The Fab Four: Exercise for Baby Boomers
The first ever Beatles song I ever heard was Come Together. Of course I was blown away and had to come to grips with the reality that the music my parents listened to was far better than the tunes dumping out of my favorite radio stations. This was probably inevitable; I come from a mom who was screaming at her television set in 1964 and a dad who would crank out the tunes from the “later years” on our long trips up north.
The appeal of the Beatles went far beyond just their music. It was the meshing of their personalities that just seemed to work. This was even more evident when they broke up and tried their solo acts. Each member simply complemented each other and always seemed to add the missing piece to whatever the project was. Fifty years later and people still talk about the Beatles more than any other group. Each generation brings about a refreshing of the material and an eagerness to learn the names, songs, and albums that have stood the test of time, which the “Fab Four” have clearly done.
As a side note, George was always my favorite. I never cared much for Paul’s obsession with having to be in the spotlight, but to each their own.
Fitness is much like the Beatles: you need a sprinkling of everything in order to excel. It’s one of the few fields in which you can benefit from being a jack of all trades. In fact, I’ve decided to come up with the Fab Four exercises to the same generation that gave us the music that we still talk about to this day.
Rather than breaking up my Fab Four exercises into the “cute one” and the “funny one,” I’ve simply divided my four selections based on what aspect of fitness they cover.
#1 Conditioning: Cycling
Can’t run? Hate running? No problem, because research shows that cycling is a beneficial exercise for getting you in shape. Cycling can be your preferred choice for conditioning because it’s low impact and can help save the joints. Running may be the favorite selection for many to get you fit but it doesn’t mean that it’s the only one.
I always use the cycle for clients who have contraindications for running. This includes those with knee and hip issues, those new to exercise, and those who simply despise running more than listening to a Yoko Ono album. Most are surprised at the variety that can be done on the cycle. Just because you have a bike doesn’t mean that you have to suffer through marathon sessions to lose weight. You can use different sets of intervals to challenge your body, increase your metabolism, and provide a sense of variety to your workouts. As a general rule, results plus variety tends to equal a high level of motivation and quite possibly a love for getting in shape.
Research studies continue to use cycling protocols to help subjects lose body fat. The classic interval study that I always tell clients about is how subjects simply did intervals on a bike 3 times a week for 20 minutes a workout. As a result of their efforts, subjects lost 5 pounds of actual body fat while only exercising 60 minutes a week (1). Diabetic elderly subjects used a protocol where they cycled hard for 60 second intervals each workout. Their efforts resulted in a reduction in their resting blood sugar levels (2). The bike is like the Revolver of exercises: often forgotten, but truly a classic when you give it a chance.
#2 Training: Strength Training
All that time on the bike means that you’re body isn’t under the stress of gravity. Since we don’t want to give up the bike, you need to spend some time strength training. Strength training will help load your skeleton, and this means improving your bone density, preventing injury, and improving neuromuscular connections – meaning better coordination and less chance of injury doing random household tasks.
Strength training can be designed for your individual goals. If you don’t want to gain a lot of muscle, you don’t have to. Furthermore, strength training studies have shown improved cardiovascular health. A study done with hypertensive patients (those with high blood pressure) performed circuit training with a weight that they can lift a total of 10 times. After eight weeks of training, subjects lowered their systolic, diastolic, and mean arterial blood pressure (3). Aerobics is not the only way to keep a healthy heart, and strength training is your White Album – it’s essential to your exercise library.
#3 Recovery: Flexibility Training
All that training doesn’t do you any good if you can’t recover from exercise. As I get older, I’m finding that I can still train hard as I’ve ever done, but I have to make sure I recover from exercise. Furthermore, a lifetime of sitting in specific postures and lifestyle habits create different flexibility issues in all of us. I once worked with a client who literally couldn’t move; every major exercise movement that we tried was countered by a specific flexibility issue. He couldn’t bench press because of tight shoulders and front squatting was a problem because his external rotators were way too tight. He was too advanced for basic moves but his flexibility issues stopped him from making serious progress. You don’t want tight muscles affecting what you can do with your workouts, as well as your quality of life.
You want quality of movement without any pain. This requires a flexibility workout three times a week. You can do this in the comfort of your own home within any activity you want. My wife has grown accustomed to watching me try and contort my body around in stretches while we watch a television show. Simply hold a stretch and take deep, controlled breaths while holding the stretch. For best results, hold each stretch for 3 deep breaths (4).
#4 Stress Relief: Yoga
I’m a big fan of yoga when done for the right reasons. It won’t make you stronger nor improve your conditioning, but when done with a competent instructor, it can be effective for stress relief and overall wellbeing. It’s pretty tough to get in shape when you’re chronically stressed. Elevated stress levels are a great way to throw off your hormones and sap your energy levels. If yoga isn’t exactly your thing, then find an activity that relaxes you but isn’t necessarily aggressive exercise: long walks, gardening, golf, etc. The less stressed you are, the better. Your stress relief activity of choice should be like listening to the BBC Sessions – you’re not necessarily into it for the passion of the music but just along for the laughs.
Following the Fab Four of Exercise allows your body to get the stimulation it needs for change, while ensuring that you’re not over exercising and that you are paying attention to giving your body rest and recovery. Rest and recovery is important to staying in shape and providing longevity, and much like the Beatles have shown us, longevity is key to long term success.
1. Heydari, M., Freud, J., et al. “The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males.”(2012) Journal of Obesity 10.1155/2012/480467
2. Little, J.P., Gillen, J.B., et al. “Low Volume High Intensity Interval Training Reduces Hyperglycemia and Increases Muscle Mitochondrial Capacity in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” (2011) Journal of Applied Physiology. 111,1554-1560
3. Carter, J.R., Ray, C.A., Downs, E.M., Cooke, W.H. “Strength Training Reduces Arterial Blood Pressure but Not Sympathetic Neural Activity in Young Normotensive Subjects.”(2003) Journal of Applied Physiology. 94,2212-2216.
4. Frederick, Ann and Chris. Stretch to Win. Champiaign, Ill; Human Kinetics. 2006; pp 109
Originally written: July 30, 2014