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Sam Bauman: A book seniors should spend time reading

Sam Bauman
For the Nevada Appeal
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I get a lot of health literature, much of it worth reading, but sometimes it doesn’t add up. Any time I get some highly auditory piece that sounds too good I go to the Internet and check out comment. Usually, there are several entries to attest to the good and bad of something.

I recently received an updated copy of Consumer Reports booklet, “The Best of Health,” 232 pages of researched health information. As I have an hour-long exercise program I turned to the chapter “Exercise and Fitness” to see what I’ve been missing.

Early on it came across an item about weight loss. In answer to a reader’s question about gaining weight with an exercise program I found out that as you build muscle you replace some of the fat cells in the body, and muscle weighs more than fat cells. Only aerobic exercises actually help lose weight — walking or the treadmill, biking or exercise that increases the heart rate — will melt the fat. It’s also very difficult to lose weight without watching the calorie intake.

The next item in the booklet deals with using ankle weights. I started using them after a physical therapist suggested I do so.

So I bought a pair, 2 pounds each, at a local sporting goods. All was fine until I tried to buckle them on using the metal loop on the inside. Didn’t seem to work so I simply used the Velcro straps to fasten around the ankle. Works but doesn’t seem to be right, the weights keep coming off as I’m cruising to 50 knee lifts.

Here’s what the booklet wrote: “Ankle weights can put excessive strain on knees and hip joints…that makes them inappropriate for aerobic workouts.” A better way is to gradually lengthen workout times by 10 percent per week.

I don’t seem to have any problems with my knees or hip joints, so I’ll keep using the ankle weights. Do wish I could figure out the right way to fasten them.

Then the booklet turned to “motionless muscle gain?” This referred to “no work exercise machines” that stimulate by electric shock to stimulate growth of muscle fibers.

Without regular physical exercise, such machines do little to increase muscle growth, stimulate muscle growth or burn off fat. Anytime I see dubious claims for devices my alarm button goes off.

An aside to the above. I have a friend who suffers from back pain. He bought a device called “I Go,” which sends a high-frequency charge into a selected area. The aim is to reduce pain, not build muscle. He gave me a sample of the device and I used to a week or so, and yes, 15 minutes of electrical stimulation reduced my back pain.

But then I get the same relief from hanging from a horizontal bar for a count of 50. No lifts, just letting my body hang. And I like the feeling of my back aligning itself to my body. The bar works fine, no batteries involved.

Several years ago I tried a similar device recommended by a therapist that worked on the same principle of electric shock interfering with nerve pain signals. It was bulky, about the size of my current lumbar back support belt, and when I tried to wear it on the ski slopes it got too much in the way. But it worked, just as the compact “I Go” device. I see ads for similar devices on TV promoted by a recognizable pro athlete. Buy at your own risk.

I rarely use the “I Go” device anymore, but I’m a regular on that horizontal bar.

Seniors may be interested in another topic, “resting heart rate.” We can all measure our resting heart beat. But what’s normal?

A normal heart rate is between 60 and 80 beats a minute. But with exercise and proper aerobic exercise, the resting heart can be 50 and 60 beats a minute. Highly trained athletes can bring it down to 40 beats a minute. (I just paused and checked my pulse rate — average. I counted beats at the neck artery. I came in at 55 beats per minute, low, but then I’m sitting at my laptop.)

There’s a lot more in the booklet, which we’ll look at another time. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here writing on my new (rebuilt) Apple Book 1 Air, which replaced my old Apple Book of 10 years ago. I also inherited a PC from a friend who thought his son had tossed it out. It’s a good machine and he doesn’t know if he wants to hook it up. He never looked at his email anyhow.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Nevada Appeal.