Dr Art Hister – Yet Another Reason to Exercise

A terrific talk on aging I heard a while ago pointed out something that I had never considered but which seems to be quite true, and it’s a very depressing thought.

This aging expert pointed out that although you often see pictures of a 70-year-old doing something quite amazing like climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, for example, but you never see an 85-year-old doing something similar.

That’s because, he said, of age-related frailty, meaning that we lose our muscle strength as we grow older.
Thus, it’s commonly said that we lose roughly 1 % of our muscle mass every year beyond the age of 40, and eventually – sometime between 75 and 85 for nearly all of us – we reach a tipping point of lost muscle mass when we can’t do so many – or even any – of the things we used to do so easily years before.

So the great news is that maybe that doesn’t have to happen.

In a study with terrifically hopeful possibilities, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh examined 40 competitive athletes – runners, cyclists, swimmers – between the ages of 40 and 81, and the researchers found that – quite to their surprise – that not only did those athletes have as much muscle tissue as people decades younger than them, they also remained nearly as strong as many people a couple of decades younger than them.

Now, clearly these were elite athletes and very few of us are able to train as much as these people do.

But this isn’t an all-or-none situation so seems to me that even some regular exercise can delay or postpone that heretofore seemingly inevitable frailty that the elderly suffer and which condemns so many seniors to having to give up their independence.

And honestly, doesn’t some exercise done a few times a week seem like a small price to pay for raising your chances to live a longer independent life down the line?

Dr Art Hister – Marathon Runners

If you want to run a marathon, get tested first.

For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, so many baby boomers have set themselves a goal of running a marathon (or several) before they pass into older age. Unfortunately, many have set out to do this without first determining if they are fit enough to undergo the load that marathon-running puts on their no-longer-that-young hearts.

So a recent study presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress 2010 should get at least a few marathon-hoping individuals to sit up and take note.

In this study that used MRIs and a sophisticated battery of tests on a group of amateur marathon runners both before and up to 8 weeks after the race, the researchers found that “abnormal heart segments (are) more widespread and significant” in non-fit runners (presumably, more widespread than most people or doctors think).
And the lead researcher concludes that “marathon runners can be a lot less fit than they think” (which if you’ve ever been to a marathon and watched the parade of runners that come by is absolutely no surprise). He goes on to advise that everyone who is thinking of running a marathon should seriously consider getting a test known as Vo2 max, which measures oxygen consumption by the heart while the person is working out.

Dr Art Hister – Weight and Genes

Bad news for those of you who swear you can’t lose weight because of your genes: you’re probably wrong.

Lots of people swear that no matter what they do, they can’t lose weight, even if they “don’t eat more than a mouse eats, honest”, even if they “exercise till I can’t stand it any longer”.

But the brutal truth is that even though there are a few people out there who indeed cannot lose weight easily, most of us can, and when we don’t lose weight on a diet or from exercise, it’s very likely because we are eating too much or not working out enough, or more often than not, both of those combined.

And if you believe the data from a study published in PLoS Medicine, even most obese people who are genetically prone to becoming massively overweight can nonetheless overcome their genetic predisposition and still lose a significant amount of weight.

In this study, even in obese people who had inherited “17 variants” of genes leading to obesity (in other words, the dice were really loaded against these folks staying slim), those who did the most exercise tended to weigh much less than those who were sedentary, and some were even able to maintain normal weights by doing enough exercise.

Bottom line: if you want your bottom not to grow too large, do more, eat less.

Sorry, but I just report em as I see em.

Dr Art Hister – It’s Never Too Late to Change

One of the most important lessons I try to leave with my audiences, especially when I’m addressing a group of seniors, is this: it’s never too late to change and to start doing healthy lifestyle things you’ve long neglected or even never done.

So even when you get into your nineties – and the great thing is that the over-80 demographic is probably the quickest-growing demographic in Canada – there is always something more you can do to make your life more pleasant, to give you more energy, to help you cope with the inevitable conditions that accompany aging, to reduce your risk of illness, to keep your brain sharper, and even perhaps to prolong your life. Although, if you are going to make a change, one other bit of advice: go about it slowly because there’s really no rush.

And to illustrate the truth of that advice, that is, that it really is never too late to make healthy lifestyle changes, a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston followed 2231 patients who had what is called left ventricular (LV) dysfunction, that is, in these people, the left ventricle of the heart (the bearing chamber that sends blood into the rest of the body) wasn’t working properly any more as a result of a heart attack.

Of these people, 463 had been smokers at the time of their heart attack, and although most of us would think that none of them would continue to smoke after suffering a heart attack, we know from many studies that a majority of smokers continue to smoke after a heart attack, which was the case in this study, too: 268 of these people continued to smoke.

At the end of 5 years, comparing the smokers with the ones who’d quit, 15 % of the non-smokers had had a 2nd heart attack compared to 23 % of the smokers.

So repeat after me: it’s never too late to quit, to start doing more exercise, to eat better, etc. It just takes will.

Dr Art Hister – Walking For Your Brain

I’m often asked by viewers, readers, listeners, my public forum attendees for: the “best” form of exercise, and to that there’s really only one answer, to wit, the best form of exercise is the form of exercise you will actually do. So, although swimming is a terrific exercise, if you hate water like I do (loathe the stuff, either in me or to lie in it), then there’s really no point in undertaking a swimming program because you’ll quit the 2nd time you realize you have to get wet to swim.

If I had to recommend one form of exercise for a typical large population, however, I would instantly pick walking.

Walking has many benefits: it’s aerobic (or it can be), it’s easy to do anywhere (even in a hotel room or a mall), it can be done inside (on crummy weather days), it’s cheap (if you’re spending a lot on “great” runners, you’re probably wasting a lot of money) , and it’s social (it’s easy to walk with friends).

Plus, regular brisk walking has been linked to multiple health benefits, such as improved brain function, which is nicely illustrated in a study from the University of Illinois (published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience), in which researchers took 65 previously sedentary seniors and split them into two groups.

One group was told to do stretching and toning exercise, the others were put into a brisk walking group.

At the end of a year, the “toners” showed no improvement in cognitive scores (compared to when they entered the study) while the brisk walkers had significantly improved cognition scores, and had good improvements in certain measures of brain functioning that were investigated via functional MRIs.

Bottom line: walk more – it’s good for your brain.

Dr. Art Hister – Active Lifestyles

Although the aerobic benefits of exercise are the ones that get all the attention from fitness experts and doctors – and well they should – there are at least three other aspects to doing regular exercise that we should also all be attending to regularly, especially those of us who are aging (and although we all complain about getting older, hey, it beats the pants off the only known alternative).

So, when you’re working out, you should also focus some time and effort on resistance training – (what most people call weight training) because as we age, our muscles, like most of the rest of us, inevitably shrink but we can significantly delay that muscle shrinkage by doing a bit of weight training regularly

Balance exercises – because again like all our senses, our sense of balance also fades with age and starting in our middle years, falling becomes a major risk factor for chronic health problems (and even death from hip fractures)

Flexibility – since as I’m sure most of you have noticed, your toes seem so much harder to reach than they used to be.