Monday, June 16, 2014



REAL  AGE  -  exercise

Hitting the Maximum: Can You Overdo It?

How much exercise is enough? How much is too much? The odds are that you are not getting too much exercise. Since fewer than 15 percent of Americans exceed the 3,500-kcal mark that is the RealAge goal, most of us need not worry that we are overdoing it. As rare as it is, however, there is the possibility of too much of a good thing, and you can get older from exercising too much. For example, one of my patients, Mary, took up jogging in her early thirties. "Within a few years, she was running road races and had even run several marathons. Her times were good. She often finished in the top twenty, and she began to take her training more seriously. Her goal was no longer to run a marathon but to win one. Soon she was running three ten-mile runs a week and a fifteen-mile run on Sundays. She was in fabulous aerobic shape. Yet the longer her runs, the more pressed she got for time. To run in the morning and still get to work on time, she began to shorten her warm-up time. She quit stretching and limbering up. And she did no strengthening exercises. (Running on a straight course—no hills—is an aerobic exercise but not a strength-building one.) Then the inevitable happened: She tore a ligament in her leg. She was on crutches for months and was never able to run seriously again. In the end, she gave up exercising altogether. Whereas at forty-five her RealAge had been close to thirty, one year later her RealAge was over forty. Needlessly.

Exercise fiends can make themselves older, particularly if they are not careful to maintain a well-balanced workout routine. Exercising too vigorously-— that is, more than four hours a week at a top rate—can produce three major problems: antioxidant buildup and subsequent ageing, destruction of muscle tissue, and injuries from overuse of tissues.

If you exercise more than 6,500 kcal a week or exert more than 800 kcal an hour for two hours in any one workout, you are overdoing it. This amount of exercise overwhelms your system and causes your metabolism to become less efficient during the workout. The body cannot dispose of free radicals fast enough, and they build up in your tissues. As I mentioned in the first chapter, the buildup of free radicals appears to be linked to accelerated ageing. That is, exercise increases cellular metabolism and, hence, oxidation. And the buildup of oxidants can cause cellular damage, particularly to the DNA. Small-scale studies have shown that oxidation damage, and the ageing it causes, is lessened in those who take vitamins C and E regularly. Although the findings are still preliminary, I recommend taking those two vitamins about an hour to two hours before you exercise, just as a precautionary measure. You should be taking C and E anyway. 

A second risk of overexercising is muscle damage. Overexercising usually means that certain muscle groups are getting used too much; they don't have time to repair themselves and rebuild after the workout. Optimal Age Reduction includes resting between workouts, plus cross-training (switching between activities on different days).

The third and most obvious problem associated with exercising is injury from the overuse of muscles and joints. The wear and tear that results can cause real problems.

Avoiding Injuries: Basic Guidelines

What should, you do to avoid exercise-related injuries? If you pull a muscle, don't stop exercising altogether. By staying in shape, you are more likely to avoid future injuries. Just lay off the sore muscle for a while. Try a different exercise that doesn't stress the pulled muscle. For example, if you injure a muscle in your leg, consider swimming, relying mainly on your arms to do the work. If your ankles or knees ache, try something with no impact—like a cross-country ski machine, an elliptical exercise machine, or a stationary bicycle. If your aerobics class has you hurting, consider taking a water aerobics class; you'll get the same workout with none of the impact.

If you tear a muscle or do something particularly damaging, you will know it. The pain will make it obvious. If you feel intense pain or notice swelling, remember 'RICE'—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. In other words, don't use the muscle; ice the injury for twenty minutes every eight hours for forty-eight hours; wrap (and slightly compress) the injury with an Ace or similar bandage; and keep the injury elevated to reduce swelling. If the pain doesn't begin to subside or if you suspect a more significant injury, call your doctor.

Other sports injuries are more subtle: The tendon in your elbow aches or burns, but you keep on playing tennis every day anyway. You feel the throb in one knee, and so favor the other leg—upsetting your balance and doing more long-term damage. You keep running, despite the shin splints or the dull ache of the stress fracture. For any injury that bothers you for more than a few days or so, consult your doctor. Most clinics and health maintenance organizations now have doctors who specialize in sports medicine. Such doctors, in conjunction with the organization's team of physical therapists and other injury-rehabilitation staff, can help you when you do get injured, or when you want to devise a workout plan to stay in shape and keep from getting injured in the future.

If you haven't exercised in a long time, or if you are starting a new sport, consider having a session with a personal trainer or professional instructor— just a little time with someone who can teach you how to do the proper movements. Knowing what to do and what not to do, so as to get the most out of your workouts and to avoid injury-provoking mistakes, can save you days, if not weeks, of pain and grief.

Again, I cannot say it enough: If you are planning to make exercise part of your life—-that is, if you plan to adopt an active lifestyle—there is no need to rush into it. You have time to work into it gradually. That way, you'll be less likely to have an injury and more likely to make it a manageable lifelong routine.

Here are some general guidelines to avoid getting hurt and to get the maximum Age Reducing benefits:

1. Vary your exercise pattern. Don't do the same activity every single day, and certainly not more than two days in a row. If you go jogging three days a week, consider swimming on the other two. Or rotate between the different aerobic machines at the gym: Do the StairMaster one day, the Treadmill the next, and then the Bicycle. Try to use all your muscles, working both the upper and lower body.

2. Also, it is often better to do a variety of different exercises that complement a training routine, rather than just one activity. For example, when I trained to play in competitive squash tournaments, it took me years to learn that my squash game actually improved and that I was less prone to injury if I did a number of unrelated activities that built strength, flexibility, and stamina, rather than just play squash every day.
Add strength and flexibility exercises to your aerobic workouts. Combinations like biking and weight lifting, running and yoga, or aerobics and stretching exercises are mutually reinforcing. They help ensure against a damaging injury.

3. Warm up. Start by doing something that gets your muscles moving. Walk briskly or jog at a slow pace for a few minutes. Then stretch. Once your muscles are a little warm, your stretches will be much more effective. You will also be less likely to have an injury. Don't think that you will save time by skimping on the pre-workout. Beginning a strenuous workout with tight, stiff muscles is the most likely way to damage or injure a muscle. You should do stretching and strengthening exercises for at least five minutes before you begin the vigorous portion of your stamina workout. Remember, too, to cool down by stretching your muscles at the end of each workout.

4. Use equipment designed for your sport. You don't need to go crazy buying sports equipment, but it is important to have equipment that is fitted to you and your particular activity. Wear shoes that are expressly made for your exercise program and replace them when they show signs of too much wear and tear (about every three hundred miles worth of workouts). You don't need expensive shoes (I never pay more than forty or fifty dollars for a pair), but they should provide good support for your feet and ankles. Be particularly careful about having good shoes if you do aerobics or any sport that involves lots of running, jumping, or bouncing because you will be more prone to ankle and leg injuries. Replace shoelaces frequently, as they get stretched out quickly and lose their support. If you bike, get a bike that fits you. Always wear a helmet (that keeps you younger, too!). Likewise, if you Rollerblade (in-line skate), make sure to wear a helmet, knee pads, shin guards, and wrist guards, especially if you are playing hockey or some other game on Rollerblades. Go to a specialty store and talk to the salespeople about the advantages of specific equipment and evaluate what you really need. The salespeople in small stores are often serious athletes themselves and can be extremely knowledgeable.

5. Avoid overexertion. Gradually increase your exercise time and do not increase it by more than 10 percent a week. Even if you are training to meet a goal like running in a marathon or playing in a tennis tournament, do not overdo it. More than 40 percent of marathoners who run over thirty miles a week develop injuries within the training year, the quickest way to put the dream of the race to rest.


Strength and Flexibility: Stretch It to Your Limits

Strength and flexibility exercises are the important third prong of your Age Reduction exercise plan. 


We tend to think of stamina-building (aerobic) exercises as the most important kind of exercises, but such exercises do not build muscle or bone. Although the data on ageing indicate that strength and flexibility exercises produce only 20 percent of the RealAge benefit attributable to exercise (1.7 years younger), these exercises help your body protect itself from such injuries as muscle tears or bone fractures. They also help retard ageing of the bones and muscles, improve balance control, and help prevent fat gain and damage to joints, muscles, and tendons. These exercises keep your bones young and in this way prevent osteoporosis (the loss of bone density) and fractures. Strength and flexibility exercises increase the efficiency of oxygen use by your muscles, reduce arterial ageing, and improve immune function, thus decreasing the risk of the early onset of chronic diseases, such as arthritis.

Although there have been fewer studies of the benefits of strength and flexibility exercises—in contrast to the extensive amount of research on aerobic exercise—-the studies that have been done confirm that those who are strong and flexible are better able to perform everyday activities, are less likely to develop back pain, and are better able to retain mobility through old age. In 1995, a review in the Journal of the American Medical Association analyzed eight studies on the benefits of strength and flexibility exercises. Such exercises were important in preventing falls and increasing bone density. Some studies showed a RealAge benefit of 2.7 to 4 years with just ten weeks of strength and flexibility training. In general, keeping yourself strong and flexible can make your RealAge as much as 1.7 years younger.


Ageing makes us more prone to stiffness and orthopedic injuries; muscles become stiffer, and tendons and joints are not as strong or elastic. Studies show that when people do strengthening exercises and become stronger, they are more likely to begin doing other exercises as well. We all lose muscle from our twenties on—that's one reason why we gain weight as we age. On average, a pound of muscle uses 150 kcal of energy per day, whereas a pound of fat uses 3 kcal of energy per day. Even marathoners lose muscle if they don't do strengthening exercises. If you do strengthening exercises regularly, you will counteract this attrition, and your body will burn more calories all day long, even when you're at rest. Stamina exercises, in contrast, don't build muscles. Doing just twelve weeks of strength and flexibility training six times a week for fifteen minutes at a time will increase the number of calories you burn by 15 percent.

You should always do flexibility exercises (stretches) before and after any vigorous workout—after warming up first, of course. You can do strengthening exercises either before or after your stamina workout or on the days in between.

There are many kinds of flexibility exercises. You can learn how to do stretching exercises at home. Many gyms offer stretch classes. And, of course, there is yoga. Although yoga is not any better than other stretching techniques, most yoga routines provide a comprehensive, full-body stretch of all the muscle groups in one workout.


Strength training involves working our muscles in opposition to a force of resistance, such as weights. One four-year study showed that lifting weights regularly led to increased bone density—up to one-third more than any other activity. Another study found that postmenopausal women who began weight training preserved bone density, gained muscle mass, and significantly improved their sense of balance. Within three months of starting a weight-lifting program, muscle strength can increase by as much as 20 percent, making you 0.9 years younger. "Weight training can also help improve performance in other sports. For example, one study found that runners who began doing leg lifts regularly increased their speed by as much, as 40 percent.


If you have never lifted weights or done any strengthening exercises, get instruction first. It is easy to get hurt from lifting weights incorrectly, and just a little guidance can ensure that you will get the most out of your weight-lifting time and avoid injury. One way of combining weight training and stamina training is to begin circuit training, in which you lift weights in rapid succession, walking briskly between sets. If you join a gym, it will probably have a Cybex or Nautilus circuit already set up for you. If you are going to buy weights to use at home, buy free weights. All-in-one weight machines are much more expensive and take a lot of time for readjustments between each maneuver, meaning you spend a lot of your workout time just fiddling with the machine. Also, many 'aerobic' exercise machines allow you to set a particular level of resistance. On treadmills, you can raise the angle of the 'track.' Many stationary bicycles can be adjusted to increase the amount of force needed to pedal.


A Personal Trainer: The Benefits of Professional Instruction

Consider hiring a personal trainer for a few sessions. Although it may seem a luxury—-the kind of thing we associate with Hollywood celebrities—using a trainer can provide a big payoff for not that much investment, and I strongly advocate it. When my daughter Jennifer needed rehabilitation for a knee injury, she initially refused to work with a trainer. I finally convinced her to try it, and once she started, she quickly realized the value. The trainer taught her how to focus on her workouts and how to visualize her muscles actually getting stronger. This process helped strengthen the muscles around the knee, so she recovered more quickly. She learned how different muscle groups worked and how best to strengthen them.


If you do decide to hire a trainer, how should you begin? Start with a number of sessions right in a row and then taper off. A good trainer will focus closely on technique, so you will learn how to do each exercise properly. Go several times in the first two weeks to reinforce what you learn, so you don't forget. After the first two weeks, go for a refresher session once a week for a month and then go once a month after that or as needed. If hiring a trainer seems like too much of a 'splurge,' consider a conditioning-training class. Even one lesson will help you improve your form and lessen the risk of injury.

One of the things Jennifer liked best about going to the trainer was that she learned several exercises for each muscle group. Now she can alternate between them or simply do the ones she likes best 'What my trainer really taught me is that you should do the exercises you love to do,' she told me. 'If you don't like something, there's usually another way to get the same effect.'

Your basic exercise sequence should be this:

Warm up
Flexibility exercises
Strength exercises
Flexibility exercises again and cool down (same as the warm-up)

Flexibility Exercises: The Basics

When you begin to do flexibility exercises, remember that warm muscles respond better than cold ones. After you warm up your muscles by walking slowly for five to ten minutes, begin your stretching exercises. It is usually good to do your stretching exercises just before your stamina-building workouts, so you stretch before you do vigorous exercises. Even if you attend a stretch class, such as yoga, make sure to do these seven basic stretches before exercising. Each stretch should be done twice, with slow and gentle movements. Extend into each stretch, feeling the pull on your muscles, for thirty seconds. Do not bounce because bouncing can put you at risk of straining or tearing muscles. Even if you do stretching exercises before your stamina workout, as I recommend, you should do the whole sequence again at the end of your workout as well.


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