Balanced workouts benefit baby boomers

Exercise can provide healthy benefits for aging adults

Published On: May 16 2011 02:55:35 PM CDT   Updated On: Jun 23 2011 03:36:35 AM CDT
Woman, Exercise At Home, Pilates

Now in her early 50s, Paula Maccabee feels she is more physically fit than when she was in her 30s.

"I have more endurance, more core strength and great balance. My cardio capacity is greater and I have retained my flexibility," Maccabee said.

What's her secret?

"I've been training in the Korean martial art of taekwondo three to five times a week for almost nine years. For the past several years, I have also studied the Japanese martial art of aikido about twice a week," Maccabee said.

"I use cardio machines and lift weights at the gym, take long walks, jog and do various yoga-based stretching exercises for more balanced cross-training. I work out every day, but with the inspiration of the martial arts and the variety of different challenges, training never becomes stale."

A third-degree black belt in taekwondo, Maccabee has a dedication to being fit, something more baby boomers are finding beneficial as they age.

According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, regular physical activity helps prevent and reduce the signs and symptoms of arthritis, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease and certain types of cancer.

So how can baby boomers, from martial arts experts to those just trying to get off the couch and into the gym, find a balanced workout to stay healthy?

Staying Fit To Enjoy Everyday Activities

Robert Reames, Gold's Gym Fitness Institute expert, personal trainer and nutritionist, says fitness is about more than exercise.

"You want to be able to live and function and feel good," said Reames, who has appeared on "The Ultimate Weight Loss Challenge" and "Dr. Phil."

He added that as people age, they want to be able to handle everyday tasks such as picking up their grandchildren, lifting items into a closet, walking up the stairs or shoveling a driveway.

The key to achieving a level of fitness to perform these tasks, Reames said, is to have a balanced workout.

"The keys to fitness are strength, flexibility and cardiovascular, and balance is a big part of it as well," Reames said.

Maccabee said she can feel the benefits from her balanced workout in her daily activities.

"I feel energetic, strong and flexible," Maccabee said. "I can keep up with my teenaged son, dance the whole night at my daughter's wedding and hike all day in the mountains with my husband."

Types Of Activities

Reames' main recommendation is simple, yet he said it can also be very beneficial: "Do things that you know you can do and that you're good at."

And also do what you enjoy.

Maccabee said she used to use exercise as primarily a way of maintaining her weight, which she said "became drudgery, and it was hard to stay motivated."

But she found a renewed motivation when she started practicing the martial arts.

"Since I began training in the martial arts in my mid-40s, working out is (benefiting) both mind and body, and it is challenging and fun, rather than something I have to do just to stay in shape. I look forward to training and continuing to improve," Maccabee said.

For those who don't exercise as intensely as Maccabee does, Reames said that baby boomers need to be aware that they can't be a "weekend warrior" who competes at top form for one day and then needs days to recover. To avoid this, Reames said to be aware that you might not be able to compete in the same activities, or at the same level, that you did when you were in your 20s.

Some activities Reames recommends for baby boomers are weightlifting and body resistance exercises.

Weightlifting is good for developing bone mass, and can help women fight osteoporosis, Reames said. According to the IHRSA, calcium alone may not strengthen bones, and strength and aerobic exercises might also be needed. The IHRSA recommends that older adults should spend at least two days a week focusing on muscle-strengthening activities that involve all of the major muscle groups: the legs, hips, chest, back, abdomen, shoulders and arms.

To target some of those key muscle groups, Reames suggests doing squats and lunges, which not only help build muscle, but also mimic activities people do in real life -- such as picking things up and climbing stairs.

However, Reames reminds you that you should use caution when performing any physical activity. He suggests staying away from fast, quick movements that don't allow you to have complete control over your body, as they might put your body through something its not ready for. Also, he says to pay attention to your form -- and your posture -- while doing the exercises, and to listen to your body.

"If it hurts, don't do it," Reames said. "Pain is your body's method of communicating."

Reames also suggests always warming up before you partake in any activity -- even if you're just planning on cleaning out the garage -- and to also listen to your doctor's advice, as he or she knows exactly what your body can and cannot do.

Exercise Can Be Cost-Effective

If the economy has you shying away from a gym membership, the IHRSA encourages you to compare the long-term costs of exercise versus health care.

According to the IHRSA, a 2008 study of people who averaged at least two health club visits per week over two years spent at least $1,252 less in health care costs than did those people who went to the club less than once a week.

The organization also said that obese adults who are more than 30 pounds overweight have medical costs that are $5,000 to $21,000 higher than those of healthy weight individuals.

Turn Your Home Into A Gym

If joining a gym still doesn't fit into your budget, or maybe you just don't like the gym atmosphere, Reames has tips for how you can get in shape at home.

"When I walk into a house, I see a gym," Reames said.

Some of the fitness expert's suggestions include filling up water bottles to use as weights, using inexpensive elastic bands for resistance; getting on the floor for push-ups, squats and abdominal work; using a chair for dips to work your shoulders and triceps; and getting in your cardiovascular work by taking a walk outside.