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.

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.


Acting Your Age with oomph!

July 20, 2010 by  
Filed under inspiration

I just read in the New York Times an article called “Turn 70, Act Your Grandchild’s Age,” which plays into the notion that some of us expect 70 year olds to act like you should be 20 not 70. This article makes me think of the work we do here at oomphTV. I hope we don’t give the false impression that you must act like a 20 year old to have oomph!

Accepting your age and your limitations, while still doing what you want (and being realistic about what you can do) is part of the message of oomphTV. And a big part of having oomph! is simply enjoying and celebrating life, no matter what you can and can’t do. After all, life is short and let’s simply enjoy what we can while we are here.

Recently Ringo Starr celebrated his 70th birthday by playing at the Radio City Music Hall and saying his new hero is BB King, who still jams in his 80s. They will be followed by Bob Dylan (“May you stay forever young”) and Paul Simon (“How terribly strange to be 70”) who still both perform and write music.
Dr. Butler, a psychiatrist, died, at age 83, a few days before Ringo’s big bash. No one, his colleagues said, had done more to improve the image of aging in America. His work established that the old did not inevitably become senile, and that they could be productive, intellectually engaged, and active, sexually and otherwise. His life provided a good example: He worked until three days before his death from acute leukemia.

But as much as Dr. Butler would have cheered an aging Beatle onstage, his colleagues said he would have also cautioned against embracing the opposite stereotype, the idea that “aging successfully,” in his phrase, means that you have to be banging on drums in front of thousands or still be acting like you did at 22 or 42.

“The stories that we hear tend to pull us toward the extreme,” said Anne Basting, the director of the Center on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. “It’s either the stories of young-onset Alzheimer’s, or it’s the sky-diving grandmas. We don’t hear enough about the huge middle, which is the vast majority of folks.”
In the film and television business, the business I’m in, Clint Eastwood is still directing films at 80 and Betty White is now starring in a new sitcom at 88 (I worked with her on “Ugly Betty” and she was amazing) The pressure for 70 and 80 year olds is not to face mortality, but to kick up those slightly arthritic heels ever higher.

In the eighth decade, said Dr. Basting, is “now seen as an active time of life: you’re just past retirement, that’s your time to explore and play mentally.” But while many will be healthy, others will not. “There will be an increase in frailty and disability because people are living longer,” said S. Jay Olshansky, a demographer at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies aging. For some people, an increased risk of stroke and Alzheimer’s “is going to be the price they pay for extended longevity,” he said.

The risk, gerontologists say, is that in celebrating the remarkable stories, we make those not playing Radio City, and certainly those suffering the diseases that often accompany old age, feel inadequate.

Thomas R. Cole, director of the McGovern Center for Health, Humanities and the Human Spirit at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and the author of a cultural history of aging, said “We’re going to make it look like if you’re sick, it’s your own fault. If you’re not having orgasms or running marathons, there’s something wrong with you.
Here at oomphTV we don’t want to just portray “aging extremes,” but also inspirational people that fall somewhere in the middle. If we simply profiled extremes we would run into the possibility of alienating everyday people.

We did produce a story on Jack Kirk – The Dipsea Demon, the 94 year old runner. He could be considered one of those extremes. However, we also profiled Alice and Richard Matzkin. Both Alice and Richard Matzkin express themselves through their art, one by painting and the other by sculpting. They are not running any foot race, but clearly they have oomph!
In addition, we are currently in post-production on “The Green Buddha”, a wonderful story about my sister, Dana Dowell Windatt, and my own mother, Jeanne Dowell, that have started a new apparel business, based on gratitude. My mother has just turned 80 and was the original inspiration behind She is not running a marathon or doing trapeze, but she is still doing what she wants to do at 80 years of age.

We are looking for different kinds of stories about people over 40 and sometimes way over 40 that have oomph! However, we do want to include stories of people that do have limitations. If you know of any, please write to us.

I hope we have found the right balance. Please feel free to write us and let us know what your thoughts are. We want to continue to inspire and inform, but not alienate our audience.

Six Ways You Can Get oomph!

January 30, 2010 by  
Filed under inspiration

Many of us want to find creative ways of getting oomph! We all know we will not live forever, but how do we live into a ripe old age with plenty of zeal, energy, vitality, inspiration or shall we say…oomph!

Some of this information I received from various studies listed below and from health expert Joel Weber, who writes for Men’s Health magazine.

Personally, I think there are many ways to get oomph!, but here are 6 different key ways you can get oomph! and maybe even stick around a long time:
Exercise – I know, I know, maybe we all know this and maybe it’s boring to keep hearing about. But, I will tell you this, it also happens to be true. In fact just this month four studies were published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that show us that if you want to stay physically and mentally healthier in old age then better start or continue exercising. According to a study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, Brigham And Woman’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, women who exercised more during middle age had lesser chances of developing a serious disease after 70. Second study stated that there was improvement in attention spans and conflict resolution skills by a year of resistance training. A third study found that people age 55 or more who were into a moderate or high physical activity were able to fight cognitive impairment better.

Maintain Good Weight – The fat you carry today could kill you tomorrow. And if you do maintain good body-mass index (BMI) you can feel better. I know you can feel better, because I lost over 25 pounds last year and I do feel better. University of Alabama researchers discovered that maintaining a body-mass index of 25 to 35 can shorten your life by up to three years. Excess body fat raises your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and colon cancer. In one landmark 2007 study, men with a 5-point increase in BMI – about 30 extra pounds on a 5’10 guy –had testosterone levels comparable to men who were a full decade older. Women need to watch their BMI, too. Research also suggests that women gaining more than 20 pounds from 18 to midlife doubles the risk of post-menopausal breast cancer.

Eat More Vegetables – I know, I’m not really using my imagination here on how to get oomph am I? What can I say, eating vegetables and good raw ones can give you a boost and expand you life. Italian researchers have found that eating as little as one cup of raw vegetables daily can add two years to your life. Why raw? Cooking can deplete up to 30 percent of the antioxidants (the stuff our bodies love) in vegetables. That said, sautéing or steaming them is far better than not eating them at all. If you consume more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, you have a 26 percent lower risk of stroke than people who eat fewer than three servings, according to one British study.
Eat Some Nuts – When Loma Linda University researchers tracked the lifestyle habits of 34,000 Seventh-Day Adventists – a population famous for its longevity—they discovered that those who munched nuts five days a week earned an extra 2.9 years on the planet. ( watch the oomph profile on Jack Kirk – The Dipsea Demon. He was Seventh-Day Adventist ) Not surprisingly, nuts are one of the healthiest snacks you can have. High in monounsaturated fats and protein, they help keep your arteries clean and your stomach feeling full.

Okay here are two ways to get oomph! with a little more imagination:
Don’t Forget Your Friends – Studies show that good friends can help extend your lifespan. Chronic stress weakens the immune system and ages cells more quickly – ultimately shortening life-spans – but friendships can act as a buffer against stresses of everyday life. When Australian researchers looked at seventy somethings, for instance, they found that those with the largest network of friends had the longest lease on life. For the average person, this could add up to seven additional years. But acquaintances aren’t friends: You need people you can openly confide in.
Keep a Positive Frame of Mind – In a Yale University study of older adults, people with a positive outlook on the aging process lived more than seven years longer than those who felt doomed to deteriorating mental and physical health. If you’re outlook has some room for improvement, give back to your community by volunteering or mentoring-selfless actions that distract from unhealthy obsessing, according to studies. In addition to helping others, don’t forget to care about yourself. Make yourself happy by doing the activities you enjoy most – whether it’s going to the spa , playing golf, going to a movie or drinking green tea. Do something for yourself.

Well there you go with 6 ways to get oomph! I know there are many, many more ways to get oomph! I would love to hear back from you, on how you get oomph!

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Exercise, Stress and The Brain

January 2, 2010 by  
Filed under health

Gretchen Reynolds from the New York Times wrote, several Sunday’s ago, an interesting article about how scientists are looking at how exercise can make the brain more stress-resistant ( u-less-anxious/ ). Researchers at Princeton University recently made a remarkable discovery that some of the neurons in rats that exercise respond differently to stress than the neurons of slothful rats.

Scientists have known for some time that exercise stimulates the creation of new brain cells (neurons) but not how, precisely, these neurons might be functionally different from other brain cells. Presented a few months ago at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in Chicago( ) the researchers at Princeton University revealed their preliminary results of their remarkable discovery about the brains of rats that exercise.

In the experiment, scientists allowed one group of rats to run. Another set of rodents were not allowed to exercise. Then all of the rats swam in cold water, which they don’t like to do. Afterward, the scientists examined the animals’ brains. They found that the stress of the swimming activated neurons in all of the animals’ brains. But the youngest brain cells in the running rats, the cells that the scientists assumed were created by running, were less likely to express the genes. They generally remained quiet. The “cells born from running,” the researchers concluded, appeared to have been “specifically buffered from exposure to a stressful experience.” The rats had created, through running, a brain that seemed biochemically, molecularly, calm.

We all know that exercise is good for us, but we are now discovering how exercise helps us in different ways on a molecular level. Thanks now to improved research techniques and a growing understanding of the biochemistry and genetics, scientists are beginning to find out how exercise remodels the brain, making it more stress-resistant.

The stress-reducing changes wrought by exercise on the brain don’t happen overnight. However, as virtually every researcher agrees. In the University of Colorado experiments, for instance, rats that ran for only three weeks did not show much reduction in stress-induced anxiety, but those that ran for at least six weeks did. “Something happened between three and six weeks.” Says Benjamin Greenwood, Ph.D., a research associate in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado, who helped conduct the experiments( ).  “It’s not clear how that translates” into an exercise prescription for humans. We may require more weeks of working out, or maybe less. And no one has yet studied how intense the exercise needs to be. But the lesson is “don’t quit,’ Greenwood says. Keep running, cycling or swimming. You may not feel a magical reduction of stress after your first jog, if you haven’t been exercising. But the molecular, biochemical changes will begin, Greenwood says, and eventually they become, he says, “profound.”

Here at oomphTV we strongly recommend any kind of exercise program to help give you both “oomph” and calmness in your life. Consider this study in the beginning of 2010 and take a look at the 94-year old runner Jack Kirk video for inspiration le-over-forty-redefining-age/jack-kirk-the-dipsea-demon After reading this blogpost and viewing the video, create your own exercise program and don’t let it be just another New Year’s resolution. Happy New Year and best of luck! Please feel free to comment, we look forward to hearing from you in 2010.

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