Remember back when we all heard that Americans weren’t fit? In the 1950s we were told that we were less fit than citizens of other countries around the world. Even President Kennedy wrote an article in Sports Illustrated entitled “The Soft American”. In it he decried the lack of physical fitness in the baby boom generation, which he called the lack of “vigah”. Vigor was a focus for baby boomers as we grew. We went from being a deconditioned generation to one of the most fit. Do you remember those physical fitness tests? In 1966, Lyndon Johnson had established the first Presidential Physical Fitness Awards which lead to the time in the 1960s, 70s and 80s where there was a culture of physical activity and an awakening of the benefits of fitness.
The running boom? CU’s Frank Shorter (Whatever happened to his statue by Folsom Stadium?) won the marathon at the ’76 Olympics in Montreal and the next day half the nation laced up their high top Converse All Stars and went out for a jog. Jim Fixx, a self-confessed overweight non-athlete started to run and wrote "The Complete Book of Running" which energized and molded a nation-wide community of road racers and other runners content to find the ‘runner’s high’. Bill Bowerman took the family waffle iron and made running shoes that became Nike.
Aerobics? Dr Kenneth Cooper gave value to cardiovascular conditioning and made it easy with graded charts to track aerobic fitness.
Workout videos? and Jane Fonda? Remember leg warmers? There are current magazine articles that claim that Jane’s workout videos are still among the best. She made fitness accessible to women who didn’t like the male dominated gym culture.
Pumping Iron? and Arnold? Before Arnold Schwarzenegger anyone who lifted weights in front of a mirror was narcissistic. Arnold made weight lifting into a sport and a competition that anyone could enjoy.
Cycling road races? The feel good coming of age movie, Breaking Away was either a trend setting or trend noticing movie of the growing interest in bicycle road racing. And all baby booming Boulderites should remember the cycling movie American Flyer (does the names “Morgul Bismarck” and “Red Zinger” ring any bells?).
John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis in Perfect? That movie highlighted the trend that the singles dating scene had teleported from the bar to the gym.
All this culture focused on physical activity reflected the fitness orientation of the generation or started more people being engaged with exercise as part of their lifestyle.
By the late 80s, 69% of American adults were regular exercisers… Then the Boomers went boom. Boomers, once the vigorous generation, went from fit to flabby. JAMA Internal Medicine recently revealed that boomers are far less fit than their parents were at the same age and are more likely to have diabetes, high blood pressure, higher cholesterol and more obesity. Today, just 35 percent of boomers exercise regularly; 52 percent have no routine.
Well, Life happened. Baby Boomers got busy with other foci of living. Jobs and careers demanded more attention and time. We started raising families and children, as wonderful as they are, claim attention and time and energy. We got busy with lifestyle, the daily hustle and bustle grind, all of which takes attention, energy and time. The only race we were running was the rat race.
There is only so much time in the day and the time devoted to exercise grew less and less and those gym habits of yesteryear faded away. Fitness took a back seat and gradually we changed; then suddenly (or rather not so suddenly) we noticed our bodies changing and activities once easy were now more difficult.
Another factor in the loss of exercise (read fitness) in baby boomer activities was that we were accustomed to high-intensity activity as our exercise. A workout was judged by the amount of sweat and the ‘burn’ of post-exercise soreness. ‘Exercise’ equaled ‘effort’ plus ‘exertion’. As we entered each advancing decade and tried to do those workouts we remembered as effective, or the sports that we once enjoyed, we now found them to be difficult even dangerous to our health. ‘Intensity’ now equaled ‘injury’.
High-intensity physical activity has it’s dark-side. Frank Shorter, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other highly regarded athletes of yesteryear are now having joint replacement surgeries. Jim Fixx, the running guru, died of a heart attack while running. And, of course, our own bodies were — and are — aging. Metabolism slows; muscles atrophy. Sarcopenia (muscle wasting) precedes osteopenia (bone loss). In fact, “Aging is associated with a redistribution of both fat and lean tissue within the body. Intra-abdominal fat (IAF) accumulates more rapidly than total fat while the loss of lean body mass is mostly due to sarcopenia. Increase of visceral fat plays a major role in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, which leads to type II diabetes and also to cardiovascular diseases.” (BeaufreÁre)
And it hurts more to exercise. Knee replacement surgery has doubled in the past decade and tripled in the 45-to-64 age group, because of rising rates of obesity and some boomers' unwillingness to give up on their favorite exercise routines. Fighting Father Time by participating in the sports and activities of our younger selves is natural but unwise. It takes a major modification in our thinking to exercise within our body’s tolerance. But face it, down-shifting into easy walking and mild movement to prevent injury pales when the mind remembers the personal best performances of our youth and that intoxicating feeling of living in a strong, fit body.
It is obvious to many that exercise intensities reached at a younger age are not suitable goals as the decades roll along. But the fact remains that exercise is integral to healthy lifestyle and fitness is a needed and necessary component to disease prevention and fighting age-related cognitive decline. Research has shown that exercise enhances mitochondria activity in older human skeletal muscle, a key factor in vitality. Exercise stimulates the release of health building molecules into the circulation, that help strengthen the liver, heart, lungs and brain as they adapt to exercise.
Exercise at any age is a requirement for health and fitness. There are four types of exercise that will keep you fit and healthy and are more and more important the more you age. Exercise and physical activity fall into four basic categories — endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility. The aging body starts calling out for more balanced workouts. Further, research has shown that the benefits of exercise go beyond just physical well-being. Exercise helps support emotional and mental health.
A beneficial way to re-think physical activity is to re-frame exercise as a disease solution. Motion is medicine. In most cases, you have more to lose by not being active. Exercise is more helpful than apples to keep you out of doctor’s offices. Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA), stated: “Many eyes opened when HealthPartners Research Foundation announced their study that showed adults aged 50-plus years who started exercising just 90 minutes a week saved, on average, $2,200 per year in medical costs.”
Exercise, physical activity, just plain-old get your butt out of the chair is so important to your health and well-being. So, move, darn it.
There is still, however, the fact that exercise takes effort and time and energy. And still, the best exercise is one that requires intensity but does not injure. How can we get the most out of our exercise time; help us to optimize strength, flexibility, endurance and balance and reduce exercise training injuries to keep us fit and healthy to fight age-related dis-ease, dis-ability and mental decline?
Exercise intensity equals positive metabolic change that makes us healthier. Intensity also increases the risk of exercise-related injury. The reason we lifted heavy weights or ran hard was to increase the intensity of the workout. Our youthful joints, tendons and muscles could bear the strain and give us positive returns on our exercise efforts. As we age, we cannot sustain the effort and exertion that the joints must bear to reach the intensities that are most effective for optimum metabolic effect.
How can we exercise our muscles at contraction percentages-of-effort that rival decades-old levels? How can we take the intensity of youthful exercise that has such benefits of increasing strength, flexibility, endurance and balance for fitness and feeling good and convert that to something beneficial, now that we must be more conscious of potential damage from exercise activity?
The solution is the FITtec.® Revolution. FITtec.® Whole-Body Electrical Muscle Stimulation (WB-EMS) Studios are designed to maximize the positive effects of muscle contraction (exercise) with a minimum of strain to the joints and tendons of the body.
FITtec.® does this by Whole-Body Electrical Muscle Stimulation, commonly referred to as WB-EMS, that assists you in contracting muscle, which is work. And working a muscle makes it stronger (that’s why it’s called a “work out”). WB-EMS has been shown to contract muscle fibers that you don’t normally contract by yourself which means you get a better, deeper, more complete work out of muscles than you could without WB-EMS. Your muscles get an extra-hard workout that is safe and effective. Thus, electrical muscle stimulation is simply a selective intensification of electrical stimuli to your muscles. At FITtec.®, we use this sophisticated science to help you train faster to get the results you want quickly and easily.
WB-EMS engages all the large muscle areas of your body. Because of the way EMS involves almost all muscle fibers in exercise, the muscle being worked recruits practically all muscle fibers giving you a better, deeper workout in shorter time periods. In two 20-minute workout sessions a week, you can get the benefit of four 90-minute conventional weight workouts, saving you time and not over-loading your joints.
You don’t lift heavy weights that tax the joints to give your muscles that deep contraction. WB-EMS supports a deep full muscle contraction without making the joints work harder. A win-win for muscles increasing in strength, endurance, flexibility and balance without negative effects to the joints. FITtec.®’s WB-EMS makes high intensity exercise accessible and available to almost everyone. So, all can get the beneficial metabolic effects of high-intensity training (at the level that their fitness can handle) while keeping their joints safe from injury at just about any age.
As a cutting edge of exercise science, WB-EMS has been thoroughly researched and FITtec.® is a leading voice in the practical application of this new exciting way to train safely and effectively, with less time devoted to the gym.
The scientists studying and researching the effects of WB-EMS state:
“… adjunct WB-EMS training significantly exceeds the effect of isolated endurance and resistance type exercise on fitness and fatness parameters. Further, we conclude that for elderly subjects unable or unwilling to perform dynamic strength exercises, electromyostimulation may be a smooth alternative to maintain lean body mass, strength, and power.”
“WB-EMS significantly improves muscle mass and function while reducing fat mass and low back pain.… WB-EMS represents a safe and reasonable option for cohorts unable or unwilling to join conventional exercise programs.”
“Prolonged electrical muscle stimulation exercise improves strength and aerobic capacity in healthy sedentary adults. The form of EMS used by the subjects was capable of eliciting a cardiovascular exercise response without loading the limbs or joints.”
“WB-EMS showed positive effects on the parameters of sarcopenia [Sarcopenia is muscle wasting and atrophy] and regional fat accumulation. Further, considering the good acceptance of this technology by this non-sportive elderly cohort at risk for sarcopenia and abdominal obesity, WB-EMS may be a less off-putting alternative to impact appendicular muscle mass and abdominal fat mass, at least for subjects unwilling or unable to exercise conventionally.”
“In summary, improvements in functional parameters such as maximum strength and speed have been demonstrated along with health-relevant effects on body composition. In addition, a high acceptance of EMS training in this population of well-trained, post-menopausal women was established. So, aside from its effectiveness, the practicability of this type of training seems assured.”
By Dr Richard Garde