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eeping Fit

Lessons Learned in 1998

© Wayne L. Westcott PhD

The following is one in an ongoing series of columns entitled Keeping Fit by Wayne L. Westcott PhD. View all columns in series

This year, we more carefully examined the combination of strength and stretching exercise for improving body composition and swinging power. Based on our work with 77 local golfers, we found that those who did only strength exercise increased their club head speed by 2.6 mph, after two months of training. However, those who did both strength and stretching exercise increased their club head speed by 5.2 mph over the same time period.

Clearly, the combination of strength and stretching exercise is most effective for developing driving power. Our experience indicates that golfers can achieve excellent overall results by performing about 25 minutes of strength training (12 Nautilus machines) and less than 10 minutes of stretching (6 StretchMate exercises).

Optimal Order of Strength Training and Endurance Exercise
This past year we decided to expand on our previous research to determine whether the order in which physical activities are performed affects strength development. To do this, we divided over 200 of our fitness class participants into two training groups. Group A always did their endurance exercise (about 25 minutes of treadmill walking or stationary cycling) prior to their strength training (12 Nautilus machines). In contrast, Group B always performed their strength training before their endurance exercise. All aspects of the fitness program were identical except for the order of the conditioning activities.

The findings showed essentially equal gains in strength for both groups, indicating that the activity order has little influence on strength development. We therefore concluded that the order in which strength training and endurance exercise are performed should be primarily a matter of personal preference.

General Effects of Sensible Exercise in Sedentary Adults and Seniors
Since 1992 we have devoted a separate and fully-equipped exercise facility to conduct fitness research with previously sedentary adults and seniors. We run 12 classes a day on a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule and 12 classes a day on a Tuesday-Thursday schedule. Each class is one hour in length and includes about 25 minutes of sensible strength training and 25 minutes of moderate-effort endurance exercise. Each class consists of six participants and two highly qualified trainers to ensure excellent instruction and careful supervision, with emphasis on exercise education and motivation.

This past year, essentially all of the fitness classes were filled with new exercisers, many of whom were between 50 and 80 years old. Well over 500 South Shore residents participated in our research programs, and the improvements in physical capacity, body composition, and blood pressure were similar to our previous studies. Generally speaking, graduates of the 10-week progressive exercise programs increase their overall muscle strength by about 40 percent, add 2 to 4 pounds of muscle, lose 4 to 6 pounds of fat, and reduce their resting blood pressure by an average 4 mm Hg.

More importantly, more than 90 percent of the participants continue to exercise after completing the program. Some become members of the YMCA, some join local fitness clubs, and others train at home. Whichever option they choose, they are competent and confident exercisers who know how to train in a safe and productive manner.

On Thursday, January 7th at 6:00 p.m., we will host a slide show presentation on the benefits and guidelines for sensible exercise and an orientation for our winter fitness research programs. There is no charge to participate in this practical information session, but it would be helpful to call Susan Ramsden at (617) 479-8500, x132 so that we can provide ample seating. We welcome you, your family and friends to learn the facts about physical fitness and to have an active lifestyle in 1999. Information on golf conditioning and youth strength training will also be presented.

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About The Author
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., is fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, MA. He is strength training consultant for numerous national organizations, such as the American Council on Exercise, the American Senior Fitness Association, and the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation, and editorial advisor for many publications, including Prevention, Shape, and......more
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