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Train for longevity and to maintain functionality

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When we talk about longevity, we are not just speaking on the quantity of life but also on the quality.

Longevity encompasses our ability to move functionally throughout our lifetime. Ideally, we would want to be 80-years-old and still doing triathlons and hitting PR's. At the very least, we want to maintain our independence in seemingly simple tasks like carrying shopping, getting on and off the toilet, and playing with our kids/grandkids. Below, we have highlighted some training principles that aid in longevity:

1. Strength training

There are many benefits to strength training at all stages of life. As we age, the development and maintenance of muscle mass become even more critical in counteracting illness, maintaining bone density, preventing falls, decreasing the rate of neuromuscular and balance deterioration, and improving overall well-being.

2. Avoid stress overload and overtraining

It is essential to consider that exercise is a stressor that is perceived by the body the same way as the other stressors in our life. These outside stressors (financial, professional, physical, emotional) tend to be present in more significant amounts in adults, as most people have greater responsibilities during adulthood than during adolescence. From a physical standpoint and also due to these psychological stressors, most people will not be able to sustain the same volumes of exercise at 50-years-old that they sustained as a 20-year-old athlete. Therefore, when training for longevity, the intensity and frequency of sessions must be gauged with this in mind.

3. Emphasise mobility/working range of motion through all joints

In addition to resistance training coupled with adequate recovery periods, mobility is an aspect of training that must be prioritised. Data has also shown that in terms of mobility, shoulder, trunk, and hip mobility, start to decline the most rapidly in the fourth and fifth decades of life. Because movement in these areas is critical for independence and functionality, mobility and strength through these areas must be emphasised and incorporated more heavily in training programmes as we age.

4. Focus in on the hips

Do movements, preferably loaded ones, that involve some sort of hip hinge. This will translate into simple tasks we don’t think about like getting up off the ground and going from seated to standing and vice versa. This movement is critical for effortless tasks like bending over to tie our shoes, so this “hip hinge” pattern of movement should be trained often to ensure functionality throughout our lifetimes. Movements like the deadlift, kettlebell swing, and good mornings are exercises that work the hip hinge and require little technicality, while also translating seamlessly into daily movement patterns outside of the gym.

5. Move things

Think: pushes, pulls, carries. These types of movements mimic the activities we do daily while simultaneously working midline stability (our core), muscular strength, and cardiovascular endurance. Farmers carry, prowler pushes, and sled work are great examples of these movements.

Moving things from Point A to Point B is arguably one of most valuable indicators of functional movement and health, so training this in the gym is a valuable asset in terms of longevity. Think about walking: this is simple displacement but it is one of the first things to deteriorate as we age. Studies have shown that 31.7% of adults over the age of 65 report difficulty in walking over a kilometre.

Key takeaway:

At a certain point, when our life goals shift away from being a competitive or sport specific athlete, our training goals must also shift. Training for longevity is a direction in which we can shift our focus so that we can maintain functionality and quality of life as we age. Programming should include displacement under loads (just think pushing, pulling, or carrying heavy things as we move), coupled with strength and mobility work, especially through the hips. These training patterns, with the help of sufficient recovery time, will assist in our fluidity of movement as we age, and will increase the likelihood of us continuing to live a full and quality life when we are 80+ years-old.

Activate runs a twice weekly ActivateMasters programme which pays particular attention to strength training for longevity. Visit www.activate.ie to find out more.

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Jobs to keep gardeners busy

The weather is glorious at the moment, so I thought I would put together some jobs to keep every gardener busy! Winter bedding is now available – so plant up containers and pots to keep everything cheerful this winter! Conifers such as Goldcrest and Elwoodiis are an excellent choice for a centrepiece, as are Cordylines, […]

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The weather is glorious at the moment, so I thought I would put together some jobs to keep every gardener busy!

Winter bedding is now available – so plant up containers and pots to keep everything cheerful this winter! Conifers such as Goldcrest and Elwoodiis are an excellent choice for a centrepiece, as are Cordylines, Phormiums and topiary plants such as Buxus and Bay laurels. Heathers give colour all winter, as do ornamental cabbages. Winter pansies, violas and Batchelor’s buttons are all in stock now, and will provide colour for months, Cyclamen are beautiful – but beware! They do not like getting too wet, so ideally use them in pots and window boxes which do not get too much rain.

Bulbs provide a welcome splash of colour in the early spring, at a time when things are looking grey and grim. Choose from an extensive range – tulips, daffs, crocus, snowdrops – to name but a few. Planting mixtures of different varieties can lead to stunning displays in a pot, for example, plant in layers: tulips at the bottom, then daffs, hyacinth, crocus and anenomes for a long lasting pot of colour. In the garden plant bulbs in informal clusters of uneven numbers to give a natural looking display. Alliums are particularly trendy at the moment, these ornamental onions are available in pinks, white and yellow.

PRUNING

Pruning is one of those jobs which can give immense satisfaction. All old flower heads, the straggly growth of herbaceous plants and branches of unkempt shrubs can go into the compost heap. Pruning equipment can be confusing for the new gardener, so here are a few guidelines: there are two types of secateurs, bypass and anvil. The anvil secateurs is used for dead wood, but the bypass secateurs can be used for live as well as dead wood. The hedge shears are used to prune large shrubs or hedges, but is best for soft or thin growth. Loppers are used to prune trees and thicker branches and have long handles. These also come as anvil or bypass. Some of these are geared, these take the strain and strength needed out of the job, an excellent invention!

As the days get shorter and wetter, moss will start to grow again. Treat paths before they get slippy, with a product such as MossOff. Try to keep fallen leaves off lawns as they contribute to poor growth of grass and strong moss growth. A leafblower makes the job easy – especially a cordless one!

Lawns benefit from a final treatment in the autumn with a product such as an Autumn Lawn Feed and Weed or Viano Recovery from the producers of MO Bacter. These products both treat the roots of the grass, making the plant itself stronger for the winter. They do not cause excessive growth.

Finally, if there are empty beds in your vegetable garden, consider sowing a green manure such as winter rye or red clover. These will prevent weeds from taking over as well as enriching the soil with nitrogen. In the spring they can be cut down and dug into the soil, providing essential organic matter.

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Take the stress out of a career change

By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors People change career for a variety of reasons. For some people the desire to change comes from feeling unfulfilled or stressed in a current role or the need for more flexibility and autonomy as circumstances in your personal life evolve. Other people are prompted […]

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By Niamh Dwyer, Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors

People change career for a variety of reasons. For some people the desire to change comes from feeling unfulfilled or stressed in a current role or the need for more flexibility and autonomy as circumstances in your personal life evolve.

Other people are prompted to change because of ambition to develop professionally, the desire for more meaning or purpose, job security or to earn more money.

Whether career change is forced upon you through organisational restructuring or is an active choice you are making, it can bring a mix of emotions. Among them is the fear and a lack of confidence on how to navigate the change effectively and the feeling of overwhelm associated with not knowing where to start. Conversely, it can be a time of great excitement about the possibility of taking on a new (and maybe very different) role or opportunity. Either way, drawing up a career action plan that breaks down the process into manageable tasks will help to ease any stress associated with career change and save you time and energy in the long run.

UNLOCKING YOUR POTENTIAL

Start by thinking about where you are now and where you would like to be – what are your priorities and non-negotiables and what are the practicalities you need to consider? To dig deeper do a self-assessment audit of your transferable skills and competencies, your career values and character strengths. Journal your career change journey by recording anything interesting you find out about yourself or career areas you are interested in. Some people like the idea of drawing up a career vision board as part of the process. Set clear goals and a specific timeline for yourself. As you gain more clarity, write out what your ideal job specification might look like, this will guide your job search. Explore options to up-skill or retrain if you feel this is helpful or necessary. Do a spring clean of your CV so that it reflects you accurately and favourably. Reach out to people in your network who may be able to assist you as you navigate this transition. Think about possible side projects you could work on to explore different areas before taking a big leap. Set up or update your LinkedIn profile, it is an important part of career development. Practice interview skills, you want to be able to perform confidently when they come around. Think about this process as unlocking the potential of your ‘career brand’ so that you and prospective employers have a strong sense of who you are professionally, what you value and what you bring to the workplace. Doing this work will enable you to approach your job search and career change with renewed confidence. It will take some time but it will be worth it!

Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore, and Chairperson of the Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She is also a Careers Advisor – For details see www.mycareerplan.ie or follow @mycareerplan on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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