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According to the 2010 Census Bureau, seniors are the fastest growing segment of our population. They should follow a healthy diet and undertake physical exercise.


However, just what kind of exercise is best for seniors?

Few, if any, are interested in being competitive body builders or athletes, although Senior Olympics might hold attraction for some. Of course, before beginning any exercise program, you should obtain approval of your physician.


The real goal and current wave for senior exercisers is that of functional fitness, which helps to reduce the risk of many major diseases and illnesses. It refers to a level of strength, endurance, cardiovascular efficiency, joint flexibility, and balance that enables us to effectively carry out our daily living activities.


Functional fitness helps preserve independence and capacity to pursue, not only activities of daily living, but also hobbies and sports to improve as better golfers, tennis players and recreational cyclists, as well as for hiking and gardening.


In order to do this you don’t need to spend hours in a health club, fatiguing yourself by pushing extremely heavy weights or sweating until exhausted on the treadmill or stair climber. Far less is required for maintenance of functional fitness.

“It is never too late to join the fitness revolution”– Eric Castillo

When we analyze “fitness,” we look at several components: cardiovascular efficiency, the body’s ability to effectively deliver oxygenated blood to the skeletal muscles via the heart and lungs, muscular strength, the ability to apply muscular power to a movement, muscular endurance, the ability to sustain force over time, and flexibility, the capacity to move body limbs and joints through a full range of motion. These elements, combined with balance and coordination, are what we try to preserve as seniors. Without exercise, all of these essential elements of functional fitness will decline as we get older.


The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association recommends that a disease-free, sedentary adult use strength training for muscular strength and endurance at least twice per week, one exercise each for each major muscle group to include legs, back, chest, shoulders, arms and abdominal muscles.


Lift weights approximately eight to 15 times, gradually working up to 70 percent to 80 percent of your one repetition capacity; that is, a weight that you can lift only a single time. It is recommended that a very sedentary individual begin at an even lower level and gradually work up in intensity. The strength training session needs to last about 30 minutes.

“The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the American Heart Association recommends that a disease-free, sedentary adult use strength training for muscular strength and endurance at least twice per week”– Eric Castillo

For cardiovascular efficiency, it is recommended that one work up to at least 30 minutes of cardio exercise on most days. The exercise can be almost anything that will gradually raise heart rate and can include walking, bicycling and many other activities, in or out of a health club. Sedentary adults can begin with as little as 40 percent of estimated maximum heart rate and work up to a range of 50 percent to 85 percent.


At least in the initial conditioning stages, employing a certified trainer is recommended. The trainer can help establish safe goals and get you started on the right path by designing a program with the proper volume, mode and intensity. A trainer will teach you how to monitor your performance, using a heart rate monitor or your own “rate of perceived exertion,” to establish and keep you within safe but effective limits.


You should work progressively as your conditioning, established by baseline testing and evaluations, improves. Every effort should be made to make your functional program as much fun as possible, by relating your exercises directly to your interests and goals.


In as little as six to 10 weeks with a weekly investment of just three or four hours, you should notice a change in your energy level, appearance and outlook. It is understandably easy to find reasons not to embark on a functional fitness program, but the benefits are so great that it makes sense to bite the bullet and just do it.

It is never too late to join the fitness revolution.

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