“Some supplements work for some people some of the time. Many supplements don’t work for anybody any of the time.”
Dr. Ron Maughan, Emeritus Professor of Sports and Exercise Nutrition, Loughborough, United Kingdom
In my last post, I discussed the basics of dietary supplements with a focus on multivitamin-minerals. This week, let’s talk about muscle building and weight loss supplements. Bottom line up front: there are some sports supplements that can help active adults train harder and recover faster, but most of what you read about, like the headline, “want a killer physique?” won’t happen without hard work in the weight room and a stringent diet to reduce body fat. A supplement by itself, despite wild claims, will not give you a killer physique. Sorry. And, weight loss supplements are not much better.
Headlines can be persuasive!
So, what can we say about muscle-building and weight loss supplements. First, here are few more headline grabbing claims:
- “Drop body fat in a single dose”
- “Boost muscle growth by 600%”
- “Incinerates excess fat”
- “Produces immediate results in energy, size, strength, pumps, performance, mental focus, and training intensity.”
The downside of weight loss supplements
Between 5-20% of supplements (mostly muscle-building and weight loss supplements) contain prohibited substances: for athletes, that could mean a positive drug test and banishment from sport. For older active adults, it could mean physical harm. For example, a weight loss supplement called SmartLipo 365 was found to contain unlabeled sibutramine and phenoltphathein. Sibutramine is an appetite suppressant that was taken off the US market in 2010 and phenoltphathein is not approved for dietary use due to concerns of causing cancer.
Many of the supplements for weight loss contain harmful substances when taken in high doses; case in point, 25% of emergency room visits for adverse effects from dietary supplements are from weight loss supplements, with cardiac symptoms being the primary complaint. Not too surprising when many of these supplements contain stimulants. Don’t be fooled by so called “natural, herbal” stimulants like guarana, kola nut, or green tea extract. A stimulant is a stimulant. Consumer Reports identified 15 supplement ingredients to always avoid. It’s worth taking a look at the list and stay away from supplements containing any on the list.
One popular weight loss supplement that has it’s 15 minutes of fame on a popular doctor’s television show is garcinia cambogia. It is a small fruit that is traditionally used as flavor enhancer in cooking. It contains a substance called hydroxycitric acid that has been touted as a weight loss miracle. However, in a 12-week study on overweight men and women the researchers concluded, “garcinia cambogia failed to produce significant weight loss and fat mass loss beyond that observed with placebo.”
What does work?
For active athletes, a few supplements have stood the test of time (and research), including caffeine, B-alanine, beetroot juice, and creatine. Here’s a quick overview of what types of athletes might benefit, the effective dose, and the expected result.
Caffeine: Most of us know that caffeine can help keep us alert and ward off fatigue. Caffeine’s main effect is on the central nervous system. It is an adenosine receptor antagonist. Adenosine induces sleep and fatigue, so blocking thee ffects of adenosine with caffeine promotes a more alert state. The response to caffeine is highly variable (some of you can’t fall asleep if you have even a tiny amount of caffeine in the evening, while others can drink a pot of coffee and have no trouble sleeping). A small dose of caffeine can be effective for sports performance; just 2 to 3 milligrams per kilogram of body weight; for a 154-pound person, that is a dose of 140 to 210 milligrams of caffeine or the amount found in a small to medium cup of coffee. More certainly isn’t better!
B-alanine: This amino acid can buffer lactic acid and shows promise in athletes performing high intensity exercise (sprints). Some research shows it might also help endurance athletes who need to sprint hard to the finish line. This is not needed by recreational athletes. Effective dose is about 3-6 grams/day.
Beetroot Juice: Beets are naturally high in nitrate and it might increase skeletal muscle efficiency by lowering oxygen demand. It is used by endurance athletes who run or cycle. To be clear, nitrate is not carcinogenic, but nitrite can combine with amino acids from foods to form nitrosamines, which may be cancer-causing. In research studies, a dose of about 4 mg/kg/body weight has been used. My advice, eat beets!
Creatine: It is used a source of muscle energy and is in short supply during high intensity exercise, like sprinting or weight lifting . Supplemental creatine is usually taken as a powder mixed with water or juice, 3 to 5 grams/day. It can increase muscle stores of creatine by 10 to 30% and, when combined with exercise, can increase muscle cell volume. Researchers describe the benefits of supplemental creatine as, “small increases in lean body mass with repeated, high-intensity duration (less than 30 seconds) exercise.” For most healthy, active older adults, creatine supplementation isn’t necessary.
For more information on dietary supplements, check out Food & Fitness After 50.
This post is a summary of information from a talk I gave at the Bell Family Branch YMCA in Hartwell, GA on April 12th and 30th, 2018.
Are you among the 76% of Americans who take dietary supplements? And, if you are in the 55+ population, are you one of the 80% who take supplements? The most popular supplements are multi-vitamins, vitamin D, vitamin C, calcium, and B-complex.
This post will cover multi-vitamins and minerals; next week we’ll cover muscle-building and weight loss supplements.
How much do you really know about the supplements you are taking? Dietary supplements are a profitable business with a $40 billion annual market. Supplements are regulated by the Food & Drug Administration, but not as well as many people would like them to be. In 1996, the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act put supplements in a new category, unlike food additives or drugs, supplements do not undergo testing to make sure they are
- or that they work before coming to market
More people are more worried about artificial sweeteners, which undergo rigorous safety testing, than dietary supplements, which are lacking in safety testing.
What is a supplement?
Dietary supplements include thousands of products that fall into these categories:
- Vitamins: such as vitamin D or C
- Minerals: like calcium or magnesium
- Herbs or botanicals: such as St. John’s Wort or echinacea
- Amino acids: like branched chain amino acids or arginine
- Dietary substances: like glucosamime or curcumin
- Concentrates or extracts: such as green tea extract or resveratrol
Decoding a supplement label
All supplements must have a supplements facts panel, similar to a nutrition facts panel found on food packages. And, supplement makers can make claims called structure-function claims: things like, “supports heart health,” “supports bone health,” or “supports muscle health. “But they can’t say “prevents heart attack,” “treats low bone density,” or “will make your muscles grow like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.” Any time there is a health claim you will find this statement (usually in small print):
“This statement has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”
Interesting, because many of us take supplements to treat, cure, or prevent disease!
Beware of testimonials
The promotional materials for supplements can make all sorts of outrageous claims. As showcased in this article from Center for Science in the Public Interest, testimonials abound and many use identical testimonials to make your think that real people are praising the value of the supplements, when in fact they are paid advertisements.
Multivitamin mineral supplements
Since multis are the most popular dietary supplement, let’s look at what you need to know.
First, look for an age-appropriate supplement: adults over 50 have somewhat different nutrient needs than younger adults. “Silver” vitamins or vitamins for “50+ for her” or “50+ for him” are formulated to meet your needs. Multivitamin-mineral supplements are safe, relatively cheap, and can fill gaps in your nutrient intakes. But, they may also be unnecessary. (Supplement users have healthier habits that those who don’t take supplements: they tend to eat better, get more exercise, and more likely to be non-smokers.) And, multis don’t provide everything you need. For example, no multi provides all of the calcium you need.
Some things to consider fall into my “don’t” list:
- Older adults should not take a pre-natal vitamin, unless they are pregnant. Pre-natal vitamins are formulated to support the health of the baby and mother. They contain higher amounts of many nutrients, including iron, that are not needed in large amounts as we age.
- Avoid adult gummies or chewables: they don’t measure up to pill or capsule forms and many contain far less than the recommended levels of nutrients and may be lacking trace minerals such as zinc, magnesium, or chromium.
- Don’t fall for special “immunity,” “muscle function,” “heart health,” “energy,” or even “healthy appearance” claims. These are more expensive and just not necessary.
Resources for more information on vitamin and minerals
My “go to” source for learning about vitamin and mineral supplements, updated research, as well as food sources, is the Office of Dietary Supplements at the National Institutes of Health. On this site, you will find a wealth of information on individual nutrients: here is a link to the consumer information on vitamin D, to show you an example.
And, in our book, Food & Fitness After 50, we provide more information on supplements that might be helpful in specific disease conditions.
Look for next week’s post on muscle building and weight loss supplement!
Chris Rosenbloom, along with co-author, Bob Murray, talk about supplements and much more in Food & Fitness After 50.
First, let me wish you a Happy Older Americans Month; May is the month when we celebrate those of us in the “older” demographic! May coincided with a conference that I participated in and the timing was perfect.
Last week, my co-author, Bob Murray and I delivered a presentation to a group of sports and wellness professionals in Keystone, Colorado. The theme of the conference was “No Limits Nutrition,” and when it comes to older, active adults, there are no limits on eating well, moving well, and being well.
Here is a summary of our presentation. We started with some demographic facts, but I don’t want to bore you, so here are a few of the statistics that I found most interesting:
- “There are more people on the planet over the age of 65 than ever before in human history.”
- If you are fortunate enough to make it to 65, your life expectancy is another 19.4 years (20.6 for women and 18 for men).
- But, “healthy” life expectancy is only 2 more years or to age 67 for many of us.
- Only 27% of older adults meet the minimal recommendations for physical activity.
I think we would all agree that we want the extra 20 years to be healthy, functionally fit, and independent. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I wish I was in a nursing home and had to use a walker to move around.”
Muscle Changes with Age
There are some changes in every body system as we age, but it is hard to untangle normal aging from usual aging when disuse is the norm. Muscle is the most plastic of tissues, meaning that it can readily adapt to exercise and nutrition to regain function.
- From age 40 to 65 we lose muscle mass at about 1% per year, with declines of about 1.5% thereafter; strength loss is more rapid. Our strength declines about 2 to 4% per year.
- Seventy year olds are 30% weaker than they were at 50; that is big strength drop in 20 years.
- Illness that results in bedrest and a decrease in activity accelerates muscle loss that can result in “sarcopenia,” literally meaning vanishing flesh.
A double whammy can occur when we get older with something called “anabolic resistance,” meaning that older muscle is less responsive to the stimulating effect of dietary protein and exercise. So, what can we do?
A Prescription for Muscle Health
- Begin a strength training program. There are many ways to get started:
- Visit the weight room at the gym; hire a personal trainer for a few sessions to show you how to use the equipment and properly perform the exercises to get the most benefit.
- Use exercise bands to do upper and lower body workouts.
- Try a free fitness videos (we like Fitness Blender) or simple home exercises from Go4Life, from the National Institute on Aging.
- Eat more protein-rich foods and spread your protein intake out across the day.
- Aim for 30 to 40 grams of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- A key amino acid is leucine, found in milk, yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, fish, seafood, and soy foods. Leucine is found in plant foods, like quinoa and peas and beans, but you have to eat larger portions to get the same benefit from the animal food.
Don’t forget to get the heart moving!
Aerobic exercise is also important; don’t forget to get your heart pumping and lungs working to deliver oxygen to working muscles. Focus on getting a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking to raise your heart rate and breathing) or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise (like jogging or swimming laps). Bob suggested these simple steps:
- Reduce sitting
- Take frequent “activity snacks” throughout the day
- Walk faster than the Grim Reaper; according research, the Grim Reaper walks about 2.0 mph, so walk faster than that to beat the reaper!
So, to answer the question is 70 the new 40? We like baseball player, Satchel Paige’s answer!
“You’re the captain of the ship, not a passenger!”
Do you weigh the same as when you were 20? I’m guessing that few people in their late-60s can say they do, but Phil can. He attributes his long running career to the fact that he doesn’t carry excess weight, which puts extra pressure on knees and hips when running.
Intrinsic Joys of Being Active and Eating Well
Phil grew up in pre-screen days where playing a variety of team sports with neighborhood kids was the norm. In the 8th grade he discovered a knack for distance running and ran competitively in high school, college, and for another decade after college. At his peak, he was running 3,000 to 4,000 miles a year; the equivalent of running more miles in a year than from Atlanta to Las Vegas and back. Today, he runs “a lot less, and a lot slower,” but still runs three days a week for about 10 miles a week or 500 miles a year. In addition, he does calisthenics, stretching and enjoys gardening and hiking in the surrounds of his north Georgia home.
Phil is motivated to stay active for the “personal satisfaction of the physical effort of moving; feeling the body at work still motivates me after all of these decades.”
Of course, to stay at your college weight, diet is also important. Phil and his wife focus on eating a plant-centered diet with “real food, including plenty of fruits and vegetables while minimizing highly processed foods.” He also adds that “preparing food and eating together is relished, as this simple pleasure wasn’t always possible with busy careers.”
Sometimes we look at people like Phil and think it must be easy for him to stay active and eat well, but, for everyone it is a choice. Phil says he understands the challenges, including the tendency by many to be complacent regarding their health. “People think if they aren’t sick, why bother to change. Over time, sedentary living and convenience foods become the default comfort settings.” And, while he recognizes medications can be modern miracles, “too many people think pills are the answer to every modern ailment when sometimes small lifestyle changes can fix a health issue without drugs.” Another challenge is the “slick advertising hawking magic pills or short cuts to exercise or diet. We are inundated with pseudo-science making us more vulnerable to believing the hype.”
Four Tips for Healthy Aging
When asked to give tips for optimal aging, regular exercise and healthful eating were at the top of the list, but Phil also encourages us “to continue to set goals and stay engaged.” For those who haven’t been active, “start by developing a plan to do something every day; even if it is just a 10-minute walk, stair climbing, or stretching. But, tell yourself you will do something every day and then do it.” Phil also is thankful. “We need to be thankful for the people in our lives, the body we were given, and simple everyday joys.” When considering the big picture, he reminds us: “There’s no single pathway for living a long and full life. There are many possibilities. Embrace the challenge and act on it! You’re the captain of the ship, not a passenger.”
From Scientific Writer to Creative Writer
Phil was a professor at Georgia Tech for 30 years and was a prolific researcher and scientific writer, as the adage “publish or perish” is true in academia. These days, he turns his attention to creative writing and has published his essays in a new book, The Sneakers in the Closet, reflecting on a lifetime of sports, health, and a life well lived. And, he and wife enjoy traveling from decades of “pent up wanderlust when we had limited time off to travel.” You can also read some of his essays in Smoke Signals, a north Georgia community newspaper (click on Smoke Signals to read a sample column.)
“You can’t help getting older, but you don’t have to get old.” George Burns, Comedian
For 38 years, Bo worked in IT for IBM and then “retired” and worked for 3 years in the “best job I ever had.” That job was for the local Chamber of Commerce where “everyday was different, unpredictable, and fun.” But, being the people-person, she is, Bo says the best part was the people she worked with and the interactions with others in her community. Having just celebrated her 69th birthday, Bo is now fully retired, but she spends a good part of every day at the YMCA taking aerobic classes three days a week from “Jean the Dancing Queen.” She also plays pickelball for several hours 4 to 5 days a week.
Healthy Habits to Control Weight
Bo has always been petite and the only time she gained weight was during her pregnancies with her 2 boys, but she quickly got back to her usual, healthy weight. While many adults gain weight as they age, Bo manages her weight by eating smaller portions, eating lots of fresh veggies, limiting sweets and sugar, and paying attention to how much and when she eats. “I’m lucky that I like the healthy stuff!” She often finds she doesn’t have much of an appetite, but eating breakfast and a mid-day meal around 2 pm (which she calls a cross between lunch and dinner as “linner”) keeps her fueled without being full. Her only dietary indulgence is a “real Coca-Cola” a couple of times a week. She also pays attention to hydration and is sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish water loss during activity.
As she has gotten older, Bo knows she needs to pay attention to her body and adjust as needed. “Know what you can do and what you can’t do.” TRX is all the rage at our local Y, but she knows that it isn’t for her. “Understand your body, but stay involved and active.” Her words of wisdom are “the more you use it, the better it gets.” Great advice for everyone!
Many sedentary folks look at active people and think it is easy for them or that it comes naturally, but Bo makes exercise a priority in her life. Bo’s advice is “don’t be lazy; tell yourself you have to go to exercise class, an activity, or for that daily walk. “Feed your body right and use it every day!” Her words reminded me that while I often would prefer to skip morning exercise class and sleep in a bit longer or linger over a second cup of coffee, I have never once said, “I wish I hadn’t exercised today!” We all feel better, physically, mentally, and emotionally after a good workout!
Last week I was invited to talk to about 25 women who are members of a group called “SOLOS.” The acronym is for Single Outstanding Ladies Offering Support. They asked me talk about my book Food & Fitness After 50 and when I looked around I realized that many of the women were in their 70s, 80s, and beyond. It reminded me of what a wise physician once said, “When I see patients who are 85, I ask their advice!”
I quickly learned that the group really is all about supporting each other by coming together monthly for friendship, fellowship, fun, and a little education thrown in, too. While many older adults know the value of eating well and moving well, they might not know as much about the science of being well. Social support is a major part of being well. The Encyclopedia of Sociology goes so far to say that “social support is a powerful predictor of living a healthy and long life.”
Positive Power of Social Support
Early as a species, we survived and prospered by developing social bonds to provide protection and assistance. Social science research shows that being lonely and not having positive social relationships harms the brain’s executive functioning or the mental skills that help the brain organize and act on information. Lack of social support can also impair sleep, and physical and mental well-being. These effects contribute to higher rates of disease and death in lonely older adults.
During my talk, I discussed the benefit of exercise that improves heart and lung function. Many older adults walk, but I encouraged them to increase their walking pace to get the heart pumping and the lungs working a bit harder than they would during a leisurely stroll. One woman commented that she recently fell and is now concerned about going out for a walk. Immediately, the SOLOS did what they do best, offered support. One suggested using walking poles for balance, another mentioned flat walking paths around the local botanical gardens, and a third talked about a park in the next town with good paths. I’m sure by the end of the meeting, someone had arranged to walk with her to ease her fears.
What Makes Us Happy?
Robert Waldinger, Director of The Harvard Study of Adult Development, describes what makes a good life in his TEDx talk. It isn’t wealth, or even health that make people happy….it is the relationships they develop throughout life that bring them the most joy. I would say the SOLOS have tapped into something powerful to help them to optimal aging.
More tips on being well, including social support, getting restful sleep, and managing stress is found in Food & Fitness After 50, available on Amazon.
Visitors to London who ride the subway system see or hear a familiar warning, “Mind the Gap.” The warning began appearing in 1969 to caution passengers while crossing the gap between the station platform and the train. But, when it comes of losing weight, we should all mind the gap.
Sharing Weight Loss Success Stories
In the past few months, weight loss success stories have been featured from Debra, Brad, and, Bill. All of them lost weight using different means, but when it comes to keeping it off, there are some patterns that they share. They all have learned to mind the gap; the energy gap that is.
What’s New in Obesity Treatment
Last week I attended a webinar developed by the Rippe Lifestyle Institute and sponsored by Conagra Brands. The webinar, “What’s New in Obesity Treatment,” was conducted by Dr. James Hill, professor of pediatrics and medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. Hill is also the expert interviewed for Food & Fitness After 50 in the chapter on weight management.
During the webinar, Dr. Hill described his interactions with hundreds of obese patients and their common complaint that their “metabolism is broken.” At first, he didn’t believe that someone’s metabolism could be broken, but the more he and his team studied obesity treatment, he realized that there are metabolic changes after weight loss that make it hard to keep the weight off. Anyone who has lost weight will recognize the challenges:
• Energy expenditure declines (that is, as your body weight decreases, you need fewer calories to support the new body size so you must cut more calories to continue to lose weight).
• There are compensations in hormones that facilitate and/or process fat storage (our bodies want to hang on to fat!)
• Hunger increases (that is so unfair!)
The Energy Gap
These changes led to what Dr. Hill calls the “energy gap.” That is, there is gap between the pre-weight loss metabolic rate and the post-weight loss metabolic rate. To fill the “gap,” a person needs to further reduce food intake (hard to do) or increase exercise or a little of both. Dr. Hill and his colleagues developed The National Weight Control Registry in the early 1990s; a registry for people who’ve lost a significant amount of weight and have kept it off. To date, over 10,000 people who have lost an average of 70 pounds and kept it off over 6 years are included. A common pattern emerged from those who are successful at weight maintenance after losing weight. They report:
• Counting the calories, especially the fat calories
• Monitoring their weight
• Practicing restraint with food intake
• Eating breakfast
• Having high levels of physical activity
Fixing a Broken Metabolism
Dr. Hill believes that the high level of physical activity helps “fix” the broken metabolism. Based on this work, Dr. Hill and his team have developed a 16- week program called State of Slim to help people transform the way they think about weight.
For those of you who have been on the treadmill of losing weight then gaining weight, don’t fall for the next fad diet, but instead learning how to mind the gap. The resources in State of Slim can help you do that.
Disclosure: The webinar sponsored by Congra Brands was free to health professionals; I do not consult or work with Conagra Brands, The Rippe Institute, or State of Slim. I was not compensated nor was I asked to write about the webinar.
When you hear the words “Weight Watchers“ do you think of women attending group meetings to support each other’s weight loss journey? Or maybe you think of Oprah Winfrey who helped revitalize the brand when she became a client and investor in 2015? You probably wouldn’t picture, Brad, a 57-year old man as a Weight Watchers fan, but he lost 55 pounds following their plan.
The “It’s time to make a change” moment
When Brad turned 55 he knew he needed to do something. He weighed 255 pounds, but he carried it well on his 6’2” frame. However, the weight was settled right around his middle, the dreaded belly fat, and his body mass index (BMI) was 32.7, placing him the obese category. (To calculate your BMI, enter your height and weight in the BMI calculator.)
So, at age 55, Brad decided to drop 55. “My clothes didn’t fit, I was on four medications, and just knew it was time to do something, so I downloaded the Weight Watchers app and went through the food list to find all of the foods assigned zero or one point…. basically, my new free foods.” Using the app taught him the energy (caloric) value of foods and he began logging everything he ate into the app for the first couple months of his weight loss journey. Once he learned the “cost” of foods, he was able to make better choices throughout the day. “One of the biggest changes I made was my night time snacking routine, now I snack on fruit and veggies when I’m hungry.” He gave up sugar-sweetened drinks and switched to Splenda (also known as sucralose) in coffee and tea.
Weight Watchers Makes List as “Best “diet in three categories
Weight Watchers is recognized by U.S. News & World Report’s Best Diet Rankings for 2018 as the best weight loss diet, best fast weight loss diet, and, best commercial diet plan. Why did Brad like it? “I never felt deprived and I learned to make trade-offs. If I want a candy bar, I eat a mini or “fun-size” and still enjoyed the treat without the calories of a regular sized candy bar.
Brad lost 30 pounds in the first couple of months and then plateaued. That is a common occurrence with weight loss; his smaller body now needed even fewer calories. This is a crucial point and when many people give up, but not Brad. He stuck with the plan and eventually reached his goal of 200 pounds, losing 55 pounds in total. Some of the things Brad learned along the way:
• “Portion control! I can still eat what I want, but I control the portions.”
• “Make substitutions, not sacrifices. I still eat steak but choose a 6-ounce filet instead of 12-ounce ribeye, and I’ve learned to love grilled asparagus.”
• “Maintaining weight loss is a constant negotiation with myself, and I give myself a 5-pound window, but when the scale creeps up, I know I have to cut down.”
• “I started eating breakfast, something I had never done, but I learned that eating something in the morning keeps me going until lunch time and makes me feel better.”
• “I travel a lot for work and I can decode any menu into Weight Watcher’s points and choose a healthy meal!”
Do it for your health and self-satisfaction
Two other factors motivate Brad to keep the weight off. “I bought new clothes and I love running into people I haven’t seen in a while and their reaction to my weight loss is rewarding. I never want to regain the weight and have to face my friends and colleagues at my old weight!” And, his health has improved. He was able to get off two of the four medications he was on, and he hasn’t had acid reflux since he lost the weight.
Brad knows he is in it for the long haul, but as he says, “You can have a bad day, not just a bad month!”
“I won’t be old till my feet hurt, and they only hurt when I don’t let ‘em dance enough, so I’ll keep right on dancing.”
Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, U.S. Dancer
Three days a week, I muddle through a dance aerobics class at the YMCA, along with about 20 other women. While I have two left feet, Jean, our instructor, is a dancing queen. Jean, age 69, loves “music, dance, and movement,” and that is what drew her to dance aerobics over 40 years ago. In school she took every PE class she could fit into her schedule, but when she discovered dance aerobics, she knew she had found her favorite exercise.
Girls weren’t always encouraged to be active
Jean grew up in rural Georgia and loved hanging out with her two brothers. She described herself as “tom-boy,” and everyday after school the trio would be outside “running, jumping, and climbing trees until mom honked the car horn to call us in for supper.” She realizes she was active in an era when girls weren’t. In high school she played basketball and was a cheerleader and in college she played intramural basketball. Over the years, she enjoyed all kinds of activity, from running (and completing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC) to golf to cycling. She completed the Bicycle Race Across Georgia ten times! Jean and her husband, a high school and college football player, have passed their love of exercise to their children.
Her first stint at college got interrupted by motherhood, but she eventually went back to school to earn a social work degree. Between work, school, and family, Jean taught dance aerobics in small towns in northeast Georgia and South Carolina. At the time, there weren’t many fitness facilities, so she got resourceful and used elementary school gyms or church facilities…any space that would allow her to gather with a group of dedicated dance devotees. “There were times when it was so hot in the un-air-conditioned schools or churches that we moved class outside to the parking lot. It was still sweltering hot in the Georgia summer, but at least here was a breeze!”
Dance Aerobics finds a permanent home
For the past 10 years, she has found a home in the local YMCA, teaching at 8 AM three mornings each week. She changes up the hour-long routine about every 8-10 weeks to keep in interesting for the attendees, and for herself. “Exercise is serious business, but it has to be fun,” and we do have fun. Jean transfers her joy to her fellow dancers every day, but even more so on Halloween. She surprises us with her own special look as we dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
Jean says it is more challenging to stay active as she ages, but says “you have to make the effort, because some days it is easier to want to do nothing. But, we all have to take responsibility for our health and fitness and find something we love to do and look forward to doing it.” For Jean, that something is dance.
Jean also stays well by playing games, reading, and working crossword puzzles to keep her brain sharp and says maintaining relationships with her friends and family keeps her aging well. And, of course, she moves everyday for the physical and mental benefits. “Movement makes me feel happy and I hope that everyone finds an activity that makes them move and be well.”