Most physicians are severely undertrained when it comes to nutrition and exercise, two of the most crucial components to preventing and treating disease. After you read this short article, you will probably know more about exercise than your doctor. So my suggestion? Read it and then give it to your doctor so he or she can be educated and share the knowledge with his or her other patients.
Has your doctor told you that you should be doing more aerobic exercise to reduce your risk of heart disease, improve cholesterol levels, and lose weight and age more healthfully?
He (or she) is right. But only partially.
The term “aerobics” was coined by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, an M.D. and exercise physiologist, and Col. Pauline Potts, a physical therapist, both in the U.S. Air Force. Cooper observed that people with muscular strength did not necessarily have endurance. His research led him to publish the groundbreaking book, Aerobics, in 1968, which described his research and contained exercise programs based on his findings. From there, “Aerobics,” as we know it, was born.
Since then, most physicians have recommended primarily aerobic exercise to people as they age, leading to a very common public misconception. Take a look around at your fitness club or just observe the physical activity people around you do. For the most part, young people are all lifting weights and older people are all doing cardio. Aerobic exercise has long been thought to be the best exercise for preventing cardiovascular disease as well as treating it. So as most people get older, they do less and less weight-bearing exercise.
This is not the ideal scenario for healthy aging!
The truth is, in fact, we should be doing MORE weight lifting as we get older. As a specialist in Age Management Medicine, I recommend it to all of my patients.
Many doctors tell their patients not to do too much weight bearing exercise or heavy lifting if they have heart disease, for fear it would be dangerous for them, compromise oxygen flow to the heart, and increase their risk for heart attack. Not true.
Recently, the American Heart Association organized a panel of experts which shook it all up. These scientists advised physicians to begin recommending weight-bearing exercise to their patients, even the ones with heart disease. The panel went so far as to even recommend weight bearing exercise to some who even had recent heart attacks, if they are monitored closely.
The fact is, BOTH forms of exercise, aerobic and resistance training, work together to prevent, reduce, or even eliminate heart disease.
One way both forms of exercise do this synergistically is by controlling, reversing, or preventing Type 2 Diabetes. Both forms of exercise help increase insulin sensitivity (so your body metabolizes glucose faster), and both decrease fasting insulin levels and decrease insulin reponse to glucose (so you store less fat).
Both aerobic and resistance exercise also help control blood pressure – reducing risk of stroke, heart attack and congestive heart failure. Aerobic exercise does a great job lowering systolic blood pressure (the top number); both aerobic and resistance exercise help reduce diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number). This makes it much easier for the heart to to pump blood throughout the body. Both forms of exercise also strengthen the heart muscle, making it work much more efficiently.
As well, weight bearing exercise increases hormonal release as we engage fast-twitch and super-fast twitch muscle fibers anaerobically. As a result, human growth hormone (HGH) and testosterone release are improved. Weight bearing exercise takes advantage of something called the “hormonal effect of exercise,” helping us to increase metabolism and literally burn fat while we are sleeping. The Carragher Method includes specialized testing to find out what our clients’ aerobic thresholds are and design specifically tailored short exercise programs that take advantage of this hormonal effect and it is hugely successful for decreasing % body fat.
Dr. Cooper, the father of Aerobics, has come full circle, now recognizing that as we age we need more and more weight bearing exercise and strength training. Cooper recognizes that up to age 50, people lose about 4% of their strength and muscle mass per decade. After age 50, the loss increases to about 10% per decade. By age 60 the average person will have lost about one third of his or her muscle mass—UNLESS we reverse the process through resistance exercise and weight training.
I recommend the following combination of aerobic burst conditioning and strength training for aging adults.
I encourage you to incorporate these recommendations into your Healthy Aging program. And to teach your doctor a little something.