Health & Wellness: Working out is easier than you think

In last month’s column I talked about losing weight and why it isn’t inevitable as we age. In this month’s column I’m going to talk about exercising, the most important thing to do along with your efforts to cut down on your food intake.
First, as I mentioned last month, the more calories you consume, the more you need to burn off to avoid having all those calories turned into fat by your body. If you lead a really active lifestyle and don’t eat too much then you’re probably already near your target weight. But most people don’t do both, especially as they get older, so we need to exercise to get rid of those extra calories.
I’ve worked out for 45 years in gyms and also spent a lot of time running on tracks and outside. Now, at age 66, I’m concentrating on keeping my muscles toned and keeping my body in a generally healthy state. What that means is that I’m not trying to build a lot of muscle. I’m just trying to maintain what I have and keep my respiratory system (heart, lungs) in good shape.
What I do is simple and doesn’t take much time — a little less than an hour — and it keeps me in great shape. Basically I do some aerobic exercise every day along with abs and then I rotate the weight work so that I work on a different muscle group every day.
So on my first day I’ll work on biceps as well as doing my aerobic exercise and abs. I use an elliptical trainer for the aerobics and do 30 minutes on that. The weight lifting portion of my workout takes about 20 minutes. Part of that is three sets of leg lifts for abs with 30 reps in each set.
Then I do three sets of three different exercises that focus on my biceps. That’s it. It’s about 50 minutes and it’s all I need to keep myself in great shape. Of course, I’m in the gym six days a week but I find that easy to do even though I work full time.
Having to work makes things a little more difficult in terms of time but I’m self-employed and can come and go as I please so I usually work out around noon when most other people are eating lunch so I don’t lose as much productive time during the day. Obviously, if you’re retired you don’t have to worry about time as much, if at all.
So the rest of the workouts are the same as you rotate the weight exercises through the days. So the next day I do chest, then back, then shoulders and then legs. One day I just do aerobics and I take a day off every five days. So I work out five days with weights and doing aerobics, I do one day of just aerobics and I have one day off which makes seven days.
So every week I work on each muscle group once, I do aerobics six days and I have one day off. Taking a day off every fifth day means I’m in the gym about 25 days a month or six days a week.
If this is too much for you then you can cut back in two ways. You can do less each workout or just do fewer workouts. If it were me I would cut down the workload and keep the number of workouts. Here’s why. When you work out and get your heart rate up to a certain level then you’ve hiked up your metabolic rate also.
We want to do this because the higher our metabolism, the more calories we burn. When we work out our metabolism stays at an elevated level for about 24 hours. So if you work out every 24 hours then you’ll keep your metabolism at a higher level than normal and you’ll burn more calories. If you cut down the number of workouts you won’t be keeping your metabolism elevated as much.
So now you have an easy routine to follow. And it is easy since you control how much effort you need to put in by how much weight you put on the machines you use or the free-weight bars or dumbbells you’re using.
Many of you may have never been in a gym before. You might look in and see all kinds of funny looking machines and not have a clue about what to do. That’s okay. It’s the same for everyone at first. Don’t worry. Just ask the people who run whatever gym you go into that you need some help. Tell them that you want three different things to do to exercise your biceps, for example and they’ll show you. Same with any of the muscle groups.
And they’ll show you how to use any of the machines including the aerobics machines. Believe me, they want you to become a regular member and you’re only going to do that if you feel comfortable with what you’re doing. And if they’re not helpful for any reason then find a new gym.
That’s a good reason why you should try out any kind of trial membership they offer. Your first pick for a gym might not work out and you don’t want to be obligated to a long-term membership.
It’s going to feel strange when you first start no matter where you are so be ready for that. Also be ready to be sore if you haven’t been working out for a while or if it’s your first time ever. Don’t worry about it. Your muscles are going to hurt at first because you’re not used to it.
Just be sure to not use too much weight. You’re not trying to compete with Arnold. You’re just there to get in shape so don’t push yourself. If something feels too heavy then lower the weight you’re using. And if I don’t feel good on a particular day for whatever reason then I just don’t go to the gym. There’s no reason to push yourself unnecessarily. The last thing you want to do is strain something or hurt something which will then mess up your workout schedule.
In the next issue I’ll give you some more detailed information on working out, some of the finer points that will help you. In the meantime, If you’re serious about getting in shape but have some questions you can send an email to and I’ll try to help.