Dear Doctor: Strength training has benefits that cannot be achieved with aerobic exercise alone.
DEAR DR. ROACH: I’m a 75-year-old woman in excellent health. I walk or exercise everyday with fitness videos which are great and provide lots of body science along the way. The only thing I’m not sure about is that the video instructor doesn’t believe in the use of weights and believes that the use and elevation of our arms, legs, etc. will offer enough heft for those of us over 50. the articles say that the use of weights is essential for all ages, especially for the elderly.
I’ve used 2 and 5 pound weights in the past for walking and exercising, but even these are uncomfortable. I’ve always had very strong legs but not much upper body strength. What’s the best advice? –AO
ANSWER: Strength training has benefits that cannot be achieved with aerobic exercise alone. Resistance training, usually with weights, is especially important for older women because when done correctly, it increases muscle strength and balance. It also reduces the risk of falling, as well as bone strength, thus reducing the risk of fracture even in the event of a fall. Exercising with a combination of aerobics, stretching, and weights is ideal, since each provides independent benefits.
However, sometimes we don’t live in an ideal world, and any exercise is better than no exercise. I wouldn’t want you to give up completely because you think you’re not getting benefits without the weights. Exercise using body weight can also increase strength. You don’t need to have physical weights in your hand to reap the benefits of resistance exercise.
I generally advise against holding weights in the hand (or attached to the limbs) while walking or jogging. This can alter your natural gait and put pressure on your lower joints, from toes to hips. It may also have the potential for upper limb injuries. I recommend separating your aerobic activity from your strength training activity.
DEAR DR. ROACH: Three days after receiving a COVID booster, I started a nine-day course of oral prednisone (40mg tapering to 10mg). Since the nurse practitioner who issued the booster also prescribed prednisone (for psoriasis) I didn’t think there was a problem, but I later read that prednisone can interfere with the recall effectiveness. I saw my doctor and he told me that because I started prednisone three days after the booster, it was “probably effective”. Do you agree? I’m worried because my husband is at very high risk for serious complications from COVID. –GC
ANSWER: I agree with your doctor that the booster dose of the vaccine was probably effective. I know you would like to hear me say it was absolutely effective, but there is no solid evidence to prove it.
Most experts say prednisone at more than 20mg a day for more than two weeks is enough to reduce the effectiveness of the booster, but I think the three days you got the vaccine before you started prednisone — and the fact that you weren’t on very high doses or for very long – makes the vaccine very likely to have been effective.
I hope your husband has had four doses of the COVID vaccine. If he is unable to get vaccinated, has a medical condition, or is currently taking medication that is much more concerning than the doses of prednisone you were taking, he should consider Evusheld (a combination of anti-COVID antibodies) to give him a additional protection for approximately six months.
Dr Roach regrets that he cannot respond to individual letters, but will incorporate them into the column whenever possible. Readers can send questions to ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu or mail to 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.
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