“Just you wait until you’re my age!”

5 Most Important Aspects in a Baby Boomer’s Training Program

“Getting old is NOT for the faint of heart.”
“Never get old.”
“Just you wait until you’re my age!”

These are just a few of the quotes I hear from my clients on a semi-regular basis. They are usually spouted off to me in retaliation to an exercise I’m getting ready to make them do during their workouts – especially the last one.
According to the US Census Bureau, over the next four decades, between 2010 and 2050, the United States is projected to experience a rapid growth in its older population as boomers started turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for years to come.
Even though we are seeing this growth in older generations, that doesn’t mean they’re slowing down. In fact, many of them are enjoying life to the fullest. This includes the understanding of taking care of their bodies as they age. Many of my clients KNOW they need to work out. Some will say, “I wish I had started this 30 years ago!”
Still, it’s never too late to start a workout program. There are always gains to be made in a safe, effective manner for any age. However, as we age, our bodies change, so the approach to an exercise program for a boomer will be different than someone 20-30+ years younger than them.
These are 5 components that will make a boomer’s workout program the most effective:

Flexibility, simply put, is how well a muscle stretches. As we age, our soft tissue becomes less pliable. If we allow this to progress too much, this can lead to not only injury during exercise, but also mechanical deficiencies on a daily basis. A simple stretching routine can make a big difference; however, it is important to do the routine daily, not just when you think about it. Before you stretch, it is important to make sure your muscles are warm. Take a 5-minute walk prior to stretching. If you want to take this to the next level, attend a yoga class!

Ah! This is a big one and, frankly, an aspect of fitness that, up until recently, has not received enough attention. Mobility, the ability of a joint to move through its intended range of motion, does coincide with good flexibility, but the misconception comes when one thinks that poor mobility is due solely to inflexibility. Other factors such as your ligaments, tendons and bone structure also play a factor in mobility. But having good mobility is very important in an exercise routine. Several of my clients have had issues with their mobility which have kept them from performing a strength training movement correctly. Rather than pushing through, we will perform a series of stretching and mobility exercises for that joint before continuing with the strength movement. This may take several weeks to improve but, there is little to gain from a strength movement if the joint is unable to move throughout its entire range of motion. Increases in mobility can be gained by performing stretches and exercises as well as myofascial release from foam rolling.

Nothing frustrates an adult client more than to realize they have poor balance. A simple balance movement becomes more difficult as one ages. This can be due to multiple reasons such as a decline in our vestibular system (our body’s balance center) which helps detect where the body is in space, decline in sight, changes in blood pressure due to positional changes (laying down to standing), decline in our reflexes and coordination as well as other issues such as diseases that effect the nervous system and certain side effects from medications. No matter what the reason, as we age, working on balance becomes more important. However, balance, like flexibility, cannot improve unless it is practiced on a regular basis. Simple movements like standing on one foot while brushing your teeth, walking in tandem (one foot directly in front of the other) down your hallway at home, or standing with your feet side by side and looking left to right slowly can be challenging exercises for some. Sound basic? Try it. Let me know when you’ve mastered them, and I’ll kick it up a notch for you! Balance can be static and dynamic. Balancing on one foot is an example of static balance. Dynamic balance is moving place to place or stepping over something. Both are crucial parts to everyday life and important aspects to a boomer’s training program as well as anyone’s!

4.Strength Training
One of the most basic aspects to a general training program is strength, but how it is approached in a baby boomer’s workout program can make a big difference. First, let’s go back to the mobility aspect. Can the client perform the strength movement properly? If not, the improvement in the joint’s mobility must be made first or a modification to the exercise can be made. The most common example I experience with my clients is with a seated overhead press. If they do not have the mobility in their shoulder to raise their arms directly over their head, a modification can be made by tilting the seat back, so they are slightly reclined. This decreases the forces on the shoulder joint allowing the client to complete the movement properly. In the meantime, mobility stretches can be done outside of the workout to improve the issue.
Another aspect to strength training is appropriate sets and repetitions. Strength gains can be made by performing multiple sets of each exercise at a higher repetition. Two sets of 12-15 reps is what I like to build my clients to achieve.
It is also important to vary the movement for each muscle group. Strength gains can be made over a period of six weeks. After that, variations in exercises need to be made for the routine to stay effective. Keep in mind, as your body ages, you may not see the strength gains you once saw in your 20s and 30s but continuing to make strength gains relative to your body’s capabilities is very important.
Lastly, don’t neglect your core! And by core, I mean abdominal muscles and back muscles. These are crucial to keep strong so that good posture and balance stays in check!

Don’t forget to do it! And don’t think you have to kill yourself to make a cardio bout worth your while. A brisk daily walk for 30 minutes can do wonders for your cardiovascular system! It is recommended that adults ages 65+ gets around 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardio in a week. This can come in the form of walking, biking, swimming or elliptical, to name a few. At HIT, I like for my clients to perform a VO2 Max test prior to starting a program with us. This test gives me measured heart rates that will guide me to create measured heart rate ranges that are achievable for them. Plus, many of them are on heart-rate lowers medications so the basic formula of 220-age will not work for them. But if you do not know at what percentage your heart rate should be, you can used perceived exertion (1-10 scale, 5-6 being moderate intensity) or a pedometer where you try to get 8,000-10,000 steps per day!
All 5 of these components create a well-rounded workout program for the aging ‘athlete’. My goal for my older clients is to not just help them live a longer life, but to live a longer life of quality and independence.

Amy Hanshaw, MS
Exercise Physiologist
HIT Center, Huntington

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