Black Knights

Black Knights

On some Wednesdays, a small, informal group of older exercisers gather in the park, just north and down the hill from the tennis courts at the Juniper Swim and Fitness Center in Bend. Our focus on developing speed, agility, and power.

We call ourselves the Black Knights after the hilarious character in the Monty Python movie ”Holy Grail” who continues to fight despite having his arms and legs cut off. In the video below showing highlights from one of our workouts, you’re seeing people aged 59-70 who’ve all had one or more surgeries to shoulders, knees, and wrists. One has an artificial hip.

If you are fit and looking for a new challenge, you are welcome to join us. Our rules are simple: 1) Know your limits, (2) Nobody gets hurt, and (3) Slow down or stop if you get too tired to do an exercise with good form. Black Knights workouts are physically challenging and pretty fast-paced.

We do this for fun. It is not a competition.

Participation is free. We supply equipment. The mix of exercises changes from week to week.

You are welcome to come watch a Black Knights workout to see if it might help you reach your fitness goals. Contact: info@cascadeboomerfitness,com if you have questions.

Caution: These workouts are for experienced exercisers who know what exercises are contra-indicated for them for any existing physical limitation, such as an old injuries or chronic illness. This is not personal training. You assume all responsibility for your participation.



Exercise and Your Brain

Exercise and Your Brain

We’ve known for a long time that exercise is good for reducing risks for cardiovascular disease and diabetes through sugar control and weight reduction. And exercise how exercise promotes bone health, and reduces the odds for colon, esophageal, and other cancers.

We’ve also know for a long time that exercise releases endorphins that make us feel good, like serotonin and dopamine. But the role of exercise in brain health goes way beyond feeling good – it actually enables the brain to develop and adapt. We can thank psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School Professor John Ratey for bringing the good word in his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.  The contraction of muscles releases  Brain Derived Neurothropic Factor (BDNF), which in combination with Insulin-Like Growth Factor – 1 and several other factors and neuro-peptides, enables the brain to:

  • Develop new brain cells (neurons) through a process called neurogenesis.
  • Release even more neurotransmitters that make the brain function at a higher level
  • Improve vascularity, that is, grow new blood vessels to support brain activity and health
  • Exhibit plasticity, which is the adaptation of the brain to new stimulus or overcoming injuries
Exercise is a powerful brain medicine that’s better than any supplement for persons of all ages. During and after exercise, BDNF and its companion chemicals literally saturates the brain, and the effects are seen all the way from the grey and white cortex, where high level thinking occurs, down into the hippocampus, an area of the brain important to older adults because it is where resides the ability to perform multi-tasking activities like driving a car. Exercise:
  • Enables young and old learn and retain information better
  • Blocks age-related degenerative diseases
  • Reduces stress, ADHD, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and addictions

These are grand claims to make, but more and more research proves it’s true. Weights and running shoes build your IQ. As yet, there’s no definitive evidence if aerobic or resistance exercise is superior. Both seem to have similar positive effects.

So let’s get up and go. It’s the smartest thing to do.

Seeking Stronger Bones

Seeking Stronger Bones

Most Boomers are familiar with the natural bone loss that occurs with aging, which can become problematic if it advances to osteopenia and then osteoporosis. Both women and men can suffer from these conditions, although they are most common in post-menopausal women.

Unfortunately, you can further accelerate bone loss with poor diet and sedentary living. In 2004, the U.S. Surgeon General warned that “by 2020 as many as half of all Americans over 50 will have weak bones unless we make changes to our diet and lifestyle.”

Once a diagnosis of osteoporosis is made, typically a drug is prescribed to slow the bone loss. These drugs, such as Fosamax and Actonel, are very powerful and carry the risks of unpredictable and painful side effects. Because of this, an increasing number of Boomers seek to avoid them, if at all possible.


For the past couple of decades a growing body of encouraging research indicating that exercise, when combined with the right diet, including dietary supplementation, can slow, if not reverse, bone loss. Bone density is only one factor in bone strength. The other two are bone quality (the optimum mix of collagen and calcium) and bone architecture. All three are improved with the right exercise programming.

Here are some key findings:

Bones grow in response to stress, that is, placing an additional load on the body. This can be accomplished by using your own body weight and doing light jumping against gravity (plyometrics) or with resistance from added weight, such as dumb bells.

Bone seems to grow best in response to loads to which the body is not accustomed. Routine activities of daily living, such as walking, while a healthy activity for other reasons, will not suffice for new bone formation. To promote bone growth, the exercises need to be more intense and varied so bones are subjected to a diversity of forces from various directions and in different planes.

Exercise sessions targeted towards bone growth may be more effective if they are broken into shorter sessions to add frequency. In other words, instead of one 40 minute workout, the workout is split into two 20 minute sessions per day on several days each week.

Finally, targeted exercises must be accompanied by a diet rich in protein, calcium, and Vitamin D to supply the raw materials for new bone formation. The latter two may best be obtained through dietary supplements to ensure an adequate supply for the chemical reactions necessary for bone growth.

If you have already been diagnosed with a bone condition, always talk to your medical provider before embarking on an exercise program. Because osteoporosis affects the type of bone found in the spine and hips, the right amount and forms of exercise must be carefully chosen to ensure a safe and effective exercise regimen.

At Cascade Boomer Fitness we are happy to provide a list of exercises for you and your provider to review together.





Body in the Balance

Body in the Balance

Balance is a basic skill that is critical to successful aging, which includes pursuing the activities you enjoy and avoiding falling. Balance can be affected by factors such as eyesight, medications, and the inner ear.

However, a major contributor to poor balance is lack of strength, especially in the lower body. Usually this is due to too much sitting and too little walking, getting up and down, leaning and reaching. All these activities not only help develop and maintain muscle strength, they also activate an incredible network of sensors distributed throughout muscles, joints, and connective tissue that communicate with the brain to keep us upright.

As we age, we need to practice physical skills or we lose the ability to do them because our bodies do live by the “use it or lose it” principle. If our balance starts to falter, we tend to start avoiding activities that require balance, which in turn sets up a feedback loop where we avoid the very things that maintain good balance.

Try a single leg balance test as described in this article. See how you stack up compared to the standards developed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for people of your own age.

If your balance is poor, you can start improving it immediately by practicing standing on one leg, just like in the test. As you get more stable, add a challenge by holding your arms straight above your head or gently bending to one side. Or you can balance on one leg on a soft surface, such as a pillow. single leg

A special note to males: Single leg balance exercises may look very easy, but don’t assume you can do it well. From our experience, males frequently have very poor balance. Try it!

Developing good balance takes persistence and practice. You can build better balance with just a few minutes of practice a day. Practice while you watch TV or are chatting. Do it several times a week, if not everyday until your balance improves.

Set up your home environment to include some balance challenges, maybe by having to bend or reach a little to get a pot or pan. Don’t make everything so convenient all you do is sit in a chair with an electronic device, or like you are already in assisted living where somebody else does everything for you.

The very best approach to preserving all your physical skills, including balance, is to engage in a well-rounded exercise program.  It’s not important where you do it or how you prefer to do it. It’s that you do it.



Leg Strong

Leg Strong

Most of us know that leg strength is necessary for numerous daily activities such as getting out of a chair or car, climbing stairs, and walking.

What may come as a surprise is that studies show that it is also a an accurate predictor of frailty and need for assisted living. Some even believe it can portend early mortality, especially given the critical role of leg strength in fall prevention. Watch this short video by a young health provider that discusses a study done in Brazil:

This is a very demanding test, and we’re not convinced that this test is the best predictor of mortality.

However, success in getting up unassisted, like the young chiropractor in the video, requires more than just leg strength. Balance, flexibility, and muscle control are also necessary.

The leg and hip muscles are the largest, most powerful in our bodies. However, like all muscles, if they are idle too much due to a sedentary lifestyle, they become weak. Even in older adults, strength can be restored with regular exercise.

Before attempting to get up off the floor as shown in the video, first do your own squat test from a chair to get an indication of your leg strength. The test is simple. Just sit on a firm kitchen chair, cross your arms on your chest, and see how many times you can stand up from the chair in 30 seconds. The average senior can do  15.

If you are unable to you do 15 or more chair squats, or struggle getting up off the floor in the Brazilian Get Up Test, Cascade Boomer Fitness can design a exercise routine for you so you can and will.




What’s Your Body Comp?

All our lives, most of us have tracked our weight by standing on bathroom scales. However, as experts are realizing, this information is really not that useful.

Much more important to our health is body composition, which is simply how much of our body is lean body mass, like bones and muscle, versus fat. For Boomers, this is even more important because of changes underway due to aging that started in middle age.

As we’ve all noticed, body fat significantly increases starting around age 40. Men typically see it in their abdominal area and women in the abdominal area, arms, legs, and hips; usually this also involves buying some bigger clothes. As you can see in the MRI images below, fat (yellow color) finds all kinds of places to collect.

body measure fat

Around age 50, most of us stop gaining much “weight” as measured by the scales and we are tightening to the same belt notch we have for years, but, unbeknownst to many, we continue to gain fat due to loss of lean body mass. Often that lean body mass is being replaced by fat, hence the steady reading on the scale.

You might think: Well, my clothes fit fine, so who cares?

You should, and here’s why:

First and foremost, excess fat is associated with higher health risks and costs, including heart disease, diabetes, sleep disorders, arthritis, and gastrointestinal problems, to name a few.

Second, as the lean mass is replaced by fat, your shrinking muscles must carry around more and more unnecessary weight . Eventually, it creates problems with activities of daily living. You can’t get up and down easily, bend, or reach. Your balance is compromised.

Finally, if you take any medications, body fat impacts their absorption, distribution, physiological response, and excretion, making them either ineffective or toxic.

We can prevent this unwanted fat transition through exercise. You feel better, look better, and most important, function better late into your life.

Our bodies have over 600 muscles. Our job at Cascade Boomer Fitness is to help you keep them alive, alive, alive.