Is Physical Frailty Inevitable as we Age

November 16, 2011 by  
Filed under health

Last week I had a discussion with two of my middle-aged co-worker friends. The topic was how do we keep ourselves fit into our later years and is physical frailty inevitable when we get into our 80″s and 90’s. The two men I was having this discussion with are in their early 50’s . Both men are the father’s of new born babies this past year (I plan to write another blog post about this subject as well) and want to be around to see their babies grow up as adults. Health is a popular topic with both of these men.

Whenever I get to this topic with these two friends I usually end up bringing up my mother ( see The Green Buddha video ) and the subject of the first oomph short documentary subject Jack Kirk ( see Jack Kirk video ) as role models of positive aging.
I know my mother and Jack Kirk are exceptional people in exceptional shape for their age, but they do provide realistic role models for all of us in our middle age?

Yesterday I came across the results of an interesting study published last month in the journal The Physician and Sportsmedicine (I have reported information in this very respected journal in previous blog posts)

In the current findings, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recruited 40 competitive runners, cyclists and swimmers. They ranged in age from 40 to 81, with five men and five women representing each of four age groups: 40 to 49, 50 to 59, 60 to 69, and 70-plus. All were enviably fit, training four or five times a week and competing frequently. Several had won their age groups in recent races.

They completed questionnaires detailing their health and weekly physical activities. Then the researchers measured their muscle mass, leg strength and body composition, determining how much of their body and, more specifically, their muscle tissue was composed of fat. Other studies have found that as people age, they not only lose muscle, but the tissue that remains can become infiltrated with fat, degrading its quality and reducing its strength.
There was little evidence of deterioration in the older athletes’ musculature, however. The athletes in their 70s and 80s had almost as much thigh muscle mass as the athletes in their 40s, with minor if any fat infiltration. The athletes also remained strong. There was, as scientists noted, a drop-off in leg muscle strength around age 60 in both men and women. They weren’t as strong as the 50-year-olds, but the differential was not huge, and little additional decline followed. The 70- and 80-year-old athletes were about as strong as those in their 60s.

“We think these are very encouraging results,” said Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, who oversaw the study. “They suggest strongly that people don’t have to lose muscle mass and function as they grow older. The changes that we’ve assumed were due to aging and therefore were unstoppable seem actually to be caused by inactivity. And that can be changed.”

In multiple earlier studies, people over 50 have been found to possess far fewer muscle motor units than young adults. But that wasn’t true for the sexagenarian runners, whose leg muscles teemed with almost as many motor units as a separate group of active 25-year-olds. Running, the scientists wrote, seemed able to “mitigate the loss of motor units with aging well into the seventh decade of life.”

Of course, the volunteers in both Dr. Wright’s and the Canadian study were, for the most part, lifelong athletes. Whether similar benefits are attainable by people who take up exercise when they are middle-aged or older “isn’t yet clear,” Dr. Wright says, “although there’s no reason to think that you wouldn’t get similar results no matter when you start.”
Until recently, the evidence was disheartening. A large number of studies in the past few years showed that after age 40, people typically lose 8 percent or more of their muscle mass each decade, a process that accelerates significantly after age 70. Less muscle mass generally means less strength, mobility and among the elderly, independence. It also has been linked with premature mortality. But a growing body of newer science suggests that such decline may not be certain. Exercise, the thinking goes, and you might be able to rewrite the future for your muscles.

Perhaps the role models of my own mother and of Jack Kirk are not that exceptional after all. And perhaps injecting a little oomph into our own lives we can be exceptional too.

An Inside Job

March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under health, Personal Development

By Cheryl Roby
There are days that lack oomph! Let’s face it, the fast paced techno dense life can be stressful.

My computer and blackberry conveniently provide information and up to date status that were unheard of even 10 years ago AND they provide a constant stream of messages that say READ ME, PAY ATTENTION TO ME, I AM URGENT!!

When I realize that my state of mind has gotten out of balance and I am paying more attention to the imagined urgency than to the gift of instant information and connection, my work with stress management and inquiry help bring me back into balance.
As a Reiki Master and student of conscious living I have come to understand that my work first and foremost is to be kind and peaceful in this world. If I am anxious or angry or impatient (substitute any emotions other than peace, love and kindness that resonate with you) I am adding to the energy of war. There is a war going on inside me that affects not only me but everyone I come in contact with and the collective conscious. Our energies are all connected. Our thoughts are powerful beyond what most of us can imagine.

So, before I try to fix what’s out there, I refocus on what is inside; using the tools of inquiry, breath, positive affirmation and others to regain peace.
Cheryl Roby’s website is and

Revealing German Study on Runners and Lifestyle

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under health

A German study recently published in the latest issue of Deutsches Arzteblatt International reveals a link between lifestyle and exercise.

Sports scientists have revealed that impairments to health and physical performance are not primarily a result of aging but of bad lifestyle habits and lack of exercise.

Dieter Leyk and his team analyzed the stamina of more than 600, 000 marathon and half marathon runners and asked them about their lifestyle habits and their health.

Marathon running is particularly suitable for studying because participants have to put in sufficient training hours for the competition, and the athletes accommodate this into their day accordingly.
The scientists found that unfavorable characteristics such as obesity, smoking, and lack of physical activity were rare in runners, and reductions in physical performance were more likely to be the result of biological aging processes.

These reductions make their presence felt only after the 54th year of life and are but slight. More than 25 per cent of 50- to 69-year-olds had taken up running only in the preceding 5 years and participated in a marathon nonetheless. You can see this connection highlighted in the short video on about the 94 year old runner Jack Kirk-The Dipsea Demon.
Something to think about when making your New Year’s resolution.


Don’t Forget to Ask “Why?”

November 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Personal Development

The Journal of Consumer Research recently released a study concluding that people who become focused on how to achieve a goal may have a harder time achieving their aims than people who think abstractly about why they want to do something.

The authors of the study found that when people focus on concrete aspects of how a goal will be achieved, the person who is trying to achieve the goal becomes more close minded and less likely to take advantage of an opportunity that may fall outside of their plan. On the other hand, people who focus on the “why” are more likely to consider a new opportunity which could help them attain their goal.

This is not to say that forming a way to implement a goal is not valuable. It is. The study reveals that when people form “implementation intentions” they become overly focused on the specific details of the implemental plan and less focused on the overarching goal.

The mere knowledge of the outcome of this study may be helpful as you try to achieve your goal. Let’s say you recently discovered that you are pre-diabetic. Your doctor recommends an overhaul of your diet. Immediately, you shelve any and all white, refined flour. Day after day, you stick to your guns: no white, refined flour. What you don’t know is what your doctor may have failed to tell you: daily, moderate exercise may be an even more effective way to stave off diabetes. In comparison to someone who has not yet formed a plan for lowering their diabetes, are you more or less likely to add an exercise regimen?

While the authors may not have conclusive evidence to answer this specific question, they are likely to tell you that you may not value an ‘out of plan’ opportunity the same as you would your original plan. “Planning is more effective when people think abstractly, keep an open mind, and remind themselves of why they want to achieve a goal,” they write. In a sense, this seems counter-intuitive, as so much of goal-setting seems to be all about the ‘how’. Asking “why” may help you to stick to your intentions, especially as you face unexpected challenges. This helps all of us be our own life coach, answering the “why” as we move forward. The lesson learned here is to keep examining the role of your own mind-set as you pursue your goal. Otherwise, you may just be letting a good opportunity simply pass you by.

If any of you want to share your insights, let us know!

The Empowered Patient

October 30, 2010 by  
Filed under health

If you’re over forty, you’ve no doubt experienced a medical appointment which was rushed by your physician. Or perhaps you’ve had the misfortune of misdiagnosis or a medical error. Nothing new these days, right?

What may be a new chapter in healthcare is an era of patient advocacy, a term more and more of us will come to know in the coming years. With doctors pressured to see a higher volume of patients, the time you spend with your physician will no doubt be more limited. And with the 32 million people getting health insurance by 2014, there will be more patients for doctors to see. With an aging population and medical schools producing the same amount (or fewer!) physicians, a warning shot has been fired: all of us must be poised to be effective advocates for our own health.

What does that mean, exactly? We, as both patients and caregivers, need to understand our treatment options. We also need to learn how to proactively work with insurance companies, how to talk about and prepare for end of life decisions, how to advocate for our safety, and learn how to question and ultimately advocate for our own health.

Author Trisha Torrey of Every Patient’s Advocate is a woman who has spearheaded the patient advocacy movement. Sadly, she knows the American healthcare’s dysfunctional system all too well. When she was diagnosed with aggressive, terminal cancer and told she had only a few months to live, it didn’t sit right. She searched further and further. Ultimately, Trisha had indeed been misdiagnosed with cancer. Once a mild-mannered marketing consultant who knew almost nothing about healthcare, she delved into the American healthcare system that was tasked with treating her.

Initially Trisha made every mistake a patient could make. But she got smart, fast. She learned that the possibility of excellent care was too easily and frequently eclipsed by miscommunication and mistakes. She also learned that if she didn’t stick up for herself, and insist on the help she needed, she would not get it.


As a staunch advocate of the Patient Advocacy movement, here are some of her suggestions:
• Get invested in the process. Think about how you would advocate for your child. Now do it for yourself.
• Know your family history. This can help with both diagnosis and treatment phase.
• If you ever get a devastating diagnosis, don’t make quick decisions. Explore resources to get the comfort and information you may need.
• Realize the pull and power of the pharmaceutical industry. It is a business. Don’t be naïve.
• Research all prescribed drugs, and recognize that drugs affect each individual differently. One must take into account their age, ethnicity, and sex. Recognize that no drug hold all the answers, so research complimentary alternatives.

All in all, have a voice. Support those who cannot support themselves, and recognize that we have to make ourselves accountable for our own health as we make healthcare providers more accountable.

If you are trying to navigate the healthcare maze, you may want to check out the following Patient Advocacy Resources:

• Patient Empowerment:
• AdvoConnection: Helps find an advocate when you or a loved one needs assistance for medical/ navigation issues, billing or insurance claims, getting permission for insurance payment rejections, birthing, geriatric home health and more. Itʼs a free service that lets you search by zip code and service needed.
• Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR): offers access to 159 mailing lists that provide support,
information, and community to everyone affected by cancer and related disorders.
• Center for Advancing Health (CFAH): CFAH conducts research, communicates findings and advocates for policies that support everyoneʼs ability to benefit from advances in health science.
• Center for Medical Consumers: Is committed to broadening public awareness about the safety and quality problems that pervade Americaʼs medical care. The Center is active in both nationwide and statewide efforts to reduce medical errors, report disclosure of physician conflicts of interest, improve the quality of medical care, and encourage public access to information about the comparative performance of doctors and hospitals.
• CNNʼs Empowered Patient: Elizabeth Cohen presents her weekly stories about patients who stepped up in unusual ways to get the medical help they needed.
• Coalition for Patients Rights: The Coalition for Patientsʼ Rights consists of more than 35 organizations representing a variety of licensed health care professionals who provide a diverse array of safe, effective, and
affordable health care services to millions of patients each year.
• Consumers Advancing Patient Safety (CAPS): Is a consumer-led nonprofit organization formed to be a collective voice for individuals, families and healers who wish to prevent harm in healthcare encounters through partnership and collaboration.
• The Empowered Patient Coalition: The Empowered Patient Coalition is dedicated to providing an unprecedented level of information, resources and educational support to the public. The Coalition is committed to promoting a culture of transparency, meaningful interaction and active participation that will allow patients and their advocates to assume a greater role in improving the safety and the quality of their health care.

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