Spirit. Steel. Strength.
Stated simply, the goal of this exclusive eColumn is to focus on getting stronger through
very simple principles:
Spirit—what you are on the inside is infinitely more important than what you are on the
Steel—every Seasoned Senior™ should include a fitness system of weights and
Strength—getting stronger should always include a balance of aerobics, stretching and a
NOTE: Strength-building and physical fitness
can make your life better in so many ways. It's
never too late to make the decision to become
more active. However, it is always advisable to
check with your physician before making
WHY STRENGTH TRAINING?
Numerous studies with older men and women
show conclusive proof that an active program of
fitness which involves regular stretching,
aerobics and strength training increases overall
physical performance and muscle tone, while
decreasing disability and pain.
There is simply too much evidence to disprove
the old, outmoded concept that older people
should retire to rocking chairs.
Frankly, savvy Seasoned Seniors are
increasingly chucking the rocking chair in favor
of weight benches, ellipticals and recumbent
There are so many benefits to fitness activities that focus on strength training,
especially as you add more and more candles to your birthday cake.
Better Weight Management
When you follow a regular strength training regimen, you gain muscle mass. More
muscle mass means a higher metabolic rate, as much as 15% in some studies. A higher
metabolism means increased weight control since the active tissue in muscle consumes
calories like Pac-Man on parade, as opposed to stored fat which uses extremely little
Increased Bone Density
Studies of post-menopausal women show a loss of 1-2% each year in bone mass.
Studies, including several that have been published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association, reveal that strength training not only increases bone density, but
grandmas and grandpas who pump iron can also reduce the risk of bone fractures.
Improved Glucose Control
The statistics of people being diagnosed with Type-II diabetes is mind-boggling, over
300 percent during the past half-century! Today, in the United States alone, more than
14 million men and women have this diabolical disease that is often linked to heart
disease, blindness, amputations and more. Thankfully, statistics also show that positive
lifestyle changes, including diet, physical activity and strength training can produce a
dramatic impact on diabetes for people of all ages and races, certainly including older
Study after study show that men and women, regardless of age, enjoy deeper and more
beneficial sleep when they exercise regularly. The reasons are many, from falling
asleep faster to sleeping more deeply, awakening less often during the night, and
sleeping longer. Start lifting iron and dump the sleeping aids.
A Healthier Heart
Strength training, as the body gets leaner and meaner, can reduce the risk of heart
disease, which is why the American Heart Association recommends strength training as
a significant way to reduce risks while building better cardiac health. Strength training is
becoming more and more of standard therapy for cardiac rehabilitation patients.
Building Better Balance
It wasn't that long ago that falls and fractures meant an end to mobility. Thanks to
numerous medical, product and lifestyle improvements, lots of older people are not only
coming back stronger than ever from broken bones as a result of falling, but are
becoming proactive about increasingly flexibility and balance through strength training.
A research project in New Zealand signals a new wave of thought, since the study of
octogenarian women pointed toward a whopping 40 percent reduction in falls through
the most basic balance and strength training!
It has been proven that strength training, as part of an overall fitness program, works
powerfully in the area of self-image. Researchers are not conclusive whether people
feel better about themselves when they get stronger and more buff, or whether the
strength training itself produces beneficial biochemical changes in the body. Our guess
is that it is a balance of the two. Regardless, older men and women who work out
regularly with weights almost universally seen a dramatic improvement in self-
confidence and self-image. If those weren't reasons enough, pumping iron translates
well to romance and intimacy (and it also provides a sensuous metaphor that would
make Joeffrey and Renée Powell of SEASONED ROMANCE™ eColumn fame proud!).
Think about it: Strength training often reduces obesity, diabetes, back pain, arthritis,
osteoporosis and depression, while controlling weight, increasing bone density,
improving glucose control, enhancing sleep, building cardiac health, building better
balance, and enriching life (not to mention better sex!).
Get with it, Seasoned Seniors™. Time's a-wastin'!
You don't have to join an expensive gym or replace
your den furniture with a roomful of weightlifting
Do what you can. Start with a small set of dumbbells
from WalMart or a sporting goods store. If you feel
adventuresome, get a weight bench and a $50 set
of barbells. Or you can go hog-wild with a personal
trainer and glistening weight machines.
What really matters is starting with multi-joint
exercises that simultaneously use different muscle
groups, which is the fastest way to increase both
lean muscle and strength.
You will have plenty of time to graduate to isolation
exercises later. Right now your emphasis should be
on working out regularly, not being the next Ms. or
Also, don't worry about split exercises which focus
on exercises or different days of the week.
Get started with a range of simple strength-building
exercises at least 2-3 times a week, using the off
days for aerobics or your favorite sport.
A BASIC STRENGTH-TRAINING ROUTINE
After stretching at least 10 minutes, go through these five simple exercises:
Do them with just your body weight, or add dumbbells or a barbell across your
shoulders. If you work out in a gym, you can use the leg press machine to achieve the
same effect. The procedure is self-explanatory: Stand upright, squat as far down as
comfortable with your spine straight and upright. Ideally, squats should work your
quads, hamstrings, gluteus and lower back. They are the foundation of any strength-
Do it just like the coach urged during junior high gym class. Lie on your back, either on
a weight bench or the floor. Use dumbbells or a barbell (or a chest press station in a
gym) to strengthen your chest, shoulder and triceps muscles.
Named after the latissimus dorsi (the large upper back muscles), this exercise
strengthens your biceps and largest upper body muscles. At home, use one dumbbell,
with a bent knee on a weight bench or chair, to do bent-over one-arm rows. Alternate
arms and knees. Or, at the gym, use the lat pull-down machine.
The junior high gym coach called it the Military Press. Either standing or seated, using
either two dumbbells together or a barbell, bend over carefully, pull the weight up with
your legs doing the work, not your back, and raise the bar to your chest. Then,
maintaining your balance carefully, raise the dumbbells or barbell over your head, fully
extended. The exercise involves a number of muscle groups, especially your shoulders
and triceps. In the gym, you can use the shoulder press machine.
Either standing or seated, preferably using dumbbells (but a barbell will do, as well),
extend the arm fully downward, lift to your chest (some prefer twisting the barbell on the
way up), then slowly extend the arm downward again.
Start with small weights. Try to do 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, and do 1-2 sets of
That's the five main exercises you can use to begin your SpiritSteelStrength
Basic Training. You can add more later, but this quintet of basic strength-training
building blocks will help you get started on your road to being a lean, buff Seasoned
of a thousand miles
a single step."