Tag Archives: staying fit

Study: At 50 You Can Be As Fit As A 20-Year-Old

50 years old and fit

(One message of this blog is that, with persistence, you can be healthy, vibrant and highly productive throughout your life. Here is still another scientific study that proves our point.)

According to Norwegian researchers, a 50-year-old who exercises regularly can be as fit as a 20-year-old who doesn’t exercise.

The study showed that:

  1. Youth is not necessarily the most important factor when it comes to being fit.
  2. Activity is far more important than age in determining fitness.
  3. Both the amount and the intensity of the exercise are important.
  4. These researchers found that by increasing the intensity of exercise, people are able to reduce their risk of metabolic syndrome, the cluster of risk factors that increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes, stroke and cardiovascular diseases.

  5. The least fit people, no matter what their age, have the poorest measures of cardiovascular health, such as higher blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The process of getting healthy and staying healthy is simple . . . but it’s not always easy. To receive the health benefits of exercise, you have to exercise with intensity.

One way to do this is through interval training where you alternate short bursts of high intensity exercise with short periods of lower intensity exercise.

For example, you might run for 1 to 4 minutes followed by 1 to 4 minutes of walking. Then, when you progress, you could alternate hard running with slower, easier running.

Your goal is to work up to 30 minutes of exercise per day.

Of course, especially if you are a couch potato now, you should consult with your physician before beginning an exercise program . . . and always use common sense. The first rule of exercise is: don’t hurt yourself.

If you are a complete newbie at exercise, or just want some instruction and encouragement, you would be wise to consult a qualified personal trainer.

Shrinkage! How Our Body Parts Get Smaller As We Age

ShrinkageWhen I say “shrinkage,” what do you think of?

Many of you immediately thought of the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza was seen naked by Jerry’s girlfriend after he came out of the pool. He tried to explain his teeny weenie by claiming “shrinkage.”

Well, it turns out that’s just part of the story.

As we get older there’s plenty of shrinkage, including our height, heart, brain, bladder, facial bones and, yes, sex organs.

Height Shrinkage

Most of us lose at least 1/3 of an inch in height every decade after the age of 40.

By 80, most men will be 2 inches shorter than they were in their prime, and women will be as much as 3.15 inches shorter.

What causes this?

Beginning at about 35, our bones lose minerals, especially calcium. Because our body’s ability to grow new bone tissue slows, our bones shrink slightly (and become more brittle and more likely to collapse as well as more likely to break, a condition known as osteoporosis).

In addition, the discs between the bones of our spine flatten over time, also contributing to making us shorter.

Temporary Height Shrinkage: Did you know that our discs temporarily flatten daily as we stand and move around? When we lie down at night, the discs reabsorb fluid and return to normal. That’s why we shrink by as much as ½ inch during the day but regain the height over night.

What can you do to protect yourself against height shrinkage?

First, choose the right parents. Not everyone get shorter, or shortens as much. There is a definite hereditary component.

Beyond that, a healthy lifestyle is your best protection.

Research has shown that people who engaged in moderately vigorous aerobic activity lost only about half as much height as those who stopped exercising in middle age or never exercised at all.

To help stave off osteoporosis, you should stick to a healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D.

Smoking, alcohol and excess caffeine (more than eight cups of coffee or tea a day) can affect bone health, too.

Maintaining good posture will also protect ageing discs.

Heart Shrinkage

Our heart shrinks by an average 0.3 grams per year beginning in middle age.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, with every year it takes longer for the heart muscles to squeeze and relax, by around 2 to 5 %, and the amount of blood pumped out of the heart falls by 9 millilitres a year.

A poor blood supply leaves you more prone to heart failure.

How do you protect yourself against the effects of a shrinking heart?

Like all muscles, the heart becomes stronger and less likely to shrink if it is exercised.

Exercises that benefit your heart include walking, climbing stairs, gardening, vigorous housework, dancing or using home or gym exercise equipment.

Brain Shrinkage

Starting around the age of 20, your brain shrinks by as much as 10 to 15 % over your lifetime.

Doctors don’t know why this is, but studies show the process appears to be accelerated by smoking, drinking alcohol and diabetes.

Being overweight and having high cholesterol levels also appear to have an impact.

Scans show the frontal and temporal lobes (which control thinking, planning and memory) shrink most.

However, contrary to expectation, the shrinkage doesn’t necessarily affect our thinking capacity, and cognitive tests have shown men and women perform similarly despite increasingly different brain sizes.

Can we protect against brain shrinkage?

Keeping mentally active throughout your life is key.

Avoiding excess alcohol also helps (post-mortems show alcoholics have smaller, shrunken brains), as does getting adequate sleep.

Bladder Shrinkage

At the age of 25, the average person’s bladder can hold 2 cups of liquid, but by 65 its capacity is half that.

Capacity and function shrink with age because of physiological changes to the muscle structure.

Is bladder shrinkage inevitable?

Avoid excess caffeine or alcohol because they irritate the bladder.

Men and women should also do regular pelvic floor exercises to boost bladder control.

Facial Bone Shrinkage

Scientists used to think loss of muscle tone and gravity led to facial ageing, but more recent thinking is that the facial bones actually shrink in size, sucking in the skin and muscle around them.

The jawbone is most prone to shrinkage.

Experts believe women lose facial bone structure earlier than men (women in their early 40s, men 10 to 15 years later).

Is there any hope of avoiding or slowing facial bone shrinkage?

The key is to practice good dental hygiene to prevent tooth decay and loss which can aggravate the process.

Sex Organ Shrinkage

Both male and female sexual organs shrink with age.

With men this occurs for two reasons.

First, fatty substances (plaques) are deposited inside tiny arteries in the penis, restricting blood flow. This poor circulation leads to ‘atrophy’ of the tissue within the penis — leading to loss of length and thickness.

Second, there is a gradual build-up of relatively inelastic collagen (scar tissue) within the stretchy, fibrous sheath that makes erections possible.

If a man’s erect penis is 6 inches long when he is in his 30s, it might be 5 inches or 5½ inches when he reaches his 60s or 70s.

In addition, beginning around the age of 40, the testicles begin to shrink, by up to a 1/3 inch in diameter between the ages of 30 and 60.

In women, changes are related to reduced levels of estrogen, which reduce blood flow to the area. The uterus also shrinks, returning to the size of a pre-adolescent girl, as the body registers that the organ is no longer active and so spares vital resources that other, still active organs can use.

Dwindling estrogen levels mean mammary glands and milk-producing tissue wither, to be replaced by fat, so the breasts lose their bulk. Natural wear-and-tear on the supporting skin and ligaments makes them more likely to drop.

Is there anything you can do to protect against sex organ shrinkage?

For men, a healthy diet that is good for your heart will also be good for your sex life — as healthy arteries all over your body mean better blood flow to the penis.

Women can do little about breast changes (apart from wear a well-fitting bra), but for both men and women, regular sex can slow the shrinking process.

Largely, it’s a case of use it or lose it.

These Body Parts Don’t Shrink, They Keep Growing!

While all this shrinking is going on, our nose, ears and feet keep growing.

The inner part of the ear lobe (the ‘concha’) remains the same size, but most ears become steadily longer.

The traditional explanation has been they are made up cartilage, which continues to grow after bones.

However, gravity is another factor. Cartilage, like skin, becomes thinner and loses its elasticity as we age, with collagen and elastin fibres breaking down.

This allows skin to stretch and sag, the tip of the nose to lengthen and droop, and the ears to stretch down.

Our feet become longer and wider with age, as the tendons and ligaments which link the many tiny bones lose elasticity.

Podiatrists estimate that the over-40s can gain as much as one shoe size every ten years.

The tiny joints between the toe bones deteriorate, allowing the toes to spread out, and the arch of the foot to flatten.

The protective fat pads on the heels and balls of the feet also flatten through wear and tear.

What’s the take-away from all this? Eat right and exercise regularly to put the most life in your years.

Omega 3 Fish Oil: Too Many Benefits To Ignore

In an earlier post, I gave the top 5 reasons virtually everyone should take nutritional supplements.

Omega 3 Fish Oil
Omega 3 Fish Oil
Now, I turn to the subject of which supplements you should take.

The first nutritional supplement I ever took, which I have continued to take for more than 20 years, is Omega 3 fish oil. You can read about why I started taking fish oil and how it has helped me here.

Basically, I take fish oil because it supports heart health and brain health and is a powerful anti-inflammatory (which helps protect against any disease that ends in -itis).

The Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fish Oil Are Well-Proven

Omega 3 fish oil benefits have been thorough researched for more than 20 years. There have been thousands of studies reported in hundreds of medical journals.

The heart health benefits are so clear that the American Heart Association has stated this: ”Omega 3 fatty acids benefit the heart of healthy people, and those at high risk of – or who have – cardiovascular disease.”

Brain health benefits are almost as well-documented. In fact, according to a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ”People who eat oily fish or take fish oil supplements score 13% higher in IQ tests and are less likely to show early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Benefits Of Fish Oil Supplements

I take fish oil as protection against heart disease and brain decline, and to receive its anti-inflammatory benefits. However, according to University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega 3 fatty acids are also used by many people around the world for these problems:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Cognitive decline (dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Skin disorders
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Asthma
  • Macular Degeneration
  • Menstrual pain
  • Colon cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Omega 3 fish oil is also safe. Healthy people who take not more than 3,000 mg a day of fish oil should experience no significant side effects from taking a pure, high quality fish oil. Of course, if you have a medical condition or a fish allergy, you should consult with your physician before you begin taking, or increase your dosage of, fish oil.

The Best Place To Learn More About The Health Benefits Of Omega 3 Fish Oil

I feel so strongly about the health benefits of Omega 3 fish oil that I have created a website devoted exclusively to this subject. It’s called TheFishOilFacts.com.

Although I’m not a health care professional, my team of researchers and writers and I have investigated this subject thoroughly and presented the evidence as fairly as we can.

(Disclosure: At TheFishOilFacts.com, I recommend a specific Omega 3 fish oil product – the one I take. And . . . the links from TheFishOilFacts.com to the site of my recommended manufacturer, Xtend-Life Natural Products, are affiliate links. That means that if you click on one of the links and purchase anything from Xtend-Life, I will receive a small commission.)

Study Says Only 15 Minutes of Exercise Each Day Can Add 3 Years To Your Life

Exercise at least 15 minutes a dayThis blog exists to put more years in your life and more life in your years.

One of the best things you can do to achieve those twin goals is free and doesn’t take long, although you will get sweaty (and no, I’m not talking about that!).

It’s exercise. There is overwhelming evidence that increasing physical activity leads to improvements in your health, mood and over-all well-being.

But how much exercise do you need to receive the benefits?

The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, plus two additional strength-training sessions.

The UK government also recommends that adults get 150 minutes of activity a week.

Exercise at least 15 minutes a dayNow, however, there is evidence that even less exercise than that – as little as 15 minutes per day or about 90 minutes a week – will give you significant health benefits.

A recently-published study, done in Taiwan, involved following more than 400,000 people for an average of 8 years. Based on their self-reports of their weekly exercise, the study participants were placed in one of these five categories: inactive, low, medium, high or very high activity.

Those in the inactive group were couch potatoes who did virtually no exercise. The low activity group exercised an average of 92 minutes a week. Each group above that exercised progressively more each week.

Here comes the good part . . .

Compared to those in the inactive group, those in the low-activity group were 14 percent less likely to die from any cause, 10 percent less likely to die of cancer, and had a three-year longer life expectancy, on average.

And there’s even more good news . . .

Each additional 15 minutes of daily exercise (up to 100 minutes a day) reduced the risk of death by an additional 4%, and people who got 30 minutes of activity a day added about four extra years to their life expectancy, when compared with their sedentary peers.

These findings were the same in men and women and in all age groups. They even apply to people with cardiovascular disease risks.

“You can get good gains with relatively small amounts of physical activity. More is always better, but less is a good place to start”

Professor Stuart Biddle, an expert in exercise psychology at Loughborough University

How vigorously do you have to exercise? Well, you don’t have to throw around heavy weights or run until your tongue hangs out. You can do that if you want, but you will get the health benefits from such moderate exercise as biking, walking briskly or dancing.

There is no upper age limit. This applies to everyone. If you don’t believe me, read this post about a study of weight training by seniors.

Exercise at least 15 minutes a dayConvinced? Do you plan to get off the couch for at least 15 minutes a day and get moving to add bounce to your step and years to your life?

If you still don’t “get it,” let me tell you about even more new research.

A study done in Australia on health risks linked to TV viewing suggests that too much time sitting in front of the box can shorten your life expectancy. In fact, the study showed that watching television for 6 hours a day can shorten your life by 5 years!

The scientists who conducted this study do not know why this is the case, and it may simply be because viewers who watch a lot of telly do little or no exercise.

These new studies were summed up by England’s Chief Medical Officer, Sally Davies, who said: “Physical activity offers huge benefits and these studies back what we already know – that doing a little bit of physical activity each day brings health benefits and a sedentary lifestyle carries additional risks.”

Top 5 Reasons You Should Take Nutritional Supplements

5 Top Reasons To Take Nutritional Supplements“You should be able to get all the nutrition you need from your diet, without any supplementation.”

It sounds good, and I want to believe it. But I don’t. There’s just too much evidence to the contrary.

Because of poor diets, hectic schedules, nutritionally depleted foods coming from our farms, additives and preservatives and pesticides and herbicides, it’s almost impossible to get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients you need WITHOUT taking nutritional supplements.

Here are the top 5 reasons why I think virtually everyone should take nutritional supplements.

1. The modern western diet stinks.

There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Most westerners eat more bad stuff than good stuff. And we eat too much of everything. That’s why 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese. And that’s one reason why we aren’t getting the vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies crave.

I get that the fat-laden and high carbohydrate foods taste good, are inexpensive and are convenient, and I understand that not everyone can afford to buy organic food or has the time to prepare nutritious meals every day because they are too busy trying to make a living, but eating well has to become a higher priority.

In my opinion, Big Macs, Whoppers With Cheese and the like should be controlled dangerous substances (CDSs) because they are, indeed, dangerous to our health if we consume too many of them.

Yet we eat them and, worse yet, feed them to our children.

It’s tragic that the diseases of middle age such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure are now common in teens and even children. Can you say “child abuse?”

Nutritional supplements – which in many cases are extracts of the foods we should be eating – won’t solve all of this but, at least, they insure that minimum daily needs for vitamins, minerals and nutrients are met.

A lot of people get it. Studies show that about one-half of the U.S. population takes a daily multivitamin. I wonder why it’s only half.

2. Our hectic modern lifestyle is not conducive to healthy eating.

5 Top Reasons To Take Nutritional SupplementsOur schedules tend to be jam-packed. We move quickly from commitment to commitment, obligation to obligation. With this hectic lifestyle, it’s difficult to find the time to plan, prepare and eat a balanced and healthy diet.

And, not only is our lifestyle hectic but it is stressful as well. Stress robs us of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. And, stress causes excessive sympathetic nervous system activity which reduces our ability to absorb and utilize nutrients even more.

3. The soil on our farms is depleted of nutrients so our food isn’t as nutritious as it used to be.

Because of modern agri-business methods, nutrients in farm soil are depleted. The fields are over-farmed and fertilizers are used that actually deplete the soil of essential nutrients.

Top 5 Reasons To Take Nutritional SupplementsThe depleted soil has fewer nutrients to pass along to whatever is grown in the soil. And if the plants don’t get the nutrients from the soil, you won’t get them when you eat the plants.

I recently read an article by a doctor who parodied a familiar old expression by saying something like “26 apples a day keep the doctor away.”

His point was that, because of what I’m talking about, it takes 26 apples today to get the same nutrition that only 1 apple provided about 100 years ago.

So even those of us who try to eat nutritiously will have a hard time getting all of the vitamins, minerals and nutrients we need without dietary supplements.

4. Food additives and preservatives degrade the nutrient content of our food.

The produce you get at your local grocery store may have been grown on the other side of the country and trucked to your store. And, food doesn’t stay fresh indefinitely.

So that we can have produce even when it is out of season in our part of the country, food manufacturers add preservatives to the food so they can ship it long distances. The problem is that these preservatives degrade the nutrient content of the food.

The result is that what you eat is different, and less nutritious, than the food was before the preservatives were added.

In addition, food producers often add synthetic substances such as MSG, NutraSweet, splenda, food coloring, artificial flavors that increase your body’s needs for nutrients.

5. Food is polluted with chemicals that increase our need for nutrients.

Pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals are common on modern farms. These pollutants increase our need for vitamins, minerals and nutrients to combat their effects on our bodies.

Dietary supplements are not magic pills that solve all of this. However, they are a good step toward making sure that your body is getting the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients it needs.

In coming articles, I will discuss the nutritional supplements that have been proven to be the most beneficial, how to decide which supplements you should take and how to pick the best manufacturers.

Not Just A Slogan: Diana Nyad Proves That 60 Is The New 40

61 year old endurance swimmer Diana NyadUPDATE: Because of unfavorable winds and water currents, after 29 hours in the water, Diana Nyad abandoned her Cuba to Florida open water swim. To me, this attempt was a triumph even though she didn’t reach Florida. Committing to the attempt was impressive. Training up to 12 hours a day for 2 years was a magnificent achievement. Putting herself out there in the public eye – aware that know-nothings would criticize her if she didn’t complete the swim – was courageous. She ends up physically more fit and psychologically stronger. Where’s the down side?

Endurance swimmer Diana Nyad jumped into the water and started swimming from Havana’s Marina Hemmingway Sunday night at 7:45. Her destination: Key West, Florida, more than 100 miles away.

If she makes it, her swim is expected to take about 60 hours.

Speaking as someone who probably couldn’t stay awake 60 straight hours, no less swim constantly for that long, this is incredible.

And, the swim is more than grueling. It’s also dangerous.

Did I mention that she is swimming through shark infested waters without the protection of a shark cage?

61 year old endurance swimmer Diana NyadFor 60 hours, she will be battling her own body, her mind, weather conditions and, possibly, sharks who might mistake her for dinner.

And did I also forget to mention that Nyad is 61 years old? Actually, almost 62.

Earlier in her life, Diana Nyad was a record-setting endurance swimmer. Among her accomplishments was a record time for swimming around Manhattan Island in New York. She’s a member of the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

In fact, in 1978 at age 28, she attempted this same Havana to Florida swim, but failed because of strong currents and bad weather. Soon after that, she stopped swimming.

She didn’t swim, didn’t even take a stroke, for 31 years before going into training for this swim when she was 60.

Can she do at age 61 what she couldn’t do when she was 28? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t bet against her. She has been training for two years, swimming as much as 12 hours a day.

As I write this, she has experienced ocean swells, shoulder pain and a touch of asthma, but she is still going strong about 24 hours into the swim.

As she was beginning her swim, Nyad shared the philosophy that prompted me to write this post: “I’m almost 62 years old and I’m standing here at the prime of my life. I think this is the prime. When one reaches this age, you still have a body that’s strong but now you have a better mind.”

She’s living proof that 60 may, indeed, be the new 40. Or, in her case, the new 28!

You can learn more about Diana Nyad’s background here. And you can follow the progress of her #XtremeDream swim on twitter here: @diananyad.

Quiz: Which Activities Burn More Calories?

Calorie Burning Quiz
Calorie Burning Quiz

Do you know how many calories are burned by common activities at home, at work, at play and at the gym?

Here’s a little 15 question quiz to find out.

From each pair of activities, choose the one that burns more calories in 30 minutes. The link to the answers is at the bottom

_____ Vigorous Weight Lifting
_____ Step Aerobics (low-impact)

_____ Step Aerobics (high impact)
_____ Elliptical Trainer

_____ Horseback riding
_____ Walking (15 minutes/mile)

_____ Ballroom Dancing
_____ Kayaking

_____ Playing Soccer
_____ Dancing the Twist

_____ Playing Competitive Football
_____ Karate

_____ Swimming the Crawl
_____ Running (10 minutes/mile)

_____ Running (7 minutes/mile)
_____ Bicycling (> 20 mph)

_____ Raking the Lawn
_____ Operating A Snow Blower

_____ Shoveling Snow By Hand
_____ Weeding the Garden

_____ Cooking
_____ Food Shopping

_____ Moving Furniture
_____ Playing With Kids Vigorously

_____ Painting Outside of House
_____ Painting, Papering, Remodeling

_____ Coaching Sports
_____ Police Officer

_____ Firefighting
_____ Coal Mining

Click here to see the answers.