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Baby Boomer Fitness will Keep You Rocking

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Still swinging at 60!
Still swinging at 60!

By Paula Jager CSCS 

Fitness is the key to health and longevity; at 49 and 60 my husband and I represent the beginning and end of the baby boomer generation.  We know firsthand what is involved in staying fit as you approach your middle and senior years.  We have always been active and will continue to rock and roll well into our golden years.  People are feeling younger and living longer with the desire to stay active and competitive in their later years.  What is involved in being able to tap into this fountain of youth?  Lifestyle, nutritional and training strategies are your lifeline to continue this active lifestyle as well as preventing many age related diseases.

Let’s face it as we age things change; if your lifestyle has been sedentary chances are you have put weight on, lost muscle mass and have aches and pains more than likely caused from being out of shape.  All this combined with poor nutritional habits and a 24/7 pace that most of us maintain only adds to the problem.  Unfortunately our society wants everything made easy.  They want to drop fat without eating right, get strong without effort, and be healthy while drinking and smoking and want it all yesterday.  What they really want most is to be able to participate in activities and at levels of when they were much younger so our job is to get them into the best shape possible.  In order to accomplish this certain behavior modifications or lifestyle changes must be made.

We must make a concentrated effort to improve ourselves.  If you are a boomer you have been around a while and have survived and conquered many problems that a younger person could not deal with.  You’ve had children, been married and divorced, financial issues, death of peers and family members.  This develops a brand of toughness that only many years of life can provide to make up for the physical decrements that this same longevity brings about.  You either need to accept the way you look and feel or go through the sacrifice necessary for change.

So, let’s get to work boomers!  You’ve got to make changes.  You can’t sit around on the couch munching chips all night and expect the fat to melt away. Obesity is facing epidemic proportions.  We are bombarded with information and a plethora of magical supplements, promising you everything from a ripped midsection to eternal youth.  Not to mention television advertisements glorifying the wonders of prescription medications, rather than simple lifestyle changes.  Youth or baby boomer, it takes hard work and sweat.

There are many facets to fitness.  You must do resistance training to develop and maintain lean muscle tissue which increases your metabolism and reduces your risk of developing osteoporosis.  As baby boomers, this is huge—after age 30 your muscle begins to atrophy unless you are doing something to prevent it.  Women, especially need to keep their bone density high.  Weight training triggers the release of testosterone, a fat destroyer for several hours after exercise has occurred.  It also stimulates muscle growth and more muscle burns more fat!  Who says 60 can’t be buff?  Focus on training the large muscles groups like legs, chest, back and core.  This will more than take care of the smaller muscle groups like arms and calves. Weight training is a catalyst for burning calories and increasing metabolism.  On top of all that you will look better.  Like any activity that has not been done for awhile, start slow and continually strive to progress.  Do not be afraid of heavier weights, but never sacrifice form.

Now, baby boomers, you’ve got to move.  That means cardiovascular exercise and that means intense cardiovascular exercise, not house walking.  House walking is the pace that one walks from one room in the house to another; you can’t casually walk or stroll you must put forth effort.  Without effort, your results will be minimal.  If you want to transform your body to anything close to what it was 20 years ago you must work harder than you are used to in order to alter your physiology.  Then and only then will you begin to see significant changes such as weight loss, slightly stronger bones and joints, lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol profile. As fitness increases, the intensity level must also rise to challenge that new level of fitness. You must put forth unprecedented effort in order to increase fitness.  Everybody has a starting point; if you haven’t done anything for since high school don’t start out running, walk at a pace brisk enough to make breathing labored and conversation difficult.  Once you can walk 3 miles in 45 minutes or less, you may need to start jogging to challenge yourself further.  For healthy individuals a general rule should be whatever it takes to drive their heart rate into the 60 to 85% target heart rate-range.

Nutrition—this is the big one!  “Diets” abound; everything from the cabbage soup diet, sugar buster’s diet, blood type diet, South Beach diet to the shrewdly marketed Atkins diet.  My experience as a certified personal trainer has taught me that diets do not work.  It is common sense; if you eat too much of anything you will not lose body fat.  None of these diets are very healthy or meant for long-term.  Many of them are severely calorie restrictive and you will lose weight—both fat and muscle.  When people return to their “normal” way of eating the weight comes back on and then some because a lot of the calorie restricted diets actually slow down the body’s metabolism making it more difficult to lose body fat.  You must learn how to eat; it has to be a lifestyle and one that you can maintain long-term.  Eat clean, whole, unprocessed foods, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, avoid all white sugar and white flour, minimize animal foods and limit alcohol and caffeine.  Eat 5-6 small meals throughout the day.  Eat organic whenever possible, the pesticides, hormones and antibiotics are most likely contributing to disease.  If you are on the road all day, pack a cooler and take it with you  Sure, this will take some getting used to but the way you look and feel will surpass any initially felt sacrifice.

And last but not least my fellow baby boomers, we must have down time.  We must have more rest than our younger counterparts.  I would like to say this isn’t true but it is.  With proper training we can go as long and as hard but just not as often.  Accept it and respect it.  We’re either at the midpoint or end of our careers or for some of us starting new ones.  If we have children they are most likely teenagers or grown.  You must take time to breathe; take a yoga class, meditate or spend time in nature.  Do something you love, spend time with loved ones, never think you are too old to do something, we have only one life to live and it’s now or never.  If you want to run a marathon for your 60th birthday—more power to you.  If you want to change careers at 60—now’s the time.  If you are 50 something and want to place softball with your teenager—go for it.

Whatever, your sport or hobby be it golf, bowling, obstacle courses, football or dance, do it and keep it in your life, it’s a part of you.  Just train smart, stay strong, stay flexible, stay fit, eat clean, become empowered and never ever quit.  We can still do all these things with the proper lifestyle.
Look at some of our rock and roll idols; Mick Jagger, Rod Stewart, Tina Turner and Roger Daultry to name a few.  They have definitely withstood the test of time.  They all work out and look as though their nutrition is on track.  They haven’t slowed down one iota.  They are rocking and rolling just like they were in the sixties and so can you.  Rock on baby!