Boomer fitness, or for that matter any kind of fitness, really got started with us. After all, when did catchphrases like “no pain, no gain” and “feel the burn” first take hold? In the 70s, when many of us were in our teens and early 20s. It was the size and strength of our age group that brought fitness into our mainstream vocabulary. And speaking of vocabulary, our fitness passion coined yet another term – boomeritis – although that one came much later (scroll down to Glossary).
Granted, back in the day our interest in boomer fitness was much more cosmetic – we just wanted to look good. Immediate gratification was the goal. How many of us at 20 years old really knew, much less cared, about the long term benefits for our general health?
But now we do. At the half-time stage of our lives (remember that 50 is the new 40…), we know that boomer fitness is absolutely essential to the quality and quantity of our coming years, no matter what our pursuits. What we eat (and don’t) and how we exercise (and don’t) are all important.
Boomer fitness has a lot of moving parts - literally – not to mention a lot of terminology. Some terms are common, but others we might never have heard of, such as:
low impact exercise - cardiovascular exercise that has a reduced impact on the legs, knees, and feet, such as walk- ing, swimming, bicycling and aerobic dance not involving jumping or bouncing movements; most suitable for exercise beginners and those who are overweight, pregnant, or with spinal or joint ailments.
Over the past century, major advancements in medicine and nutrition were the real keys to greater longevity. In the early 1900s, people ate whatever was available, exercise was mostly limited to physical labor, and the average life expectancy was less than 50. But by 2000, our
parents were expected to live well into their 70s at least, just by virtue of those advancements. There was no concerted effort on their part, no real concern for anything resembling boomer fit- ness.
As our parents grew older, their activity levels generally dropped. Studies have shown that 60% of all adults over 75 no longer participate in any type of physical activity. But more so than our parents, we know now that a sedentary lifestyle brings at least as much risk for ailments such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pres- sure, colon cancer, obesity and osteoporosis as does advanced age.
When it comes to aging, we boomers have a pretty clear choice. Sure, we can never stop the hands of time, but isn’t it better if those hands just touch us instead of giving us a head slap?
The all important first steps to boomer fitness:
Nearly 25% of all Americans are currently on some sort of diet, and most (95%) will fail.
and exercises based upon your doctor’s advice.
Always stretch before and after exercising.
The real key to weight loss is simple – we lose weight when we burn more calories than we eat. Of course, the flip side is also true – we gain weight when we eat more calories than we burn. So much like our household budget, we need to manage what’s coming in and what’s going out on a regular basis.
Now that we’re in our midlife stages, boomer fitness becomes more difficult. Our muscle fibers start to shrink in size and number with age, a process known as muscle atrophy. We start to gain fat, especially around the middle, and counterproductive to losing weight (fat burns fewer calories than muscle). Our loss of muscle mass is related to, and perhaps partially caused by, a slower metabolic rate which also comes from age.
So what’s our remedy? Any quick fixes or miracle discoveries lately – seems like there is always some recent revelation. Actually, the best remedy has been known for a long time, many centuries in fact, going all the way back to the time of Hippocrates, a Greek physician who lived during the 4th century before Christ, and generally known as the father of western medicine:
Now if we fast forward to today – at least to our high school algebra class – we would have a formula that looks like this:
Safest Way to Health = Nourishment + Exercise, or
Boomer Fitness = Diet + [Exercise], or
Boomer Fitness = Diet + [Cardio Exercise and Strength Training Exercise]
Since we probably find eating a lot easier than exercise, let’s start with the more challenging part of this equation – exercise (scroll over to Boomer Diet for the “easy” part).
One of the initial goals of boomer fitness is getting 20-30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times each week. If we are new to exercise, and given the above statistics a lot of us are, we can choose either of two options. We can visit a health club and get a program matched to our particular needs and condition, and start from there. But if we choose to go it alone, it’s best to start slow with some low-impact exercises:
burn up to 400 calories in 30 minutes by swimming with virtually no stress on our joints; swimming is especially good for muscle rehab or for those with arthritis. Water aerobics, treading water, or even walking in the pool are some other options.
High-Impact exercises can burn more calories than does low-impact, but also increase the risk of joint pain or injuries:
Running/Jogging - can burn up to 300 calories in 30 minutes at a sustained running speed of 5 mph (recommend a gradual progression over several ses- sions, as beginning runners will likely experience initial soreness in ankles and shins).
Whether it’s low or high impact, the type of cardio that’s best will vary from person to person. Such variables include a person’s age, gender, metabolism, daily calorie intake, body weight, percentage of body fat and overall level of boomer fitness.
Low and high impact routines can certainly be mixed one day to the next, or even during the same session. The goal starting out is doing cardio exercises abut 3 times each week, and working up from 20 minutes to 30-45 minutes for each session. Not only good for burning calories, cardio also provides conditioning for the heart and lungs.
As outlined above, cardio exercise improves our endurance levels while strength training builds muscle mass and improves bone density - each is important for maintaining boomer fitness as we age. Strength training also improves the structural integrity of our joints and our sense of balance, and some studies have shown a correlation to preventing type 2 diabetes.
In our 40s, our bodies start losing about a ¼ pound of muscle mass each year, a rate exacerbated if our lifestyle is more sedentary. But by maintaining or even increasing our percentage of muscle, we cre- ate a greater resting energy after exercise, which in turn helps burn more calories during the course of our day.
Combining strength training with cardio exercise gives us a more holistic approach to boomer fitness. For example, we can schedule our cardio work for M-W-F, with strength training for T-TH-S (Sunday is still a day of rest). Alternating our days this way not only brings variety to perk our interest level, but also enables recovery time for the affected parts of our body.
Five exercises most recommended for beginner strength training:
Do at least 12-25 repetitions per session, at least twice each week.
Work you way up to 10-15 reps initially per session, 2-3 times each week.
with arms held vertical throughout, and stand with one foot forward and on foot back, about three feet apart
Do 12-15 repetitions per session, 2-3 times each week.
Do as many repetitions as you’re comfortable with per session, at least twice each week.
Do as many repetitions as you’re comfortable with, then transfer the dumbbell to your left hand and reposition your feet and right forearm accordingly, i.e., extend your left foot all the way back from your right foot, keeping your back and left leg in a straight line causing your right leg to bend at the knee, and then rest your right forearm on your right thigh. Perform these routines at least twice each week.
These strength training exercises target most of our major
muscle groups – chest, back, shoulders, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, ham- strings and abs – and can easily be performed at home without any special equipment. Beginners can perform these routines at their own pace and comfort level, progressively building strength and tolerances before advancing to machine work if desired.
Always remember to stretch fully before each session, and to maintain good posture throughout each routine.
Regardless of age, each of our bodies can be categorized by certain characteristics, which in turn determine how soon – and how much – success we have in reaching a boomer fitness level. Allowing for some “cross-over” tendencies, there are three (3) distinct body types to which each of us have “morphed” (scroll up to Glossary for definitions) - an Ectomorph, an Endomorph, or a Mesomorph:
So, what type of body are you? With boomer fitness, the temptation is to compare our results with everyone else, or with a one-size-fits-all model. By recognizing the type of body we have, we can tailor our efforts to our own specific needs and capabilities, with less worry for how long it takes getting there. The keys are knowing “what” we are, being realistic, and staying committed.
In our quest for boomer fitness, it’s very possible to catch boom- eritis – aka the weekend warrior syndrome. Prime candidates are any of us still believing we can play the same sports at 50 that we did at 25 (or less), carrying just a few extra pounds along with stress, and a tight workday schedule that allows no time for regular exercise, giving us a sense of urgency to cram some- thing extreme into the weekend. Ouch! That’s when boomeritis can bring injuries to the back, neck, knees, tendons, ligaments and bone fractures.
What’s the cure? A strength training program as outlined above to build muscle mass, particularly our core muscles to protect against back injuries and to retard the loss of bone density. A greater focus on nutritional needs is also necessary. For example, magnesium plays an integral role in muscle strength, contraction and relaxation, and studies have found that higher levels of magnesium promote stronger hand grips and greater leg power. Magnesium can be had naturally from a variety of fruits, grain, dairy products and dark leafy vegetables.
For the second part of our equation, scroll over to Boomer Diet!Return from Boomer Fitness to Bomer Health