IFA News and Opinion
Issue Date:  April 1, 2003

Older Populations

There is a growing interest is fitness specific to the older population. It is never too late to begin a fitness program. Studies have shown that men in their 90's can continue to build muscle when involved in weight training programs. However, the trainer must be aware of the special requirements when training older clients. These conditions are even more true in sedentary individuals and become less so in people who have been training all their lives.

  • Blood Pressure can increase artifically when arms are raised over the head.
  • Keep movements slow.
  • Do not extend movements to full range of motion.
  • Remember that they may try to copy your movements.
  • Keep in mind that their balance may off.
  • Their sense of thirst is diminished.
  • They may be on heart-rate limiting meds.
  • Music level should be lower and appropriate.
  • Coordination is diminished due to the reduction of neuromuscular fibers.
  • Temperature regulation is not as efficient.

    It is also recommended that men over 40 and women over 50 should receive a doctors clearance before beginning an exercise program.

    VO2 Max - Oxygen Uptake

    VO2 Max is a measure of an individual's overall athletic ability. VO2 Max is the maximum ability of the body to transport oxygen upon intake to the muscles for energy generation. It involves the heart's capacity to pump oxygen rich blood to the muscles. In addition, it is dependent on the muscles' efficiency in extracting and utilizing the oxygen. VO2 Max is measured in milliliters of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute of exercise (ml/kg/min). A high VO2 Max indicates better performance.

    For example, here are various VO2 Max values for:

  • Male 20-29 years of age: 45 - 50.
  • Male athlete: 55 - 57.
  • Runner: 70 - 80.

    Accurate measurement of VO2 Max is done by running on a treadmill while connected to a respiration unit and heart rate monitor. There are various methods to estimate your VO2 Max. www.preventdisease.com has an excellent Calculator

    Chicken or the Egg

    If asked, which do you think is more important for your fitness health, muscle growth fat loss and overall well being? Think they are separate goals? If you want to loss that excess fat around the stomach or hips, do you reduce calories, do aerobics or just go lift some heavy weights. To no surprise, most people aren't sure which one they should do or which is the most important aspect of fitness.

    As it turns out, if you read the next three articles, you'll see why neither is less important than the other. If you try to do only one, you'll be trying to attain your goal at one-third speed. Years ago, Personal Trainers were only concerned with weight training. Group Fitness Instructors were really only interested in the dance. As our knowledge increases, so should the industry respond, which is one reason IFA Instructors are inseparably Group Fitness Instructors and Personal Trainers.

  • Aerobics

    Aerobic exercise is also an important part of weight (fat) loss both directly and indirectly. During approximately the first 20 minutes of aerobic exercise, the body burns simple sugars and carbohydrates stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. After the stores are depleted, then the fat stores are tapped for energy. This trains the body to utilize fat for energy. This type of exercise, as the name implies, is aerobic and requires oxygen to metabolize the fat for energy. Remember, what the body doesn't do often, the body losses it's ability to do efficiently. No aerobic exercise means the body's ability to metabolize fat and it's ability to supply oxygen to the muscles for work diminishes.

    Weight Training

    Another important aspect of fat loss is strength training. Strength training increases structural strength by increasing bone density, as well as, tendon and ligament thickness thereby decreasing the risk of injury. Exertion of muscles against a force is crucial for structural strength. Astronauts have to contend with this phenonenon in the weightlessness of space.

    In addition, each pound of muscle that you build, you raise your Basal Metabolic Rate by 50 calories per day; a great passive way to burn extra calories each day. We get less lean as we get older because muscle atrophies at a rate of about 6.6 pounds per decade of age past 20 years old if not exercised. Strength training can avoid muscle atrophy through the aging process.

  • Helps control blood pressure
  • Reduces body fat
  • Improves posture
  • Increases muscle strength
  • Raises Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Increases bone density
  • Injury prevention from normal activities
  • Physical appearance


    You can't build muscles and strong bones if you don't provide the necessary raw materials. So you can workout all you want but if the muscles have nothing to use for repair and growth, you're wasting your time. Further, your body is smarter than you are. If it needs materials to repair a biceps and build new tissue, it will breakdown another muscle catabolizing it for resources. You end up consuming yourself. Nice thought.

    As for fat loss, a pound is equivalent to 3500 calories. To over simplify, if you want to lose one pound per week, reduce your caloric consumption by 3500 calories per week. Consuming less than 1500 calories per day on a regular basis reduces the basal metabolic rate. Again, the body's survival mechanism kicks in and slows down the metabolic rate thinking that a famine is occurring. It allows you to "survive" on less. When the metabolic rate is reduced, less calories can be consumed. Excess calories will be stored as fat. This is why it's important to combine exercise with diet in order to affect weight loss.

  • Q & A

    Q: Is there a recommended step height in Step Aerobics?

    A: It depends on fitness level. Step heights of 4 inches provide intensity levels near those of walking briskly. A step height of 12 inches exhibits near the same energy level as jogging at 5 to 7 mph. The most popular step heights are 6 to 8 inches. Each riser adds 2 inches to the two inch height of the board. Board height should not be so high that it creates an angle of more than 60 degrees for even the advanced user to avoid knee strain. It should not be done at this height every day or knee strain will occur. Inexperienced users should start with a knee angle of no more than 45 degrees. In addition, the knees should never extend past the toes. The toes must always point in the same direction as the knee.

    Q: What is the proper way to do the Upright Row?

    A: For the upright row there is no movement in the hips or knees. Movement is initiated by flexion of the arms, and, keeping the elbows high, the bar is raised until level with the chin, and then returned.

    Q: Are all Vegetable Oils good for you?

    A: Saturated fat raises the blood cholesterol levels. Cholesterol is present in animal foods but not plant foods. It is required for metabolism but is not needed in the diet because the body will produce what it needs. Most vegetable oils, like canola, corn, olive, safflower, soybean and sunflower oils contain mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which help lower blood cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats. It is generally known that animal products contain saturated fat. However, some non-animal products like Coconut and Palm Oil are examples of saturated fat.

    Q: I teach Step Class. Can I use a Resist-A-Ball™ or Slide in Step Class?

    A: A step class really shouldn't have resist-a-ball or slide. The class should be primarily step because that's what people are expecting. A combo class that incorporates various types of classes together would be more appropriate. It would be a great way to break the routine and allow people to sample the different types of workouts.

    Q: Would it be permissible to reprint some of the articles on your website in an employee publication for our bank, which has 2,000 employees?

    A: Yes of course. You may reprint any part of the website or Fitness Training Manual so long as you provide credit to IFA.

    Q: Why is it so important to not mix carbohydrates with proteins, and why to eat fruits alone. John in Norway.

    A: You should eat protein with carbohydrates. Protein is not completely metabolized without the presence of carbohydrates. Continuing this practice can increase the level of toxins in the body causing undue stress on the liver and kidneys, bad breath and various other maladies. Fruits should be eaten after protein and carbs to give them more time in the stomach for digestion. If sugars enter the intestines before they are completely processed in the stomach, it will create gas and bloating.