It's clear and simple but not what you might expect
The most confusing aspects of how to start exercising are to decide on how many repetitions, how many sets, what weight load, what rest between sets, etc etc. When I first enrolled in a gym more than 20 years ago, like most men I just started jiggling dumbbells about, then barbells. It was inefficient and ultimately unsatisfying.
To be honest, I wasted a couple of years which could have been better spent.
One of the things which held me back from asking the trainers was my age. I was over 50, and it was rare to see anyone else my age doing strength training. I knew enough to see that the younger ones were doing things that had little relevance to living longer better or fitness, which were my objectives. I drifted into classes, and kettlebells, and came back to barbell training years later.
Two recent studies provided the answers that would have helped me then, and it is clear and simple. These two studies compared young and old healthy adults, and older adults, across different strength training protocols.
The results are very interesting.
At home - three exercises, three sets, three times a week
As we age a loss of strength can lead to a loss of confidence in taking on resistance training. We imagine a power-lifter and the pain of training, and we revert to an all-aerobic exercise pattern. That helps our heart but not our posture and our increasing frailty.
Here's good news. Slow low-intensity resistance training will rebuild your muscle mass and help you stand taller and less likely to fall.
You can do it at home, and there is plenty of evidence of the "effect of very low-intensity resistance training with slow movement on muscle size and strength in healthy older adults".
By taking up a program, in your home, of regular slow low-load exercises, you will rebuild your muscle mass and enjoy an active life for longer.
This program will significantly slow, if not reverse, the 1% per year loss of muscle mass that is typical for adults aged 60 years and older. Just like slow cooking develops the flavour, slow training will develop your muscles (and your muscular coordination, tendons, and joints).
Four fantastic benefits - especially for women
At the gym I see lots of middle-aged people spending lots of time in the aerobics room, and few of them building strength in the weights area. Those that are in the weights area are more often than not sitting on machines taking a rest.
It's not hard to conclude that most people past 45 don't place a high value on all-round body strength. Yet, all round body strength is one of the most fundamental physical assets that will help them improve their quality of life - and their longevity.
And my observation over 22 years at the gym is that, in particular, most midlife women limit their understanding of "exercise" to cardio like biking or running. The idea that they could actually become strong perhaps seems absurd to the point that it never strikes them as a real possibility.
But more than men, women 50+ need strength training to regain essential components of their degenerating musculoskeletal system.
If you can do one, I'll show you to get to 15
Pull-ups are a fantastic pull exercise, and we don't do enough pull exercises. That's why we see so many rounded-hunched shoulders in the gym, and they look bad on men and even worse on women (because it makes them look so much older).
It's a shame to see people putting in all that work and building a poor posture instead of a stronger one. Pulls-ups develop a more robust and more attractive posture. If you can do one proper pull-up, I'll show you how to build that up to 15.
Up to 75% of lower extremity amputations are performed on diabetics
When it comes to health advice getting too much leads to indecision and inaction - we don't know what's best to do.
Et cetera. It's confusing, isn't it? I've provided answers to those questions at the end of this post.
I’ve had diabetes for 20+ years — I don’t want you to get it too!
The focus of this post is to provide you with the answer to this one critical question:
Question: What is an easy, reliable way to predict my chance of developing diabetes?
Each higher level of intensity improves your survival rate
Physical exercise guidelines generally recommend 300 minutes of moderately-intensive exercise a week as a good minimum. Doing any physical activity is better than none. But would you rather try a little harder and live longer?
A research study conducted nearly 20 years ago and since cited by nearly 1000 other studies tested the prognostic capacity of exercise for mortality. The study tracked 6,213 men over 6 years, during which time there were a total of 1256 deaths.
Here's what the data showed, which is exciting. Exercise capacity is the most powerful predictor of mortality, even among those with existing cardiovascular diseases risk factors. Exercise capacity is not relative capacity adjusted for age - that was not found to be a good predictor - but absolute fitness.
If you weigh the same and your muscles are shrinking, then you are adding fat
Since the lockdown began, I have had to stop doing my more intense strength exercises at the gym - I used to go three times weekly. Like you, I've read that our muscles "turn to fat" when we stop exercising.
That's a scary thought, especially after 20 years of progressively building my muscular strength and endurance.
There's good news and bad news. The good news is that our muscles don't turn to fat - that's not even remotely true. The bad news is that our bodies will accumulate more fat if we continue to eat the same amount as we did with more muscle.
How to stop trending towards “skinny-fat” as you age
Calculating your body mass index (BMI) is one way of trying to work out whether you are within a healthy weight range for your height. However, recent research found that a "healthy" BMI was not associated with the longest life - if you are over 65.
That's a surprising finding, despite the well-known limitations of the BMI as a predictor of good health. Let's examine some of those limitations and then review the implications of the research for over 65s.
You can beat fragility
I'm disappointed when I see someone prematurely fragile. Fragility is associated with a shorter lifespan, and with being put into care earlier - losing your independence.
It disappoints me because, with some simple additions to your lifestyle, you can significantly delay fragility caused by loss of bone and muscle mass.
I did a bone density scan last year, and it showed me having 25% better bone mass than males my age, and 5% better than the average 25-year-old male.
80% of the value is in the last 30% of the proper form
I was hooked on Russian Twists for a long time - over a decade. One day an instructor at the gym told me that at my age, it was a poor choice of exercise—too much tension on the lower back.
The answer was to move to exercises which extend our spine, not contract it. This is especially more beneficial as we get older.
It makes sense when you think about it. Being hunched over a desk and learning towards a computer screen all day compresses the lower spine (and pulls a whole lot of other things out of shape).
Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building fitness training which lowers my age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter