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The Fitness Triad and Functional Independence

When you speak of following a Fitness triad that can mean something different to many people. For instance, in my case, I am talking about following a consistent fitness program that consists of strength training, cardiovascular exercise and stretching.

For others it can mean having a positive attitude, eating a healthy low-fat diet and some other form of exercise. There are a number of combinations that you can put together and they all are better than doing nothing, however, the three aspects of fitness I mentioned above, in my opinion, are superior when it comes to building a stronger, healthier body and mind.

This becomes even more important as we age. There are a number of changes that take place within our bodies, some we can control to a point with exercise and proper nutrition and, others we cannot, after all, genetics will have something to say about how we age as well.

The importance of following the fitness triad  I am discussing here is to help prevent or curtail orthopedic injuries as we age, to help maintain an adequate and healthy body weight and, to keep our bodies muscular system pliable and strong, to help with our day to day activities and more importantly, maintain our functional independence and reduce our medical costs as we age.

Let’s go over my recommendations below giving you a brief Readers Digest version of the information.

Strength Training is a must as we age to help maintain the muscle mass that age will begin to strip away from our bodies known as sarcopenia due to inactivity and a general decrease in anabolic hormones.

I am an advocate of keeping the strength training program simple and using basic compound movements, in other words, lifts that not only build muscle but, also help in maintaining or building muscular power and stamina along with increased bone density and lowering your triglyceride’s.

Also, strength training while using these using compound movements such as the deadlift, leg press, squats, and bench presses also triggers our bodies ability to continue to produce growth hormone for instance, which declines as we age. Staying fit also increases our ability to get a good nights sleep and that is the time your growth hormone and other body chemistry is at its best and doing its job to repair and recharge your body and also decompressing your mind.

Recovery from strength training takes place as we sleep and the deeper the sleep, the ability for your body to recover and get stronger increases.

Strength training does not have to be a lot of complex or difficult movements or trying to follow some 25-year-old individual completing a  bodybuilding routine out of the latest issues of Muscle and Fitness magazine for instance. Simple yet effective is the name of the game.

It’s about using just enough resistance to stimulate the muscles targeted let’s say for 8-12 repetition’s using the proper technique without having someone drive you to the emergency room after your workout due to injury.

Cardiovascular Training can be something as simple as daily walks using a quick pace or, the treadmill or, stationary bike which is one of my favorites because of the low impact exercise it provides due to my knee replacement. Besides, these low impact pieces of equipment you find in the gyms, they also help save your low back, hips, and knees if you have arthritic changes taking place.

Your cardiovascular health should not be forgotten, maintaining a healthy heart is vital to life itself and your cardio work should be done 4-6 days a week. This of course will depend on your schedule etc… some will do it seven days a week, if you can great. 20-30 minutes is all that is needed.

The internet is loaded with cardiovascular fitness routines along with recommendations on how many times a week to use it etc… use trial and error at first, find out how your body will respond and what works for you then, increase your intensity.

Also, a high-intensity strength training routine like circuit training is another way to work your cardiovascular system as well and is used by many who are pressed for time, to begin with.

Stretching is needed to help maintain your normal range of motion in all your joints, especially in their lower body, with your hips, knees, and ankles. Many of the patients I see on a daily basis have lost functional range of motion in their lower bodies making them susceptible to falls and decreasing their ability to lead an active life.

I find stretching is one of those disciplines in fitness that tends to get overlooked by many. You will not fully strengthen a muscle if you cannot use it through its proper and, full range of motion. Stretching and flexibility training also plays a major role in reducing injuries as we age.

I like to stretch at the end of my workouts since the muscles have been warmed up and are easily taken to their limits as far as movements are concerned. I spend about 10 to 15 minutes stretching five to seven times a week. Stretching your muscles will also help alleviate some of the aches and pains that develop because of muscle contractures by themselves.

My stretching routine time is reduced due to my other fitness activities and time constraint’s in the morning but allow yourself more time if you can for a comprehensive program.

Your low back is a classic example if not kept stretched, and strengthened which causes many older adults  chronic low back pain for instance. I bet you even know someone that complains of low back pain which can be caused by tight hamstrings or hip flexors for instance. Of course there can be other causes but, this is just one cause that can be easily prevented by using a well constructed stretching program.

Make sure when you plan a fitness routine that you include these three components into your workout schedule, this will help you build a well-rounded level of strength and muscular endurance that is needed in your day to day activities and will help you live a higher quality of life as you age.

Richard Haynes PTA CPT
Total Joint Fitness LLC
Bradenton, Florida.

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The Fitness Triad and Functional Independence


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