LIKE MOST folks, baby boomers and senior citizens regard the start of a new year as a time to try something new. For many older Americans, becoming fit and losing weight are at the top of the list of resolutions.
People in the boomer and beyond age range face some additional challenges than their younger counterparts and, as a result, should take some extra precautions when starting or expanding a fitness campaign.
Getting fit is an important issue , particularly at this time of year as people ‘‘evaluate what needs to be done, maybe in a better way, or maybe people haven’t done any exercise at all,’’ said George Frazier, general manager of CentreTown Fitness in Wheeling.
When holiday celebrations conclude and January arrives, ‘‘often times, we find people try to live a healthier life. We’re glad for that, because exercise is a big part of what I believe is a healthy lifestyle,’’ he said.
For boomers and seniors who have this new year’s goal, Frazier suggests ‘‘seeking some professional advice, from someone who can maybe get you started in a program that encompasses some of the important aspects of fitness.’’ That advice can come from an exercise physiologist at a local fitness center or from a personal trainer.
At CentreTown Fitness, located in the Blue Cross-Blue Shield building in Center Wheeling, Frazier said, ‘‘We see a huge upswing in December, January, February and March because people are driven to do things indoors. Of course, I believe people should do these things 12 months out of the year.’’
He explained that people receive tremendous physical benefits from being physically active. ‘‘There’s a lot of value you receive from exercise. There’s no other way to achieve it other than by exercise,’’ he said.
Putting new year’s resolutions into action requires a plan. Frazier cautioned boomers and seniors, ‘‘If you’re going to set goals, make sure the goals are obtainable goals, and develop some kind of a game plan to achieve those goals.
‘‘I think it’s important that you share your goals with someone — a friend or family member, who will keep you on track or perhaps even participate in a healthy lifestyle goal, someone you could partner up with,’’ he added.
At the same time, he suggested, ‘‘It’s important to try to limit the number of goals you set for yourself. If you set too many lofty goals, chances are they will all fall through.’’
Instead, he recommends that older folks set goals that are do-able, such as starting an exercise program or changing some type of foods in one’s diet (cutting out fried foods, reducing the amount of red meat consumed or limiting intake of sweets). ‘‘If you try to do all the goals at once, you’re less likely to be effective,’’ he said.
If an exercise program is on the boomer or greatest generation’s agenda, ‘‘it’s very important that they make sure they have medical clearance from their primary physicians, particularly things that could affect the heart and lungs, the cardiovascular system or are contraindicated with other medical conditions,’’ Frazier said. A primary physician also might recommend a specific type of exercise to match a patient’s physical condition.
As an exercise physiologist, Frazier said, ‘‘I want to know a little bit about their medical history — any number of things, any kind of injuries, back problems, severe arthritis, blood sugar, diabetic issues, hernias, high blood pressure, any of those things could have something to do with what kind of exercise program I put them on.’’
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The basic guideline from the American College of Sports Medicine calls for 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise daily.
That cardiovascular exercise ‘‘can be walking in a good pair of shoes, walking on a treadmill, walking outdoors if the weather is good, walking on a track, riding some kind of cycle,’’ he said.
‘‘A recumbent cycle is more comfortable for people with back issues,’’ he added.
‘‘The newer type of equipment is designed especially for people who have joint issues. Elliptical trainers are a good choice today; they’re not high-impact.
‘‘A lot of treadmills are built with cushioning in them so they’re not high- impact on joints.
‘‘For some people, swimming may be the best choice. If they have arthritis, warm water is a good environment, being in a water program where it’s non-weight bearing,’’ he said.
In addition, Frazier said, ‘‘I personally think every senior adult should be doing some kind of strength-training activity.’’
A common complaint for senior adults is ‘‘a major loss of strength and flexibility. A lot of issues they deal with have to do with loss of strength,’’ he observed.
The exercise physiologist recommends that seniors strengthen their muscles on a regular basis, with strength-training exercises that go through the major muscle groups in the body. As few as six to eight exercises will help, he said. ‘‘At least two days a week, senior adults should do at least 20 minutes of strength-training exercises. I think that is really a healthy kind of exercise prescription,’’ he said.
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When a boomer or senior decides to implement a fitness plan, Frazier recommends starting slowly and ‘‘building yourself up over time.’’
For example, a newcomer to exercise could start with 10 minutes of exercising at a time and build up to 30 minutes of good, quality exercise.
Even with sensible exercise goals, ‘‘it doesn’t mean you can jump right into it full-go,’’ he observed.
‘‘Keep moving’’ is a good mantra for senior adults. Frazier suggests doing some cardiovascular fitness that is not injurious to joints.
‘‘Stiffness and soreness related to arthritis often increase with a lack of exercise,’’ he pointed out. ‘‘With strengthening exercise and light cardio, those conditions generally improve over time.’’
Frazier said people with arthritis or stiff joints also may look to the nutritional side of health.
For example, he said that Dr. Joseph Maroon, a Bridgeport native who is a leading surgeon in Pittsburgh, strongly advocates the use of fish oil to help prevent or ease joint inflammation.
While research results are mixed, Frazier said he does encourage of lot of his clients to start including fish oil in their diets.
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At CentreTown Fitness, the age range of the clientele is ‘‘pretty mixed,’’ depending on the time of day, Frazier said. Clients ages 65 and older are more likely to visit the fitness center in the morning through early afternoon, while early evening is a busy time for clients ages 25-55, he said. ‘‘We really see a pretty good mix of people,’’ he commented. ‘‘The majority of people here are between 45 and 65.’’
JIM?MATYSIAK, 51, of Martins Ferry works his pectoral muscles by doing butterfly presses on a Cybex machine at CentreTown Fitness in Wheeling. Exercise experts recommend strength training for senior citizens.