Melanie Galloway writes a column for the bi-monthly Seniors newsletter. Melanie works mainly with the over 40 population and particularly those with special challenges. She does training both in the water and on land; weight room or home based exercise programs. More details below
Stand up for Your Health (March/April 2013)
When you stand from sitting a major shift in blood pressure occurs to raise blood further to the brain. Muscles act to keep you from falling over. Perhaps moving pressure onto the feet triggers changes. Whatever the cause, a beneficial hormone shift results.
People accumulating the same number of minutes of exercise broken up through the day do better than those doing all those minutes in one session. Research is still to come concerning the best “dose” and if standing is sufficient or movement is needed. New studies are using accelerometers rather than “self report”. Guess what? People tend to overestimate their activity. While we wait for more research at lest get up often and take a short stroll around the house.
Next issue: Smile!Close
The Lunge (November/December 2012)
Look around at others walking. If you (mentally) draw a line from their ear, through the centre of their shoulder and centre of their hip the walking legs should extend both forward and behind that line. People often tip forward at the hips when walking. The head(weighing about 10 pounds) is in front of the shoulders. The shoulders are in front of the hips. When walking, they effectively fall forward catching their body with the “front leg”. the “back leg” is not really behind.
It is said that “walking is a controlled state of falling in which we are always only one step away from disaster”. This becomes more true as posture deteriorates. By working on a proper lunge, in which the body is centered between a front and back leg, there is a chance to stretch out connective tissues which shorten from sitting. If stretch is felt when doing this you are likely doing it right. Every small improvement made in separating back and front legs while keeping upright posture offers greater safety in walking. Not sure how to do it? Ask a fitness trainer.
Next issue: Other problems with sittingClose
The Squat: Stretching your connective tissue (September/October 2012)
If you need someone to lift you off the toilet it’s a nuisance. Can we regain lost flexibility? Yes! With the same persistence we used in losing it. Your connective tissue (fascia) takes 6-24 months to be trained. How determined are you? Will you work daily on trying to sit a little lower for a little longer than last week? Your connective tissue will complain and it has many nerves to make complaints with. Think of it like brushing hair. Leave it for a few days and it is a tangled mess. Brush it 100 strokes daily and it is smooth. Fascial tissue requires similar constant attention. Joints which have no particular excuse (like injury) should b etaken through full range of motion daily. Injured part require more patience. Stretching can be a starting point but actual movement offers greater benefits.Close
Connective Tissue (July/August 2012)
The story of the blind men feeling the elephant and deciding it is a tree, a ripe, a snake, etc. depending on what part each feels is how the connective tissue “net” which holds us together has been viewed up to now. Plantar fasciitis, cataracts, wrinkled skin or golfers elbows suggest isolated problems but are just failures in an integrated structure that is beginning to be understood. New information shows this net or web of “fascia” throughout our body has 10 times the number of sensory receptors that muscles have. Finding ways to train fascia is the future of fitness. It calls for greater variety of motion and more whole body actions. Traditional weight machines may be okay to train one weak player in the muscle orchestra.
Whole body movement in a symphony with a huge number of players. Ultimately, they must practice together. It is the reason Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais and many other whole body training methods work well It is why water exercise offers benefits because resistance is met in any direction you move. It is one reason why pain is so difficult to deal with; we simply do not know enough about the neural messaging that occurs when motion at one part of the net transfers to motion in another part of it. We do know that with age this net loses elasticity. We are beginning to learn how exercise can slow the loss and improve function.Close
Breathing (May/June 2012)
Stop breathing and you die. But do you ever stop to think about how you breathe? Common effects of aging start around age 30 and gradually worsen. These included rounding shoulders (reducing lung space) increased joint stiffness and muscle loss (making it harder to inhale) and reduced surface area for oxygen collection within the lungs. Shallow breathing due to pain or illness increases the risk of pneumonia. Blowing out candles on your birthday cake gets harder for many reasons.
Exercise programs for adults should include breathing awareness and encouragement to fully expand the lungs. During exertion there’s a tendency to momentarily hodl the breath, creating pressure against abdominal contents to firm the “core”. Ideally, firm support should come from other muscles, not from holding our breath. Pay attention when you lift a load; can you tense your middle while breathing evenly? It isn’t natural, but it’s safer.
Another tendency is to use the upper chest to pull in air. Lie quietly with a hand on your belly and a hand on your chest. Breathe deeply. The hand on the belly should be pushed out, not the one on the chest. Making use of the muscular diaphragm by belly breathing is not just a good exercise; it can also help you relax.
Regular exercise which increases breathing rate improves lung function. Exercise in neck-deep water adds pressure on chest and abdomen, forcing muscles to work harder; great for improving lung capacity and function. For best results, breathe clean air!Close
Walking (March/April 2012)
The “best” exercise is one you regularly. Walking is the number one exercise done by adults and offers heart health benefits. Walk a dog may only improve the dog’s health, depending on how far or fast they move. A pedometer or heart rate monitor may encourage increased activity for some people. Research indicates that walking speed matters; slow walkers have 3 times the risk of heart disease compared to faster walkers. Start a walking program where you are; if 3 minutes is your limit, begin there. Add time & distance gradually until a steady pace for 30 to 60 minutes, 3 to 6 times a weekly is possible. Three 10 minute brisk walks daily can yield the same heart benefits as a 30 minuted continuous session.
Walking can be done in many places; treadmills suit some people, malls suit others and the great outdoors has other benefits. Water walking offers reduced impact on joints, adding resistance and strength benefits.
Walking on flat ground is fine for heart health but trail walking may improve reactions, agility and flexibility due to unpredictable surfaces. Hill walking (up & down) offers strength and power training. Walking with a group (or buddy) provides an opportunity for socialization. Those with joint or balance issues may find pole walking gives better safety and support while increasing upper body activity. Appropriate footwear is important for whatever type of walking you choose. If you are not sure how to begin, ask a fitness trainer.Close
The problems of stress (November/December 2011)
Noise & the Aging Ear (September/October 2011)
Acoustics around a pool are dreadful at the best of times. Summer brings the extra challenge of lifeguards and swim instructors in training, as well as enthusiastic children enjoying summer camp. Teaching arthritis classes and senior’s aquafit with extra background noise offers me a challenge. My participants don’t get much pleasure for the decibel level either.
It is ironic that our ears become more sensitive to loud sounds as they become less discriminating of soft ones. Why is this? Strangely, part of the problem results from muscle loss. The smallest muscle in the body is in our ear. It has the job of reducing movement of a tiny bone (stapes) which transmits ear-drum motion towards the cochlea, where nerves detect sound waves.
This muscle (Stapedius) acts when noises are too loud, protecting our hearing. Age related muscle loss affects it while age related nerve loss diminished our hearing. /thus while ourhearing is reduced with age, so is the actions of Stapedius.
Without its protection we become more sensitive to loud noises. Too bad this 1mm long muscle cannot be put on a strengthening program to improve its function. Additional problems arise if it has cramp, spasms or twitching (common muscle problems). It can transmit “phantom” high pitched noise to our hearing apparatus. Most unpleasant!
Hearing issues add to stress in our daily life, making it important to seek quite places for relaxationClose
The Spiral of Disuse (July August 2011)
The body is amazing in its ability to repair and carry on activity over many decades. It is also very frugal with resources and won’t do anymore than it has to. Regular physical demands cause the building of muscle. Reduced demands result in the body offloading the unused muscle.
“Regular use” is not the same as one day of exercise! When building up muscle the stimulus needs to be at least weekly. When improving the heart function it needs to be every few days. Stopthe regular activity and the body will begin to reduce the content of muscles and heart.
The “spiral of disuse” begins with “less activity”. Retirement from an active job, a fall, a broken bone, a bout of pneumonia or a move to a home without stairs may be the initial cause of “doing less”. Without adding back some alternative form of “calorie burning” the body will notch down to this new level. Do less and soon less can be done. can we reverse it?
Yes, that is the wonder of the human body. Studies have shown improvement well into the 9th decade of life; the ability to climb stairs again or walk without a walker. The challenge is finding an appropriate new activity that re-awakens the building up of muscles and heart. It can be done … and then you can rest when you’re dead.Close
The Super Senior (May/June 2011)
In 1889 Germany became the first country to develop social security. Age 70, selected as retirement age, was later lowered to 65. Life expectancy was then about 41; this was not going to be an expensive program! The idea of “65″ being the beginning of “old age” was born. Now life expectancy is past 80 so this magic number has little meaning apart from eligibility for “God Card” for discounts. Becoming a “Super Senior” requires more than carrying a gold card!
Other than death and taxes, one certainty of life is that there will be “change” and “loss”. How we deal with these is very individual but probably predicts how we will age. Genetics has big influence here
Adaptability to change shows up early in children; some start life able to “roll with the punches”. Sometimes we learn adaptability from the example of others.
There are many stories of people who began a completely new task later in life; the ballet dancer who started when he was 79, the gold medal runner who began at 98. Saying “I can’t do [whatever] anymore” is a dead. Saying “Since I can no longer do [whatever] I’m going to try…” This makes a new beginning.
Super seniors challenge the expectations of others by doing the unexpected. They change in direction, accept change, deal with loss and move on to play new games.Close
About Melanie (download pdf here)
She has been working with the older or “challenged” population for over 14 years and believes it is important to teach people skills to help themselves make the most of what they have. She firmly believes that if there is some body part still working then function can be improved. Melanie is constantly seeking the latest information to keep her programs safe, effective and innovative.
Grandchildren and children and travelling keep Melanie busy when she is not teaching or researching new information in fitness. She works and plays from a sports wheelchair and believes her major strength as an empathetic instructor comes from being nearly 60 and having to deal with personal limitations arising from Post Polio.
B.Sc. in Physiology from The University of St. Andrews (Scotland);
“Certificate in Health and Fitness” from Simon Fraser University; Biology Instructor,
Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario; Trainer; Advanced Fitness
Specialist (ACE); Arthritis Society; Water Works and Joint Works Instructor;
B.C. Woman’s Hospital; Trainer, Supervisor and Instructor of Osteofit; Cardiac
Rehabilitation Instructor; TFL for Weight training and Aquatic Fitness.
Email: growingstrong[at]shaw.ca Phone: 604.732.9295