Fitness First: Motivation

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell December 15, 2008 11:40

Let’s talk about motivation. What inspires you to get up and move?

According to a study I read recently, 85 percent of people over age 65 don’t exercise at all. When I asked an 89-year-old man in my class what motivates him to work out five times a week, he replied instantly, “It just makes me feel better.”

Another friend who struggles with the commitment to exercise told me, “Exercise lets me feel more in the mainstream of life.”

I think most of us have gotten the information about how good it is to exercise – but not everyone has found the motivation. Sometimes we really have to work to turn a lifestyle change into a habit. Attending an exercise class is a great way to find that motivation, not just from the instructor but from the other students.

Since it’s winter, let’s also talk about the significance of a strength-training program in your exercise routine. This is a great indoor activity that can be part of an exercise class or your home exercise routine. The main benefits of a moderate weight- or resistance-training program are increased muscle strength, increased bone density, and very importantly, increased longevity of your ability to live independently.

Strength training, which can be achieved in a variety of ways, is one of the most important ways to slow down the process of aging. The history of strength training goes back to the sixth century with the story of the great Olympic champion Milo. Milo is said to have carried a baby bull on his shoulders to improve his strength. He repeated this task every day, and as the bull grew heavier with age, Milo improved his strength. Today the principle of muscle overload or resistance training is usually carried out in the weight room of fitness centers or exercise classes.­

Lifting weights not only benefits the young and athletic, but is proven to benefit those over 65 even more significantly. The most dramatic decline due to aging is in our muscle strength. Some studies have shown that we lose an average of six pounds of muscle per decade.

This change in our body composition can really affect our quality of life. An inspiring study involved 19 men and women, average age of 89 and all wheelchair-bound, who participated in 10 minutes per day of strength-training exercises. In 14 weeks, almost all of them were out of the wheelchairs, and one study participant went back home to live independently.

Strength training will be a great addition to the other very important components of your exercise program. Daily walking, stretching, and balance exercises should also be a part of your exercise regime. Before you start a strength-training route, be sure to establish realistic goals and a realistic schedule.

Exercise physiologist Krista Howell teaches senior fitness classes, and also supervises cardiac rehab patients for Sonora Regional Medical Center.

Krista’s Strength-Training Program

Here are a few general conditioning exercises to get you started. Plan to do 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions per exercise. Seven exercises should take between 10-15 minutes and should be performed 3 times per week. Most these can be done sitting in a chair or standing. It is important to use a good, erect posture while you perform these exercises. Always move in a slow pattern. Suggested starting dumbbell weight: 3 pounds for women, 5 pounds for men.


With your arms by your side, raise dumbbells up, bending at the elbow.


Holding dumbbells at shoulder level, press both arms up.


Hold arms down with palms toward the body. Raise dumbbells to the collarbone area (pulling elbows outward, up and back) while squeezing your shoulder blades together.


Work one arm at a time. Extend opposite leg forward slightly to help you balance, and bend at the waist keeping chin up. With dumbbell at hip level, extend forearm back with elbow high and stabilized. Keeping elbow in same position, bring forearm forward and back again.


Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, slowly bend at the knee.


Hold the dumbbells by your side, lift weights up until they reach shoulder level.


With dumbbells by your side, raise your heels off the ground.

© 2008, Friends and Neighbors Magazine

Krista Howell
By Krista Howell December 15, 2008 11:40
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