We all realize that fitness tends to decline with age, however we rarely ask the question – Why we lose fitness as we age??? Having a better understanding of what happens physiologically can help us delay and possibly reverse any fitness decline that happens with age.

When it comes to losses in fitness we will look at two main categories – cardiovascular endurance and muscular strength.

When it comes to strength there are several reasons this declines with age. Some of the most common include: sarcopenia (loss of muscle with age), decrease in certain hormones (specifically testosterone and growth hormone), a decrease ability to synthesize protein, and a reduction in calories/protein which leads to a loss in muscle mass. While these changes may seem inevitable there are several things that can be done to help prevent/delay these from occurring:

  • Engage in Strength Training – Performing strength training especially with moderate to heavy resistance will combat potential loss of muscle. Utilizing moderately heavy weights will help prevent the loss of fast twitch muscle fibers that occur at an alarming rate in seniors. Fast twitch muscle fibers are responsible for power and quickness.
  • Hormone Replacement Therapy – There are many doctors who specialize in treating low testosterone and/or growth hormone. Bringing these hormones up to levels found earlier in life can help maintain or increase strength, energy, and muscle mass. In addition most experts agree that is the doses fall within acceptable limits the chances of negative side effects is low.
  • Consume Adequate Calories and Especially Protein – Since the body doesn’t synthesize protein (amino acids) as well – it is important to consume enough protein to meet your needs. If you are highly active your protein requirements will be higher – but even if you’re a couch potato don’t skimp on the protein. While the dietary recommendation is .36 grams per pound of body weight – many studies have shown that this is not enough to increase muscle mass, especially if your highly active.
  • Consider Supplements – While there are numerous supplements that appear to be helpful in muscle development – a recent study of fish oil done by Gordon Smith and colleagues from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis showed that fish oil slowed muscle loss that typically occurs with age.

In addition to muscle strength our body also loses cardiovascular endurance. So why is it that our kids are zipping by us during a run? Why do we see a 5-10% decrease in VO2 max as we age? Some of the reasons include a loss of elasticity in major blood vessels, maximum heart rate decreases with age, the respiratory system decreases forced lung capacity, and the blood undergoes a loss of hemoglobin (oxygen carrying protein), hematocrit (proportion of red blood cells to plasma) as well as red cell mass.

So are we doomed to losing our cardiovascular endurance? While we will ultimately see a decline in our cardiovascular endurance there are several things we can do to delay the reduction:

  • Don’t take an extended layoff – While we can get away with taking extended layoffs from training in our youth – it doesn’t appear we can do this as we age. It appears that we reach somewhat of a point of no return around the late 60s that seems reversing any losses much more difficult.
  • Supplementation – Certain supplements like beet root and citrulline have been shown to boost nitric oxide levels which help dilate blood vessels and help with blood flow.
  • Incorporate various types of training – Perform low to moderate, moderate to high, and high intensity training cardiovascular training. Mixing up your training styles will stimulate all components of your cardiovascular systems – not just one. Going for a fast walk/slow jog as well as doing high intensity interval training will ensure maximizing the cardiovascular benefit.

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience.


Recently companies have started to look beyond traditional DNA testing and how to apply this science to enhance fitness. It works similarly to traditional DNA testing as an individual will swab the inside of their checks to get a sample. This sample is then sent off to be analzyed. The company analyzing the sample will look at individuals health risk factors (e.g. cancer) as well as what diet and exercise program is ideal. In regards to exercise here are some of the most common areas that are analyzed:

  • Ability to recover from workouts
  • Muscle fiber type
  • Steady state vs. HIIT training
  • Testosterone production
  • Ideal speed of muscle contractions
  • Soft tissue injury risk

Once armed with these results a fitness professional can more accurately design a program that is ideal for you and your specific genetic make up.  Knowing these factors could significantly help with program design and yield greater/faster results.

So are the tests reliable? While it is a relatively new field it does appear to hold promise, make sense, and many individuals have sworn by it’s effectiveness.

In addition to DNA fitness testing there are tests that can look at nutrition and what foods are ideal for you and your specific body type.  When doing this test a swab of the inside of the cheek is also necessary. Some of the information the nutrition DNA test looks is as follows:

  • Salt sensitivity
  • Carbohydrate metabolism (more or less carbs for you)
  • Fatty acid metabolism
  • Folate metabolism
  • Anti oxidant requirements
  • Lactose intolerance risk

Once you have this information and more exact nutrition regimine can be followed. Having this information can be vital for maximizing health, decreasing risk of disease, and making weight loss easier. There are several companies online that provide these services.


While the idea of being able to use your DNA to individualize your exercise and diet routine is interesting, the jury is still out on it’s effectiveness. Many experts feel it holds the potential to be helpful but aren’t willing to give it a 100% endorsement.  While the jury is still out on it’s complete reliability – it does appear an effective tool that can be used in conjuction with your lifestyle and interests. For those who are serious about their health and fitness and/or those who have been discouraged with their results it could be the missing piece to the puzzle.

Glen Carrigan is co-owner and operator of Freedom 4 Life Fitness with his wife Yvette. Glen & Yvette are dedicated and experienced personal trainers providing residents of Leawood, Overland Park KS, and greater Kansas City with an outstanding fitness experience


As a personal trainer I am often asked what supplements are effective for losing weight or building muscle? While there are a some supplements that can be effective at helping with these goals, today were going to focus on what to look for when choosing supplements. Choosing supplements can be quite confusing and hopefully this blog will help provide some clarity when choosing supplements.

First it’s very important to know the proper doses of particular ingredients. For example you often will find research to back up the benefits of a particular ingredient (e.g. beta alanine), however companies will put in much less than what the studies have shown to be an effective dose. Companies often do this to save money on production costs.
Similar to the problems associated with not having enough of an active ingredient is proprietary blends. Proprietary blends list multiple ingredients but fail to disclose the exact quantities. Companies would lead you to believe their proprietary blend is a magic formula that allows their product to deliver great results – the truth is proprietary blends allow the company to put in whatever dose they want, often falling well short of the amount needed for maximum benefit.
Proprietary blends are useful when it comes to marketing because a company can say it contains effective ingredients without having to disclose the exact quantity. While certain supplements with proprietary blends might be effective, knowing exactly what is in product takes out the guesswork. I rarely if ever will purchase proprietary blend.
Now that we know the amount of active ingredients is important – how do we find objective research that talks about how much of a particular ingredient we need? Unfortunately many websites that praise certain supplements are also ones that have “click here to buy now” links on their page -how’s that for objective? One website that compiles objective research from an unbiased point of view is Examine.com. While it doesn’t provide all the answers it is a good place to start and can end up saving you a significant amount of time.
Even when you have the objective research finding supplements that contain enough of the right ingredients can be challenging. If your having difficulty finding the right supplements there are websites that offer products containing individual ingredients. Purchasing individual ingredients in bulk can be helpful in getting the right amount.
In addition to individual supplements it is wise to choose supplement companies that use high quality products. Some signs to look for are for companies that produce the supplements themselves and don’t use a third party manufacturer. Other things to look for include companies who produces their products in a G.M.P. (good manufacturing practices) facility certified by the FDA and one that also does in house testing.
In review:
1. Know the quantity of the active ingredients
2. Be leery of proprietary blends
3. Check out what the independent research says
4. Buy individual supplements if having difficulty finding the right amount.
5. Choose high quality supplements
If you have any questions about choosing supplements please e-mail me at glen@freedom4lifefitness.com

5 Outside The Box Principles Seniors Should Do When Exercising

If you do a search for most exercise program for seniors – you’ll notice many cookie cutter answers. For example – talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program or start slowly and build up gradually. While these are important tips – many of us are already aware of these. The focus of this article is to address effective techniques for seniors (even though most if not all apply to every age) to help prevent injury, improve performance, and help with the aging process. Here goes:

  1. Incorporate foam rolling/triggerpoint into your exercise program. Foam rolling/triggerpoint is like self massage and can help with mobility, range of motion/flexibility, and recovery from an exercise session. In addition it can help loosen up tight muscles and make them better prepared for the task at hand.
  2. Include a dynamic warm up as part of the program. For years individuals have been doing only static stretching (holding the stretch for 30 seconds). While static stretching has a role – dynamic warm ups will help better prepare the muscles for work – especially if the movements include dynamic exercises (more explosive movements and/or quick changes in direction).
  3. Mimic movement patterns in the gym. For example if you are a competitive tennis player and want to prevent injuries/improve performance you should be performing similar movement patterns while training. While you don’t have to do the exact movement pattern – your exercises should be close. For example a tennis player uses a rotational movement from a variety of angles (i.e. serve, backhand, forehand) – utilizing a medicine ball and performing side throws and/or wood chops in a controlled training environment will help prepare the body for tennis, lower the likelihood of injury and increase performance.
  4. Wear compression garments. Over the last several years compression garments have become more popular. Tune into many endurance races and/or professional sporting events and you’ll most likely see some compression garments. They are typically made with high levels of lycra/spandex material and are most commonly worn as shorts or socks (realize that for compression garments to be of maximum benefit they have to be made of slightly thicker material and higher levels of lycra/spandex than often found off the rack). Many studies show they can slightly decrease the chance of injuries, improve performance, and help with recovery.
  5. Talk to your doctor about supplements. While there are no magic bullets – studies show certain supplements can be helpful in the aging process. For example fish oil, vitamin D, Co Q10, Antioxidants (like vitamin C), and B vitamins have been shown to be helpful, especially for seniors. Talk with you doctor before consuming individual supplements to make sure they are appropriate for you.

Following these outside the box tips can help prevent injury, improve performance, and help the aging process. For questions, please e-mail us at info@freedom4lifefitness.com.