In the gym, we bond together giving each other the knowing nod, as we share literal battle stories that produced real-life scars. Check out the shoulders, necks, backs and knees of your fellow baby boomer gym members and you'll recognize the effects of age, lifting, diets and stress on these 40, 50 and 60 year old bodies. While we understand the effects of stress on our mental health, few consider the effects of stress on producing pain and muscle tension.
Cumulative effects of daily stress contributes to the development and exacerbation of physical problems according to Dr. Cindy Carmack at the University of Texas. For baby boomers, that translates into neck and back pain when stress builds up over time.
In a stress reaction, hormones such as adrenaline are released in a flight or fight scenario, which is a normal physical reaction. But, problems occur when stress continues, producing a build up of the secreted stress hormones. When this occurs, an aging baby boomer body is placed into a catabolic state that compromises the immune system.
No signs of stress back in the old days as Richard trained with Laura Combes at Gold's Gym in Venice, CA.
According to Dr. Richard Bachrach, medical director of the Center for Sports and Osteopathic Medicine in New York City, "muscles contract as stress increases, cutting off blood circulation. Waste products such as lactic acid and potassium ions build up and irritate the surrounding nerve tissues." The tension is carried in the upper back and neck where constant tension on the muscles makes then rigid and sore. In the short term, you'll have a stiff neck. But, over time the range of motion in your neck will be reduced and nodules of stiff muscles will spasm, cause pain and effect your ability to work out in the gym.
As baby boomers, we need to make programs modifications due to increased recovery times, slowing metabolisms and joints that lack the suppleness of our youth. Why complicate matters with the additional factor of stress related limitations in the gym?
When Legendary Fitness, LLC was created several years ago, the goal was and remains to help baby boomers redefine the aging process in terms of fitness, longevity, quality of life, injury prevention and physique goals. Our readers and our own personal experiences in rehab, forced us to focus on injury prevention and the discovery of techniques that will allow the over 40 population of lifters and fitness enthusiasts to keep plugging along well into our 70s, 80s and 90s.
On that thought, if you want to keep lifting successfully, you need to effectively deal with the daily stressors that will set limitations on your goal. So what are the signs of chronic stress?
- Fatigue, exhaustion and tiredness that is persistent
- Increased anger, irritability, and negativity
- Loss of motivation
- Frequent headaches
- Weight loss or gain (typically a gain for the female baby boomer population)
- Sleep disturbances
- Increased muscle tension and pain in neck and upper back area
- Neck, shoulder and back spasms
In an email received this week from a Bodybuilding for Baby boomers reader, Carmen writes,
Hi Diane and Richard:
I am 45 years old and have been training for over 10 years sometimes regularly, and most times when I can make it to the gym. Lately I feel tired quite often and it makes me irritable when I can't make it to the gym. I'm not sure if the tiredness is stress related or that I lack motivation. What kind of supplements can I take or what can I do so I don't feel so tired all the time.
Thank you in advance
Carmen provides a good example of a baby boomer displaying many of the symptoms of stress. Fortunately, for Carmen, she is still getting to the gym most times and she's not mentioning those nasty muscle tension nodules that creates spasms, loss of motion and pain.
What Helps Eliminate The Build Up Of Stress?
Exercise! But, the right amount, boomers. Remember, we're looking for the balance between exercise that helps rid the body of stress-causing adrenaline and other hormones such as cortisol, while avoiding the catabolic effects of overtraining. For all lifters, but especially baby boomers, this can be achieved by utilizing the techniques of periodization training.
How does exercise help to reduce stress?
- Generates relaxation through the release of endorphins
- Increases alertness
- Reduces symptoms of depression
- Improves self esteem
- Encourages participants to follow a healthier nutrition plan
- Produces more restful sleep
- Increases energy levels, making it easier to accomplish more and deal with stressful events
- Makes you take time for yourself
Next week, Carmen, we'll follow up with specific exercise and related activities to help relieve the symptoms of stress. As always, in true Legendary Fitness fashion, we'll give you the straight scoop on the research related evidence of the effectiveness of these activities. If you want to be notified when part two of this article is posted, click here to sign up for updates.
Until then the baby boomers, Richard and Diane will actively seek to reduce stress levels while trying to bring closure to the spring semester at school in the role as professor for Richard and graduate student for Diane. Not enough stress, you say. Try adding an upcoming move into the scenario for next week! Signing off for now, as we head to the gym to reduce that stress.
Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC.
Richard Baldwin, Member. Legendary Physique, LLC.
Click here if you are interested in receiving our weekly newsletter that will keep you informed of our additional articles, special projects and appearances.
We want to hear from you! Send us an email if you would like us to cover a topic here on Bodybuilding for Babyboomers or if you have a specific question.
All submitted photos become property of Legendary Fitness, LLC; submission shall constitute a grant to the use of your photos and information as we deem appropriate.
Copyright 2004. Diane Fields, Member. Legendary Fitness, LLC. All rights reserved.
The advice given in this column should not be viewed as a substitute for professional medical services. Before undertaking any exercise or nutrition program, Legendary Fitness, LLC advises all to undergo a thorough medical examination and get permission from their personal physician.