Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Martial Arts and Fitness in Middle Age

I know it's obvious that martial arts promote fitness, but there are a lot of counterexamples. I've met black belts who came equipped with dangerous-looking beer bellies--dangerous to their own health, that is.

I recently signed up with the gym at my workplace, which costs the incredibly low sum of $7 a week. I got an evaluation coming into it, which gave me a quick reading on how I'm doing in terms of fitness. Martial arts are my primary way of exercising.

The results: My cardio signs were excellent--resting pulse of 57, recovery pulse of 80 per minute after three minutes of a timed stepping exercise. Disturbingly, the tester said about half the people he tests can't finish the 3-minute step test.

He told me, whatever I'm doing in terms of cardio, keep it up. Interesting that it's a very anaerobic workout, not typically aerobic (i.e. my classes involve bursts of high activity, and then rest, rather than steady activity like jogging or an aerobics class).

For strength testing, I did 30 military-style pushups; the tester was looking for 11 to 16. I did 100 crunches, he was looking for something like 20 or 25.

I do have some stiffness, particularly in the hamstrings, quads and rotator cuff, the tester said. And my body fat percentage (calculated with calipers) is high--24%, which to me sounds horrible, like I'm a stuffed Christmas turkey or something. The top of the recommended range was 23%, the tester said. Online, I've seen all sorts of ranges suggested.

(My wife thought it was hilarious that I got stressed out because my body fat was one percentage point high.)

The gym manager suggested a half-hour weight program twice a week, and stretching the quads and hamstring twice a day when I'm warm (one AM option--stretch in the shower). I've never consistently lifted weights, so I'm enthused about trying that out, especially since a half-hour workout is all I can spare at the office. And it doesn't take time away from home.

One argument I've often heard is that when you build muscle, you burn fat. Maybe weight lifting (and a little more discipline in eating) will reduce that body fat percentage.

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