If we had to choose one word that characterizes all the fitness options available to us, that one word might well be: Bewildering.
From high-intensity programs that would leave a Navy Seal gasping for breath to the “muscle-stim” waist belt that promises to deliver a 6-pack of abs while you lounge on your couch watching TV there is certainly a wide range of meticulously marketed fitness options.
In my work as a personal trainer and a consultant to gym owners I interact with many of the finest fitness professionals in the business. Here is what I have found: The best among them all firmly believe that their type of exercise is the ultimate, most beneficial form. Honestly, that is what you should expect them to think; to be really good at what they do they have to be passionate about it. From the Zumba teacher in the group fitness room to the cycling instructor in the spinning studio to the personal trainer in the weight room; they will all tell you that you need to be following their program.
So what is an over-40 individual looking to begin a fitness program (or upgrade a present one) to do? (That’s a very reasonable question, don’t you think?) Let’s consider a few facts before attempting to answer.
- What are your goals? Before you set out to navigate the overflowing fitness marketplace you have to decide what it is that you want to achieve. If you simply have the short-tem goal of dropping 15 pounds for your 25th class reunion, then burning a lot of calories would be a priority. But if you are looking to improve your health and look better for the rest of your life you have a different kind of goal; one that needs to include a number of factors.
- Research is increasing showing some surprising results regarding the health benefits of different forms of training. For example: A woman may not realize that resistance training with weights or machines is one of the best ways of combating osteoporosis (not to mention looking better in everything from a sleeveless top to a (gasp!) bathing suit. A man may not have known that flexibility training can effectively combat household and on-the-job injuries (or help him break his personal best on the golf course).
- Practicality enters into the equation on all levels. Hopefully, by the time you progress into your middle and golden years you will have already recognized that you cannot “have it all.” For most of us there just isn’t enough time.
So where does that leave us? With over 40 years of experience in the fitness field my recommendations can be relied upon (you have to trust somebody) when I tell you that there are three elements that a well-rounded exercise plan will include: (1) Flexibility Training to keep you injury-free and limber at home and on the job; (2) “Cardio” (aerobics) to keep your heart strong and assist in weight control; (3) Strength Training (for both men and women) to combat the “muscle wasting” effect of aging and regain muscle tone and fullness as well as the muscular endurance that will make day-to-day living a lot easier (and let you look years younger).
“How,” you might ask, “do I go about including each of those elements in the time I have available?”
Well, that is a topic I will cover in upcoming blogs. But I would love to hear from readers regarding what you consider to be your #1 fitness priority.