Food & Fitness After 50: Tai Chi for Your Knees

Last year I interviewed Chris Cinnamon, owner and head instructor of Chicago Tai Chi™ and an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified exercise physiologist about the benefits of Tai Chi for older adults.  In the post, Chris answered your questions about Tai Chi for overall health, and we explored his path from Navy flyer to lawyer to Tai Chi expert and healthy aging advocate. To read the post, click here.

Tai Chi book coverToday I want to talk about his new book, Tai Chi for Knee Health, available at Amazon as a softback or E-book by clicking here.

The book is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to performing this low impact exercise for preventing knee problems, treating knee issues, or recovering after a knee injury or surgery. Since knee osteoarthritis affects about 14 million adults it is likely that you, a family member, or friend have some issues with knee pain. Let’s start with a few observations about the book and then ask the author to elaborate.

The book is divided into 4 parts and 18 chapters, loaded with illustrations to make the content relatable.

The first part is devoted to getting to know your knees and establishing the reasons why Tai Chi is beneficial for knee health. This part is replete with illustrations of the knee and the many structures that support your knee…. bones, ligaments, tendons, cartilage, muscles, and the inner working of the knee itself. I’m sure you’ve all heard of people (or perhaps yourself) who have meniscus tears or ACL repairs. Chris’s clear explanations and accompanying illustrations will help you understand what these structures are, where they are located, and the functions they serve.

The second part focuses on the first three movements of the seven movement Tai Chi for Knee Health exercise system. The basic elements of the movements are discussed, and each step is illustrated, along with practice exercises to make sure you are doing the exercises in a manner that promotes knee health.

Part three presents the next two movements, reinforcing and building upon the lessons in Parts one and two. Part four guides you through the final two movements, then a complete set of movements 1 through 7.

Each chapter ends with a bulleted list of the content wrap up; I found it helpful to read this first and then read the chapter and ending with a review of the wrap up. (I like the bottom-line up-front approach to learning!)

The book includes links to online practice videos where Chris leads you through the exercises, providing helpful cues.  In addition, the book provides a wealth of references for further reading.

What I like most about the book is that is great for beginners, but also a useful tool for seasoned pros to take their practice to the next level.

Question: Can you explain your 3 objectives for writing this book?

I wrote the book for 3 main reasons:

  1. To help more people discover how Tai Chi-based exercises, when properly taught and practiced, can restore knee health, and improve, even eliminate, knee pain.
  2. To guide readers through a gentle exercise program, anchored in solid science, that gives people an alternative, or compliment, to more invasive, and risky, interventions for knee osteoarthritis and other conditions.
  3. To provide a clear, practical, no nonsense guide for knee pain sufferers so they can accomplish the 3 main objectives of the Tai Chi for Knee Health System because until now, these skills have rarely been taught in the west. The skills are to:
    • develop the sensitivity to feel inside your knees
    • develop the skill to precisely align your knees during dynamic movement, so you stop hurting them
    • learn to move in ways that stimulate physiological mechanisms that can restore knee health.

Question: You make a pretty bold claim that Tai Chi can eliminate knee pain. How do you support this claim?

I appreciate your question. That may seem like a bold claim, but when you dig into the science, it’s entirely supportable.

Let me start with my own experience. In my late 40s, after a lifetime of high impact athletics, multiple knee injuries, and surgery, I endured chronic knee pain. It hurt to climb or descend stairs. It hurt to kneel. It hurt to sit at a desk. I took lots of ibuprofen and worried about my ability to stay active.

Then I received a diagnosis of osteoarthritis (OA) in both knees. Knee OA is typically degenerative, meaning it keeps getting worse. I didn’t like that. About that time, I discovered Tai Chi. I was soon hooked by its graceful, powerful, yet low-impact movements. Soon my knees began to feel better. As I continued to practice Tai Chi, my knees continued to improve. Today, my knees are virtually pain-free. And as the Head Instructor of the leading Tai Chi school in Chicago, I lead an active life.

I’ve guided hundreds of students and clients through my Tai Chi for Knee Health system. They learn the material, practice it, and consistently report a reduction in knee pain. All that is anecdotal, I recognize. But there is solid science to back it up.

Multiple research studies have tested Tai Chi as an intervention for knee OA. All of the studies show significant improvements in pain. Most of the studies show significant improvements in function. All without drugs or surgery. In short, Tai Chi for Knee Health works. (Note, there is a comprehensive list of references in the book.)

Question: How long and how many times a week should Tai Chi be practiced for knee health?

I recommend people practice my Tai Chi for Knee Health exercises 15 – 20 minutes per day for 4-6 days per week. A small investment of time for a big payoff in healthier knees and a more active life.

With one important qualification, however. If that amount of exercise causes discomfort, then the person needs to back off and do a lower volume and duration of exercise. Say 3 days per week for 10 minutes per day. Then gradually build from there.

As I explain in the book, you can’t reduce knee pain by moving in a way that hurts your knees. Especially when dealing with knee OA.

Question: You talk about the 70% rule…please explain that because everyone thinks you must give 100% to anything to make it successful.

The 70% Rule holds that we perform no movement or practice greater than 70% of our maximum.

For people like me, raised in a “No Pain, No Gain” society, that may initially seem bizarre.

But when it comes to healing your knees, the 70% Rule makes total sense. By moving within your 70% range, you reduce tension, allowing chronically tense tissue to relax. Relaxation of tissue improves circulation of fluids, which promotes healing. So, when healing is the goal, the 70% rules applies.

In the same vein, by moving within your 70% range (or less depending on your circumstances), you avoid a range of motion that irritates arthritic tissue and triggers pain. Viewed in this way, the 70% Rule helps you avoid hurting your knees while the gentle movements of Tai Chi for Knee Health promote healing.

Question: If you could explain the book in a tweet of 240 characters, what would you say?

My book Tai Chi for Knee Health will guide you, step-by-step, through a low-impact Tai Chi-based exercise system that will:

  • Transform your knee health
  • Eliminate pain
  • Get you moving again

Beyond the limit of 240 characters, The Tai Chi for Knee Health System provides an ideal exercise program for adults experiencing chronic knee pain from knee osteoarthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, patellofemoral syndrome, and other causes. It can be incorporated into prehab and rehab for knee surgery and knee replacement.

The Tai Chi for Knee Health System combines time-tested Tai Chi principles with cutting edge scientific research to deliver a step-by-step program that anyone can do. Richly illustrated, with access to online videos, Tai Chi for Knee Health delivers an ideal resource to help you take charge of your knee health, eliminate pain, and enjoy moving again.

Question: Would you like to add anything else?

I developed the Tai Chi for Knee Health System to help millions of knee pain sufferers experience the transformation I and hundreds of my students have experienced—from chronic knee pain to virtually pain free knees.

The response to the book has been outstanding. Readers across the US and 8 other countries are enjoying the program, checking in with questions, and reporting their progress.

There are lots of sore knees out there. Tai Chi for Knee Health can help many of them.

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian nutritionist and a nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Along with Dr. Bob Murray, she is the author of Food & Fitness After 50.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Recovery After Hard Exercise

iStock-Older couple runningMany folks over the age of 50 are incredibility active: pickleball, tennis, swimming, running, hiking, and cycling are all popular with the 50+ crowd. I am often asked about hydration and recovery strategies and sometimes I hear some crazy things. So, what do you really need to help your body recover after a long, hard work out or competition? First let’s talk about two things you don’t need.

One, a new fad called “dry fasting,” or in other words, starvation and dehydration. The idea of dry fasting (no food or water) for a set period (anywhere from 3 days to a couple of weeks) is just plain dumb for everyone, but especially for older, active adults. We’ve talked about the important of hydration in previous posts, so click here for more information on the importance of hydration for older, active people. Just say no when you come across the YouTube videos of dry fasting enthusiastic followers and stick to your tried and true fueling and hydration strategies.

Another thing you don’t need is expensive waters that claim to be “smart” by changing the acidity and alkalinity (pH) of your blood. Organs, like lungs and kidneys, tightly control our blood pH in the range of 7.35 to 7.45; if gets higher it is called respiratory or metabolic alkalosis and if it is lower it is respiratory or metabolic acidosis and both are life threatening. There is no need to try to acidify or alkalize your body because your lungs and kidneys won’t let you do it anyway. The only thing “smart” about these waters is the money they are making for their promoters.

blood ph

For real recovery and hydration, here is what we know:

  • Fluids help restore body water.
  • Carbohydrates replenish muscle carbohydrate stores (glycogen).
  • High quality protein provides key amino acids for repairing muscles.
  • Antioxidant-rich beverages like tart cherry or blueberry juice provide plant compounds that can reduce inflammation and help with muscle soreness after a hard workout.
  • Omega-3s (often called fish oils) are also anti-inflammatory and most Americans don’t get enough of these healthy fats in their diets.

ERSA Norwegian food scientist, Janne Sande Mathisen, has combined all these ingredients into a new recovery beverage called Enhanced Recovery Sports Drink. The beverage contains 20 grams of whey protein with 2 grams of leucine (an amino acid referred to as the anabolic trigger), and 1600 milligrams of omega-3s. It was tricky to find a form of omega-3s that worked in solution that didn’t taste fishy.

The carbohydrate source is from fruit juices (apple, pear, and black current) to give both rapidly absorbed carbs and polyphenol-rich fruits (those antioxidant healthy plant compounds).

I was sent some samples to try and I shared them with some very active friends. The overwhelming consensus is that it is a tasty drink, not too sweet, and serving size of just a little over 8-ounces is the right amount to drink after a workout without bloating, aftertaste, or too much volume. I think it tastes like kefir; others say it tastes like a yogurt smoothie.

I like the food forward approach of this recovery drink and think it might be a good solution for combining recovery elements in to one simple-to-drink beverage. For competitive athletes who may have to undergo drug tests, the product is certified by Informed Sport to contain no banned substances that could disqualify an athlete from competition.

Disclosure: I was sent free samples of the product to try, but I was not asked to or compensated to write this post. I have no connection to the company.

For more tips on staying healthy while being active, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon or other booksellers.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Bones

A recent article in the Washington Post caught my attention because it related to an issue that older adults frequently ask about….how to protect their bones as they age.

Hip-Fracture-Surgery-Infection-640x444According to the study published in JAMA vitamin D supplements showed no effect on reducing hip fractures where as vitamin D plus calcium had about a 16% reduction in the risk of breaking a hip. Hip fracture is one of the most serious threats to health as we age. Here’s a few facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • Each year over 300,000 older people—those 65 and older—are hospitalized for hip fractures.
  • More than 95% of hip fractures are caused by falling, usually by falling sideways.
  • Women experience three-quarters of all hip fractures.
    • Women fall more often than men.
    • Women more often have osteoporosis, a disease that weakens bones and makes them more likely to break.

Dietary Supplement Use for Bone Health

A recent survey from the Council on Responsible Medicine, a leading trade association for dietary supplements, shows that among consumers over 55 years of age who take dietary supplements, 31% cite bone health as a reason for supplementation. For younger age groups, bone health is not mentioned as a reason for supplementation. That is too bad because the time to build bone is when we are young! Peak bone mass is achieved somewhere around the age of 30 or 35 so waiting until you are 60 to start worrying about bone health is a bit too late. It’s like getting concerned about your cholesterol level after you’ve had a heart attack. (Side note to my older readers…encourage your grandchildren and great grandchildren to get plenty of bone building nutrients now!)

boneMass35Anthony Thomas, Director of Scientific Affairs for Jarrow Formulas puts it this way, “Maximizing peak bone mass is important when we are young to protect against age-related bone loss.  A 10% increase in peak bone mass is estimated to reduce the risk of osteoporotic fracture later in life by 50%, so early life deserves more attention to ensure sufficient nutrient intake and status to support bone health across the lifespan.”

It Takes More Than Calcium and Vitamin D to Make a Healthy Bone

natto
Natto

While the media focuses on calcium and vitamin D, Dr. Thomas reminds us that bone is more than those two nutrients. Healthy bones need the minerals magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, silicon, boron, and zinc. Two underappreciated vitamins are also key, vitamins C and K. Vitamin C is needed to produce collagen, the most abundant protein in the body and building block of bone. Vitamin K helps calcium get deposited into bones. There are two forms of vitamin K, referred to as K1 and K2. K1 is most well-known for its role in blood clotting. But the K2 form promotes bone building. It is hard to get sufficient K2 from foods. Dr. Thomas points out that “vitamin K2 is from bacterial origin, so it is found in fermented foods in which bacteria are used as starter cultures in cheeses and sauerkraut.  The best dietary source of vitamin K2 in the form of MK-7 is the traditional Japanese dish natto, cooked soybeans fermented by the bacteria Bacillus subtilis subspecies natto, that while popular in Japan, is not much appreciated in the U.S.“ The best way to get this form of the vitamin is with supplements sold as MK-7.

“Based on emerging research, the supplemental doses used in research is a daily dose of vitamin K2 as MK-7 is 45 micrograms upwards of 360 micrograms is recommended,” adds Dr. Thomas.

Fall Protection

While foods and supplementation can help provide nutrients for healthy bones, don’t forget the ABCs (agility, balance, and coordination) as keys to help preventing falls. We’ve written about this before (click here for the post), but it pays to work on your balance with activities like yoga, Tai Chi, or simple exercises such as balancing on one foot when you brush your teeth. When it comes to balance, we can use it….or, we can lose it!

Check out this video from Silver Sneakers for easy exercises to improve your balance

For more information on foods and supplements for bone health and tips to improve your agility, balance, and coordination, see Food & Fitness After 50, available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

Food & Fitness After 50: Citicoline for brain health?

In 2015 I wrote a post on a dietary supplement called citicoline. For the post click here.

HealthyBrainIn the post I wrote about learning of citicoline at a conference and was given a sample. My husband had been experiencing some trouble finding the right word when he was speaking so he wanted to try the supplement. From that day on he has continued to use the product. Although his report of improved brain health is anecdotal (one person’s subjective experience does not equal a fact) there is some research to support the positive effects of the supplement. He is such a disciple of citicoline that many of his family and friends now take it. But, should you?

I was interested in finding additional and more current, research since the 2015 post was written but didn’t find much. One reason might be that dietary supplement companies tend not to invest in rigorous experimental research trials because they are not required to do so to market a supplement. Unlike drugs, dietary supplements don’t have to prove they work to be sold; that’s why there are so many supplements readily available.

Citicholine
Chemical structure of citicoline

To begin, citicoline is a naturally occurring brain chemical. It is not found to any great extent in foods (there is some in organ meats) but when taken as a supplement it is broken down into choline (a B-vitamin) and a compound called cytidine which is then metabolized to uridine. That’s important because citicoline can’t cross the protective blood brain barrier but choline and uridine can. Once in the brain the compounds convert to citicoline, sometimes called CDP-choline. In turn, citicoline increases the brain chemical phosphtidylcholine that helps brain function and increases the number of chemical messengers in the brain.

When I first reviewed the literature the small number of studies that had been published cautiously suggested that supplemental citicoline could be an effective treatment for mild cognitive impairment but more research was needed to see if the effect was long term (most studies are short term…a few weeks to a few months) and if it could slow the progression to dementia.

A study published in 2012 was well-controlled: by a well-controlled study I mean the participants in the study were randomized to treatment and it was double-blind…neither the researchers nor the participants knew who was getting the citicoline or placebo. The researchers studied 60 healthy women, between the ages of 40 and 60, and showed that when given either 250 or 500 milligrams of citicoline both groups improved on tests to measure mental attention compared to the placebo group. However, this was another short-term study; just 28 days.

My quest to find more current research was unsuccessful so I turned to Natural Medicines Database for their review. The conclusion, which was last updated in November of 2019, was that citicoline is “possibly effective” for a decline in memory and thinking sills that occur with normal aging. Supplemental citicoline “seems to help memory loss in people aged 50 to 85 years.” The review noted there is insufficient evidence to say it prevents or reverses memory losses in those with Alzheimer’s Disease. There are minimal side effects, although some people report trouble sleeping, headache, or nausea.

The dose of citicoline ranges from 250 milligrams to 2000 milligrams a day, but the range of 250 to 500 milligrams is a usual dose used the research studies.

If you choose to try citicoline, it is always recommended to discuss with your health care provider. And, be sure to include all over-the-counter medications, including dietary supplements, when your doctor asks about medications you are taking.

CDP_suplrgI found over 150 products marketed that contain citicoline, some with fanciful names, liked Active Mind or Brain Wave that claim to “speed up your brain.” Many of those products also contain caffeine; the likely source of “speeding” the brain. If you get the blessing from your physician and want to try it, stick to one that just contains citicoline. Two reputable products are Cognizin (Kyowa Hakko) and Citicoline CDP choline (Jarrow). The Jarrow formula is the one that my husband takes.

As for me, my memory is good and I haven’t found a reason to try a supplement, but my husband believes it has helped him.

To learn more about dietary patterns and supplements for those 50, 60, 70, and beyond, check out Food & Fitness After 50available on Amazon and other booksellers.

Disclosure: I have no financial connection to any dietary supplement, including the citicoline brands mentioned in this article.

 

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Unlocking the MIND Diet

While there is no one best diet for those over the age of 50, in Food & Fitness After 50, we highlight four healthy eating plans that can work for just about everyone. And, it happens that these are the top four plans identified as the “Best Diets” by U.S. News & World Report in their 2019 review. The four plans are:

  • The Mediterranean Diet
  • The DASH Eating Plan
  • The Flexitarian Diet
  • The MIND Diet

minddietThe MIND diet stands for the official mouthful name of the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. A much catchier title is the MIND diet because its premise is that diet can delay cognitive decline.  Researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago studied over 900 older adults from retirement communities for 5 years; those who had the greatest adherence to the MIND diet suffered less cognitive decline than those who did not. This was an observational study, meaning that it shows association with diet and brain health, but it doesn’t prove it. So, the researchers are in the midst of conducting a longer, more rigorous study with adults in both Chicago and Boston. The results will be available in a couple of years.

However, the diet plan is healthy and while it can’t promise to prevent all cognitive decline with aging, it certainly can’t hurt as the plan is comprised of healthy foods that we should all be consuming.

Today, we feature the MIND diet by posing questions to registered dietitian, author, colleague, and friend, Maggie Moon. I met Maggie many moons ago at a CIA meeting…. Culinary Institute of America, not the spy agency, in her role as nutrition communications director for the Wonderful Company. The folks that bring us tasty, healthful foods, like pistachios, almonds, pomegranates and juice, and Halo mandarins. Maggie has written two books: The MIND Diet and the Telomere Diet Cookbook.

Chris and MaggieAs you can see from the photo of the two of us together at the annual meeting of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference, she is not in my age demographic, so my first question was obvious!

Question: You are a young woman…. how did you get interested in writing about food and nutrition to prevent cognitive decline which is something we think about as a part of aging?

Answer: I’ve been a registered dietitian for more than ten years and while I do still feel youthful, to answer your question, I think about when I was truly young. I grew up in a three-generation household with my parents and my grandmother. They were all immigrants from a war-weary and economically depressed South Korea in the late 1960s, so my immediate family is all I have. I am lucky to have a handful of siblings, but no big extended family. Because of this I feel extremely close to my parents and am ferociously driven to support their wellbeing. And because I was just as close to my grandmother, I’ve been aware of the importance of healthy aging from a young age.

I’ve always had an affinity for the elderly, probably because of my relationship with my grandmother. I love helping them and it is upsetting to my core when I hear about mistreatment of older adults. Truth is, I’m looking forward to being old lady! I’m in no rush, but it is something I think of fondly. I think of aging as a privilege.

This is a long answer to a simple question, but I guess it boils down to my writing what I care about. And I care about helping people thrive as they age and improving their health in longevity. It starts with my own parents, but then extends to my and my husband’s future, and finally to all humans that I can reach with my work, whether they’re worried about their own health or someone else’s.

 Question: Can you describe the MIND diet in your own words. What is it about the diet that would appeal to older adults and when is the best time to adopt the MIND principles? I can image some people in their 60s saying “it’s too late for me.”

Mind diet coverThe MIND diet was born from research led by Dr. Martha Clare Morris at Rush University in Chicago. Its foundation is a blend of two well-studied heart-healthy diets, but what makes it different is that it’s been optimized for brain health based on the available evidence for which specific foods support cognitive health, slow down decline, and reduce the risk of developing dementia. The two landmark studies that came out in late 2015 suggest that following the MIND diet keeps the brain 7.5 years cognitively younger and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by 53% compared to those who didn’t follow the principles of the diet.

It’s never too late, especially for someone in their 60s. Most of the research related to the MIND diet is with older adults, so it’s clearly relevant throughout older adulthood. The Alzheimer’s study was conducted with people ages 58-98 and the average age in the cognitive decline study was 81 years old.

That said, the results indicate that the longer someone followed the dietary principles the greater the benefit for brain health, suggesting that more years of healthy eating was more protective. Therefore, I think it’s important for people to eat for brain health at any age, but especially after age 40.

Question: What are the core principles of the diet? How did you develop the recipes for the book?

The core principles of the MIND diet includes ten healthy food groups that make up the foundation of the eating pattern. It also includes five food groups that should be limited.

The MIND diet includes whole grains, vegetables, olive oil, red wine (for those who drink alcohol), leafy greens, nuts, beans, berries, poultry, and seafood. From a culinary and cultural sensitivity perspective, I appreciate that the food groups are so broad that they can be adapted to many different heritage diets and preferences. The foods to limit include processed and red meat, solid fats from butter, margarine and cheese, fried food in general but especially from fast food, and added sugars from pastries and other sweets.

Here is a breakdown of recommended food groups to consume:

Foundation (these are minimums, except for red wine)

  • Whole grains – 3 times a day
  • Vegetables – daily
  • Olive oil – used as main fat
  • Red wine – a glass with a meal (only one; excess here is detrimental, and of course, if you don’t drink you won’t miss the benefits of the diet)
  • Leafy greens – six times/week
  • Nuts – 5 times/week
  • Beans – 4 times/week
  • Berries – 2 times/week
  • Poultry – 2 times/week
  • Seafood – 1 time/week

Limit

  • Processed and red meat – less than 4 times/week (e.g. no more than 3 times/week)
  • Butter/margarine – less than 1 tbsp/day (e.g. no more than 1-2 tsp/day)
  • Cheese – less than 1 time/week (e.g. once every two weeks)
  • Fried food – less than 1 time/week (e.g. once every two weeks)
  • Sweets – less than 5 times/week (e.g. no more than 4 times/week)

The recipes for the book were developed by me and other culinary dietitians. For the guest recipes, I collaborated with trusted colleagues. I provided the recipe parameters and then reviewed submissions to ensure they fit the guidelines and added a good variety of options before selecting them for my book.

Question: Let’s describe your newest book about telomere health….fill us in on how this ties into the MIND diet.

telomere-book-cover-on-amazonMy newest book, The Telomere Diet & Cookbook, came out in fall of 2019. It’s about genetic aging on a cellular level, and how what we eat can slow or accelerate biological aging. Telomeres are protective endcaps to our chromosomes, and they prematurely dwindle when exposed to inflammatory diets, environmental toxins, and poor sleep, to name a few. They protect the DNA in our chromosomes like shoelace tips protect shoelaces from unraveling and growing dysfunctional. Telomere length is a widely-accepted gauge for biological aging in research.

Telomere health is ultimately tied back to fighting inflammation and oxidative stress, which are also systemic issues the MIND diet attacks and improves. Both books are about healthy aging for all. In both books, the evidence-based perspective is that the more years spent eating healthfully the better. That sounds like common sense, and to some degree it is, but it actually signals a shift in thinking about aging: in this paradigm, aging is a continuum that begins at birth, not just once we hit a certain birthday. This is why two 50-year old people can be in completely different stages of biological aging while at the same chronological age – one vibrant, active and thriving; the other sedentary, sluggish and beleaguered with chronic health conditions. Of course, genetics, socio-economic factors, and lifestyle all play a part, but what we eat is something under our control.

Question: What the 3 key takeaways that you want people to know about cognitive health as we age?

  1. It’s never too late to start to eat healthfully.
  2. The earlier you start the better.
  3. Prevention through a healthy diet and lifestyle, not waiting for a miracle medication, is currently the best defense against age-related cognitive decline.

For more information on both diets, check out Maggie’s website by clicking here.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Beat the Barriers

This post was written by Dr. Bob Murray, co-author of Food & Fitness After 50.

“Move more and eat less” is the simplest advice for maintaining both a healthy body and a healthy body weight.  As simple as that advice might be, both sides of that equation can be fraught with complications.  However, none of those complications are insurmountable; in fact, even minor adjustments in our lifestyle habits can translate into major changes in our fitness, body weight, and overall health.

On the “move more” side of the equation, study after study consistently point to the undeniable benefits of daily physical activity to health and longevity. A recent study on 122,007 adults conducted over 23 years concluded that increased aerobic fitness “… was associated with reduced long-term mortality with no observed upper limit of benefit.” Simply put, keeping our bodies moving as often as possible extends our healthspan, allowing us to live as healthy as possible for as long as possible.  But even for the most motivated among us, each day presents barriers to staying active, barriers that we have to overcome or at least side step so that we can move more and sit less.

Barrier-Construction4Below are six common barriers that we can all relate to, along with some simple ways to keep them from becoming everyday excuses.

I’m too busy.  We all have the same 1,440 minutes each and every day, including those whose family, work, and personal demands keep them crazed from the time they wake until the time they sleep.  Even when it feels as though our lives are out of control, we can still find a few minutes to move.  Brief “activity snacks” throughout busy days can help relieve stress and break up long periods of sitting.  Walking stairs, taking the long way around the office, doing isometric exercises while seated, a few pushups, squats, or toe-raises are all ways to sneak physical activity into a crammed day.  And if the work week just doesn’t allow time for much movement, then being a weekend warrior is much better than just collapsing in front of the TV.push up

I’m too tired.  We can all relate to feeling absolutely drained—and there are times when taking a nap is a healthier choice than forcing yourself to exercise.  When energy levels are so low that a workout is just out of the question, a good alternative is to take a walk, even if that means strolling through your home during television commercials.  Any movement is better than no movement and just taking a walk can help boost our spirits and energy.

It’s too painful.  Aches and pains are an inevitable part of aging and sometimes pain can be so debilitating that moving is out of the question.  But for lesser aches and pains, we can find ways to keep ourselves moving without aggravating nagging problems.  Bad knees or hips?  Keep your upper body and core active with seated or standing movements and exercises that don’t make matters worse.  Arthritic hands?  Walking is an obvious option, as are simple hand, arm, and shoulder exercises with light or no resistance can help relieve arthritic pain and strengthen surrounding muscles.

It’s too expensive.  There is no doubt that exercise can become expensive, but only if we choose it to be.  Joining a health club, working with a personal trainer, buying a bicycle, or even getting new exercise shoes all cost money.  But walking is free, as are many online exercise videos, traditional calisthenics (think of sit-ups, push-ups, jumping jacks, burpees, etc.), stair climbing, yard work, household chores, etc.  The goal is to keep moving whenever possible and there are endless ways to do just that.

Older walkersIt’s too boring.  Some people just hate the regimented nature of group exercise classes or tire quickly of traditional activities such as walking, running, swimming, and cycling.  The challenge then becomes finding activities that keep us engaged.  Even if we regularly flitter from one activity to another, the very fact that we’re active is what is most important.  There are lots of ways to fit move movement into each day and the best of those are the ones that we enjoy the most.

removing barriersIt’s too late (to do any good).  One of the goals of Food and Fitness After 50 is to remind readers that it’s never too late to get and stay active.  Experts sometimes refer to regular physical activity as a polypill, a medicine with multiple benefits.  Even if you’ve led a sedentary life for the past 50 years, adding more movement to every day will dramatically improve your healthspan.  Staying active keeps us fit and strong, and that directly contributes to happier, healthier, longer lives.

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.

Food & Fitness After 50: The Value of Life-Long Learning

Elizabeth CarlsonWe often hear about the value of life-long learning, but how many of us are stuck in our daily grinds and tell ourselves that someday we’ll get around to reading that book or taking an online class to improve a skill that has eluded us? Well, not Elizabeth, who at age 89, is still learning. Recently, she enrolled in financial planning courses so she could manage her own investments (which she does quite well from her laptop!) Elizabeth had to learn to do for herself at an early age. Her husband died when she was just 43 years old so she set her priorities: get a job, raise her three children (who were in high school at the time), and make sure she had enough money to help her kids get to college. From a research librarian to working in consumer affairs for a regional grocery store chain, she did whatever she needed to do to support her family.

When asked about her path to healthy aging, Elizabeth recounted how her parents set a great example on healthy eating, which she has passed on to her children. “My father had a garden and we always had fresh vegetables on the dinner table. I learned to can what we grew so there would always be vegetables in the house, even in the harsh New England winters.” Her parents also raised chickens and had fresh eggs, and they encouraged her and her three siblings to choose “colorful” foods, long before the dietary mantra to do so came to be popular. She became a canning leader for the local high school to teach boys and girls how to preserve food. She thinks that Americans have “come full circle,” enjoying gardening and shopping at Farmer’s Markets and trying to choose healthier foods.

As for exercise, she was always active. “I grew up before the Internet and screen time was a thing; we were just outside all of the time. My dad played baseball so there was always a game going on in the field near our house.” Today, she belongs to the local YMCA, but hasn’t exercised as much as she would like as she recuperates from a broken wrist, but she knows she will get back to it soon. “I love group exercise for the social aspects; my fellow exercisers are my friends, even if I never see them outside of the gym.” She loved riding a bicycle, but she gave that up 3 years ago (at the age of 86), because she didn’t feel “safe” on the bike any longer.

Elizabeth worries for many older adults who live on a fixed income and can’t afford healthy foods. Indeed, food insecurity, the lack of money to buy food, is estimated to affect 5 million older adults in the U.S. Elizabeth admits she is a “worrier,” but she is learning to relax and urges everyone to “enjoy their life.”

I am sure that Elizabeth will celebrate her 90th birthday in February, surrounded by her children and 5 grandchildren and will be setting her next learning goal, while enjoying her life. Thank you for sharing your journey, and keep on inspiring us to be life-long learners.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: Good Genes + Good Health Habits = The Path to Healthy Aging

This guest blog post was written by Dr. Bob Murray

After high school, Linda stopped competing in gymnastics, but since then has led a physically active lifestyle, including 10-K road races and a handful of marathons. Now at age 56, road races are in her past, but her competitive instincts are still evident: she is fully engaged in a competition against Mother Nature. Linda’s over-arching goal is to look and feel younger than her age, although she knows Mother Nature may have other ideas. Blessed with the right genes and a lifelong commitment to eating well and staying physically active, Linda is happy with the way she looks and feels, but knows that she will have to double down on that commitment as she ages.

There is no doubt that genetics play an important role in how gracefully we age, but our genes are not the only determining factor. Our lifestyle habits also play a critical part in how we look and feel as we grow older. Fortunately, it’s never too late to eat well, move well, and be well, so even if we haven’t paid as close attention to our health and fitness during our first half-century of life, there is still plenty of time and room for improvement.

Linda D
Linda on a 12-mile day hike in Idaho backcountry

The three tips for aging well that have worked for Linda are: 1) get enough sleep every day, 2) eat and drink in moderation (no deprivation, no binging), and, 3) stay physically active.

On those occasions when Linda has gained unwanted fat weight, she sheds the pounds by increasing her daily physical activity—including the time she sets aside for exercise—eliminating snacks, reducing alcohol intake, and eating calorie-controlled meals. All of these changes are simple extensions of Linda’s usual routines, so losing weight never feels like a major life change.

 

Linda rarely sits or naps during the day and is constantly moving around her house, yard, and neighborhood, burning extra calories that aid in long-term weight control. She does not follow a set exercise schedule—although she knows that would be a plus—and she prefers to exercise on her own, opting for the occasional spin or body-pump class with friends. When it comes to exercise, Linda likes the familiarity of a set routine and doesn’t mind repeating the same workout multiple times.

Linda does cardio exercise for heart health and weight control, along with strength exercises to protect her muscle mass and stay toned. For cardio, she enjoys hill walking in the neighborhood or on the treadmill, interspersed with short jogs. When the weather permits, she and her husband like to ride their bikes in the country. Linda has done a 65-miler and would like to retain the stamina to do be able to cycle 20-30 miles without the effort being a major hardship. For strength training, Linda focuses on her arms, back, chest, and core, relying on 15-20 repetitions of relatively light weights (10-20 lb.), moving quickly from one exercise to the next in 20-minute sessions that she tries to accomplish four times each week. Whenever she’s able to keep that schedule, she quickly notices the changes in muscle size and tone.

“I’ve been fortunate to have good health and habits over the years,” Linda said. “Now that I’m in my 50s, it’s time for me to be even more diligent—but not crazily so—about getting enough exercise to keep my strength and muscle mass. I want to continue living an active life and staying strong is so important to that goal. I’m hoping that my understanding the benefits of good eating and exercise, combined with my vanity, will keep me on the right path!”

Dr. Bob Murray and Dr. Chris Rosenbloom are co-authors of Food & Fitness After 50, available in paperback on Kindle edition for E-readers at Amazon

 

Food & Fitness After 50: The Power of Moving Well to Be Well

 

Harry final marathon with son in 2013
Harry and son, running the New Orleans Marathon 

Now at age 75, Harry doesn’t run marathons anymore, but after completing 11 marathons, he is still running 5-6 miles four days a week with a longer run thrown in to keep it interesting. He also walks and occasionally cycles. He works fitness into everyday life, like walking the stairs, standing on one leg in checkout lines, and balancing on the curb while walking the dog.

 

Harry, an Associate Professor Emeritus of Educational Psychology and Special Education, started running in his late 30s. “In 1976, I watched the Peachtree Road Race, a 10K run on the 4th of July and was mesmerized by the swishing sounds of the hundreds of runners going past me and I thought I would like to do that next year.” So, with a friend, they began running near his home in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Slowly, at first, and then progressing to looping around the mountain three times for a total of 15 miles. He ran the Peachtree in 1977 and was a regular participant for many years. Before too long, he was running the annual event with his son. Harry describes running as “cheaper than Prozac!” For him, running was the best stress reliever and it soon became a “positive addiction.” At his peak of running, he was covering 65 miles a week. But, he learned that pounding the pavement takes its toll; he was losing too much weight and had a harder time recovering as he aged. “I wish I had cross trained and taken a more balanced approach to exercise and fitness.”

He discovered a Furman University professor’s book, Run Less, Run Faster, and realized he didn’t have to put in so many miles to be a successful, competitive recreational runner. “The approach outlined by the authors helped me achieve some balance. I enjoy being active, but as I’ve gotten older I think I am smarter about exercise.” Harry started practicing yoga about 5 years ago to help stretch out tight hamstrings. Runners often have tight muscles because they like to run, but stretching, not so much. (As a former runner, I can relate. I just wanted to go out for a run and not bother with the warm-up and cool-down phase!)Harry peachtree city classic 2015

When asked to identify three things that have helped him age well, Harry immediately said “keep moving,” and that is not surprising given his 4 plus decades of running. He is lean and fit, and you wouldn’t guess he is 75 years old. Second, he said he is careful about what he eats. He likes the approach taken in the Blue Zones where exploration of long-lived populations reveals how people eat well, move well, and be well around the world. And, lastly, he has enjoyed learning about the scholarship of aging and wellness. “As a university professor I was entrenched in my own discipline and did not know much about aging and wellness research and the robust body of literature that exists.” He also enjoys reading popular, informative books such as Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer and The Gene: An Intimate  History. “My grandfather and father died of prostate cancer and I have a much better understanding of how cancer affects my family after reading these books.”

Harry’s advice for those who are sedentary is to start with something within reach, “in hindsight, walking might have been a better choice!” Start slow and set goals to continue to progress. And, remember, “we are all a work in progress.”