Aging Gracefully Blog

Archive for March, 2013

Shake Off the Winter Blues: Take Your Workout Out-of-Doors

Sunday, March 31st, 2013

Here's a real mood-booster for you! Take your indoor strengthening routine out to the park, breathe in the spring air and get a healthy dose of Vitamin D. It's easy to adapt kitchen sink exercises to a park bench outdoors. Add a portable stretch band to round out your workout. Begin your outdoor workout by walking for 15 minutes at a moderate pace in the park. Find some stairs, inclines and declines to vary the route. Then, scout out your bench. For the first six exercise vignettes, stand behind the bench, using the top of the back for support. Use the following video links as an easy guide. For all of them, do 10-15 repetitions.

Then, to complete the workout, add two more exercises: Squats: Stand in front of the bench, feet parallel, and hip-width apart. Shift your weight back onto your heels, bend your knees and reach back with your hips, lowering yourself toward the bench as if you were going to sit down. Tap the edge of the seat with your hips, but don't sit down. Squeeze your glutes to return to the start position. Crunches: Sit backwards on the bench, threading your legs through the slats of the back rest, feet on the ground. Cross your arms over your chest and sit up tall. Exhale as you roll back, drawing your ribs toward your hips, curving your spine into a "C." Then realign the spine to straighten up. This workout gives you a total of 10 exercises that target the major muscle groups. It will only take about 10-15 minutes to complete one set of 15 reps of each exercise. Peel off the winter layers and prepare to reveal lovely new contours for warm weather. 

Get Fit Now! Midlife Fitness Predicts Healthy Old Age

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

For Americans, the average life expectancy now surpasses 78 years, an increase of more than 4 years since 1980. Unfortunately, the incidence of chronic disease is increasing as well, particularly among those who are not yet elderly. In other words, more of us are experiencing poor health earlier in the aging process and living with it longer.

A new study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that we can improve our chances of healthy aging by being fit in middle age, regardless of whether we had previously exercised. This study compared the results of an aerobic fitness test administered by the Cooper Institute to more than 18,000 healthy men and women, average age of 49, and then compared the results against Medicare claim records when the same individuals were in their 70s and 80s.

They found that those who'd been least fit in middle age were the most likely to have developed serious chronic diseases (including heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and colon or lung cancer) at an earlier age. Those who had been fit at the initial assessment often developed the same diseases but significantly later in life, typically for the final five years of life, instead of the final 10 to 20 years.

It's never too late to begin exercising, and the earlier you start, the longer you'll benefit. To move out of the least fit category, aim for accumulating 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity most days of the week. Just three 10-minute or two 15-minute walks a day can dramatically improve your chances for a healthy old age.



Mayor Bloomberg Strikes Out against Sugary Drinks

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

As a resident of NYC, I'm proud of the health initiatives that Mayor Bloomberg has successfully initiated over the past ten years. In addition to banning smoking in bars, restaurants, and city parks, plazas and beaches, he has taken a hard stance in the fight against obesity.

Our Mayor has outlawed the use of trans-fats in restaurant kitchens and enacted a law requiring that city restaurant chains post calorie counts on menus and menu boards. I look for them automatically now, and really miss comparing calorie counts when I travel out of the city!

Some of his measures have been a little hard to swallow, namely the proposed ban on large sugary drinks being served in containers bigger than 16 oz. A NY State Supreme Court judge struck down the proposal last week saying there were too many loopholes and it was too hard to enforce.

But consider this breath-taking statistic, which I read in the March issue of IDEA Fitness Journal: According to a recent study, there is a correlation between frequent use of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and high rates of type 2 diabetes. Forty percent of all caloric sweeteners in the U.S. are HFCS, with most of it appearing in soft drinks.

The U.S. has the highest consumption rate of HFCS, with 55 pounds ingested per person per year, followed by Hungary with 46 pounds per capita. By comparison, the U.K. has only 1.1 pounds per person.

This stunning statistic reflects so poorly on the American diet and our well-being. We are literally killing ourselves by making uneducated food choices, and the food industry is not helping. We need high profile public figures like Mayor Bloomberg to advocate for us by bringing these issues to light.

A Tribute to a Special Woman

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

For Women's History Month, let's acknowledge the women who've made a difference in our lives!

I know a woman who never fails to inspire, and she happens to be my mother. Irene is the kind of woman that people gravitate to because she is always interested, kind, non-judgmental and grateful. She has a can-do spirit and yet is patient while awaiting results. "Something will happen," she said to me recently, "It always does."

Just shy of her 95th birthday now, I asked Irene what has allowed her to reach this advanced age. Off the top of her head, she gave me these principles to live by:

  • Observing the rules of health, taking my medications
  • Continuing my interests, like reading (she has a Kindle!)
  • Moderation, especially in foods
  • By all means, exercising

Mom and I are not sure if she inspired me to a career in fitness or if I inspired her to love exercise! Although she spends most of her time in a wheel chair, Irene continues to do strength training for her standing and walking ability. She works with a trainer in the fitness center twice a week, doing 15 minutes on the seated stepper with arms and the weight machines for upper and lower body strength.

Irene is living proof that there are no excuses! What woman has made a difference in your life?