05 Nov Reversing the negative effects of age through Functional Movement
As we age our bodies deteriorate over time. For the majority of people this is noticed in a number of different ways such as a general slowing down, our bodies taking longer to recover and heal, declining immune function, stiffness and soreness of our joints, more aches and pains and less energy than we used to have. Your volume of oxygen consumed over time or VO2 max gradually declines with increasing age by about 5 to 15 percent per decade after about age 30 according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The ACSM attributes these changes to lower maximal heart rate, lower stroke volume, lower contractility of the left ventricle, decreased vascular efficiency and alterations in muscle mitochondria. How much of this change is due strictly to age and how much is a product of lifestyle is not clear. A study by Jackson et al. (1995) found the average decrease was 0.46 ml/kg/min per year for men (1.2%) and 0.54 ml/kg/min for women (1.7%).
The good news is that we can do something about the negative effects of aging by moving our bodies on a consistent basis through exercise. The ACSM finds older adults to be just as responsive to training as younger adults, realizing a 10 to 30 percent improvement in VO2 Max in response to endurance exercise training. Losing weight is another way to increase your VO2 max along with plenty of training in the aerobic training zone working at higher percentages of your VO2 max (90-100%).
There is overwhelming evidence to support the recommendation of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days per week plus an hour of strength training twice a week to reduce the risk of illness and disease. You still get the benefits of this whether you do it all at once or break it up into smaller chunks throughout the day. If you don’t have a gym membership or access to exercise equipment then active living activities also count. Activities such as brisk walking, climbing the stairs, active housework, and gardening have the same effect on your cardiovascular system by raising your heart rate and getting the blood pumping. The majority of American’s aren’t achieving this minimum recommendation which is why we have an obesity crisis and no signs of it slowing down.
There are things you can do if you are currently sedentary. Things such as parking the car further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and picking up the pace while walking. You want to push yourself just enough to elevate your heart rate and get the blood pumping but you should still be able to have a conversation. We should be aiming for moderate aerobic exercise to get the health benefits plus you want to do some strength work to ensure you keep your muscles conditioned as you age especially after the age of 60 when you are more at risk of falling. You can use your own body weight for this so you don’t need any equipment. Getting up out of a chair without holding on to the handles is a good start. This is called squatting and is one of the best strengthening exercises for the largest muscles in your body.
The health care system is broken and is set up as sick care and is overwhelmed dealing with patients with chronic diseases. I saw this first hand when working in the healthcare system for 6 years. I saw a gap in the market for preventative medicine services that insurance companies are reluctant to pay for because they make more money treating the sick.
People would save more money in the long run if they invested in their health now by joining a gym or hiring a health coach to motivate them to exercise and eat healthier. By being more mindful of what they eat and moving their body regularly they could save thousands in medical bills further down the road.
This week I interviewed Jackie Bachmeier who runs Evolution Fitness & Wellness (EFW) with her husband Jason. They specialize in functional movement for the over 50’s age group.
Jackie is the owner of EFW, and her credentials include certified personal trainer, certified corrective exercise instructor, and certified functional aging specialist. But she considers herself the Director of Motivation at EFW. As head trainer of a small gym, she does it all! In a nutshell, EFW focuses on helping older adults age actively and optimally through functional training sessions.
Jackie is also the author of two fitness books, Stronger Longer: the authoritative guide to aging actively and soon to be released Optimal Longevity: a plan for remaining stronger longer. She is very active in the Cypress community and gives community presentations about the importance of functional exercise as we age, and offers workshops and seminars on topics ranging from how to take care of our hips, knees, and shoulders to Fall Prevention.
Jackie and Jason typically work with women & men aged 50 or older, but they also train a small population of women and men in their late 30’s and early 40’s. Currently, the average age of their client is 64 with their oldest current client at 96 years old! Many of their clients are dealing with joint replacements and injuries and looking for a fitness program that will support the aging process but are concerned about participating in something that is safe. Their clients want to live LIFE to the fullest, staying active with grandkids, skiing, traveling, playing pickle ball and tennis, golf, gardening, etc, so they need a training program to support all of that.
The most common problem faced by their clients essentially due to the aging process include sarcopenia, which is age related muscle loss. Resistance training along with a healthy eating plan can ward off sarcopenia. Jackie says, “I see lots of women who are diagnosed with osteopenia, men and women who are diagnosed with diabetes, etc., etc., and in many cases people just accept that this is part of aging. Sarcopenia is part of aging, but diabetes, heart disease, etc is not and we work hard to help educate our clients that if they’re moving well and eating optimally they can look forward to life of independence vs a life where someone is fully taking care of them.”
EFW specializes in personal training small groups of 2 to 6 people. They first determine the client’s current health situation and then learn about their goals and aspirations. Based on that they make a recommendation about whether small group training or personal training is the best solution and then start them in a program. In addition to personal training services, their clients have open access to the facility, can enjoy the benefits of infrared sauna, whole body vibration (great for bone health), and their weekly Heart Healthy low/no impact cardio class as well as a flexibility class each week. Additionally they teach Tai Chi which Jackie says is such an extraordinary practice for everyone.
On the topic of supplements I asked Jackie if they recommend any particular supplements for their clients as many Americans are deficient in certain vitamins or minerals. Jackie says, “ You know, we’ve been open for 3 years and we just found a product that we truly feel good about recommending. The reason we took the step is because we are seeing how nutrient deficient our clients truly are. The line we picked is a very, very high quality line mostly comprised of liquid, whole food based vitamins and minerals. However, we do not require our clients purchase anything. We recommend protein, omega 3’s, a high quality multi-vitamin for most people as part of a healthy daily intake. Research shows that even high performing athletes on supervised nutritional programs have nutrient deficiency, so we feel confident that just adding these 3 things to the diet will improve our client’s health.”
I asked Jackie what she would suggest for someone over 50 who is just starting out and has never exercised before?
“Our program takes this into account. We typically start with a new to exercise person and have them do 1-3 sessions with myself or with Coach Jason to learn our foundations of alignment, breathing, and control. From there we integrate clients into our small groups and modify.
I think it’s important for people to realize that the body is strong and can take a lot. It’s the brain you have to convince. So the idea that we should not lift heavy weights as we get older is a complete fallacy. Think about it. For most of us we are walking around with our body weight daily so adding weight is what is going to help the body change by being challenged. Most people are picking up laundry detergent containers, dog and cat food, etc, etc., so the fact that I’m handing you a piece of iron with a weight label on isn’t going to hurt you any more than lifting everyday items. It’s a matter of learning how to work with resistance safely.
People 50 and older need to work on gait, balance, flexibility, brain health, strength training, and neuromuscular patterns to stay active, healthy, and independent. Some exercise programs out there keep older adults in a chair, and in some cases that is warranted, but for the vast majority of people 50+ you need to be moving. That is what life is about, movement. The more you do the better you feel, the better you feel the more you do and that equals optimal longevity.”
I asked Jackie what are the main benefits of working with Evolution Fitness and Wellness?
Jackie says, “Well, we are specialized in training the older adult. We don’t just watch webinars and take certification courses online (much the trend these days) but we actually fly to seminars to learn in a hands-on way from the industry’s leading coaches and trainers. We bring all of that back to our community. Additionally clients are training with like- minded individuals, of similar ages, with similar goals and objectives. We don’t have a gym filled with 20-somethings taking selfies in the mirror or sweating all over the equipment and walking away. We truly have created an environment that supports the older adult and we have FUN while we do it. Our clients train hard but play hard too. We participate in community walks and support community charities. We hold movie night at the gym and we celebrate client success often.”
Evolution Fitness and Wellness have a vision to see 3-5 additional EFW locations in the Greater Houston area. Here is the deal, people are living longer. Life span will continue to increase Jackie says. Medical expenses for specialized care and care of chronic conditions is on the rise and will continue. People need to understand that none of this will change. So what does need to change is investing in our health and wellness Jackie says. To do that you need to adopt a healthy life style and for most people it’s a start and stop process and that is where coaching and accountability come in to play.
Jackie and Jason are really, really passionate about helping people age well and it shows. I love their enthusiasm and community spirit. From meeting them both I can tell they have big hearts and genuinely want to help people improve their health in a fun and inspiring way.
“At EFW we have clients who have trained with us since the beginning and tell us all the time that this is the longest they’ve stayed with an exercise program ever. The truth is that if we didn’t need accountability and a prodding now and again we wouldn’t have the health crisis issues we are having.” So, we feel that having more facilities to reach more people is our mission and calling Jackie says.
Jackie went on to say “I’m excited that the fitness industry is starting to see a slow shift toward functional movement that is less focused on rock hard abs and big pecks and biceps. I’m excited to see more people like Ernestine Shepherd, Marc Middleton, Rowdy Gaines, Julia “the Hurricane” Hawkins and others take the stigma out of competing at an older age. I am excited that exercise doesn’t just automatically translate to being skinny. I mean we still have a long, long, long way to go but as more Julia’s, Ernestine’s, Marc’s, and Rowdy’s appear the more we can count on a cultural shift that shows aging doesn’t mean a wheelchair, rocking chair, or nursing home.”
“I want people to really understand that optimal longevity is up to each of us. Genetics only plays a 25% role in how long we live. How healthy we are and how we function as we get older is 75% dependent on us. We can make healthy improvements no matter what age we begin – but we have to begin. I feel sad when I meet someone who has recounted how they’ve painstakingly saved for retirement because they have all these plans; travel, fun trips with grandchildren, and then something catastrophic happens and all that wealth they’ve put away goes to paying high co-pays to specialists, or worse, a permanent stay in assisted living. For the vast majority of us, it can be avoided by embracing a lifestyle that includes exercise. So my tips are to be a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to exercise. Walking is NOT enough. If you walk add resistance training, if you bike add resistance training and swimming, if you don’t do anything – find a trainer and get started. If you’re not sure where to start, call me or email me, I’m happy to meet you over a cup of coffee and help you find a solution”.