I spoke to reporter Alyssa Shaffer at Livestrong.com about what you need to do to keep in shape.
“If the legendary fountain of youth really existed, it’s a pretty good bet you’d have to bike, swim, walk, surf or stretch to reach it. “There’s an enormous amount of research that shows that the best thing by far you can do to stay healthy and vibrant is to exercise,” notes Patricia Cohen, the author of “In Our Prime: The Invention of Middle Age.” “Science shows that to whatever degree you can add movement to your life, you’ll benefit significantly.”
That’s something these five vivacious, and successful, women have discovered first hand. A few of them are recent converts to their favorite pastimes; others have been working out or playing sports for decades. But all have found that being active (and eating well) not only keeps them looking beautiful, but – more important – makes them feel happy, energetic, and in love with life. Let them inspire you to get moving….”
The always interesting Gretchen Reynolds points out that while Americans are living longer, they are not necessarily living better. The increase of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease are up thanks largely to overeating and inactivity. (“The Weight of the Nation,” a great documentary series on HBO by a friend of mine John Hoffman offers a fascinating look at our collective weight problem.)
“Those adults who had been the least fit at the time of their middle-age checkup also were the most likely to have developed any of eight serious or chronic conditions early in the aging process. These include heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and colon or lung cancer.”
There is hope, though. A new study shows that even longtime couch potatoes can dramatically improve their health by starting to exercise in middle age.
“Being or becoming fit in middle age, the study found, even if you haven’t previously bothered with exercise, appears to reshape the landscape of aging.”
”…the results show, in essence, that being physically fit “compresses the time” that someone is likely to spend being debilitated during old age, leaving the earlier post-retirement years free of serious illness and, at least potentially, imbued with a finer quality of life.”
Read the whole story here.
As much as we all hate to exercise, it is increasingly clear that it is the only fountain of youth that exists. As reported in Medical Daily:
“It’s not just vigorous exercise and sports that are important. These leisure-time activities represent moderate intensity exercise that is important to health. It is especially important for older people to be physically active because it contributes to successful aging,” said lead author Mark Hamer, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology and public health at University College in London, U.K.
A study published online in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that middle-age men who smoke aged their brains by 10 years. Intriguingly, smoking did not seem to have the same cognitive effects on women.
As reported in Medpagetoday:
“Current smoking conferred the equivalent of 10 years of aging on global cognition and executive function among men, Séverine Sabia, PhD, of University College London, and colleagues reported online in the
This effect might be expected to lead to dementia later in life, they noted.
Although their analysis of the Whitehall II cohort study of British civil servants couldn’t address that risk, other evidence from studies in the elderly has increasingly linked smoking and dementia.
Because the process that leads to dementia appears to start decades before clinical diagnosis, smoking cessation efforts need to target individuals at all ages, Sabia’s group concluded.
Smoking didn’t appear to have the same impact on women’s brains, perhaps because the women studied in the Whitehall II cohort didn’t smoke as heavily as the men, the researchers suggested.”
I love this story. It shows how important love and caring is for children, regardless of socioeconomic status. One of the authors of the study, as readers of my Times article and my book know, is Margie Lachman of Brandeis. A story on the study is at news-medical.net
“Nurturing mothers have garnered accolades for rescuing skinned knees on the playground and coaxing their children to sleep with lullabies. Now they’re gaining merit for their offspring’s physical health in middle age.
In a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, Brandeis psychologist Margie Lachman with Gregory Miller and colleagues at the University of British Columbia and the University of California, Los Angeles reveal that while children raised in families with low socioeconomic status (SES) frequently go on to have high rates of chronic illness in adulthood, a sizable minority remain healthy across the life course. The research sought to examine if parental nurturance could mitigate the effects of childhood disadvantage.
Lachman, the Minnie and Harold Fierman Professor of Psychology, and director of the Lifespan Initiative on Healthy Aging, says that her team is working to understand the sources of social disparities in health and what can be done to reduce them. Funded by the National Institute on Aging as part of the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) study, this information will then be used to empower families through education.
“The literature is very clear that people who are low in socioeconomic status have worse health than their same age counterparts,” says Lachman, a phenomenon called the social gradient in health. “Modifiable factors play an important role, and we are realizing that things can be done to try to minimize these health disparities.”