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Ask the Medical Director…Dr. Michael Gross

As I get older, I find it harder to maintain a regular exercise program, is it really that important?

As we grow older we tend to become less active. This is often a slow process that leaves us overweight and out of shape before we know it. How can we stop this process? The first step toward a more active, healthy lifestyle is exercise.

As we get older, our bodies change. Muscle size and strength decrease primarily due to inactivity. Bone mass and density decrease, increasing the susceptibility to fractures. Tendons and ligaments become less elastic, making it easy to get overuse injuries. Joint inflammation and cartilage degeneration often occur due to arthritis.

Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can help individuals feel good and prevent some medical conditions. Even individuals with chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, can benefit from a balanced fitness program

An effective exercise program is made up of several components: aerobic conditioning, flexibility and agility exercises, and strength training. Before starting an exercise program be sure to talk with your doctor, especially if you are aware of, or suspect an ongoing medical problem.  If you have not had a medical check up in a while, one should be scheduled before starting an exercise program.

Aerobic Conditioning improves the health of your heart and lungs. It also helps to manage your weight. With aerobic exercise, you move continuously to increase your heart rate and keep it elevated for a sustained period of time. How long you can exercise aerobically will depend on your fitness level. A general guideline is to work up to 20 to 30 minutes a day, three to four days a week.

Choose activities that you enjoy and can do regularly. Common aerobic activities include walking, jogging, bicycling, swimming, low impact aerobic classes, water exercise classes, and dancing. Many people prefer using machines, such as a rowing machine, stair climber, treadmill, elliptical trainer, or stationary bicycle. All forms of dancing — ballroom, social, country western — are another great way to get moving!

If you have arthritis, consider low- to no-impact activities such as water aerobics, swimming, elliptical trainer, Nordic track, stationary bicycle, or rowing machine.

Flexibility and Agility Exercises are important for increasing your body’s range of motion. They also help lessen muscle tension and soreness, and reduce your risk of injury. We often overlook stretching, functional training, and range of motion exercises, but they are very important in maintaining overall fitness.

Stretching programs and activities like yoga or tai chi are good examples of flexibility and agility training. Balance training is important and may help prevent falls and, therefore, fall-related fractures. 

TRX Suspension Training is becoming the functional training system of choice.  Body weight exercises using TRX bands are a great way to build strength, balance, flexibility and core stability.  TRX Suspension Training helps you to safely perform hundreds of exercises building power, mobility, and preventing injuries all at your own intensity level.

Tai chi is a program of exercises, breathing, and movements based on ancient Chinese practices. Seniors who practice tai chi or yoga have fewer falls and less fear of falling. These classes can also increase self-confidence and improve body balance.

Strength Training improves muscular capacity and bone density. Stronger muscles and bones make it easier to do everyday activities like carry shopping bags or do yard work.

The most common strength training methods are working with free weights, resistance rubber bands or weight machines. It is very important to avoid strength imbalances by working all the major muscle groups, including the muscles in your arms, chest, back, stomach, hips, and legs.

If you have osteoporosis or loss of bone calcium, you will need to talk with a doctor before beginning a strength training program.

Dr. Michael Gross is co-founder and medical director for the Active Center for Health & Wellness.  He is also the founder and director of Active Orthopedic and Sports Medicine.  He is the section chief of sports medicine and the orthopedic director of the Center for Sports Medicine at Hackensack University Medical Center.  Dr. Gross has written numerous articles and book chapters on sports injuries. He has taken care of some of Bergen County’s finest athletes, from weekend warriors to professional athletes. Dr Gross can be reached by e-mail at: drgross@activecenterforhealthandwellness.com

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This entry was posted on Monday, November 22nd, 2010 at 8:47 pm and is filed under Active News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “Ask the Medical Director…Dr. Michael Gross”

  1. Muscle Building Insanity Says:

    March 23rd, 2011 at 4:00 pm

    Great site!Thanks for sharing!

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