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Seniors should strengthen muscles to prevent injuries, feel better and younger

I get lots of good questions about exercise and health as part of my work teaching and being actively involved in the fitness field. Here are some that are frequently asked. I hope my answers help as you travel on your fitness journey. If you have a question you'd like to ask, send it to me at I can't answer individual questions but they just might make a future column.

1How many calories do I need to burn to lose 1 pound of fat? We know that it takes approximately 3,500 calories to burn 1 pound of fat. Generally speaking, you would need to decrease 500 calories a day for a week to lose that pound of fat.

2As a beginner in strength training, how do I know how much weight to begin with? If you just want to get stronger and are not dealing with rehab or issues that need to be addressed, begin with weights that you could lift 10 to 12 times without having to swing them; movements should be performed with control, not speed. If you feel you could perform many more repetitions than 12, your selected weight is too light. Different muscles will require different weights. Larger muscles such as legs, backs and chest can be worked with heavier weights than the smaller arm and shoulder muscles.

3What is a moderate intensity workout? Increasing your breathing and heart rate while doing at least 10 minutes of a continual activity — brisk walking, easy jogging, water aerobics — but not so much that you can't carry on a conversation.

4What is abdominal breathing? Abdominal breathing encourages relaxation, which carries more oxygen into the bloodstream. When you inhale, you will be breathing from your abdomen not your chest. If you place your hand on your abdomen, you will feel it rise every time you inhale, pause, then slowly exhale through your mouth; pretend you are blowing out a candle. The exhalation should take twice as long as the inhalation.

5What are the muscles that we should strengthen? Muscles need to be strengthened to prevent muscle imbalances, which can cause injuries. They are four large muscles in front of thighs, hamstrings, three muscles in back of thighs, calves, buttocks, chest, shoulders, back, abdominals, front and back of upper arms.

6What are compound exercises? They are exercises that involve more than one joint and more than one muscle group. An example would be the squat. When performing the squat, you will be dealing with multiple joints and many major muscles. Isolated exercises move through single joints and strengthen isolated muscles, as in a leg extension machine, which strengthens the quadriceps muscle and moves through the knee joint.

7What are some small healthy habit changes I can make in my daily living? Move more. Get moving. Walk at least five minutes more every day; take one last walk around the perimeter of the grocery store; move around while talking on the phone; invest in a pedometer (research tells us people using pedometers take many more steps a day then those who do not use a pedometer). Make small, specific changes to develop healthy habits that could last a lifetime.

8How do I know the correct exercise ball for my height? Douglas Brooks, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercises, says as a general guideline, anyone under 5 feet 10 should choose a 55-centimeter ball; those over 5 feet -10 should use a 65-centimeter model. Your thighs should be parallel to the floor when you are sitting on the ball.

If you are 50 or older and have not been exercising, check with your physician before beginning any exercise program. Trainer Sally Anderson is happy to hear from readers but cannot respond to individual queries. She can be reached at

m Wall Squat With Ball

Strengthens lower body. Placing ball between wall and curve of lower back, place feet shoulder-width apart and about 12 inches in front of you. Maintaining a straight back, work toward lowering thighs parallel to floor, keeping knees over ankles. Beginners do not need to go that low; work within your own range of flexibility. Hold position for several seconds, then slide back up wall; begin with four to five reps, gradually aiming toward two sets of 12 reps.

m Squat and Single Arm Swing

A whole-body exercise that works thighs, hips, glutes, back, arms, shoulders and core. Stand tall, feet shoulder-width apart. Hold weight in right hand, palm facing downward, beginning with a fairly light weight. Contracting abdominals, squat while bringing weight between legs, keeping arm straight. As you stand, bring right arm upward with a straight arm; slightly bent elbow. Repeat pattern for eight to12 reps on each side, building to two sets of 12 reps.

m Pushup on Ball

This advanced pushup movement is a great upper-body and core-strengthening exercise. Master the basic pushup before you attempt the stability ball pushup. To get into the pushup position, kneel over ball and roll forward, walking hands to where you can comfortably support yourself. Place hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart, then lower legs on ball. Bend elbows, lowering chest toward floor, straighten arms and press back up. Repeat five to 10 times.

m Chest Press

Too tired to stand up? Try this relaxing weight exercise, which targets chest, shoulders and triceps. Lying on back, place lower legs over ball. Hold weights by chest, palms facing inward. Press arms up, then lower to original position, never locking elbows. Gradually build to two sets of 12 repetitions.

Seniors should strengthen muscles to prevent injuries, feel better and younger 02/26/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 10:55am]
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