Being physically fit is comprised of 3 categories: strength, flexibility and endurance.
Strength comes from working muscles. The stronger your muscles are, the more stable your joints will be.
Flexibility comes from stretching. The looser your muscles are, the less likely you will be to injure yourself.
Endurance comes from doing cardio-vascular exercise, or aerobic exercise. The better your endurance, the more activity you will be able to do without becoming fatigued.
All 3 of these categories work together synergistically to keep your body healthy, to prevent injuries, to reduce and even prevent pain.
If you ignore one of these categories, you will be severely limiting your ability to get healthy and stay healthy. All of these categories have direct implications on your overall health, how you will age, and how you will feel while aging.
Stretching is the least glamorous of the 3 categories. It will not get you bigger, stronger or faster, but it will allow you to keep exercising and moving. Your flexibility has direct implications on how you feel as you age.
I have researched a few studies that illuminate how flexibility affects our bodies as we age. The first study concluded that the leading cause of traumatic spinal injury (breaking vertebrae, severing spinal cord, breaking a hip, etc) in those over age 65 is from falling. It used to be from car accidents. Okay, that is interesting but doesn’t tell us a whole lot.
The second study extrapolates on this one step further. The study concluded that the leading cause of falling in those over age 65 is from a lack of hip mobility. The looser you keep your hips, the less likely you will be to fall and injure yourself as you age.
This is one way that traumatic injuries are made worse by pre-existing, chronic, low grade muscle tightness and irritation.
As you age, falling gets harder and harder to recover from, because it affects us more and more. My uncle Mort who lived to be 95, used to say that the older he got, the harder the ground got. It is true, falling at age 65 will affect you much more than falling at age 20. At age 20 you will recover from the injury much quicker, and you won’t get hurt as badly when falling. By age 60 you have more wear and tear on your body, and don’t recover as quickly as you did when you were younger.
Ways to increase your flexibility are: traditional static stretching, dynamic stretching, yoga, Ti Chi, pilates, gyrontonics, or any other exercise that works your range of motion. If you know the right stretches, you don’t have to join a gym or fitness club to learn how to stretch. Pain Free Lifestyle lists out the right, easy on your body stretches that will maintain range of motion as you age.
Strength training is essential for stabilizing your joints and preventing wear and tear as you age. As we age we lose muscle mass. By strength training, you can maintain your strength as you age. When you are 65 you won’t be as strong as you were when you were 20, even if you consistently exercise throughout your life. It is human nature that we lose muscle mass as we age. If you try to lift heavy weights as you age, you will make yourself much more likely to get osteo-arthritis and other joint issues from the repetitive pounding on your joints. The goal is to maintain strength as we age.
Especially after age 40-50, it is important to recognize that you are aging and treat your body accordingly. It is not necessary to lift heavy weights 5 days a week for an hour at a time in a gym. All it takes is knowing what to and, and doing it with consistency.
Consistently lifting light weights will maintain strength as you age. If you are not a professional athlete, then don’t train like one. Chances are that if you’re not a professional athlete by age 30 to 40, then you’re not going to be one. So go easy on your body while weight lifting. All it takes is 20-30 minutes of light weight lifting 2 times a week to maintain, and even gain, some strength. It doesn’t matter if you are lifting with 2 pound weights. As long as you are doing something to maintain your strength, you don’t have to go heavy.
I have many patients who come have come into my office in chronic, daily pain. I can get them out of pain and reduce their symptoms, but it won’t stick unless they take care of themselves and manage their bodies. I have gotten many of them to start weight lifting with light weights, starting out with 1-2 pound dumbbells. As they get more comfortable with the weight lifting I encourage them to increase their weights slowly over the course of months to years. It is amazing how much better they feel after they have been doing light strength training consistently for just a few months. If you can exercise in this manner, you won’t hurt yourself and have to stop exercising. Thus keeping you benefitting from exercise, and being able to exercise for years to come.
There are many types of strength training, and it doesn’t just have to be weight lifting. Other strengthening exercises are: yoga, Ti Chi, pilates, and others. You don’t have to go to a gym or fitness club to lift weights properly. You just need to know what you are doing. You can easily weight lift at home with 1 or 2 dumbbells, with the right routine. Pain Free Lifestyle lists out, step by step, the proper, easy on your body exercises that will maintain and build strength, and that are easy on the body.
The last, but certainly not the least of the exercise categories is endurance. Also known as cardio-vascular exercise, or aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise will strengthen your heart, which helps to prevent heart attacks. Aerobic exercise lowers your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other types of preventable, chronic illnesses that are the leading causes of death in our modern, western society.
Aerobic exercise will allow you to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded. I just talked to a friend who has been exercising consistently for the past year. He said that before he was exercising, he dreaded walking up the stairs onto the street from the subway. He said he always would get winded from it. Now, after a year of consistent exercise, the stairs no longer bother him.
Aerobic exercise will allow you to chase after your kids and grandkids for years to come. It will allow you to be more active without feeling like you want to die. It will allow you to live a longer life while still being comfortable and doing the activities that you love.
When most people think of aerobic exercise they think of running. I don’t like running because all of that pounding beats up your joints and causes them to break down quickly. This makes you more likely to get injured and more likely to form osteo-arthritis in your feet, ankles, knees and hips. You can get just as good of a workout doing other less impactful exercises.
Low impact forms of aerobic exercise include: cycling (stationary or outdoor- my favorite), elliptical machine, rowing machine, swimming, walking, stair climber, etc.
If you are looking to lose weight, aerobic exercise, along with healthy eating, is the best way to do it. You burn calories while doing aerobic exercise. If you want to lose weight, then do more aerobic exercise. That is why it is important to do something low impact. If you do a high impact, aerobic exercise such as running, you won’t be able to stick with it very long before injuring yourself and having to stop exercising.
All 3 of these categories have to be practiced regularly and consistently in order to get any benefit out of them. Every day we suffer from what I call a “daily accumulation of tightness”. We all have our daily repetitive motions that slowly cause the involved muscles to get tighter and tighter, and more and more irritated. Eventually these overused muscles will get so tight that they tear on a microscopic level and go into a pattern of spasm and inflammation. These muscles can stay in these patterns for months to years. Even once the muscles heal and fall out of this neurological pattern of spasm and inflammation, the affected area is never the same again. That area will be structurally less stable and more likely to become injured again in the future.
The stronger and looser your muscles are, the better your balance will be, and the stronger and more stable your joints and muscles will be. Thus making them, and you, less likely to become injured.
It is very important to go at your own level. Don’t go hard, especially as you get older. Go easy on your body because life certainly isn’t going to go easy on your body. High impact exercises and heavy weights will cause your body to break down quicker. This is the only body we get. Treat it nicely.
Pain should not be part of your exercise routine. Especially as we age, the old adage of “no pain, no gain” is less and less accurate. You might feel some soreness after exercising, and that is normal, especially when starting out a new routine with new exercises. You will be using your muscles in ways that they are not used to, and this will create soreness. But if you are sore for days after exercising, or have trouble walking after exercising, or anything like that, then you are going too hard.
There is no reason to go hard. You aren’t getting paid for exercising. As you age, your chances of getting ripped and lean with 6 pack abs becomes less and less likely. As you age your body is not geared towards this. You won’t put on muscles mass as easily as you did when you were 20. Your metabolism is slower than it was when you were 20 so it gets harder to get ripped and lean. You don’t recover from injuries as quickly as you did when you were 20.
Every time you exercise, you inflict minor injuries on your body that you have to heal from, this is why you feel sore after exercising.
Pain Free Lifestyle is a comprehensive exercise system. It is an easy to follow program of strength training in the form of weight lifting, aerobic exercise, and stretching. The exercises I chose are easy on your body and rarely cause injury. Pain Free Lifestyle helps you to ease your way into exercise, and allows you to stick with it consistently. And consistency is the only way that you can get any benefits from exercising.
Pain Free Lifestyle can easily and inexpensively be done from home. It takes the thinking of out of strength training, stretching and aerobic exercise.
Be intelligent about exercise. Exercise smarter, rather than harder. This is the Pain Free Way.