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Fitness Over Fifty
Five Ways Exercise Can Help You Live Longer

Fitness Over 50
Thanks to modern medical
advances such as antibiotics,
nasal spray, and Diet Coke, it
has become routine for people
in the civilized world to pass
the age of 40, sometimes more
than once.

~Dave Barry, "Your Disintegrating Body,"
Dave Barry Turns 40, 1990

We are living in the age of the quick fix. If you have high blood pressure, don't bother losing weight; just take an ACE inhibitor pill. If your cholesterol levels are out of whack, don't eat healthier foods; just get a prescription for a statin. The same goes for other problems like arthritis (take an NSAID), memory loss (B Vitamins may help), weight loss (appetite suppressants take hunger away) or osteoporosis (use bisphosphonates to rebuild your bones).

It seems no matter what damage we do to our bodies, there's a drug that'll make it all better. The problem is, drugs aren't the miracles many people are hoping for. They're expensive, many have limited effectiveness and their side effects can be lethal. Pills were never designed to take the place of proper diet and exercise.

As we age, exercise becomes MORE important, not less. If you've spent your life avoiding the gym, I'm going to give you five ironclad reasons why today is a good time to start.

Exercise helps your memory. When we age, we experience something called "age-related memory decline." Researchers think part of the reason is rising blood glucose levels. As blood sugar levels rise, cognitive function slowly declines.

Exercise is the antidote. Thanks to studies done at Columbia University Medical Center we now know that people who exercise regularly (at least 3 hours a week) are better able to control blood glucose levels. Exercise slows, and in some cases completely stops age-related memory decline. The benefits have even been demonstrated on Alzheimer patients. If you want to stay sharp as you age, exercise is a proven winner.

Stability training workouts help improve balance. The findings from several studies now prove exercise programs, specifically ones that include core stability moves, can help reduce the occurrence of falls by 17%. But don't rely on walking, that didn't seem to help. Participants who saw results exercised a minimum of 2 days a week for 25 weeks or more. The programs that worked best were ones that included balancing on one leg or where the legs were kept closer together.

Aerobic exercise suppresses your appetite. In a study carried out at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom, researchers discovered aerobic exercise reduces the level of ghrelin (an appetite stimulating hormone) and increases the level of peptide YY (an appetite supressing hormone).

Subjects who exercised for 60 minutes on a treadmill, not only burned fat from the aerobic activity, but kept benefiting for several more hours from the appetite suppressing effects of the workout. Before you head out to a party or dinner with friends, jump on the treadmill first and you'll be better able to say no to a second helping.

Exercise decreases arthritis pain. At the end of a sixteen week strength training program, older men and women who had moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis saw pain decrease by an incredible 43%. The study participants also increased their physical performance, decreased disability and improved clinical signs and symptoms of the arthritis. It was an effect as dramatic as the strongest medications produce without the worrisome side effects. Rheumatoid arthritis sufferers saw the same types of results after a similar strength training program. If you've been avoiding exercise because of arthritic pain, you should consider starting a program to decrease that pain.

Strength training workouts protect against osteoporosis. Bone thinning and fractures increase as we age, but high intensity training can reduce the chances of experiencing a broken bone. The key, according to a study done by the Division of Kinesiology at The University of Michigan is to engage in programs that are: ..."dynamic, not static, exceed a threshold intensity; exceed a threshold strain frequency; be relatively brief but intermittent; impose an unusual loading pattern on the bones; be supported by unlimited nutrient energy; and include adequate calcium and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) availability."

Now that you know what you need to do, the only question left is when are you going to start?


UPDATE: Alzheimer's and Obesity

If you're 50 years old and overweight, you're at increased risk of developing Alzheimer's neuropathology. In a study of 1,394 "cognitively normal individuals" over 13.9 years, researchers observed that 142 participants developed incident Alzheimer's Disease.

When researchers compared the Body Mass Index (BMI) of the various subjects, they found that "each unit increase in midlife BMI predicts earlier onset of Alzheimer's Disease by 6.7 months." The more overweight people were in middle age, the more likely they were to develop Alzheimer's Disease later in life; and the earlier that Alzheimer's Disease would present itself.

Start reducing your weight in middle age, to protect yourself from disease progression later in life.

Study Title: Midlife adiposity predicts earlier onset of Alzheimer’s dementia, neuropathology and presymptomatic cerebral amyloid accumulation
September 1, 2015 - Molecular Psychiatry

Part 2

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

2/22/2009
Updated 11/11/2015