I was just thinking the other day about how good I felt after finishing my 11-mile bike ride to work. I have not felt this good in many years, if ever. My regular bike ride to work has made me feel younger and look younger (according to my wife, friends, family and colleagues). It has given me solid improvement on my physical strength and my overall physical condition (losing 30 pounds and blood pressure going from 141/91 down to 129/82). My bike riding and better eating habits, has actually turned back the aging clock for me.
I took a quick look on the web and read that the British Journal of Sports Medicine, did a report on aerobic fitness in 2008. (http://bjsm.bmj.com/) The report states that, “ Maintaining aerobic fitness through middle age and beyond could delay the aging process by more than a decade and prolong independent living.” Regular aerobic exercise improves the body’s ability to take in oxygen and use it, but a person’s maximal aerobic power falls steady as people age.
Twenty years ago, Dr. R. J. Shephard of the University of Toronto in Ontario and his colleagues proposed that adequate aerobic capacity was a key factor in helping very old people to maintain a high quality of life and live independently. In a review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, Shephard analyzes the latest data on the issue.
According to Shephard, studies of aerobic training response in older people have shown that workouts, especially more intense physical activity maintained for a longer duration, can improve aerobic power. In fact, seven studies of this type of exercise found people’s aerobic power increased nearly 25 percent, equivalent to reversing 12 years worth of aging-related loss of fitness.
Based on his review, Shephard concludes that elderly people who engage in progressive aerobic training can maintain their independence longer, in effect by turning back the clock on the loss of aerobic fitness that occurs with aging.
Other positive spin-offs of aerobic fitness include reduced risks of serious illness, faster recovery after injury or illness, and reduced risks of falls due to maintenance of muscle power, balance and coordination.
“There remains a need to clarify the importance of deteriorations in fitness relative to other potential causes of dependency but, from the practical viewpoint, regular aerobic activity can address many of the issues of both functional loss and chronic disease,” he writes.
There seems to be a report done on everything these days and some of them seem to support how I feel and how I look. How I do love the internet!
I first came to live in the US from England in 1977. Miraculously I shed almost 50 pounds without even trying! My two young daughters and I arrived a few days before Thanksgiving. Even with its vaguely anti-English overtones, we immediately embraced this unfamiliar holiday, especially the strange but plentiful food. Christmas seemed to follow with hardly a chance to catch our breath (or get hungry) and then New Year. To complete the holiday feasting, my new American wife and I got married in January.
When I weighed myself after all this gluttony, I was truly stunned to discover that my 200+ pounds had been decimated. I was suddenly a svelte 155 pounds, feeling incredibly blessed and scared to death I’d pack those 50 pounds back on in a flash. Looking back now, it was obviously a complete change of lifestyle that did the trick. I had left behind an advertising career fueled by expense account food and drink (lots of the latter) with never a thought for calories or fat and had arrived in Los Angeles with its body-centric culture the first wave of California cuisine now making the transition from restaurant to home kitchens.
Whatever it was, it was working for this grateful new immigrant. I loved having to replace my old ‘fat guy’ clothes with 32″ waist pants and 15″ collar shirts. But I felt guilty that I hadn’t done anything to ‘earn’ this weight loss gift. What could I do to hang on to it? The answer was close to home. Rich, my new 14-year old stepson was something of a track star at his school and he wanted to learn how to play soccer (remember this was 1977). Being English, a lifetime devotee of the beautiful game (although never a decent player) and an obsessive fan of Manchester United . . . I saw an opportunity.
Rich and I spent each late afternoon at a high school track. I taught him Soccer 101 and he got me fit to run. He was a natural. Inside two weeks, he was showing a skill level I’d never had. As for me, I had enthusiasm on my side and the running boom of the late 70s to reassure me I wasn’t the only one. And I’ve been running ever since.
It’s been over 30 years. Rich’s mom and I divorced after 17 years. My girls are both married and living in Bombay, India and Portland, Oregon respectively. I’m happily remarried. My hair is gray and . . . I’m still 155 pounds with a 32″ waist and a 15″ neck. All thanks to running.
You’ve heard all the arguments in favor of running: it’s cheap, portable, you don’t need special equipment or a gym membership, it’s the best cardio bang for the buck, where else can you experience the runner’s high and on and on. All true, but what keeps me running is how good it makes me feel about myself. No matter how many mornings I’ve had to force my weary body out of bed and into the trusty Asics, I have some wonderful everyday justifications.
At 67, I can wear the same size clothes I wore at 36. I have blood chemistry my (younger) doctor envies. My body fat is 12.5%. I have no need for medication (except for occasional allergies). When I run an early morning 10-miler on Mulholland, I feel a sense of age-defying achievement (and a little smug superiority) for at least the rest of the day. If I have a difficult conversation coming up, nothing focuses my thoughts like a run. Best ideas? While running. Best meditation? Best problem-solving? Best way to digest self-help books? On my iPod while running. Best hangover cure? Best mood improver? Best time on my own? Best way to get to know a new city?
After 30+ years, running is still the answer.
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