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How to get back in shape


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Power Up to Slim Down

You don’t have to be Charles Atlas to power up with strength training. This kind of exercise is a key to fitness for everyone – especially seniors. Stacks of scientific studies prove this. In fact, senior muscles may benefit more from strength training than young ones.

Strength training has many names. Resistance training, weight lifting, working out, and pumping iron are just a few. Whatever, you call it, it’s more valuable, easy, and fun than you probably imagined. For instance, you may not know that strength training can rev up your metabolism and help you burn off more calories around the clock.

It gets results by “stressing” your muscles more than your humdrum daily activities do. This stress could come from doing pushups, pressing a dumbbell above your head, or curling a coffee can. Believe it or not, muscles live for this extra work. It makes them stronger and healthier.

Put the brakes on aging

You lose as much as 40 percent of your muscle strength during your adult life, health experts say. This process –called sarcopenia – starts in your 40s and 50s, when your muscle fibers begin to shrink, become less efficient, and disappear altogether. Sarcopenia leads to the weakness, poor coordination, and bad balance that many seniors suffer.

Strength training halts this process and may even reverse it. According to the latest research, your strength could jump by an amazing 100 percent if you’re a weight-lifting senior. Pumping iron works because it encourages your muscles to grow and become more responsive and powerful.

Lifting weights can also build up your bones. What muscles flex during strength training, the bones around them respond like plants to sunlight – they grow.

Resistance training helps maintain bone density at any age. It doesn’t take much. Just a little stress on the bones to mitigate the bone loss that is inevitable as you age.

And it doesn’t matter how old you are when you start. Even seniors with osteoporosis can benefit from low-weight, high-rep resistance training. It’s never too late to start preventing bone loss.

Stronger muscles and bones could help you preserve your freedom and your ability to take care of yourself. After all, you need muscles to walk up stairs and climb out of bed, not to mention carry your groceries and pick up your grandchildren.

When you follow a regular lifting program, you’ll start seeing muscles you haven’t seen since you were 30 years old. Strength training carves muscles until they become lean and well-defined.

And unlike fat, muscles do more than take up space. They’re constantly eating up calories – three times as many as fat. They keep churning even when you’re not exercising. Don’t stop working out for long, though. The more you strength train, the more muscles you’ll build, which will help your body burn fat faster. So add some muscles and watch the fat melt away.

Strength training could also add 20 yards to your golf drive, or some extra “umph” to your tennis serve. It may take you to a higher level in whatever sport you’re active in. Moreover, extra muscles helps protect your joints and lower back during cardiovascular exercises such as jogging and bicycling.

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Exercise Types to Stay Healthy

Exercise is the central ingredient of good health. It tones the muscles, strengthens the bones, makes the heart and lungs work better, and helps prevent constipation. It increases physical reserve and vitality. The increased reserve function helps you deal with crises. Exercise eases depression, aids sleep, and aids in every day activity of daily life.

There are aerobic or endurance exercises, stretching exercises, and strengthening exercises. You need to know the difference between the three types.

Aerobic (endurance) exercise is the key to fitness. This is the most important kind of exercise. The word “aerobic” means that during the exercise period the oxygen (air) you breathe in balances the oxygen you use up. During aerobic exercise, a number of body mechanisms come into play. Your heart speeds up in order to pump larger amounts of blood. You breathe more frequently and more deeply to increase the oxygen transfer from the lungs to the blood. Your body produces more heat and compensates by sweating to keep your temperature normal. You build endurance.

During endurance exercise periods, the cells of the body develop the ability to extract a larger amount of oxygen from the blood to increase function at the cellular level. As you become more fit, these effects persist. The heart becomes larger and stronger and can pump more blood with each stroke. The cells can take up oxygen more readily. As a result, your heart rate when you are resting does not need to be as rapid, allowing more time for the heart to repair itself between beats.

Stretching exercises are designed to keep you loose. Everyone should do some of them, but they don’t have many direct effects on health. As you age, you want to be careful not to overdo these exercises. Toe-touching exercises, for example, should be done gently. Do not bounce. Stretching should be done relatively slowly, to the point of discomfort and just a little bit beyond.

Stretching exercises can be therapeutic in certain situations. If you have a joint that is stiff because of arthritis or injury, if you have just had surgery on a joint, or if you have a disease condition that results in stiffness, then stretching is usually an important part of the therapeutic solution. Remember that there is nothing mysterious about the stretching process. Any body part that you cannot move through its full normal range of motion needs to be repeatedly stretched so that you slowly – often over weeks or months – regain full motion of that part.

For most people, however, stretching exercises are useful mainly as a warm-up for aerobic or endurance exercise activity. Gently stretching before you begin endurance exercise can begin to warm up the muscles, make them looser, and decrease the chances of injury. Stretching afterward can help prevent stiffness.

Strengthening exercises can also be important. These are the “body building” exercises that are often performed just for cosmetic results. They build more bulky muscles. squeezing balls, lifting weights, and doing push-ups or pull-ups are examples of strengthening exercises. These exercises can be very helpful in improving function in a particular body part after surgery (for example, knee surgery), where it is necessary to build up strength.

Strengthening exercises can help build up muscles and decrease fat even in persons in their eighties and nineties. They can help increase bone strength and make the bones more resistant to fracture. Their drawback? They don’t help protect the heart, so if you do strengthening exercises be sure to do your aerobic exercises as well.

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