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For many adults, growing older seems to involve an inevitable loss of strength, energy and vigor — but that need not be, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The frailty and decreased energy associated with aging are largely due to muscle loss due to inactivity. And when it comes to muscle, the old saying is true: “Use it or lose it.”
What to do
One of the best ways to keep muscles healthy and strong, the CDC advises, is through exercises called strength training. Done regularly, strength training builds bone and muscle and helps to preserve strength, independence and energy. These exercises are safe and effective for women and men of all ages, including those who are not in perfect health. In fact, people with health concerns — such as arthritis or heart disease — often benefit the most from lifting weights a few times each week.
Strength training, the CDC adds, can also reduce the signs and symptoms of:
• Arthritis — It reduces pain and stiffness and increases strength and flexibility.
• Diabetes — It improves glycemic control.
• Osteoporosis — It builds bone density and reduces risk for falls.
• Heart disease — It reduces cardiovascular risk by improving lipid profile and overall fitness.
• Obesity — It increases metabolism, which helps burn more calories and helps with long-term weight control.
• Back pain —It strengthens back and abdominal muscles to reduce stress on the spine.
What’s more, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly sleep better and have less depression, more self-confidence and self-esteem, and a greater sense of well-being.
Fortunately, strength training exercises are easy to learn, and have been proven safe and effective through years of thorough research. You may also be relieved to learn there are ways to train without undo strain, aches and pains.
To help, Bob Arnot, M.D., an award-winning journalist, author of 12 books on nutrition and health, host of the “Dr. Danger” reality TV series, previously Chief Medical Correspondent for NBC and CBS News, and Chief Foreign Correspondent for MSNBC and NBC, offers this advice:
• Find a few minutes at least two to three times a week to maintain general fitness. Try three or four five-minute bursts of activity such as walking or climbing the stairs at the office.
• Take two or three more minutes a day for yoga breathing and movements to help your body maintain balance, usable strength, flexibility and muscular restoration.
• Spend another few minutes every day and before any vigorous exercise doing calf stretches and forward bends.
• Stay hydrated before, during and after your workout.
• To reduce your risk of muscle soreness after exercise, consider a massage, an Epsom salts bath or intermittent hot and cold showers, as well as proper stretching and cooldown.
• Muscle strains and muscle pulls are major health concerns for weekend athletes. Signs you should look for alerting you to rest your muscles and avoid overtraining are a higher than normal resting heart rate, disrupted sleep due to an elevated heart rate, muscle cramping and muscle twitching.
• Eat right. In addition to lots of fruits and vegetables and a few lean meats, consume foods with magnesium, which helps fight inflammation, and with vitamin B12 — especially if you’re over 50 — such as fortified cereals. Drink three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk throughout the day or consume the equivalent in yogurt, cheese or other dairy products. Consider an anti-inflammatory diet — cut out sugar, potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.
• Go topical. Topical pain relievers such as creams, gels and patches work locally. For example, the Salonpas Lidocaine 4% Pain Relieving Gel-Patch provides the maximum strength of lidocaine available without a prescription. According to the Center for Medicare Advocacy, “Lidocaine is a highly effective pain reliever and its unique non-narcotic and nonaddictive properties make it a benign alternative to opioids, without the risks and devastating side effects of opioids.” These unscented patches can desensitize aggravated nerves and provide numbing relief generally within an hour of application.
For further health hints from Dr. Arnot and others and information on relieving aches and pains, go to salonpas.us.
ProActive Sports Rehab, with offices in Hamburg and West Seneca, offers one-on-one physical therapy and rehabilitation services. For more information, please visit http://proactivesportsrehab.com or call 674-9600 (West Seneca office) or 648-8700 (Hamburg office). You can also follow ProActive Sports Rehab on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ProActiveSportsRehab for frequent updates.