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Exercise fads are about as common as diet fads. One of the latest I've come across is 'bungee fitness', one that combines the elasticity of bungee cords with a combination of core training, cardiovascular exercise and resistance training movements. Still, I'm a die-hard fan of weight training though I also love cycling. The question I get most often is "What is the best way to lose weight?" Short answer: commitment to proper diet and consistency with one's actions. Incorporating an exercise plan should be based on personal preference but here are some important considerations for choosing well:

  • What do you want to accomplish? Fat loss? Muscle gain with fat loss? Cardiovascular conditioning? Knowing what the goal is will help determine a starting point as well as the guidelines for measuring success with those goals. Ask yourself: Does the exercise you choose lead to a training effect for your desired outcome?

  • Do you have the capacity to properly perform the activity? The squat is a great example. If at all possible, have a qualified trainer or coach assess your movement from the front, side and rear while performing an overhead squat - or video your own performance from these angles. Because this is a primal move, using proper body mechanics during execution is vital though sadly, very few actually understand this and fewer still put it into practice. Here is a link for more info on this:

  • Does the exercise have carry-over functionality to your life? I have a client that hates balance training but is often on a boat in rough waters and also has been inactive for an extended period of time. Balance training helps develop a strong core with faster reaction time to a changing base of stability. If your time is limited, don't waste it on movement that doesn't really make sense.

  • Does the exercise require a lot of set-up time? Do you have all the equipment you need to perform the exercise? Don't let these become points of contention; find alternatives, build your own home gym, schedule your set-up time and stick to a rule of 5 minutes for this. Even Wikipedia wants to help you do this:

If your fitness preference runs more towards the low-impact approach, let's take a look at the most popular fitness regime practiced around the world. Here's an introduction from guest writer Kevin Wells.

What is Yoga?

Yoga can mean different things to different people, but in general, it’s a spiritual and ascetic discipline which includes specific body positions, breath control, and simple meditation, and is often used for health and relaxation. Yoga also works particularly well for seniors because it’s low impact and can be done for years to improve balance, keep joints flexible, and maintain muscle mass. The mental side allows one to slow down, quiet the mind, and focus on emotional well-being.

While yoga classes are beneficial, you don’t have to go to a class to give yoga a try. Here are a few beginning poses you can try to give you a taste of what it’s all about. Use caution - if something doesn’t feel right or you think you might hurt yourself, it may be best to wait until you can find a class to join.

How Does Meditation Fit In?

Meditation and mindfulness training go hand-in-hand with yoga. Mindfulness is an active form of meditation, or being aware of what’s going on in front of you in the present moment, while meditation helps you self-regulate and clear your mind. Both mindfulness and meditation provide benefits by helping develop a more focused mind, manage moods and emotions, improve memory, and become more calm and relaxed. Meditation and breathing may also help with slowing down dementia and Alzheimer’s as well.

If you are interested in trying meditation, a few resources can help. It’s not just sitting still and staring at a wall; there are specific ways to focus your mind and body. UCLA offers free guided meditations online, including several breathing exercises and a body scan that encourages you to focus on each area of your body individually. Several phone apps can guide you through developing a daily meditation practice as well.

Create Your Own Space

It may be helpful to create your own meditation space in your home as just walking by the space will be enough to remind you to meditate daily. Choose a room or space that looks beautiful - repaint or redecorate if needed - if it’s attractive, you’ll want to spend time there. If it’s part of a larger room, use a screen to make the area more private. Keep it simple with a meditation pillow, a small table with candles, and a throw rug, for example. Include a touch of nature with a plant, some flowers or a small water feature. If scents are important to you, add some incense or aromatic oils. Create a calming and soothing space, and it will make your practice of meditation much more consistent and effective.

While yoga and meditation may not have been a part of your life to this point, it’s never too late to start, even for seniors. You may find unexpected benefits to focusing intentionally on your mind and body, especially as you age. Give the above resources a try and feel the stress fall away as you relax!

Thank you Kevin!

On an end note, there are those who insist that yoga is what keeps them fit and trim. Most likely, these are also people who practice a fit lifestyle, incorporating a healthy diet along with activity levels in the moderate category on a regular basis while engaging stress reduction tactics such as yoga. However, yoga won’t burn calories like a killer cardio session, not even the touted power yoga, which apparently makes you feel like you’re sweating even on the inside. Yoga can be helpful in de-stressing, reducing the release of cortisol - the infamous stress hormone - which triggers fat storage. The benefits of yoga can enhance the effects of your workouts and help you attain the ideal weight you are working towards.

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