sweat can do for your sleep.
You may have heard fitness buffs claim that they never get sick. Although this may seem like baseless — not to mention annoying — boasting, there is scientific truth to it. Numerous studies have linked regular exercise to a lower risk of colds. For example, a study that followed about 1,000 adults for three months found that those who did aerobic exercise at least five days a week were about half as likely to develop colds as those who didn’t exercise. And when exercisers did catch colds, they had fewer and less-severe symptoms than their couch-potato peers.
These studies, which show associations but not cause and effect, are corroborated by randomized trials on exercise and colds. In one such experiment involving sedentary postmenopausal women, participants were assigned to either moderately intense exercise (such as brisk walking) five days a week or once-a-week stretching. By the final three months of the 12-month study, those doing the regular exercise reported having substantially fewer colds than the stretchers.
Research in animals and humans suggests that exercise chases away colds by boosting the immune system. At the same time, very intense activities may suppress immunity by increasing levels of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. That perhaps explains why, in one study, runners who participated in a Los Angeles marathon were nearly six times as likely to get sick in the week after the race as runners who did not participate.
Although this is a potential issue for elite athletes or people who do marathons or triathlons, the level of activity among most exercisers — even if it’s vigorous — is far more likely to keep colds at bay than bring them on.
When you hear about a connection between exercise and eyesight, maybe you picture those eye exercise programs that promise to sharpen your vision. But that’s not what we’re talking about. Instead of moving your eyes, the idea is to move your feet.
Research shows that people who are physically active have a lower risk of cataracts. For example, a study of nearly 50,000 runners and walkers found that those who exercised most vigorously were 42 percent less likely to develop cataracts than those who exercised least vigorously. Exercisers who fell in the middle in terms of intensity were also at reduced risk, though to a lesser degree.
The same researcher found a similar benefit regarding age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of vision loss, in a study of nearly 42,000 runners. The more that people ran, the more their risk of AMD appeared to decline. A different study, which followed roughly 4,000 people for 15 years, showed that participants who were physically active were less likely to develop AMD than those who weren’t active.
Scientists aren’t sure why exercise protects against cataracts and AMD. One possibility is that it reduces inflammation, which is associated with both conditions. Cataracts and AMD have also been linked to risk factors for cardiovascular disease, including elevated blood sugar and triglycerides, which regular exercise can improve. Further, some research suggests that people who are overweight or obese are more prone to cataracts and AMD, so physical activity may help by preventing weight gain.
You heard it here first: Exercise may be good for your hearing. A study of more than 68,000 female nurses who were followed for 20 years found that walking at least two hours a week was associated with a lower risk of hearing loss. Other research has linked higher cardiovascular fitness levels with better hearing.
Exercise may protect against hearing loss by improving blood flow to the cochlea, the snail-shaped structure in the inner ear that converts sound waves into nerve signals that are sent to the brain. What’s more, it may prevent the loss of neurotransmitters, which carry those signals between nerve cells. Exercise may also help by reducing the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which are linked to hearing loss.
Of course, blasting music into your ears while you exercise could have the opposite effect and do damage to your hearing. Noise-canceling headphones are a good option because they reduce the need to turn up your music as much. But don’t use them while exercising in isolated spots or on a busy road, where you might not notice approaching traffic.
Although high-impact activities such as jumping or running can cause women to leak urine, research shows that moderate exercise may decrease the risk. For example, a study of middle-aged female nurses found that those who were physically active had lower rates of urinary incontinence than women who were inactive. A study of older nurses by the same team of researchers yielded similar findings.
A urinary problem familiar to many middle-aged and older men is nocturia, the need to get up more than once a night to pee. Often the cause is an enlarged prostate, a condition known as benign prostatic hyperplasia, or BPH. Exercise can help prevent nocturia or reduce its severity. In a large study of men with BPH, for example, those who were physically active for an hour or more per week were less likely to report nocturia than those who were sedentary. Likewise, a study of sedentary older men found that after eight weeks of daily walking, they urinated less frequently during the night.
Another common bathroom-related problem for both men and women is constipation, which exercise can help improve as well. In a study of 62,000 women, those who reported daily physical activity were nearly half as likely to experience constipation as women who exercised less than once a week. A randomized trial involving inactive, middle-aged men and women with chronic constipation found that those assigned to a 12-week exercise program were able to poop more easily.
Exercise helps by decreasing what is referred to as “transit time.” That’s how long it takes food to move through the digestive tract — not, as it sounds, the amount of time it takes to get to work. Alas, a shorter commute is one benefit that exercise may not have — unless, of course, biking to work is faster for you than sitting in your car in heavy traffic.
Davis has written several books about health issues. This is adapted from “Fitter Faster: The Smart Way to Get in Shape in Just Minutes a Day” by Davis with Brad Kolowich Jr.
Adapted from https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/better-sex-is-just-one-reason-that-exercise-can-be-so-good-for-you/2017/06/16/22e557f0-4621-11e7-a196-a1bb629f64cb_story.html?utm_term=.4334c0220b10
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