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Benefits of Crossfit and Challenging Workouts: Fitness Over 50

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benefits of crossfit

Can Seniors Crossfit?

A common misconception is that certain types of exercise are appropriate only for certain age groups and that when we get older, it’s time to take it easy. Well, older adults today are breaking the mold and doing amazing things with fitness over 50 (and 60, 70, 80!). Obviously, at any age if you have medical conditions, you need to check with your doctor before starting a fitness routine. But, there is no fitness routine that should be inaccessible to any age group. Just check out these inspirational older adults who are proving you can gain ultimate fitness over 50 and beyond: “Fit at 102”, Video: Seniors Using the Crossfit Method, and Crossfit Grandma’s Video Diary After Losing 79 Lbs.

What is Crossfit?

Crossfit™ is a strength and conditioning program which is designed for overall fitness (versus a specialized program). CrossFit is focused on “constantly varied, high-intensity, functional movement” and brings in various types of exercise. There are many Crossfit gyms across the country and there are also competitions held for Crossfit athletes.

Fitness Over 50: Research

“Exercise is almost always good for people of any age,” says Chhanda Dutta, PhD, chief of the Clinical Gerontology Branch at the National Institute on Aging, stated on WebMD. Some older people will worry that they might fall/hurt themselves if they exercise when in fact exercise has been shown to prevent falls: it can prevent bone loss, make you you stronger, improve balance, boost your memory and mood, and ease symptoms of many chronic conditions associated with aging.

Unfortunately, according to the National Institute on Aging, just over half of adults 65+ are inactive and only 11% of people 85 and over engage in any regular exercise. Evidence shows that most could work out safely, especially if shown how.

Maria Fiatarone Singh, who’s been studying strength exercise in older adults at the University of Sydney for many years concludes, “If I had to do only one thing for the frail older person, it would clearly be weightlifting exercises.” She has done studies with frail elderly in nursing homes and post-hip fracture patients showing the benefits of relatively intense strength training. Even if Crossfit isn’t for you, the concept of incorporating strength training and a well-rounded fitness routine should be part of most older adults’ lifestyles.

Benefits of Crossfit for Older Adults (Even if you don’t Crossfit!)

Here’s a great post from one older adult who saw many benefits of Crossfit in her daily life. She noticed obvious improvement in balance and strength: being able to regain balance if she trips over something, climbing stairs and opening jars with ease. Little things that can become harder with age (and lack of fitness) like getting up and down from chairs and the toilet or in and out of the car suddenly became easy. Her endurance for all kinds of activities improved. We often accept the aches, pains and limitations of an aging body as part of getting older but her story shows how some challenging exercise can really turn that around. The strength training benefits of Crossfit style workouts can be perfect for reversing muscle mass and strength.

Crossfit and other exercises that challenge the body can also give you a new sense of confidence. The group nature of Crossfit can make it more fun and inspiring.

Another one of the benefits of Crossfit for older adults is the increase in core strength. This helps you maintain balance and more easily handle a stumble or trip.

The benefits of Crossfit for fitness over 50 can apply to other types of routines. The important point is to build strength and endurance, especially to make up for the muscle loss that comes with aging, and to enhance balance. Fitness classes or working out with a personal trainer can motivate you and ensure you benefit and stay safe. We have a whole host of fitness ideas for you!

What’s your fitness over 50 secret? Have you experienced the benefits of Crossfit or started a new routine later in life and found success? Come over to our Facebook page to share more!

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Longevity Secrets from Japan’s Longest-Living Prefecture

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The surprising story of Japan’s Nagano Prefecture, once plagued by high blood pressure and strokes, now known for longevity among both women and menlongevity Japan

The Japan Times recently published an article on “How Japan’s saltiest residents came to live the longest“, an interesting twist for those who credit Japan’s longevity to a diet filled with fish. Nagano Prefecture is a land-locked area, once known for digesting high levels of salt (used to preserve foods during long winters). Some of its most famous foods are preserved and pickled foods and a salty miso. So, how did this region go from being plagued by high blood pressure and strokes as recently as the 1960s to the highest levels of longevity in the world?

The solutions might surprise you! This story proves that people can make small changes that can make a dramatic difference in longevity (and quality of life). The area began tackling the issue by first focusing on the high salt diet, encouraging residents to make realistic changes. For example, instead of eating the salty miso soup with each meal, residents could cut back to once/day.

By adding more fresh vegetables (which refrigeration had made possible), people could still eat favorite foods but reduce the salt in their overall diets. The average Nagano resident consumes more vegetables each day than other Japanese people. This advice was echoed many times over at a recent Johns Hopkins women’s conference I attended, with a constant refrain from gerontologists, aging specialists and other researchers that a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet is essential to health and longevity.

The life expectancy for Nagano residents (from a 2013 study) is 80.88 years for men and 87.18 years for women. Japan’s national averages (2013) are 79.59 and 86.35, and the U.S. stands at about 76 and 81.

More than just living a long time, this area originated the concept (and slogan) of being “spry and energetic” in life and dying “a quick and painless death”. This concept of healthy life expectancy is increasingly popular, as most people worry that with longevity can come decreased quality of life. The question really becomes how can we not only live longer, but live better (i.e. aging wisely!). To read more about some of the ways Japan is tackling this question check out EasyLiving’s recent article on “Rethinking Aging: Lessons from Japan“.

So, what can you learn from Nagano’s residents to increase healthy longevity and age wisely? The surprising news is how easy it can be to make small changes (residents weren’t told to turn to the latest diet trend or completely eliminate anything).

  • Consider implementing one small change in diet (e.g. eating meat-free one or two days/week, reducing sugary drinks to once/day, adding one serving of vegetables to each meal, using more herbs and less salt) immediately. Try the great recipe in the Japan Times article and use online resources for new ways to make veggies delicious. See how you feel and determine ways you can make additional small changes this year.
  • For healthy, happy aging make small changes in lifestyle, one geared toward physical activity (parking further away to add more steps, taking a short walk each morning, trying a stretching or balance exercise video for a few minutes each day) and one geared to social/intellectual stimulation (taking a course or joining a new activity, setting time aside for lunch with a friend once/week or to Skype with family members). Think back to a hobby or interest you once enjoyed that perhaps you have given up, and find new ways to bring it back into your life!

For more longevity secrets, aging wisely advice, health research and more:

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