Exercise FAQs

For seniors, even a small amount of exercise is important for good health.What are the best workouts for fat-burning? Is high-intensity better than low-intensity?

Programs that incorporate both low-intensity and high-intensity exercises are the best for fat-burning and overall cardiovascular health. Interval programs should be used when jogging, running or swimming; and sprint programs are great when cycling. Interval programs seem to work best, because they confuse the body and its energy systems, and fat ends up being used more often as fuel. It is still a hotly debated topic regarding whether strictly high-intensity or low-intensity programs are better for fat-burning. High-intensity programs burn a lot of calories total, but a smaller percentage of those calories come from fat, and high-intensity exercise can’t be sustained for long periods of time without a lot of experience. Low-intensity exercise (55-75 percent of your heart rate maximum) is much easier to sustain for longer periods of time and a higher percentage of the calories burned come from fat.

Is it better to lose weight first and then try to add muscle, or vice versa?

Do both. Strength training will aid in weight loss, and more importantly, fat loss. And increasing muscle mass does have a positive impact on metabolism. In just a few months, you can build about 5 pounds of lean muscle and start burning about 30-40 extra calories each day. In a month, that equates to roughly 900-1,100 extra calories burned; and in a year, roughly 12,000 calories from just 5 extra pounds of lean tissue. That’s an extra 4 pounds of body fat you can lose from building just a moderate amount of muscle through strength training. Strength training is the only activity that will cause you to burn extra calories each day just sitting there – and it’s all because of your gain in lean muscle mass. By doing only cardiovascular activity, you risk losing lean muscle mass and although you may lose weight, your metabolism will actually slow down, rather than speed up!
Which will provide better strength gains: lifting the same weight (volume) for 3 sets of 10 or for 6 sets of 5?

To increase pound-for-pound strength, lower rep ranges with heavier weights work much better. Sets of 10 or greater repetitions provide moderate gains in muscle size and endurance, but increasing your overall strength is difficult if you don’t lift weight closer to your 1 repetition max.  Remember the “all or nothing” principle: if you are lifting a weight that requires 60 percent of your strength, then only 60 percent of your muscle is working (at 100 percent capacity). If you lift a weight that requires 100 percent of your strength, then 100 percent of your muscle gets involved.  The heavier you lift, the more muscle gets involved, and the greater gains you will see.  Vary your reps and sets often to keep your body guessing!
How much should I exercise to maintain my weight?

Weight maintenance becomes an issue when your metabolism begins to slow, which is normal as you age. You can combat the age-related loss of muscle by strength training regularly, and that will keep your metabolism in check. If you choose not to strength train, your muscle tissue will gradually lower and you must lower your calorie intake to match, or choose other forms of exercise to burn extra calories. To maintain your body weight (while continuing to eat roughly the same amount of food), follow the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations and exercise 20-30 minutes daily, 3 or more days each week. It is important for weight maintenance and cardiovascular health to raise your heart rate to at least 60 percent of your heart rate max (the formula: 220-age) during a majority of your exercise. To maintain strength, try at least two sessions of strength training each week, working all major muscle groups during each session.