Are You Busy Living?

Are You Busy Living?

Exercise improves your odds to live a long and healthful life. Not only do you feel better, you also minimize the need to access the outrageously expensive US healthcare system.

When it comes to our wellness, life is partially a game of chance. There are no guarantees, hence the need for health insurance.  Any of us could be victim of a genetic disorder, accident, natural disaster, or communicable disease. However, what topples too many of us and drives soaring healthcare costs are self-inflicted chronic diseases.

When you feel too lazy to exercise, just remember this Navajo saying: “Coyote waits and coyote is always hungry.” U.S. healthcare system is that hungry coyote, scrubbed and waiting to consume more and more of our personal income and national wealth.

Think about wellness as a bell curve, with all of us somewhere inside of it. Along the bottom axis, we go through life from birth to death, in various stages of health along the way. The dotted line demarcates the transition from well to sick. “H” is hospitalization.

BellCurve

Looking at the left side of the curve, you see usually the younger you are, the better your basic health will be because your body is newer and has endured less wear and tear (oxidative stress). In the natural order of things, by the time we’re older, we all start drifting to the right across the dotted line where medical problems will occur at some point. However, how fast you cross the line is largely dependent on lifestyle choices, especially our level of physical activity and the food you eat.

Crossing the line to the right does not have to be a straight, irreversible, one-way journey to disease and suffering. Our bodies are very resilient if we give them a fighting chance. Often consistent exercise and eating nutritious real food, in combination with medical interventions when necessary, can transport you back across the dotted line to wellness.

At Cascade Boomer Fitness, we’re busy living. Join us!

 
Adapted from The Wellness Club: A Journey to Health Beyond Healthcare by David and Cynda Adamson. Available at Amazon.

 

bookcover

 

 

 

The Running Skeleton

The Running Skeleton

Often we see an older woman running, accompanied by a man on a bike. What’s unusual about her is you see her running on one street when you leave on errands for a couple of hours then, when you return, you see her still running on another, sometimes more than once a day. She’s literally skin and bones, a running skeleton.

runningskeleton

Maybe she’s a non-recovered anorexic. However, it would be equally concerning if she thought that she is keeping herself “in shape” by running so much. Many Boomers joined the aerobics running craze for heart health back in the 1970’s and never did much other exercise.

The unfortunate truth is that although she probably has an excellent resting pulse and below average blood pressure for her age, she is visibly wasting away. Her muscles are almost non-existent. The few that are visible in her upper body are flaccid.

Muscle – strong, conditioned muscle – is critical to metabolic health and successfully performing the many physical tasks required in everyday living. Due to hormonal changes in both women and men, older adults lose muscle mass. What’s really disturbing is that many older adults are not that different from the Running Skeleton. They appear more normal on the surface, but their muscle mass is not that different underneath the fat that gives them shape.

If you’d like to really get an insight into all the issues associated aging muscles, read this excellent research article from Human Kinetics. It’s dense with scientific jargon, but if you read slowly you’ll get the gist and what it means for you.

This decline can be slowed by resistance exercise. What’s most critical to understand is that both the quality and mass of skeletal muscle, must be developed and preserved. This does not happen dancing around with light weights to peppy music. It takes real resistance with heavy bands, free weights, and body weight exercises.

Maybe the Running Skeleton will discover that she needs to spend more time in her house or a gym developing her muscles. She doesn’t need to worry that she will bulk up – that’s impossible for older women. She’ll still be skinny. But she can definitely improve the cross-sectional strength of the muscles she has left.

Her miraculous combination of skeleton and muscle has much more to accomplish in life than just move one foot in front of another.

 

 

 

 

 

The Carbohydrate-to-Body Fat Connection

The Carbohydrate-to-Body Fat Connection

When we ask what someone hopes to accomplish with exercise, a frequent answer is to lose weight. We know that they actually mean is they want to lose body fat by changing their body composition.

One message we try to convey is that while exercise is a huge help in fat loss, exercise alone will rarely reduce body fat if the person is unwilling to make basic dietary changes because, as the saying goes, “You cannot outrun your fork.”

body fat looser

The biggest issue is not so much how much you eat as it is what you eat. For most people, the easiest, fastest and safest way to lose body fat is to reduce the consumption of simple carbohydrates, the primary macronutrient in processed foods, and to exercise regularly (more on why and how later).

Here’s how carbohydrates cause us to accumulate body fat. All carbohydrates, whether table sugar or a carrot, turn into glucose (also known as blood sugar) when they enter the bloodstream after digestion.

Once inside your body, some glucose can be used immediately by the brain, a high-energy consuming organ on duty 24/7, or by muscles, if they need the energy, like when you are exercising. However, we consume so much glycogen with high carb eating with the typical American diet and sedentary living that there is always a surplus. This is where your metabolism starts to go haywire.

High levels of blood glucose signal the pancreas to release insulin, the most important hormone in the human body when it comes to energy partitioning, that is, directing how energy supplied by food gets used or stored. Among other functions, insulin’s primary job is to protect the body from too much sugar in the blood, which, at constantly high levels, is dangerous, as every diabetic knows.

Insulin will try to get glucose out of the blood stream by dumping it into the muscles as glycogen. Jeff Volek, PhD, RD, and Stephen Phinney, MD, have spent over three decades studying human metabolism and working in clinical settings with obese patients. Their research shows that an adult who’s not moving burns at most 50 calories of glucose per hour. Our bodies can only store 1,000 to 2,000 calories as glycogen in muscles and the liver. This stored energy may not get used if you are sedentary, as too many of us are.

Here’s where high levels of glucose and insulin become a dangerous double-whammy:

Whammy #1: If there is no space available in the limited storage capacity of the muscles, the excess glucose gets returned to the liver and/or fat cells and are converted into body fat via a process called lipogenesis. So now the liver and fat cells are full.

Whammy #2: To ensure any remaining un-stored glucose circulating in the blood is given top priority as the first energy choice if any is needed by your cells, insulin then interrupts the normal release of fat, which can also be used for energy, thus stopping what we know as “fat burning.”

As a result, you get fatter because you stop using fat for energy. But that’s not all. High levels of blood sugar cause heart disease and diabetes.

Once you understand the carb-body fat connection, why you’ve had trouble losing body fat is no longer a mystery.

Exercised to Happiness

Exercised to Happiness

After our workouts, we notice many people are smiling. Some of our levity is relief that the physical exertion over. But there’s also something more basic and profound going on.

We made the video below, called “Running, Shakespeare, and Zen,” four years ago on a beautiful fall day when we still lived in Colorado. The message rings true today.

The power of exercise to elevate moods, relieve anxiety, improve memory is a fact. If you’d like to learn about exactly what happens in the brain during and after exercise, in particular a natural miracle drug produced by your body called BDNF, read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by Dr. John Ratey, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School.

Exercise is cheaper and more effective than antidepressants or tranquilizers. It also has no negative side-effects, although it can be addictive.

You might not become famous when you’re dead, but you’ll be happier while you’re alive.

 

Exercising: A Matter of Degree, Not Kind

Exercising: A Matter of Degree, Not kind

Upon seeing a headline that reads “Train Like a German Soccer Star” in the NY Times, an older adult exerciser’s first impulse might be to bypass it and move on to something else. After all, what on earth do you have in common with a German soccer star?

The answer? Your body.

One of the biggest misconceptions about aging adults is that they are destined to a life of dramatic physical decline and frailty, an attitude that is reflected in all the minimally challenging and marginally productive programs found in gyms and senior centers across the land.

To the contrary, you want your exercise program to be challenging. All bodies, of all ages, benefit from the same exercises, with one caveat. As CrossFit says in one of their manuals: “The  needs of Olympic athletes and our grandparents differ by degree not kind.”

germans

Once you understand this, you’ll find we have lots in common with the Germans.  We, too, need to develop speed, power, and mobility. We need hip stability, not just shapely hips, and the ability to move laterally, not just forwards. For us, too, doing exercises properly and consistently reduces injuries and improves performance.

Mark Verstegen, the American who trains the Germans, is absolutely correct with his observation that you have to push yourself “a bit” because “the body and the brain respond positively to having demands put on them. That’s really the key to fitness.”

For this reason, we use many of these and similar exercises in the Younger Games. They are not performed at the same level of intensity or for as long, but the approach to overall body fitness is the same. We push ourselves a bit.

A few weeks ago, Germany defeated Argentina to win the World Cup. Anyone watching the game could see Germany was the much fitter team when it went into double overtime periods. Their training paid off.

We should exercise like the Germans so we remain strong late in the game. Remember it’s a matter of degree not kind.