No. of Recommendations: 6
<aerobics is better than strength training.>

Dave, I started working out seriously (at least 1 hour per day) when I was 15 years old, which was probably long before your parents even met each other ;-).

I began working out because my attractive friend, Susie's mother tactfully pointed out that my waistline was about a foot larger in circumference than Susie's.

My own mother was a gymnast, muscular and athletic until her unfortunate death from cancer at age 72.

Unlike my athletic Mom and very slender sister, I tend to be rather chunky. However, I love my muscular body and always worked out to increase my strength, decades before women's strength training was fashionable.

I didn't run because running didn't agree with my voluptuous body shape. However, I bicycled, lifted weights (starting in 1974), did low-impact step aerobics, yoga and walking.

Last year, at age 57, my BMI was 25 (the upper limit of "normal") and my bone density was normal for a 30 year old woman.

Based on data, being thin is not optimum for longevity and is correlated with osteoporosis.

Cause-specific relative risks of mortality from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1971-1994, with mortality follow-up through 2000 (571,042 person-years of follow-up) were combined with data on BMI from 1999-2002 with underlying cause of death information for 2.3 million adults 25 years and older from 2004 vital statistics data for the United States…. [This is a gigantic data set, so the results are statistically very reliable. – W]

Based on total follow-up, underweight (BMI < 18) was associated with significantly increased mortality from noncancer, non-CVD (cardiovascular disease) causes (23,455 excess deaths) but not associated with cancer or CVD mortality. Overweight (BMI 25-30) was associated with significantly decreased mortality from noncancer, non-CVD causes (-69 299 excess deaths) but not associated with cancer or CVD mortality. [Obesity (BMI >30) was associated with elevated deaths, but I won’t discuss that in detail right now. – W]

I will soon turn 59, so I'm not exactly young anymore, although I feel young. My decades of study and exercise experience show me that there is not a "better" or "worse" form of exercise.

These are the key factors:

1. Energy balance. The optimum weight is normal to slightly overweight BMI. Abdominal fat is bad because it is metabolically active and leads to pre-diabetes. Butt fat isn't a serious problem metabolically. It isn't important to be thin as we age because thin people are more vulnerable.

2. Nutritional sufficiency. This includes vitamins and minerals, as well as "building blocks" like proteins. I have written in more detail about these before. Vitamin D made a huge difference in preventing depression in winter. Collagen (gelatin) is helping my knee ligament strength (not to mention better skin, hair and nails).

3. Cardiovascular fitness. This should be adapted to the physical shape and age of the person. Swimming, running, walking, bicycling, dancing, gardening...anything that makes your heart beat faster and your large muscles move.

4. Bone density. Weight lifting (and/or strength-oriented yoga poses and/or any activity that systematically puts weight on legs and spine) are necessary to continuously build bone.
5. Stamina. Lots and lots of low-weight reps.

6. Flexibility. Yoga is the way to keep flexible.

7. Strength. This is extremely important for older people. Many older people fall because they don't have the strength to recover from an unbalanced position (i.e. if they trip they will fall). I often think to myself, "I'm not an old lady as long as I can still stand on my hands" -- although I do need to balance with a foot against the wall.

As you can see, I do think aerobic exercise is good -- in fact, I think that aerobic exercise is essential and spend at least an hour a day doing it. However, aerobic exercise isn't "better" than strength training because strength training is also essential for bone density and personal safety as well as maintaining independence as we age. Frailty (lack of strength) can lead to increasing dependency.

Dave, I know that both your parents are still alive and that you care very much about them. Please share this information with them to help them stay healthy. Older people have to be more systematic about their physical conditioning because we have less reserve and resilience than younger people.

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