Fitness as we age

It is important to work on physical fitness life long.

Physical fitness benefits include reduction of heart disease, reduction in Alzheimer’s and most importantly independence.  A recent study showed Finnish men who lost more than 15% of their cardiorespiratory fitness over a 10-year period faced a near doubling of their risk of acute MI over the subsequent decade and more than twice the risk of dying of any cause, a new study shows. But as we age fitness programs change. It isn’t realistic to ask the very elderly to jog, participate in spinning classes, hit the elliptical or rowing machine like those who are younger. The issues with mobility and frailty prevent such activities for most. So what does one do for fitness as they age?

Walking, stationary biking, water aerobics, swimming laps with a kick board, recumbent bike or  recumbent steppers are some of my favorite means of obtaining aerobic exercise. Also programs such as Sit and Be Fit.   Any is exercise is better than no exercise. If exercise is done in a group or a class you also get the additional benefits of socialization. As we age socialization is vital. The more socially isolated a person becomes the worse the predictors for health. I found over the years many adhered to light continuous aerobic exercise because of the socialization of the classes more than the physical benefits of the exercise. New interns would come aboard and roll their eyes when they noted the workloads of many of the elderly, then I would point out the ages of many of my clients being in upper 80’s to mid 90’s and regularly attending classes 2-3 times per week, aerobically exercising, resistance training, stretching and socializing.

Resistance training is very important as we age as well as I am frequently promoting the following:

Your Strength is your Independence

This is what allows you to live in your own home, to care for yourself, to get up off the floor if you fall, to carry in the groceries.  It is your ability to cope with emergencies, to interact with the grandkids by walking up the bleachers, or across the soccer field, to lift up the two-year old, to get to their musicals across a long parking lot, to walk the hills at the nature center etc.


Here are a few simple strengthening exercise that most can perform. Wall squat

Wall Squats

With feet 8-12 inches apart and approximately 6 inches from the wall, slide down the wall a few inches. Hold this position as long as able. Push back up to standing. Repeat as many times as possible. Don’t go down to far, and if you fear not being able to stand all the way back up, keep a chair next to you for assistance. Breath out as you push back  up.

calf raises

Toe Raises

This exercise is surprisingly hard for many of the elderly to perform. Go up on tip toes and back down as many times as possible. To make harder try on a stair step or try doing on only one leg.

Wall push ups

Just like the old-fashioned push up but do against a wall. Breath out as you are pushing yourself back from the wall. Exhale on Exertion! I say this because many hold their breath which is hard on the heart and blood pressure.

Lateral leg exercises

These are really important for maintaining a good gait when we walk as we get older. Lying on side – do in bed – as easier than getting up from the floor. Lift leg out and back down. Do as many as possible.

Be a mentor, assist to make it happen

As most blog readers tend to be younger, pass this advice on to your elders, work out with them, purchase and arrange for transportation to fitness classes, make a big deal out of wanting them to stay fit and healthy to participate in life with you. We all need encouragement at times. Don’t assume being old means sitting in the recliner all day. Keep those in your live vital through physical activity. And have a great day!

Can you eat healthy when eating fast food? Probably not!

Don’t trust the fast food marketing

Prevention Magazine has a really nice piece on McDonald’s new 400 calorie of less campaign. It breaks down each item billed as 400 calories or less and analyzes the nutritional content. Don’t let the very highly paid and adept marketing of fast food catch  you. The amounts of sodium, sugars, fats and added ingredients are startling. Here are a couple of examples, but I highly recommend you follow the below links and read the entire content, so you don’t get caught in their marketing traps. Stay healthy!

Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich, grilled: 380 cal

McDonalds’ website calls this one “Refined and real, all on the same bun.” We’re not sure if they meant refined as in “elegant,” or refined as in “processed”—but it’s more the latter, according to the ingredient list. The chicken contains rib meat, maltodextrin, and sodium phosphates and the “bakery style bun” has high fructose corn syrup, dough conditioners, and ammonium sulfate. This sandwich gives you a quarter of your daily cholesterol, 10 g of fat, 9 grams of sugar, and 1,000 mg of sodium. 
Swap it for: A whole dinner of grilled chicken slathered in barbecue sauce, with a buttered ear of corn—for the same amount of calories. 

Read more:

Mango Pineapple Real Fruit Smoothie (large): 350 cal

McDonald’s boasts that every size of their “real fruit smoothie” is under 400 calories. But a large mango pineapple smoothie has a whopping 77 g of sugar—which is the equivalent of eating almost three Snickers bars, in terms of the sugar content. And just in case you’re wondering, the “real fruit” includes “clarified demineralized pineapple juice concentrate,” which is a sweetener, not a chunk of vitamin-C-packed raw pineapple.
Swap it for: Some whole real fruit, plus filling peanut butter and soy milk, in our Peanut Butter Soy Smoothie instead.

Read more:—350-cal#ixzz23v669lOl

Fast Food Challenges

Meal times can be tough when family obligations allow you limited time for preparation. 

Some people are always thinking ahead and can plan by preparing early, either a crock pot meal, or cook something ahead of time and just warm it up. But any family can tell you there are days that you just don’t have the time so you succumb to the ever inviting, immediate gratification of fast food. We all know we should not eat it, but it happens. The more often we eat it, the easier it gets to go back again and again. By doing this often you are mentoring your children to accept this as normal behaviour and also teaching there taste buds to crave the unhealthy food choices.

My family prided themselves on avoiding fast food. I am ever grateful to a seventh grade home economics teacher who thoroughly investigated with her class the fast food industry. They watched movies like Food Inc, Supersize Me, etc. After this the two children decided to be vegetarians. This lasted a couple of months, then they gradually added meat back into the diet, but limited the number of days per week of eating it. They kept to the no fast food for quite some time, my daughter avoided it for a few years. When we had an exchange student from Japan living with us, who spoke very little English, I asked her on her final few days what else she wanted to do in the US.  She stuttered and stumbled trying to tell me something that I couldn’t comprehend. Then as if a lightbulb went off, her eyes brightened, she ran to get paper, and began sorting through the crayons. Finally she finds a yellow crayon and draws….you guessed it ….the golden arches.  She proceeded to show me with her hands a BIG Mac. I think she was greatly disappointed with the Big Mac, as it really isn’t so big as she had envisioned. We then proceeded to take her to Burger King. My daughter who spent 3 years avoiding fast food was mortified. She and I can now say though since that experience we have not eaten fast food since.

How do you not eat fast food?

 Our sports teams now stop at grocery stores instead of fast food restaurants. Kids can then select their own food choices. I hope the coaches mentor them to choose healthy choices instead of junk food or processed foods like Lunchables.

 I once worked as an athletic trainer to a class A division one football team. The coach was morbidly obese, tipping the scales near 450 lbs. He had numerous operations for stomach stapling (back in the day that what it was called) and yet continued to put the weight right back on. Well when we travelled his rule was to go no more than two hours without stopping for food. I wonder now how many of his former football players are obese. He would have done better to mentor the kids with a stop for an apple, or a water break, which could have easily been taken with the team. 

Grab and Go Food Choices

Think about the time it takes to stop for fast food, could you run into a grocery and get foods like:

  •  bag of grapes, apples, oranges
  • box of graham crackers and jar of peanut butter
  • string cheese
  • jerky
  • bottled water
  • pretzels
  • cut up veggies and dip
  • bean dip and torillas
It would be less expensive, healthier and you would be showing the kids by example how to avoid the feeling that fast food is the only way to go.