Kittle: Cross training and core strengthening for older adults

As you put together a routine, look for combinations of activities that are different from each other and that use different muscles.

So you run three days a week and believe yourself to be pretty fit. A friend invites you to a low impact aerobics class and you find yourself exhausted and can’t keep up?

Maybe you’ve been faithful with your strength training program at the local gym but you’re winded after running around the park with your grandkids?

Or perhaps you’ve been circuit training for years and believe your cardio and strength are that of a high performance athlete but one day you bend over to lift something up and end up with a back injury that lasts for weeks?

Most people stick with a sport or exercise program they enjoy and train year after year to improve their skill and ability. However, experts in the fitness field recommend cross training (participating in more than one sport or activity).

Using just one set of muscles repeatedly can also increase your risk of repetitive injury. The harder you train your body for just one activity, the more stress you put on all the muscles and bones involved in that one activity, so the more you do and the better you get, the more you risk overuse and the greater your risk of injury.

Cross training can help minimize injuries and muscle imbalances.

Some other benefits of cross training are:

• Relieves boredom and keeps you interested by adding variety to your workout

• Renews motivation and adherence to exercise program

• Develops your entire body rather than just specific parts or energy systems (aerobic vs. anaerobic )

• Improves total fitness. Cross training can include activities that develop muscular fitness, as well as aerobic conditioning

• Enhances weight loss. Individuals who want to lose weight and body fat should engage in an exercise program that enables them to safely burn a significant number of calories. Research has shown that such a goal, in most instances, is best accomplished when individuals exercise for relatively long durations (i.e., more than 30 minutes) at a moderate level of intensity

Walking,  bicycling, water and low-impact aerobics, cross-country skiing, strength training are appropriate and excellent exercises for older adults. As you put together a routine, look for combinations of activities that are different from each other and that use different muscles.  That way your whole body will get a workout.

Cross training integrates anaerobic exercise (such as weight training), aerobic exercise (like jogging biking or swimming) and flexibility (such as tai chi or yoga).

One overlooked element in strength training for all ages is the importance of working your core.

Your core is a complex series of muscles, extending far beyond your abs, including everything besides your arms and legs. It is the centre of power, it is the bridge between the upper and lower body.

If you think of the body as a chain, it is only as strong as its weakest link. You can have strong arms and legs but if your core is weak you will lack strength and stabilization to the lower body which results in muscle imbalances and injury. A strong midsection is the strong link that allows for coordinated powerful movement of the whole body.

Some exercises to strengthen your core muscles would include the plank, side plank, bridge, superman, swimmer, abdominal crunches and trunk rotations.

No matter your age or your current physical condition, you can benefit from cross training and core strengthening, in fact it’s more important than ever to keep strong and keep moving as an older adult. As they say: If you don’t move it you lose it.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments!

Commit to be fit.

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