Fitness, boomer-style

Exercise improves quality of life
Inactivity has been linked with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, certain cancers and premature death from any cause.

And it’s not just cardiovascular fitness that provides healthy benefits. Recent studies have shown that strength training is effective in preventing osteoporosis. In fact, weight training and other types of strength training can improve quality of life and the ability to complete daily tasks for adults even in their 80s and 90s, according to the Mayo Clinic.

“Yet people tend to focus exclusively on cardio fitness,” Cleo says. “Strength training is often overlooked.”

If you have images of hoisting scary bar bells or maneuvering clunky machines, think again. At Avalon Woods, the strength training equipment is designed specifically for older adults. No need to remove pins or mess with adjusting heavy weights: the completely automated system does it for you. You simply push a button indicating how much weight you want to lift. The computer also tracks your repetitions.

“Our members find it quite fun,” Cleo says.

Turning back the genetic clock
And if strength training is made to be fun, all the better. Adding to the mounting evidence of the health benefits of resistance training, new research from McMaster University says that lifting weights may actually reverse the aging process in muscle cells.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, an international online journal of the Public Library of Science, involved analyzing tissue samples from people aged 70 and older before and after they underwent six months of twice-weekly resistance training. These samples were then compared to those taken from healthy men and women in their 20s. Researchers found that exercise resulted in an actual reversal of a person’s “genetic fingerprint”. In fact, the older participants were found to have cellular levels similar to those seen in younger adults.

The researchers also examined muscle strength. Before the resistance training began, the participants in their 70s were 59 per cent weaker than the younger study participants – but after only six months of training, they were only 38 per cent weaker.

“People don’t always realize how important it is to include strength training in their exercise program,” Cleo says. “Keeping up your strength is vital for staying mobile – you need it for just about everything in daily living from carrying the groceries or lifting that heavy bowl – or even for simply getting out of your chair.”

Are you a “Health Club” person?
Studies have shown that many people join health clubs only to never show up at all or to quit after only a few months. “Gym boredom” can set in, or people may simply find it more efficient to exercise at home.

It matters less where you exercise, than that you do, Cleo says. “Studies have shown that even as little as 15 minutes of walking produces health benefits. While more exercise brings greater benefits, every little bit counts. Anything you do, no matter how small, is good for you.”

So what makes for a “Health Club” person? “Health clubs can be motivating, especially for people who have tried home exercise and not succeeded in maintaining it,” says Cleo. “A health club also generally offers a wider range of exercise and more sophisticated equipment, as well as fitness classes such as Pilates or yoga.”