Ask the fitness experts

Vol XIV: Now that I'm well over age 50, I've become more aware of the benefits of lifting weights.

fitness 88 (photo credit: )
fitness 88
(photo credit: )
Harriet and Rachelle are co-directors of Great Shape Studio at the Jerusalem International YMCA. For more information, see bottom of article. Send us your questions for Harriet and Rachelle » * * * Volumes I - IX * * * Vol XIV Q: Now that I'm well over age 50 (male), I've become more aware of the benefits of lifting weights. What should I do to get the most out of this exercise? A: I'm happy to hear that you are beginning a strength training program. It is an essential component of health and fitness. Strength training will benefit your physical capacity, physical appearance, metabolic function and will lower your risk of injury. There are many ways to develop muscle strength, though many strength-training programs have a high rate of injury and a low rate of muscle development. According to Dr. Wayne Westcott (strength training consultant for the YMCA of the USA and author of numerous texts and articles on strength fitness) for safe, effective and efficient strength gains, you should be aware of the following important points: 1) Exercise selection - select at least one exercise for each major muscle group, rather than training only a few muscle groups in order to avoid muscle imbalance and to decrease your risk of injury. 2) Exercise sequence - during a strength training routine, you should first work from the larger muscle groups of the legs to the smaller muscle groups of the torso, arms and neck. This order is important so that you do the hardest exercises before you get tired. 3) Exercise speed - lifting weights at a fast pace stresses the muscles and connective tissue at the beginning phase of each movement. When you lift weight at a slower pace the muscle force is more even throughout the movement range. 4) Exercise sets - this is a number of successive repetitions performed without resting. Several studies have shown similar strength gains from one, two or three sets of exercise. If you do more than one set, rest between one and three minutes between sets. If you don't want to push yourself too hard on a single set, then you might prefer to do multiple sets. 5) Exercise resistance and repetitions - 8 - 12 repetitions with 70 - 80% of maximum resistance is recommended for safe strength development. 6) Exercise range - each exercise should be performed through a full range of joint movement, emphasizing the completely contracted position. 7) Exercise progression - progressive resistance is a key factor in strength development. Muscles adapt to the resistance used, so the resistance should be gradually increased to continue to build strength. 8) Exercise frequency - you should only do strength training every other day in order to give your muscles time to rebuild themselves. Each repetition should be performed using correct form and control. You might want to hire a personal trainer for 2 or 3 sessions. A trainer will build you a program based on your fitness goals and will make sure that you are performing the exercises with good form so that you can safely continue on your own. Remember to always warm up and cool down appropriately. You should end every session by stretching the muscles that you used. Good luck. * * * Vol XIII Q: I would like to join a gym to lose weight and get fit, but I'm concerned that everyone there will already be fit and I might not be able to keep up. I'm also worried that I won't stick with it, as I've never been a regular exerciser. A: Most professional gyms/studios have classes and programs geared to beginners so that newcomers to exercise don't feel intimidated. In addition, some places will also arrange a free consultation with you to go over your fitness goals (e.g. weight loss, stress reduction, improved strength, etc.) and build a personalized schedule that will help you ease into fitness. You should start slow so that you don't overdo it. Moderate activity at moderate levels can produce major health benefits. Forget "no pain, no gain." Getting active should not be a punishment. You should choose an activity that you will enjoy doing. Everyone has different tastes and the important criterion for consistency is fun. Some people like working out on their own, while many, especially newcomers to exercise, like the idea of exercising in a group. Working out with other people can be highly motivating as they will wonder where you are when you miss a class and their encouragement will give you the incentive to keep exercising. Many people form friendships which also add to the fun factor. Another important consideration for consistency is to be realistic towards weight management. Many people want to see immediate weight loss or they become discouraged. A professional representative of a gym/studio will explain that, as you build muscle, your metabolism rate will increase even at rest, so you will burn fat more efficiently. Over time, a regular exercise program (combined with good nutrition) will result in lasting results of weight management. Lastly, set priorities. You are taking a step towards becoming healthier and it is important for your quality of life (and for your loved ones) that you stick with a regular exercise routine. Once you have built a personalized exercise program that suits you, you should schedule it in your calendar and relate to it as a very important meeting that cannot be cancelled. Reevaluate your goals and schedule every few months so that you remain motivated. Please consult with your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Good luck and remember that your decision to start exercising may be the most important health decision you have made in a long while. * * * Vol XII Q: I would like to know when is the right time for me to exercise to reduce weight? I'm had a caesarian operation just last September. A: I commend you on your motivation to exercise. This will help you achieve your goal of weight loss and also help strengthen the muscles that were weakened both from the pregnancy and from the cesarean section. During a cesarean birth, the abdominal muscles are separated rather than cut, so it's important to decrease the separation, which can be accomplished with specific abdominal exercises (under the supervision of a qualified fitness professional). The fitness professional will need to check your muscles for separation before you begin. At your 6-week check-up with your doctor, he/she can tell you if the incision has healed and if you can begin to exercise. If you do not exercise regularly, you should begin with short sessions (5 - 10 minutes) of physical activity and gradually build up to a desired level of activity. If you were active before the birth, you can gradually resume your previous routine, but it's important that you pace yourself to suit your current physical capability. Remember to drink lots of water. Drink a minimum of 10 glasses of water a day and even more if you exercise and breastfeed. As you mentioned that your goal is to lose weight, it would be helpful if you also met with a dietician for nutritional guidance. Good luck with your exercise routine. * * * Vol XI Q: I was wondering what are good exercises for skinny people who want to look in shape. Also, are there any foods one should eat in order to gain the weight that could possibly be lost doing these exercises? A: Genetics play a large role in determining who will develop large muscles, including that sculpted physique shown in many popular magazines. Even with the lack of genetic capability you can still bulk up the body by working out with heavier resistance until muscle fatigue and doing fewer repetitions for each muscle group. I would suggest beginning with weights that are not too heavy (or other forms of resistance like rubber tubing), weights that you can lift to do 8- 12 repetitions or resistance where you can do 8-12 reps for each muscle group using good form up to and including the last repetition. Gradually as you build up, you can increase your weights or resistance. You should do two sets for each major muscle group with a rest between sets. This should be done three times a week but not on consecutive days. The muscles must have time to recover and strengthen between each workout. If you do not have weights or other resistance equipment you can use your own body weight, as in push-ups, triceps dips, and walking lunges. A fitness professional can help you plan and implement this program, taking into consideration all the major muscle groups as well as your wish to add bulk to your body. A qualified nutritionist can give you specific information on adding calories to your diet. Generally, you would need to add healthy fats, like omega 3's found in various fish. Other healthy fats are found in walnuts, almonds, and other nuts. Eat complex carbohydrates as well as protein. Again, a dietician can help you plan a diet high in calories and healthy too with more calories coming in than you will be expending. Good luck with your program! * * * Vol X Q: What kinds of exercises would you recommend for someone with Multiple Sclerosis? A: Until 1996, physicians did not suggest exercise for people with MS thinking it would increase the body temperature and thus could make the condition worse. Physicians now encourage physical activity and exercise to help achieve a better quality of life. Studies done at the University of Utah as well as subsequent studies showed that MS patients who exercised had better cardiovascular fitness and bladder and bowel function and improved in other ways as well. Special considerations must be taken with each MS patient and each one is quite individual. The health care providers must give the information to the teacher/trainer, the absolute contraindications, the relative contraindications, indications, cautions, special instructions and any other restrictions that may exist. The exercise program must be modifiable depending on the person's symptoms and feedback that day. Fatigue related to the MS cannot be worked through as in a regular exercise program unless it is only muscle fatigue from working on a muscle group. A well-trained professional can help determine that. Exercising in a cool environment at an appropriate intensity is important to avoid symptom onset. Light clothing, exercise in cool water, or exercising in a cool environment will also help. With all that, therefore, I cannot recommend any specific exercises for people with MS. A certified fitness professional with a specialty in the area would be the safest and most effective way to find out what to do. * * * Rachelle Oseran has 21 years experience as a fitness professional. She is certified by ACE (the American Council on Exercise). She is also a certified prenatal/postnatal exercise instructor. She has presented at international fitness conventions in the U.S., Europe, Africa and the Far East. Harriet Scher has 30 years experience as a fitness professional in the US and Israel. She is certified by ACE ( The American Council on Exercise) and Schwinn as an indoor cycling instructor, and is trained in Pilates. * * * Cafe Oleh experts have been chosen for their knowledge and reputation. Cafe Oleh does not take responsibility for any advice they offer. Send your comments >>
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