Tag Archives: age

Preventing Muscle Loss as We Age

Use it or lose it – this is a phrase I’m sure you’re familiar with. It holds a lot of truth when it comes to muscle. Unlike bone, which of course can also decrease in mass as we age, muscle starts to diminish quickly, particularly if it’s not used or stimulated. Known as sarcopenia, it is a decline in skeletal muscle mass that typically affects older people, but can affect the much younger population as well. It can begin as early as age 40, and without intervention can get increasingly worse, with as much as half of muscle mass lost by age 70. Over time the muscle gets replaced by fat and fibrous tissue, making muscles resemble a well-marbled steak.

Is Sarcopenia Bad?

“Sarcopenia can be considered for muscle what osteoporosis is to bone,” Dr. John E. Morley, geriatrician at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, wrote in the journal Family Practice. He pointed out that up to 13 percent of people in their 60s and as many as half of those in their 80s have sarcopenia. As Dr. Jeremy D. Walston, geriatrician at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, put it, “Sarcopenia is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults.” Yet few practicing physicians alert their older patients to this condition and tell them how to slow or reverse what is otherwise an inevitable decline. It can seriously impair their physical and emotional well-being and ability to carry out the tasks of daily life. Sarcopenia is also associated with a number of chronic diseases, increasing insulin resistance, fatigue, falls, and alas, death. A decline in physical activity, common among older people, is only one reason sarcopenia happens. Other contributing factors include hormonal changes, chronic illness, body-wide inflammation and poor nutrition. So in essence, yes, sarcopenia is bad but highly preventable.

What Can I Do?

No matter how old or out of shape you are, you can restore much of the strength you might have lost. Dr. Moffat noted that research documenting the ability to reverse the losses of sarcopenia — even among nursing home residents in their 90s — has been in medical literature for nearly 30 years, and the time is long overdue to act on it. In 1988, Walter R. Frontera and colleagues at the Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University demonstrated that 12 previously sedentary men aged 60 to 72 significantly increased their leg strength and muscle mass with a 12-week strength-training program three times a week. Two years later in JAMA, Dr. Maria A. Fiatarone and colleagues at the Tufts research center reported that eight weeks of “high-intensity resistance training” significantly enhanced the physical abilities of nine frail nursing home residents aged 90 and older. Strength gains averaged 174 percent, mid-thigh muscle mass increased 9 percent, and walking speed improved 48 percent. So, what are you waiting for? If you’re currently sedentary or have a serious chronic illness, check first with your doctor. But as soon as you get the go-ahead, start a strength-training program using free weights, resistance bands or machines, preferably after taking a few lessons from a certified trainer. Proper technique is critical to getting the desired results without incurring an injury. It’s very important to start at the appropriate level of resistance.

Nutritional Needs

Dr. Morley, among others, points out that adding and maintaining muscle mass also requires adequate nutrients, especially protein, the main constituent of healthy muscle tissue. Protein needs are based on a person’s ideal body weight, so if you’re overweight or underweight, subtract or add pounds to determine how much protein you should eat each day. To enhance muscle mass, Dr. Morley said that older people, who absorb protein less effectively, require at least 0.54 grams of protein per pound of ideal body weight, an amount well above what older people typically consume. Thus, if you are a sedentary aging adult who should weigh 150 pounds, you may need to eat as much as 81 grams (0.54 x 150) of protein daily. To give you an idea of how this translates into food, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter has 8 grams of protein; 1 cup of nonfat milk, 8.8 grams; 2 medium eggs, 11.4 grams; one chicken drumstick, 12.2 grams; a half-cup of cottage cheese, 15 grams; and 3 ounces of flounder, 25.5 grams. Or if you prefer turkey to fish, 3 ounces has 26.8 grams of protein. “Protein acts synergistically with exercise to increase muscle mass,” Dr. Morley wrote, adding that protein foods naturally rich in the amino acid leucine — milk, cheese, beef, tuna, chicken, peanuts, soybeans and eggs — are most effective.

The point to take home is that sarcopenia is not necessarily an age related condition. A sedentary lifestyle or a regular exercise program that does not utilize some form of resistance training are at risk. Start now and be strong for the rest of your life.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better


Stay tuned for my 13th year of my 12 Days of Fitness, 12 articles written by me throughout the year to keep your health and fitness in focus through the busy holiday season.

Exercise At Any Age

The concept of age is a funny thing. As Mark Twain once said,”Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” It’s a number; a number that represents our number of annual trips around the sun; a representation of our passage through man made markers. People talk about wanting to live long, fruitful lives and then get all depressed as they age. Here’s the thing: we’ve ALL been aging since the day we were born and the process will never stop until that unfortunate day. So rather than stress or worry or make excuses about a natural, uncontrollable process, why not make the best of it and run with it? And exercise is and should be a huge part of that.

Keep Moving

Physical movement is so much a part of who were are (we were born with arms and legs) that to not move is like throwing in the towel. Today’s world provides too many distractions to keep us from moving, albeit limited. TVs, iPads, Netflix, increasing seated work schedules, etc. Inactivity has become such a part of our landscape that it’s almost taken for granted and accepted. When inactivity creeps in, so does a plethora of issues that at first don’t rear their ugly heads until it’s almost too late. Enter exercise to the rescue. Yes, something as simple as exercise, in no matter what form or type, has proven benefits to reversing all of the negative outcomes of inactivity. But you knew that, right? What about my age? “I can’t do what I use to do.”

Age is No Excuse

“Age isn’t how old you are but how old you feel.” (Gabriel García Márquez) When age is thrown in as an excuse to avoid physical activity, that is when the biggest intervention has to begin. It has to start with a mindset. If you think you’re old, then congratulations – you are old. Again, let me remind you that we’ve been aging everyday since we were born. But if you take a much more positive mindset, such as beginning minimally and progressing to a more involved process, you’re on the right path. Research has shown that no matter what age you start exercising, it’s never too late to reap the benefits. If you’ve exercised your entire life, great. Understand though that the way you worked out in your teens and twenties might need just a little tweaking. Exercise is never intended to cause bodily harm and if it does, it’s generally operator error and not the exercise itself. With age generally comes wisdom. Be smart in your choices and understand there’s nothing you can’t do. Age should never be your limiting factor.
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been. (Madeleine L’Engle)

Exercise Selection

Just because you identify as “old” doesn’t mean you’re limited to “old” exercises. What I mean are these pathetically easy exercises that even a novice eye would see and ask “Is that even worth it”? Well, yes if you’re just starting. But just like the twenty or thirty something, eventually you need to and will progress for the exercise benefits to continue. I have current clients in their seventies that would easily embarrass most 30 year olds! They’ve progressed to do things that most people their age would label as “crazy” but I can assure you the only crazy ones in that equation are the disbelievers. One more gem of advice: “You don’t stop laughing because you grow old. You grow old because you stop laughing.” (Michael Pritchard) Keep laughing and keep moving.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better

Age Is But A Number

Age IS just a number. It’s the number assigned to you to represent the number of years you have been alive on this Earth. That’s it! Some have higher ages than others, some younger. But here’s the thing. No matter how much you want to try and “slow” it down or “defy” it, it’s going to continue to grow. There is no stopping it. You’ve been aging since the day you were born – get over it! What you can control however is your mentality and attitude about it. If you think you’re old, well, then you’re old. But what if you were to take a moment and see your age as it is, just a number, and live your life to the fullest and tackle each day as it it was your last. I wish to share with you the story of a client who does just that.

Meet Dr. Tucker

Two yeas ago I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Tucker. He lives in Florida most of the year but spends his late spring and summers here as well as the holidays. When I first met Carey as he’s known, he was looking for a trainer to keep up with his newly started workout regimen that began in Florida per his doctor’s recommendation. He had started with a trainer in Florida and wanted to keep it up with someone qualified to do so here in Pennsylvania. He was referred to me by his daughter who knew of me and my reputation. The union had been set and shows no signs of ending! Carey’s approach to exercise is much like an ambitious twenty something. He arrives for his session about thirty minutes in advance to get some quality time on the elliptical trainer (his preferred cardiovascular exercise of choice). Then we get into our session which may look something like this:

• Dynamic movement prep and/or core work
• Combinations of upper and lower body strengthening exercises, everything from squats, lunges (his favorite), DB chest presses, pulldowns, rows, etc.
• A variety of accessory work such as exercises for the biceps, triceps, shoulders, etc.
• Randomly selected “athletic” moves such as ladder drills, plyometrics, suspension training, etc.

The really cool thing about working with Carey? He never makes excuses for his age. In fact, there are many times he’s the one asking for another set, rep, or weight increase. I’m not kidding but I’m more than happy to oblige. He demands a lot from me but demands even more from himself. He knows his limits and what he can do as well as being able to take it a step further at times. Many could learn a valuable a lesson about exercise and how to best approach it from Carey and through all the sweat and fatigue, it’s way better in the end than the alternative.

Exercising and Age

Carey is someone who gets it. Of course things are going to be harder than they were twenty, thirty, or even 40 years ago. But exercise no matter what the method ever loses its effectiveness. It’s all about physical movement. Period. We simply don’t get enough and many as they age will avoid it because they’re “old”. However you get it and keep with it consistently will pay huge dividends. It’s not about what you used to be able to do but what you can do right now, regardless of your age. Exercise is not age selective; mindset is. Always keep in mind that the only one who places limits on yourself is you. Keep a strong, fresh mind and you will remain forever young.

By the way, Carey is 74.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.



Age is No Excuse

downloadsaWith the Olympic Summer Games winding down, one thing’s for sure I’ll get a better night’s sleep getting to bed at a more reasonable hour. It’s such a fantastic time to not only cheer on our country, but to see the level of competition among the athletes who for the most part are forgotten until perhaps the Summer Games resume in four years. They work hard, train tirelessly, and make no excuse for a chance at winning an Olympic Gold in their chosen craft. One aspect I pay more attention to now is the age of some of the top level competitors who certainly make no excuse that their age is somewhat of a hindrance. Most of the naysayers would say they’re too old or they should act their age to which they valiantly show the proverbial finger by competing and sometimes even winning.

It Always Comes Down to Thoughts and Choices

News flash: you’ve been aging since the day you were born. Today you’re older than you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. A 20 year old is old to a 6 year old; a 43 year old is old to a 30 year old. Age is a chronological measure of the distance you’ve made it in this life. Old is a relative labeling of who and where you are as a person, or at least what you think that is. Age is an indisputable measurement; old is a subjective state of mind. One’s age doesn’t determine what they can and can’t do based on how old they think they are or chose to be labeled. So it all comes down to if you think you’re old, then old you must be. But you need to really think twice about passing judgement on someone else your age, perhaps older, who refuses to use age an excuse to keep them doing the things they want to do when no one wants to expect or believe that they can.

The Biological Facts

There are those that will always say, “you just wait until you get to be my age” triumphantly waving the flag as if they accomplished something great. Greatness in life shouldn’t be measured by the number of years in one’s life, but the life in those years. There are physiologic process at work that change for everyone as we chronologically age: decreased muscle mass; decreased bone density, decreased flexibility, greater skin elasticity, etc. But never should they be used as scapegoats to stop moving/living. Then there’s the excuse of having no energy or too stiff to move. Not rocket science here, but most if not all of these symptoms can be reversed with regular physical activity, not necessarily competing at high levels of fitness. Physical movement is not only a necessity of a healthy life, it is what keeps others moving and others sitting and waiting.

A Few Age-Defying Olympic Champions

 As a fitness professional for close to 22 years, I’ve had the fabulous and fortunate opportunity to work with clients of all ages, even those most would think are too old to have a trainer or be in the gym. Never, not once did that ever stop them from always putting their best foot forward. Instead, they’ve become some of my better clients; completely coachable, hard working individuals with nothing to prove only that they can. But not all “old” people have white or no hair. Some are currently competing in these current Olympic Games and defying age as a barrier to their success.

  • Oksana Chusovitina: at 41 years young and five feet tall,, she is the oldest Olympic female gymnast in history, competing in her seventh Summer Games.
  • Kristin Armstrong: U.S. Cyclist, who just a day before her 43rd birthday won her third consecutive gold medal in women’s time trial. She’s the oldest female cycling medalist of all time.
  • Julie Broughamm: a 62 year old equestrian who actually just competed in her first Olympics in Rio.

As previously stated, one does not have to compete in the Olympics to prove age is but a number. I’ve made it a point to collect stories of other examples of age defying logic and shared with my followers on my Facebook Business Page. They’re all worth the time to watch, listen, and or read. Enjoy!

  • The Iron Nun – my most recent favorite featured in an ad for Nike. Here’s also an interview with her. Makes you just want to hug her.
  • Ernestine Shepherd – at 80 years old, the world’s oldest bodybuilder. Her story behind how she became what she is touching.
  • Random video of a gentleman squatting what appears to be 405lbs!
  • Shirley Webb – an 80 year old grandmother deadlifting 225lbs!
  • Lan Yin Tsai Lan Yin Tsai – a 90 year old woman who rides the 2 day, 75 mile option of the MS City to Shore I participate in every year. I’ve even had the privilege to ride by her several times over the years. She rides her bike in a dress and heels to boot!
  • Ida Keeling – a 100 year old (that’s not a typo) woman who runs regularly and even competed in the Penn Relays this past spring in Philadelphia. By the way, she’s the reigning national champion in the 60m dash, 95-99 age group.
  • Kay and Joe O’Regan – an octogenarian couple who race marathons together and celebrated their 57 wedding anniversary by running the Cork City Marathon one final time, holding hands as they crossed the finish line,

If you’re still not inspired and convinced that age is but a number, you have missed the whole point of taking care of what you got and doing the best you can with it. Proper nutrition and exercise are a key component to that but if your state of mind is just content with where it is, then that’s just a shame.

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and do better.

Surviving A Hurricane

Hurricane_Symbol_BeveledThe past few days out here on the East Coast have been spent dealing with Hurricane Sandy and all the hoopla that surrounds such an event. I don’t mean to diminish the severity of the destruction of the storm, but a hurricane no doubt gets the attention of over zealous meteorologists. Hurricanes are bad storms.  Property is damaged; weather patterns change hundreds of miles away; and in unfortunate situations human life is lost.  I’m not saying that a hurricane doesn’t deserve the attention it gets.  I just often wonder why we don’t give the same amount attention to the one thing that matters more than all the rest – our health.

Life Is A Hurricane

As I sat and watched some of the events of the storm unfold, I couldn’t help but see the similar characteristics to our own health. With the advances in technology, we’re now able to predict the occurrence, magnitude, and general direction of the storm before it hits to give people ample time to prepare for safety. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our health. Life is unfortunately a lot like a hurricane.  Often times the warning signs are there, though usually ignored or belittled, and action is taken only when it is too late. Our health is not a guarantee or an entitlement. It is ours to nourish, grow, and appreciate as much as we can within our control. Sadly, there are circumstances beyond our control just as with a hurricane, but aside from causing the winds to shift, we have a much better chance in determining where our health ends up.

Heed The Warning Signs

One of my favorite quotes says, “We don’t stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing.” As a fitness professional, I often hear a million excuses why someone doesn’t exercise and their age is a top five. “I’m too old.” “I can’t do that at my age.” There’s your first sign. The mentality is all wrong.  The only one who says you can’t do something is you. It has absolutely nothing to do with hitting the gym or running a marathon.  It’s simple, basic physical activity, and when that diminishes it sets up the brew for a perfect storm.

So what does lack of physical activity cause? For starters;

  • 1 in 10 deaths
  • 7-10% chance of developing Type 2 diabetes
  • 10-14% chance of developing breast and/or colon cancers
  • Increase in weight gain
  • Increase in adipose (fat) tissue
  • Poor venous (circulatory) return
  • Decreased pulmonary function
  • Increased lean tissue loss
  • Increased blood pressure
  • Increased insomnia
  • Decrease in cognitive function
  • Decreased libido and sexual performance

The list goes on and in most instances, it’s not a one and done type event but a chain reaction of events. In a recent study published in The Lancet in July of 2012, lack of physical activity has been shown to be as deadly as cigarette smoking. The choice seems simple: Take action and be prepared for whatever the hurricane brings you or, sit and hope the storm doesn’t hit you too hard.

Move It Now

Exercise – let me clarify – physical activity is and should be a daily function.  How you get it and what you do is completely up to you.  Do what you enjoy, explore new options, and most importantly, stop focusing on weight issues. That’s right! When you do the things you’re supposed to do and don’t get wrapped up in the silliness that modern fitness has become, real fitness makes no judgment.  Good things can and will happen. Ultimately, it is your choice and it’s not because of your age, but because you shouldn’t settle for anything less than better.


Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.


My 2012 Fitness Challenge personal update – 30,400 push ups done as of publishing time



Aging is All About Attitude

downloadBefore I even begin, I’ll have to admit that I’m a little biased when it comes to the winningest coach in college football, Joe Paterno.  As an alum of Penn State, a big Penn State football fan, and having had the privilege of meeting the hall of fame coach once, there isn’t a lot JoePa does that I disapprove of.  For the last several years, he’s been under close scrutiny (except of course when Penn State wins) that he’s too old to coach at such a high level; too old to manage the egos of his young players; too old to keep running on the field with his team.  To all the naysayers, they can only hope they can do what he does when (if) they get to be his age.

Age Is A Mindset

In the February 9th issue of The Sporting News, Steve Greenberg interviewed Coach Paterno and asked him questions on everything from the current state of college football to the business of coaching.  But what caught my attention the most was when JoePa said “I hate to see people get old when they’re not old. Life is what you make of it.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself, Joe! How many people do you know that blame their age on their lack of interest in exercise or eating well? Or blame their age on as to why they feel the way they do?  Perhaps it’s you, and it’s the worst excuse there is – we’ve ALL been aging since the day we were born.

Fitness is Ageless

Having not been recruited to play football at Penn State, I can only imagine what the rush of running into Beaver Stadium with 110,000 fans roaring must be like. But JoePa still continues to do it and with the attitude, “And run on that field, and all the 70-year-old guys in the stands who are feeling sorry for themselves because they’re 70 say, “What the hell’s the matter with that guy?”  If Joe used age as an excuse, he would have quit a long time ago, and missed those trips to the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, and the history books.  Is it because he runs out onto the field or his walks on the Jersey shore? May be, but it’s because he chooses to and does not let his age or anyone else for that matter dictate how he should live his life at 83.

Don’t let your age dictate what you can and can’t do.  You can be fit at any age. You can climb any mountain you want.  Achieve any goal you set out to accomplish. It’s all in the attitude you take.