Exercise and Fitness

Tips for Senior Fitness - Who Says that 72 is Old?

Who Says 72 is Old

Senior, OK - that's what your birth certificate might say. But old? Who says?

Are you what folks call a senior citizen? If so, Bro and Sis, you're like fine wine that gets better with age...

Some people are old, round-shouldered, overweight, lazy and sluggish at 23. Others have ramrod posture, stability, agility and flexibility at 83. Your life is doing the very best with the raw material that the Almighty gives you.

I don't care how old you are, but if you want to say goodbye to a load of aches and pains, candidacy for diabetes, cardiac issues and a long list of other ailments, then start eating right and exercising every day. Here are a few tips for seniors (or juniors) just getting started on a personal fitness improvement campaign:

  1. Exercise every day, just like you eat and drink daily.
  2. Take it slow it first; like Rome, you don't build your body in a day, but each day of good nutrition and exercise adds up.
  3. Active walking is the sport of choice. Start with 10 minutes a day and then add an additional 5 minutes every week until you work up to at least 30 minutes a day, preferably 5 days a week.
  4. Choose walking over riding in cars; take the stairs instead of the elevator if your heart, lungs and knees are in decent shape.
  5. Once you're capable of walking 30 minutes a day, you can add Pilates and resistance training. I recommend starting out with bodyweight exercises rather than reaching for the iron. 
  6. Do a good warmup before any exercise; the flexibility you get from your warmup prepares muscles for further injury-free activity.
  7. Chart your progress by keeping an exercise log.

We'll be periodically posting specific advice in reference to the above points, G-d willing. Meanwhile, if you have an ailment, first thank the Almighty for all your body parts that are healthy. When we thank G-d, He gives many more reasons to thank Him. Every blessing for a wonderful weekend and restful Shabbat, LB


The Flashy Body or Functional Fitness?

Functional Fitness
If you're carrying a full-load backpack on an uphill trail without huffing and puffing, you're functionally fit. The same goes for carrying two six-packs of 1.5 liter bottles of mineral water home from the grocery store...

Did you ever ask yourself, "Why did the Creator give me a body?" Surprisingly, most people don't know the answer.

* Craig has humongous biceps from the hundreds of heavyweight dumbbell curls he does every day. Yet, when his wife asked him to take down a can of tuna from the top shelf in her kitchen pantry, he couldn't do it because his shoulders were too tight. He simply couldn't raise his arms that high, despite his 6'1" frame. Frustrated, his 5'3" wife stood on a kitchen chair and took the can of tuna down herself.

* In her own words, Marianne "feels dead" if she misses a day of spin class. She spins for an hour a day, proud of her figure. She eats whatever she wants because she burns about 700 calories in one humongous, exaggerated session that's going to bring her to burnout, sooner or later. But, she's so into her peddling as the techno-background music pumps her up, that she slouches over the handlebars, which she grips tightly. Her figure isn't at all attractive because she can't stand up straight. What's more, she can only carry her attaché case to work (weighs about 5 pounds, including laptop) in her right hand because she's developed lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow) in her left arm. So now, in addition to her slouching, she walks with one shoulder higher than the other because she only lifts things with one hand.

* Abe, in his quest for six-pack abs, does over a thousand crunches a day. Sure, his stomach muscles are like iron but his hip flexors and lumbar spine are so tight that he can't touch his toes without deeply bending his knees. Abe looks good on the beach but he sorely lacks inner core strength and like Marianne, his posture is terrible. And lately, he has these terrible backpains, but like a mule, he keeps on crunching.

* Naomi is the women's weightlifting champion of her gym. She can military press and bench press more than women twice her size. Yet, the other day, she bent over to pick up her baby and she pulled her back out.

What's wrong with Craig, Marianne, Abe and Naomi? They are into what you might call "cosmetic fitness", working out for the flashy body, the bulging biceps, the six-pack abs, the "Hey, look at me!" legs and the general Miss or Mister America body. That's ego fitness and it has nothing to do with serving Hashem. Many of the poolside-promenade people lack functional fitness. They can't perform basic functions in life. Their workouts are wrong and they oftentimes are detrimental to overall health rather than conducive to it. How?

The muscle/bikini beach folks focus on isolated muscle groups rather than on multiple muscle groups working together in harmony. In the words of Greg Roskopf, MS, a biomechanics consultant with a company called Muscle Activation Techniques who has worked with athletes from the Denver Broncos, the Denver Nuggets, and the Utah Jazz, "Conventional weight training isolates muscle groups, but it doesn't teach the muscle groups you're isolating to work with others".

When we're functionally fit, we're quicker and more agile in our daily functions. Functional fitness exercises are designed to train and develop your muscles to make it easier and safer to perform everyday activities, such as carrying groceries or playing a game of hide-and-seek with your children. Good posture and functional fitness go together. There's no reason in the world that a senior in his or her 80's can't be functionally fit, but consult with a qualified physician or seniors' fitness training specialist before you embark on any exercise routine on your own. 

You don't have to spend hours in a gym. Fifteen minutes a day of functional fitness exercises are sufficient to keep you feeling great. I love Pilates-style core-strengthening exercises and total bodyweight exercises as squats and pushups because of all the muscles they involve and that you don't need any apparatus. Such bodyweight cardio exercises as walking and swimming will keep you trim and fit from head-to-toe. Body-balance, stability and flexibility are so very important components of functional fitness too; Yoga-style exercises are great for all three. Shlepping groceries up three flights of stairs is also a wonderful full-body exercise.

Never forget also that good dietary habits are twice as important as exercise. Sabbath and holidays are for delight, but not for eating into oblivion, especially grossly unhealthy things. All good diets tolerate, even encourage, one cheat-day a week but that doesn't mean alcohol-and-pastry suicide. Like our working out, our eating and drinking should be for the sake of maintaining a fit body, whose purpose is to capably house a serene soul that's connected to its Creator for 120 happy and healthy years, amen!


Six Steps to Proper Standing Posture

Your entire health depends heavily on good standing posture - a strong and stable spine, your balance and your breathing, just for starters. Did you know that your mood sinks when you slouch and you become prone to back pain and headaches? Bad posture weakens a person, and he or she becomes easier prey for muggers, anti-Semites and worst of all, the evil inclination that wants to weaken our connection with Hashem, Heaven forbid. This instructional vid will teach you the 6 steps to proper standing posture, and it will undoubtedly enhance both body and soul health.

Six Steps to Proper Standing Posture.mp4 from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Get it Right!

Fitness trainers have an expression: “Get it right!” Any exercise, from simple breathing to the most complex routine, must be done in the best possible form to ensure optimal performance, gain and benefit to the body. Just as doing exercise is a workout for the body, doing mitzvas is a workout for the soul, making the soul strong and healthy. In that respect, good spiritual form is important for fulfilling a mitzva, so when it comes to observing the Torah, we have to "get it right" too.

Thanks to our esteemed donors, you are welcome to download the mp3 of this shiur free of charge to listen anywhere on your own device and to share with whomever you like.


A Healthy Self-Image

When you feel good about yourself, other people will feel good about you. There are three ways to pursue happiness and to build a healthy self-image: strengthening the body, strengthening the soul, or to understand that body and soul are inseparable and to strengthen both simultaneously. Today's Emuna Beam teaches us how to do that. Enjoy today's six-minute chizuk and have a lovely Shabbat!

Click here for your free mp4 download of this podcast; you are entitled to listen to it on your own device and to pass it on to others as well, courtesy of "Emuna Beams."