Judge for yourself: RBG's workout is fabulous

March 1, 2019 Tracy Tardiff
  • The CDC recommends that older adults include strength, balance, and aerobic training in their exercise routines.
  • HIIT (high-impact interval training) has been shown to be particularly beneficial for seniors.

If you’ve been impressed with the quick recovery of Ruth Bader Ginsburg RBG from lung surgery (and, let’s face it, who hasn’t?), you might be interested in learning how our favorite octogenarian and 3-time cancer survivor has maintained her overall fitness throughout the years.

As we age, we lose muscle mass, which can lead to greater weakness, less mobility, and a higher risk of falls. This age-related muscle loss is known as sarcopenia. The good news is that exercise can help improve your balance, strength, and functionality. Of course, it’s also beneficial for aging bones, weight management, controlling diabetes, and general heart health.

RBG’s personal trainer, Bryant Johnson, details her hour-long, twice-weekly workout routine in his book, “The RBG Workout”: a quick warm-up on the elliptical, some light stretching, a series of strength training exercises such as planks, squats, and push-ups, a cool-down, and more stretches. Talk-show host Stephen Colbert joined her and had a hard time keeping up:

How to work out like 'Notorious RBG':

If you haven’t been hitting the gym regularly in recent years, research suggests that it’s never too late to benefit from exercise. A new study shows that certain types of exercise, including high-intensity interval training (HIIT), might even help reverse some of the damage on our muscles caused by aging. HIIT exercise involves repeating short periods of activity at near-peak intensity, and older muscles are particularly receptive to its benefits. However, it might not be right for everyone.

Sign up for one of the Exercise and Educational Classes and Programs provided by Swedish Rehabilitation Services.

Below are some helpful exercise guidelines, courtesy of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition:

Key guidelines for adults and older adults:

  • Adults should move more and sit less throughout the day. Some physical activity is better than none. Adults who sit less and do any amount of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity gain some health benefits.
  • For substantial health benefits, adults should do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) to 300 minutes (5 hours) a week of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) to 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Preferably, aerobic activity should be spread throughout the week.
  • Additional health benefits are gained by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes (5 hours) of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
  • Adults should also do muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involves all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week, as these activities provide additional health benefits.

Key guidelines for older adults:

  • As part of their weekly physical activity, older adults should do multi-component physical activity that includes balance training as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities.
  • Older adults should determine their level of effort for physical activity relative to their level of fitness.
  • Older adults with chronic conditions should understand whether and how their conditions affect their ability to do regular physical activity safely.
  • When older adults cannot do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week because of chronic conditions, they should be as physically active as their abilities and conditions allow.

Whether you decide to follow RBG’s workout, engage in HIIT exercise, or try another exercise program altogether, your future mobility, strength, and balance are worth the time and effort. So, get moving today!

Before starting an exercise program, ask your medical provider what types of exercises would be best for you. Book an appointment online at Swedish Primary Care.

How to Start an Exercise Program - Julia Simpson:

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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