Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 4, 2014

A couch potato’s fantasy workout …

Hugh Neeld
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — I read an article recently in a health magazine that started me thinking. It was titled Older Adults Can Benefit From Weights. One of the things it said was that men who are 60 and older may be able to increase their strength by as much as 80% by performing intense weight training exercises. Additionally, in a study of 20 men ages 60 to 75, Ohio University physiologists found that subjects who participated in a high-intensity resistance training program were on average 50% to 80% stronger by the end of the study.

In case you hadn’t noticed, the key phrases here are intense weight training exercises and high-intensity resistance training. In my mind, this translates to cardiac arrest, or at the very least, total physical exhaustion, neither of which I aspire to.

For some years now, I’ve been working out (mostly aerobics and light weights) at East Texas Medical Center’s Rehabilitation Center.

I was intrigued by the article I’d read and mentioned it to a guy who works out there.

He’s a regular weight-lifter and at 6-foot 1” and around 215-pounds, looks the part.

 “Sure,” he said. “It’s been proven over and over that, regardless of your age, you can improve your strength drastically. You’ve got to stay with it, though.” I politely ignored the way he stressed “at any age.” He then went on to tell me how he had personally benefited, both physically and emotionally, from his years of weight training.

My interest was evidently apparent, because my wife who, nine times out of ten, knows what I’m thinking, felt the need to express her opinion. “I don’t mean to butt in,” she said, but before you let anybody talk you into weight training, get a second opinion.”

Intuition told me that, she might have a point. I thanked her for her concern.

Now I had two choices: I could die slowly of boredom doing the same old aerobic stuff I’d been doing, or end it quickly with lifting weights. I grimaced inwardly.

There had to be a way to gain strength without killing yourself, I thought. I was right. I e-mailed the health editor of my favorite newsletter, Unstable Sources, regarding this subject. Here is what he had to say:

“Need a good workout? Sit back on the couch and pump yourself up.”

Psychologists at a major university have issued a study that could fulfill every couch potato’s deepest wish.

They say just thinking about exercise stimulates your muscles just like pumping iron for twenty minutes.

The head researcher maintains that just visualizing exercise makes a difference. In a four-week study, one group of 60 to 75 year olds performed a series of hand and finger exercises.

Another group simply imagined performing the same exercises in the same amount of time. The hands of the group that actually exercised were 30% more fit, while the “pretend” exercisers improved 20%.

But this is significant.

It suggests that the act of just visualizing going to the weight room will strengthen your muscles.

I don’t know about the rest of you old guys, but here’s the way I look at it: This mental workout may not turn me into another Arnold Schwarzeneg-ger, but it beats both what I’ve been doing and what I was considering, and it beats doing nothing.    

A question to ponder:

Is lying on the couch pretending to read doing nothing, or light exercise?