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Most people think of physical exercise when this word is mentioned, but mental exercise is even more a concern- particularly as we get older. Study after study has shown that both are absolutely necessary to maintain any sharpness in later years. Done properly, exercise can "extend the healthy life span and push chronic diseases out toward the end" according to the director of Health Watch. A SF Chronicle article noted that people who held onto their intellectual prowess in later years tended to exercise their brains. Studies have also shown that intellectual stimulation helped older people adopt better health behaviors as well. They made positive decisions about exercising and eating right. Researchers also used education to reverse declines in mental ability. In a study of 228 people over 65, 40% regained lost intellectual ability when they received five hours of mental training.. Another study of 10,000 people over age 55, only 45% of women who rarely walked maintained their mobility over four years compared to 58.8% of frequent walkers. Among men, 57.4% of frequent walkers maintained their mobility versus 46.6% of those who never walked.

Exercise allows to live healthier- and maybe even longer. But the key is more vitality when you really need it. One Doctor commented that "there is no drug in current or prospective use that holds as much promise for sustained health as a lifetime of physical exercise". Studies have shown that "perpetual athletes" are two or three decades younger physically than their contemporaries. They have also shown that the competitive runner loses only 5% in speed and endurance with every decade- the average jogger loses only 10%. Another Doctor noted that the active 60 year old and an inactive 30 year old will have equal physical work capacity.. Dr. Robert Leach of the U.S. Olympic team commented, "most people who last a long time really do look after themselves. I don't think there is any question that if you are careful, your body can keep a high level of performance".

EXERCISE 1: (10/94) Noted here previously on many occasions, The NY Times also commented recently that "exercise, including strength training can help even the very old. A Tufts University study finds that people in the 80's and 90's who pump iron are able to walk faster, climb more stairs, and, in some cases, give up walkers for canes." This study follows a groundbreaking study started four years ago. They indicated that the main reason many elderly grow chair bound is that their muscles are weak from lack of exercise. The study involved 100 men and women in a nursing home. The exercising residents increased their walking speed by 12% and their ability to climb stairs by 26%. The people who worked out were less depressed and more likely to walk around on their own and take part in nursing activities. Unfortunately, previous studies also showed that once the survey was over, many went back to doing nothing and became the sick couch potatoes they were before. You can lead a horse to water, but........

EXERCISE 2: The National Institute for Aging and the University of Iowa have found another advantage to exercise. Scientists report that moderate exercise three times per week can cut the risk of severe bleeding in the digestive tract by a third. Gastrointestinal hemorrhaging accounts for 200,000 hospital admissions of people over 65 who are five times more likely to suffer from the potentially fatal problem than those of middle age. And we're not necessarily talking about major sweat. In reviewing 8,205 people over 65, those that exercised vigorously or even walked or gardened were 30% less likely to develop gastrointestinal hemorrhaging probably because exercise helps promote blood circulation.

EXERCISE: (Who says Retirement Has to be Boring?) "Exercise is the closest thing we have to an anti-aging pill" says Dr. Leaf of the Harvard Medical School. Research shows that many of the problems once attributed to aging as slowing down, declining muscle strength and fatigue are actually the result of a sedentary lifestyle. Eighty percent of the health problems once associated with aging are now thought to be preventable or postponable if a person keeps fit.

"Exercise strengthens the heart and lungs, increases circulation, reduces body fat, relieves stress, keeps bonds strong and lowers blood pressure. It strengthens and tones your muscles and keeps joints , tendons, and ligaments flexible, allowing you to move more easily. It increases your energy level, aids digestion, helps you sleep better, improves your appearance and overall sense of well-being. Following an exercise program gives you a sense of self reliance, self mastery, power, control, and an opportunity to set and achieve goals. You don't have to be a marathon runner to achieve results. A study conducted by the Institute for Aerobics Research and Cooper Clinic in Dallas shows that moderate exercise can substantially reduce your chance of dying of heart disease or cancer."

And in commenting on mental exercise, "there are many reasons to continue learning. Keeping the mind stimulated is the best way to retain intellectual ability. Not exercising the mind can lead to deterioration and loss of mental capacity. Education keeps your mind vital and active". "Learning is a process that continues throughout lifetime. It is not limited to classrooms or the early years".

For those many of you that say you" don't have the time, you're too busy, work is hectic, etc., etc."- that may be O.K. if you live in Cuba, Haiti, Somalia or some other third world country. But because you do live in the U.S., you have time through the freedom of life that is provided here. Take advantage of that right by committing yourself to being better both mentally and physically. If not for yourself, at least set an example for your children.

MORE EXERCISE: (11/94) Continuing study on the benefits of exercise now show that there is up to a 58% reduction in the risk of breast cancer for women under 40 years of age if they exercise at least 4 hours per week.

EXERCISE: (1995) Stanford University compared the health of 451 members of the 50 Plus Fitness Association who exercised at least four hours per week with that of 330 people 50 to 72 who have never maintained a jogging or aerobic program for as long as a month. The concluded: people over 50 who run regularly live longer and are slower to develop age related illnesses that their non running counterparts. Further, the average cost in medical expenses and time off from work is 24% less for the active group. Over the eight year period of the study, 7% in the non active group died while only 1.5% in the active group did. Male runners had 40% less disability rates- women's rates were 80% LESS than the non runners (they are now checking that male/female ratio as well). I've now been running for 30 years. I took up weight lifting again about 7 years ago. I don't do anything different physically now then when I was 25 or 30 (though I'm slower, I'm better aerobically and much stronger.). I'm not so concerned about when I die, just as long as I can squeeze as much out of my mind and body before I do. It'll be interesting to see how long this works before I keel over.

EXERCISE: A Harvard Medical School Study of frail and institutionalized volunteers between ages 86 and 96 did leg lifts for 45 minutes three times per week. After 8 weeks the size of leg muscles increased as much as 13.5% and walking speed by nearly 50%. In another study, active women over the age of 60 were placed on a 24 week weight training program. They increased their weight lifting capacity from 5% to 65% and they significantly increased their lean muscle mass while decreasing body fat.

WEIGHT LIFTING: (5/95) Here is another report. The Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University said that post menopausal women who trained intensively on exercise machines twice weekly for a year built up their bones, increased the size and power of their muscles and improved their balance. Of the women who trained, they had an average increase in bone density of 1% versus a loss of 2.5% for the women who did not train. The trained women showed an increase in leg and back muscles of 35% to 76% above the non trained. Their balance also improved 14%. Additionally, the trained women had an appetite for more training, spontaneously increasing their training schedule by 27%. The non trained groups slacked off by nearly that much.

A related article also noted that Americans need to increase their calcium intake in order to build and maintain healthy bones.

USE IT OR LOSE IT: Research has shown that many elderly can preserve their mental function and even enhance it into their ninth or tenth decade of life. .....Life long mental exercise can nourish growth of new connections called dendrites and synapses. Such growth can, in effect, cushion the brain against developing early symptoms of aging- even in those that are vulnerable to Alzheimers. A study of 678 elderly nuns shows that those with the highest educational and intellectual life suffer the least for symptoms of Alzheimers. An autopsy on a 102 year old nun showed severe plaque- a sign of advancing Alzheimers- yet she retained all her mental faculties till her death.

A doctor noted that there is a misconception out there that aging means disease. Also that the memory loss of normal ageing is not very profound. There's a slowing, just like turning an old computer. It works just as well but takes a little longer. And there are other things that continue to grow, like vocabulary, all your life.

Another doctor noted that with training and exercise, people in their 70's and 80's can sharpen mental skills, such as spatial orientations and inductive reasoning, that had previously lapsed. And lastly, he noted,

"People go to the gym and work out their muscles and bones, but what about their brains? Keeping the mind firmly moored throughout aging is going to be a high issue with yuppies because old age is where they are going to be hanging out."

EXERCISE: (Managing Your Health) ".....regular exercise can recharge your strength and flexibility, keep your body firm and fit and boost your self esteem. Several studies suggest that physical exercise may be beneficial to your heart and blood vessels, lungs, muscles, and metabolism. Regular exercise also appears to help prevent constipation, which in turn may help protect against colon cancer."

Unfortunately, no one is telling the young. Teenagers are less physically active than a decade ago. Only 37% of students in grades 9 through 12 reported that they performed at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three or more times per week. While half the boys said they regularly engaged in exercise, only 25% of the girls said they did. One in five teenagers is overweight. Through the 1970's, the percentage of overweight children 12 to 19 was about 15%. But that rate had jumped to 21% by 1991.

EXERCISE: Another study on 73,029 women shows that those who were the most active had about a 40% lower risk of a heart attack. Another study of men showed that those that did any exercise at all had a 21% less risk than a sedentary one. Those who exercised the hardest had a 29% lower risk than the sedentary man. A third study showed that postmenopausal women who exercised reduce their risk of a heart attack by 60%.

FATTER: Doctors who tested a group of 25 to 30 year olds in the mid 80's and just recently have found a 12% decline in cardiovascular health. One third of the subjects had gained 20 pounds or more in 7 years. They said part of the problem is the amount of time people spend watching TV. Studies have shown that people that spend more than four hours per day with the TV have a higher obesity rate and lower rates of physical activity.

EXERCISE: The Center for Disease Control says that 250,000 deaths a year in the U.S. are due to a lack of regular physical activity. A specialist in preventive medicine says that for every hour you exercise, you extend your life by two hours.

EXERCISE: 1995 Regular exercise can help:

FIT BRAIN: (Parade 1996) More research on the brain indicate that competency can be maintained for the vast majority for your entire life. Brain scientists have come up with certain suggestions

KEEP ON TRUCKING: (NY Times 1996) Want to stay physically active till your 90+? Then keep your weight down and exercise. Every extra pound of body weight adds four pounds of pressure to the kneecap. When climbing stairs, that single pound adds 20 pounds of stress; when running or doing aerobics, it adds about 25 pounds of stress. So why this comment? It's much cheaper budgeting for running shoes than a wheel chair and a nurse. Your decision, but you need to act now while you are younger.

EXERCISE: (1997) In a UC Berkeley study, it stated that doing the same exercise when you were younger will not stave off weight gain. Men will have to exercise harder or longer as they age if they want to maintain their weight. "Per decade, the average 6 foot tall runner gained about 3.3 pounds and about 3/4 inch around the waist. That means that 50% more runners will end up in the moderately overweight category by the time they reach their late 40's." They said one would have to increase physical activity by 240% between age 30 and 40 to maintain weight all others things being equal.

Well, at 53 and having been running for 32 years, I can tell you that you can only do so much exercise before your body breaks down. Since you can't run an extra 10 miles per day, you have to watch your diet. Put the two together and it works. I don't do anything different than when I was 25 or 30 and it's because of pure sweat and watching what I eat. You can do the same- it's not magic

EXERCISE FOR THE ELDERLY: (John Mollenkopf, MD 1997) You may need strength training if

1. While seated on the floor, without using anything with which to pull up, can you stand without help?

2. While standing nest to a chair or table, do a full deep knee bend while holding on with one hand. Can you resume the standing position without help? Do not push up

3. Sit in a low stuffed chair or sofa. Can you stand without pushing up?

4 Sit is a straight back chair. Can you stand without pushing up?

5. Can you stand on one leg without any support for 15 seconds? Have assistance available if you feel unstable.

6. With both arms extended sideways, can you hold a 5 lb. weight or a 2 liter bottle in each hand for 20 seconds?

7. While lying on your back, can you hold both legs off the floor a few inches with knees extended for 15 seconds.

Dr. Mollenkopf says that if you answered no to all but are over 80 years of age, you are representative of your group. However, you are a prime candidate for falling down and hurting yourself and must work on weight training immediately.

If you answered no to 4 out of 7 and are in any other age group, you better get started on weight training now and maintain it for the rest of your life.

And just so you know I take this seriously, I went back to weight training about 9 or 10 years ago. In some ways, I am stronger now than when I was 18. Further, when I was 18, I wore a back brace for awhile (mild case of polio when I was young or a birth defect). Now at 53, I don't have any pain and have exceptional energy. However I do recognize that I will have to do this (along with my running) for the rest of my life. But since I don't do anything physically different than when I as 25 or 30, I figure that is a good tradeoff.

WEIGHT LIFTING: 1998 (National Geographic) As stated numerous times, getting old is part genetics and part your own fault. Even the very elderly can retain/regain mobility and agility. Some subjects who found it difficult to climb stairs were put on a specially designed weight lifting regimen. It was shown that even 90 year weaklings can regain the strength and vitality they had 30 years earlier. And they can do it with simple exercises around their own homes. In one study of hundreds of nursing home residents age 72 to 98, ten weeks of weight training more than doubled the participants muscle strength and increased walking speed and their ability to climb stairs. Another study of 40 mostly sedentary women ages 50 to 70 involving just twice a week exercises led to substantial increases in muscle mass, strength, balance and bone density.


TAKE A HIKE: (1998 University of Virginia) Earlier studies that indicated that walking may not have been that beneficial are probably wrong. In a 12 year study of the elderly in their '60s '70s and '80s who walked just two miles a day, they cut risk of death almost 50%. Additionally every extra mile they walked per day lowered their death rate by 19%. Nonetheless medical experts note that 60% of Americans don't get enough regular activity to improve their health and even worse for the elderly.

EXERCISE AND THE POOR: (1999) According to the American Medical Association. Poor people have a death rate three times that of other groups but it is more due to lack of medical care, stress of poverty, dangerous jobs, and polluted homes and bad neighborhoods. Stopping smoking, eating better, exercising , etc. might reduce the death rate by a minimal 13%. The biggest killers were still like everyone else- heart disease and cancer.

EXERCISE: (1999) The Journal of American Medical Association noted that vigorous walkers had a 43 % reduced risk of premature death when compared to those who did no exercise at all. It even showed that occasional exercise led to  a 29 % reduced risk of premature death. Exercise has been shown to improve energy, reduce feelings of stress, anxiety and Depression; improve sleep; improve concentration; enhance self-esteem; help one lose weight; reduce the risk of heart disease; increases good cholesterol and lower triglycerides; reduces the risk of colon cancer; lower's high blood pressure and the risk of stroke and improves bone density and lowers the risk of osteoporosis

However, only about 22 % of Americans get enough exercise to do themselves any good.

ALZHEIMERS AND EXERCISE: (1999) Recent studies by the American Academy of Neurology and the University of Cleveland indicate that people who exercise regularly during their lifetime may be at a lower risk of Alzheimers. "The findings agree with previous studies suggesting that staying active physically, mentally and socially helps protect against the disease."

And to repeat from the book: "How We Die". The two worst ways to die are from AIDS and Alzheimers. How you live today IS a direct factor on how you die later on.

MORE GET OFF YOUR DUFF!!!: ( J. Andrew Doyle, PhD 1999) Weight lifting can improve self-confidence. A study of 16 sedentary women in their 70s found that both their strength and their confidence in their physical abilities increased significantly after they lifted weights three days a week for 10 weeks. Subjects used Nautilus weight machines, performing 11 different exercises, three sets of each exercise at 50%, 60% and 70% of individual maximum weight for that exercise. Declining physical powers tend to decrease people's self-confidence as they age, contributing to depression.

What the article did not state is what happened after the study finished. In previous accounts of elderly patients who improved dramatically after weight training, most simply reverted to doing NOTHING thereafter and "regained" past ailments.

MORE GET OFF YOUR DUFF!!!: ( J. Andrew Doyle, PhD1999 ) Weight lifting can improve self-confidence. A study of 16 sedentary women in their 70s found that both their strength and their confidence in their physical abilities increased significantly after they lifted weights three days a week for 10 weeks. Subjects used Nautilus weight machines, performing 11 different exercises, three sets of each exercise at 50%, 60% and 70% of individual maximum weight for that exercise. Declining physical powers tend to decrease people's self-confidence as they age, contributing to depression.

What the article did not state is what happened after the study finished. In previous accounts of elderly patients who improved dramatically after weight training, most simply reverted to doing NOTHING thereafter and "regained" past ailments.

GET OFF YOUR BUTT!!!: 2000 (Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston) The health care costs that result from inactivity costs the national bill, conservatively, at $24.3 billion. And all of those costs could be avoided if people who are inactive now did the minimum recommended by the federal government - 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week. Inactivity accounted for 22% each of coronary heart disease, colon cancer and osteoporotic fractures, as well as 12% of diabetes./10: In 1996, in the continental U.S., Maryland had the greatest percentage of its citizens in HMOs (41.1 percent), followed by Oregon (41.0 percent), California (40.4 percent), and Kentucky (33.6 percent).

EXERCISE, EXERCISE, EXERCISE!: (2000 AP) Harvard School of Public HealthY study of more than 70,000 women found that exercise- even brisk walking - can reduce the risk of developing adult-onset diabetes. The study of women participating in the Nurses Health Study found that moderate to vigorous exercise was associated with a 46% lower risk.

Exercise: (2000) You can teach a dog new tricks- at least make them healthier. Leg muscle increased 84% for men ages 60 – 75 who did weight training type exercises. In fact, they gained muscle mass in the same proportion as young exercisers in their 20s. The elderly also gained endurance.

Not that much exercise is necessary: (Journal of the American Medical Association). A study tracked heart disease in some 40,000 female health professionals aged 45 year plus, over several years starting in the early 1990s.

By 1999, the group developed 244 cases of heart disease. Risk was reduced by 47% in those who engaged in vigorous activity. But surprisingly, walking only 2 or more hours a week saw risk levels drop by 52%.

EXERCISE: (2001) Young men who jog regularly build strong bones and may be less likely to develop the brittle bone disease osteoporosis, a new study finds. Researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health that men in their 30s who jog at least nine times a month develop a bone density that is at least 5% higher than that of men who jog less. For couch potatoes, men who do little or no exercise, the bone density of joggers was almost 8% better

Exercise: Obese people who exercise have half the death rate of trim people who don't exercise. Imagine, however, someone that was trim AND fit.

“I don’t need to exercise anymore! I’m too old to work out! What can I do at my age anyway?” (2002)

Exercise: (2003) a British medical journal found that only vigorous exercise — such as jogging, hiking, climbing stairs, racket sports and swimming — seems to help lower the risk of early death from heart disease. Other research has shown moderate exercise helps.

They found that activities considered to provide mild exercise — such as walking, bowling and sailing — as well as pursuits of moderate intensity — such as golfing, dancing and brisk walking — did not lower the risk of early death. That flies in the face of other studies that have promoted the benefits of mild exercise.

Only vigorous exercise was linked with a reduction in the risk of death from heart disease or any other cause within the 10 years of the study. The more heavy exercise the men did, the less their chances of dying during the study.

Those who did the most exercise were 40% less likely to die than those who did the least, the researchers found.

Strength Training: (2004) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released another issue of its series on Public Health and Aging featured in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The latest study is entitled “Strength Training Among Adults Aged  65 and over.” It finds that only 11 percent of people aged 65 and older regularly perform any sort of strength training. Strength training is important at any age, and is recommended for older adults as a way to decrease the risk of falls and fractures and to promote indepen-dent living. The results of the CD survey indicate the need for older people to engage in more strength training.

National Blueprint Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults Age 50 and Older

Just a little exercise: (Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine 2004) Feifei Wang at the University of Michigan studied 23,500 workers at General Motors and estimated that getting the most sedentary obese workers to exercise would have saved about $790,000 a year, or about 1.5 percent of health-care costs for the whole group.

Company-wide, the potential savings could reach $7.1 million per year.

Of the whole group of workers, about 30 percent were of normal weight, 45 percent were overweight, and 25 percent were obese. Annual health-care costs averaged $2,200 for normal weight, $2,400 for the overweight, and $2,700 for obese employees.

But among workers who did no exercise, health-care costs went up by at least $100 a year, and were $3,000 a year for obese employees who were sedentary.

Physical Activity: A study in the July issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine finds that even occasional physical activity can increase the life expectancy of people aged 65 and over. It tracked over 3,000 people aged 65 and over for 12 years and found that those who exercised just once a week reduced their risk of early mortality by up to 40 percent. Physical activity reduces the likelihood of death by lowering the risk of heart disease and other ailments. The researchers note that efforts to provide older people with more opportunities for physical activity are important in enhancing their health and well-being.

Chronic Disease: Chronic diseases account for seven of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States, including the three leading causes of preventable death (tobacco use, improper diet and physical inactivity, and alcohol use). In addition, 70% of health-care costs in the United States are for chronic diseases. Seven of every 10 U.S. residents who die each year (>1.7 million persons) do so as a result of a chronic disease. Chronic diseases affect the quality of life of 90 million U.S. residents (1), and the cost of medical care for persons with these diseases accounts for 70% of total medical care expenditures

Although chronic diseases are among the most common and costly health problems, they are also among the most preventable. Adopting healthy behaviors (e.g., eating nutritious foods, being physically active, and avoiding tobacco use) can prevent or control the effects of these diseases. In addition, quality of life is enhanced when chronic diseases are detected and treated early. Regular screening can reduce morbidity and mortality from cancers of the breast, cervix, colon, and rectum. Clinical preventive services can prevent the debilitating complications of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists has released these revised indicators for chronic disease surveillance. Of the 92 indicators, 24 are for cancer; 15, cardiovascular disease; 11, diabetes; 7, alcohol; 5 each, nutrition and tobacco; 3 each, oral health, physical activity, and renal disease; and 2 each, asthma, osteoporosis, and immunizations. The remaining 10 indicators cover such overarching conditions as poverty, education, life expectancy, and health insurance.

Exercise: (USA Today 2004) Regular exercise, including walking at an easy pace, seems to protect the aging brain from erosion in thinking ability — and even from Alzheimer's.

older women who were physically active, including those who walked at a leisurely pace two to three hours a week, performed much better on tests of memory and thinking ability than inactive women.

And those who exercised more did even better: The team found that women who were the most active — for example, those who walked at least six hours a week — had a 20% reduced risk of doing poorly on the same tests of cognitive ability.

relatively sedentary older men — those who walked less than one-quarter of a mile each day — had nearly twice the risk of developing dementia as men who walked more than 2 miles each day.

Walking protects elderly people from dementia Janice Hopkins Tanne (2004)

Fitting in Fitness: How to Work Exercise into Your Day, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research

Bone density: Did you know most people have five percent more bone mass in the arm they use most often? This surprising fact illustrates how physical activity can help increase bone mass. Along with getting enough calcium, exercise is the best defense against osteoporosis, or “brittle bones.”

While outdoor exercise can be hard to get during the cooler winter months, there are a slew of indoor options, from gym classes to home videos to walking in shopping malls. More and more gyms have programs specifically designed for older adults, so if you think you’re too old for the gym, think again!

Medicare will cover the cost of a bone mass measurement every two years for people at risk for osteoporosis.

Back Exercises, Patient Education Institute

Exercise American Diabetes Association

QuickStats: Percentage of Adults* Who Engaged in Any Leisure-Time Strengthening Activity,† by Sex and Age Group --- United States, 2005