Archive for November, 2011:

Use It or Lose It – MUSCLE

Muscles lose size and strength with age and inactivity, but they can be rebuilt and replaced through a program of resistance training. Most fitness experts believe that we loose 5-7 lbs of muscle for every decade of adult life. Inactivity leads to weak muscles and bones and the loss of bone protein, all of which can cause discomfort in joint function, decreased range of motion, and stiffness in the joints. The good news is that specific, regular strength training combined with aerobic conditioning and proper diet offers a way to prevent muscle loss and increase the amount of calories we burn in our daily lives.
Here are some reasons to use and not lose our muscles by exercise: maintain and add muscles, boost metabolism (muscles burn more calories than fat), reduce body fat, increase bone mineral density (a preventative measure against osteoporosis), aid in joint flexibility, ease arthritic discomfort, and have better stability to prevent falls, low back problems, and greater abdominal strength through classes such as Pilates and yoga. The high energy demands of strength training enhance glucose metabolism and appear to have a positive effect on decreasing the likelihood of adult onset diabetes. Also, exercise speeds up food transit thus decreasing the risk of colon cancer.
An aerobic exercise program has been shown to help lower blood pressure, improve high density lipoproteins (good cholesterol), increase oxygen consumption and cardiac output, and decrease body fat. Also exercise enhances a feeling of well-being and quality of life while relieving symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you have been away from exercise for a while, see your doctor or physical therapist for advice and consider a fitness trainer for a specific program for your needs. Basically, follow a program that includes a warm-up and cool down with time for stretching, and aerobic and resistance training. Take your time while exercising, wear comfortable clothing and shoes, hydrate and have proper diet, and have fun doing something beneficial for you and your heart, lungs, and muscles. Most government health reports suggest 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week. However, recently there have been articles in favor of some aerobic activity every day. Resistance training is usually performed 2-3 times a week with a gradual increase in intensity level as you progress.
Schedule a certain time each day for exercise and have long and short range goals. Keep a diary of your activity and consider exercising with a friend. Have fun!
Strength Training Past 50, Westcott and Baechle, Surgeon General’s Report on Exercise, 1996.
For further information, there are numerous book and videos on exercise and health at your public library.

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by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.

Metabolism and Exercise

Metabolism is the process by which the food you eat is converted to useful energy production which will nourish and sustain you and provide the “gas for your engine”. Metabolism is the total of all the energy producing and absorbing processes occurring in the body. Even when you are resting, calories are being consumed to sustain life. Your brain, heart, lungs and other organs have to be nourished with oxygen enriched blood.
The basal metabolic rate is the lowest rate of energy metabolism of a person at rest. A very general estimate of your basal metabolic rate is to add a zero to your weight in pounds. For example, a 150 lb person has a rate of 1,500 calories needed to sustain normal living functions. Now it becomes more understandable why people on very low calorie diets of 1000 – 1200 calories cause their body to “think” it is being starved and slow down metabolism. This in turn causes fat to be held by the body rather than burned as fuel.
Aerobic exercise such as walking and anaerobic exercise such as weight lifting greatly increase your metabolism and cause you to burn fats and carbohydrates during the exercise session and even after you stop. As you increase lean muscle tissue, more calories are needed to sustain muscles as compared to fat. By incorporating exercise in any weight loss program, more fat and less muscle mass is lost. Eating breakfast and 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day raises your metabolic rate and

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keeps it elevated thus causing more calories to be burned. If you skip breakfast and only eat 2 meals daily, your metabolic rate will remain below normal for most of the day. It is important to eat foods that contain fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

If your intake of carbohydrates is very low you will reduce your energy level. If you cut your protein intake below normal limits, the body will draw its’ needed protein from your muscle tissue causing a loss of muscle and a lowering of your metabolic rate. It would appear that healthy nutrition and regular exercise are the key elements to weight loss and energy production. Dieting without exercise is not the most beneficial way to approach obesity. You will be more successful combining dieting and exercise together as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Physical Fitness, Robert Hockey
Is There A Way To Burn Calories Faster?, Neal Bernard, MD, Vegetarian Times, Mar 2005.
Article by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.

Home Exercise

There are many ways to get your 30 – 60 minutes of daily exercise around the home without having to travel to a gym or health club.  Weather permitting, you can walk for your aerobic segment.  Try to include some hills on your route and consider using a pedometer to record your distance, and a heart rate monitor for your intensity level and target heart rate (THR).  Remember, you are trying to work out for at least 20 minutes in your THR which is found by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying the answer by 65% for the lower end and 80% for the upper end.  For example, a 50-year old would subtract: 220 – 50 = 170, and multiply: 170 x .65 and 170 x .80, for a THR of 110 – 136 beats per minute.  Other aerobic exercise could include climbing the stairs in the house, dancing to fast music, performing an aerobic routine by following a video, or jumping rope.  Check with your doctor prior to doing aerobic exercise and ask for her recommendations. 
Strength or resistance training can be done at home by traditional exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, stretch and reach, and lunges.  If you have a pair of 5 or 8 pound dumbbells, use them for arm curls, chest press, shoulder press and 1-arm rows.  If you don’t have dumbbells, use soup or bean cans or plastic detergent containers.  There are numerous books in the library and many magazines in the supermarket that show pictures of the proper form for all these exercises.  You may want to buy an exercise band for stretching and strengthening moves.  They are sold at many department stores. Some have handles and some are simply the band itself.  The band can be placed around a stable object such as a pole in the basement and you can pull the ends towards you in a rowing motion.
For better flexibility and decreased risk of injury, perform some stretches for the legs and back.  They can be done by lying on your back and bringing your knees to your chest.  Also, you can raise 1 leg at a time straight to the ceiling and stretch the back of the leg.  Almost all the books on yoga include a section on stretching.  Often the package in which an exercise band is wrapped includes instructions and sample exercises.  A broom or mop handle can be held at the ends with both hands and used for stretching.  Calf stretches can be done on the stairs by placing the front half of the foot on the first step and raising and lowering the heel in the air. 
Use your imagination to think of other exercises and stretches.  Make it fun but most of all, be safety conscious.  Have proper balance and body alignment and wear loose clothing and no jewelry.  Protect your joints such as the knee by keeping the knee over the ankle when lunging or squatting.  See what you have in your house or apartment that could be used for exercise.  Do you have a sturdy table, counter top, or a chair without wheels?  If so, you can gently lean on them to perform a push-up or an upper back stretch.  You may want to use and exercise ball or a medicine ball for resistance and lifting.
Find something that you can do regularly and make it a positive, healthy habit.  Could you try a few sit-ups while watching television?  Involve the family or a friend in your program and keep a record of your accomplishments.  Set short and long range goals and reward yourself on a job well done.  You deserve the benefits a strong body and a healthy lifestyle provides!
Article by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.

Weight Management

Be honest with yourself.  Only you know yourself!  This is a wonderful thing because it means that you hold the key to your own weight management.  Find your key and you will be free to live the life you want to live!
Give yourself the gift of freedom to live the life that you have dreamed about.  Can you imagine waking each morning feeling good about yourself and possessing the freedom to do the things you really want to do?  You will no longer be a prisoner to your weight, pain, fitness limitations or fashion requirements.  Close your eyes and imagine life without weight issues.  You deserve this life.  What are the triggers that make you turn towards food?  Is it stress, boredom, or family issues?  Why do you make unhealthy choices?  Do you eat and watch TV?  What time of day do you eat the majority of your food?  Note your answers to these questions and consider keeping a daily food log.  Check with your doctor concerning a particular diet, food choices and portion sizes for you.  Drink water, get proper rest, exercise and try to eliminate some stress from your life.  Consider having a buddy with you as you start a healthier life style.
Where to begin?  A pound is 3,500 calories and to lose a pound you must eliminate 500 calories per day for 7 days.  Exercise and diet together are the best way for healthy weight loss.  It is not healthy to eat less than 1,200 calories a day.  It is better to reduce calories by 250 by adding a brisk walk of 30 – 40 minutes to your day.  Exercise can elevate your mood by changing your body’s chemistry.  Loss of weight can help reduce your risk of certain diseases as well.  You can make a conscious decision to live an active lifestyle and increase your chances for a happy and healthy life.  An active lifestyle enhances your mood, increases your metabolism, improves digestion, increases bone density and may lower your resting blood pressure.  Make small goals and strive to reach them.  When you do, reward yourself.  Some goals may be walking every day, taking the stairs at work, standing while talking on the telephone or doing sit-ups during the TV commercials.
Choose an exercise you enjoy and wear proper clothes and shoes.  Be careful and safe and start slowly.  If you feel pain or discomfort, check with your doctor before continuing.  It is ok to take a day off.  Eat a nutritious breakfast and drink water.  Try having smaller more frequent meals during the day rather than one very large dinner.  Cut down on saturated fat and sweets and eat several portions of fruits and vegetables daily.  Check with your doctor or a nutritionist for a specific diet plan for you.
Visualize your overall goal and set a course for a new healthy life style.  You deserve the very best.  Now let’s begin!
Article by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.

Doctors and Health

On one of my own annual trips to the Doctor’s office, I asked his advice on what I could do to maintain good health.  He made the following points: 
·         First, don’t smoke.
·         Second, wear a seatbelt while in a vehicle. 
·         Third, eat moderately from all food groups.
·         Fourth, exercise daily. 
·         Fifth, do something that pleases you. 
Let’s expand on the fifth and final point, as the first four have been reported upon extensively.  Do something such as play a sport, eat a special meal or take a ski weekend trip.  Read a classic book, hug your children, say a prayer for a deceased parent, or smell a beautiful flower.  Do something that pleases you. 
The idea is that I have the power to make myself happy and I ought to do that at least once or twice a day.  You may call it stress reduction, self fulfillment or taking charge of your own life.  The label isn’t important.  What matters is that you deserve some peace and enjoyment in life. 
Many of us were raised in families that were economically poor, but found great enjoyment in each other and in the simple pleasures of life.  These pleasures may have been conversations, card playing, gardening, collecting stamps or baseball cards, visiting a zoo, watching the sunset, or making potato pancakes.  I think what the doctor meant by the fifth point was living in the present and finding time for enjoyment now.  Good health encompasses many different facets. One of them is a restful night’s sleep dreaming about a simple pleasure that made you smile that day. 
Article by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.

Do Drink The Water

You have heard the expression “don’t drink the water”, usually referring to tap water in a foreign country.  Well, fortunately in the U.S. water is a safe commodity to use, so drink up.  Experts suggest drinking at least (8) eight ounce glasses of water per day.  If you exercise and perspire, you may need more.  Several training books recommend drinking water before, during and after an exercise session. 
One gauge of how well your body is hydrated is the color of urine.  You want the color to be clear, not yellow.  Another gauge is thirst.  It is recommended that you drink water before you feel a thirst sensation in your mouth.  As our bodies and especially our muscles are mostly water, it is important to stay well hydrated. 
Of course there are other fluids besides water, but water is the best one for our bodies.  You can drink juice, low fat milk, tea, and flavored beverages, but check the amount of sugar in each.  Try sipping water from the water cooler each time you pass it at work, and carry a water bottle with you in the car or keep one at your desk.  When walking, have one with you as well for constant refreshment.  Drink a glass of water in the morning, and have one before dinner and one prior to bed time.  Remember alcohol, diet drinks, and caffeine act as diuretics which can dehydrate you.  Those drinks don’t count as part of your 8 glasses of water.
Water is important for digestion and metabolism of food and for carrying nutrients and oxygen to the cells.  It also helps regulate body temperature.  On a normal day your body can lose 10 – 12 cups of water and your food will only provide 2 – 4 cups leaving you a deficit of about 8 cups that you need to consume.  For weight loss water is essential as it can suppress appetite when taken before a meal and is essential for fat metabolism and proper liver and kidney functions.  Insufficient hydration will cause your body to retain water which can lead to swelling in the legs.  As you can determine it is essential to drink adequate amounts of water. (Water helps the body function efficiently.  Drink up.)
Strength Training Past 50, Wayne Wescott and Thomas Baechle
Physical Fitness, Robert Hockey.
Article by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.

The Great American Smokeout – November 17, 2011


Wellness Tip

Tips to Help with Smoking Cessation
One reason people smoke is that the nicotine helps them relax.  Once you quit, you’ll need another way to cope with stress.  Try getting regular massages, listening to relaxing music or learning yoga or tai chi.  If possible, avoid stressful situations during the first few weeks after you stop smoking.In addition to the tremendous health benefits, one of the perks of giving up cigarettes is all the money you will save.  Reward yourself by spending part of it on something fun.
The Great American Smokeout
November 17, 2011

Celebrate National Family Caregivers Month

National Family Caregivers Month

Giving Thanks

Every day millions of adults provide care for loved ones and friends who are either aging or have debilitating illnesses. Caregiving– providing care and being “on call” 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – is hard work.Nearly 10 million adult children over the age of 50 care for their parents. As the baby boom generation ages, the number of people who need care will continue to grow. It is estimated that 80 percent of all care received by older Americans is provided by family members. Estimates reveal they provided the equivalent of $450 billion worth of care to their adult parents and other loved ones in 2009, an amount that makes caregivers one of the largest and most overlooked pillars of the U.S. health care system, according to a new report by the AARP Public Policy Institute. If family caregivers were no longer available, the economic cost to the U.S. health care and long-term services and supports (LTSS) systems would increase astronomically.

What Should Caregivers Know?
Take care of yourself
A healthy diet and plenty of exercise and rest are critical for staying healthy. Make time for shopping, lunch with friends or even a golf outing. Take advantage of community services such as adult day care or in-home companion services to care for a loved one in order to take a break.

Know what resources are available
Adult day care, in-home assistance, visiting nurses and Meals-on-Wheels are just some of the services that can help.

Get help
Asking for assistance does not mean failure as a caregiver. Seek the support of family, friends and community resources.

Manage your stress level
Stress can cause physical problems and changes in behavior. Use relaxation techniques that work, and consult your doctor.

Accept changes as they occur
People often require care beyond what you can provide on your own. Look into care services such as in-home caregiver services and residential care.

Do legal and financial planning
Consult an attorney to discuss legal, financial and care issues. If possible and appropriate, involve family members and the person you are caring for.

Celebrate National Family Caregivers Month by offering help to those who do!

For more information on Elders and Family, visit the U.S. Administration on Aging at:

National Institutes on Aging has an Online Information directory. Click on Caregiving and find a host of available websites:

Caregivers May Have Some Surprising Benefits

AARP Caregiving Resource

AARP Public Policy Institute
“Valuing the Invaluable: The Growing Contributions and Costs of Family Caregiving, 2011 Update.”

American Diabetes Month

November 2011

This November, the American Diabetes Association brings to light the seriousness of diabetes and the importance of prevention and control.

“Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless we take steps to Stop Diabetes.”

Diabetes is a serious disease. If it isn’t managed, it can damage many parts of the body, leading to heart attacks, strokes, amputation, blindness, kidney failure, and nerve damage.

Costs of Diabetes:

You are at risk if:

  • You are overweight.
  • A parent, brother or sister has diabetes.
  • You are African American, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, Asian American or Pacific Islander.
  • You had a baby weighing more than 9 pounds or had gestational diabetes.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have low HDL (good cholesterol).
  • You have high triglycerides.

The good news is that diabetes and its complications can be prevented or delayed by properly managing blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating healthy, being physically active and quitting smoking also can help lower the risks. Losing just 5 to 7 percent of body weight is an effective way to prevent type 2 diabetes in people with pre-diabetes.

Diabetes-Friendly Holidays
With the approaching holiday season, you can still enjoy meals and celebrations by using these tips from the American Diabetes Association:

  • Get back to simplicity – simply sauté or roast vegetables instead of using casseroles
  • Control portions – use smaller portions
  • Put salad in the spotlight – create something special using different ingredients
  • Add fresh veggies whenever you can – add a variety whenever you can
  • Switch to low-fat dairy – modify recipes using low-fat or reduced fat ingredients
  • Use herbs, spices and aromatics – compensate with different combinations of herbs and spices
  • Offer variety – add fruit salad or a bowl of fruit, hummus with veggies

Resources: American Diabetes Association

Two Types of Exercise for the Total Body

The difference between aerobic and anaerobic activity is the presence of oxygen.  Of course you are breathing during both activities.  Aerobic exercise such as walking, biking or an aerobic exercise class, is often defined as any activity using the large muscle groups of the body for at least a 20 minute duration in the Target Heart Rate (THR) zone.  The exercise is sustained by oxygen from the blood circulation through the body fueling the energy-producing activity of muscle fibers.  Aerobic training is often called a cardio workout from the word cardiovascular. Its purpose is to strengthen the heart and lungs and help the body more efficiently use energy to perform a function such as walking.  Activities such as snow shoveling and gardening can be aerobic in nature.  The THR is found by subtracting your age from 220 and multiplying the result by 65% for the low end and 80% for the high end of your THR.  For example, a 50 year old:  220-50 = 170; 170 x .65 = 110; 170 x .80 = 136.  Therefore, the THR is 110 – 136 beats per minute.
Most training manuals recommend beginners and those people interested in weight loss to exercise at 60 – 70% of the THR as the body uses more fat for energy in that range and the body can sustain activity for a long period of time at that intensity level.  Also, there is less chance of injury and exercise soreness.  Weight loss requires burning more calories than you eat.  Aerobic exercise burns fats and carbohydrates, but predominately fats, which is why it can help in weight loss.  We want the body to use more fats as fuel as opposed to stored carbohydrates or proteins.  Besides the THR method of determining intensity levels, you can use the talk test and the rate of perceived exertion (RPE).  If you can maintain a short conversation while exercising, you are primarily aerobic and not under undue cardio respiratory stress.  RPE is a 0-10 scale with 0-2 being very, very weak exercise effort, 3-5 moderate to strong effort, 6-10 very strong to maximal effort.  The new government guidelines for healthy living issued in 2005 recommend a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily.  If you have time you can exercise for 45-60 minutes or break it up into 15-20 minute segments.  The important point is to do some aerobic activity daily.
The other type of activity is anaerobic which refers to short duration exercise requiring a burst of energy such as sprinting, weight lifting, martial arts, or running up a couple of flights of stairs.  A different energy pathway system is used to fuel our muscles to perform anaerobic exercise.  It is important for overall good health to include both aerobic and anaerobic activities in our daily lifestyle.  Training with moderate weights 2 – 3 times per week would be beneficial to our bone health as well as adding strength and size to our muscles.  As we age it is vital for our bones and muscles to perform some resistance training or we will lose lean muscle mass and weaken our bones and joints.
The Book on Personal Training,  Karl Dauphinais and James Bell, 2004.
Muscle Mechanics, Everett Aaberg, 1998.
Article by Bob McDowell, Certified Personal Trainer.
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