Archive for category aging

Age Is Just A Number

A friend thinks I could dance like this with or without my grandchildren. I wish I agreed with him. Maybe I COULD learn this routine if I tried…

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The Older You Are, The Happier You Become

old people are happier

old people are happier

This article summarizes research claiming old people are happier than young people. No concrete explanations why…just some guesses:

Despite our culture’s obsession with youth, it turns out that the 20s and 30s are generally a very stressful time for many young adults who are plagued by anxiety and depression…They noted that there are many pressures unique to this life phase including establishing a career, finding a life partner and navigating financial issues.

But what makes it so amusing to me are the following facts about the people sampled:

Participants were contacted via landline, meaning the experiences of people who have only cellphones were not included in the results.

In addition, people were excluded from taking part in the survey if they had dementia, lived in a nursing home or had a terminal illness. That means the elderly participants were, on the whole, fairly healthy, which might influence their sense of well-being.

Finally, everyone involved in the survey lived in sunny San Diego. It is possible that aging in Michigan could be very different than aging in Southern California.

The study had major implications, especially considering that within just a few years, more people on the planet will be over 60 than under 15.

Here are some more excerpts:

Yes, your physical health is likely to decline as you age. And unfortunately, your cognitive abilities like learning new skills and remembering things is likely to suffer too.

But despite such downsides, research suggests that your overall mental health, including your mood, your sense of well-being and your ability to handle stress, just keeps improving right up until the very end of life. Consider it something to look forward to.

In a recent survey of more than 1,500 San Diego residents aged 21 to 99, researchers report that people in their 20s were the most stressed out and depressed, while those in their 90s were the most content.

The older people were, the happier they felt…“People who were in older life were happier, more satisfied, less depressed, had less anxiety and less perceived stress than younger respondents.”

People’s goals and reasoning change as they come to appreciate their mortality and recognize that their time on Earth is finite.

“When people face endings they tend to shift from goals about exploration and expanding horizons to ones about savoring relationships and focusing on meaningful activities. When you focus on emotionally meaningful goals, life gets better, you feel better, and the negative emotions become less frequent and more fleeting when they occur.”

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Deshun Wang’s Inspirational Outlook

Hahaha. This 80-year-old has a terrific, upbeat attitude about how to live a life. Check out his “Hot Grandpa” modeling moves in the first 30 seconds of the video below.

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How I Improved My Posture

Poor Posture by Paul Rogers

Poor Posture by Paul Rogers

Here is a predictable article about posture: how important it is, how to adjust chairs and computers to improve it, consequences of slouching and carrying book bags on just one shoulder.

But it really hits home for a couple of reasons. First of all, my father was a chiropractor who told me all the time to stand up straight. He knew better than most about the ills that resulted from slouching. And not just physical problems, but mental ones too.

In fact I was quick to tell my closest friend that he was looking like an old man, because he was slouching so much. But he kept doing it.

And then as I aged, my wife would sometimes point out that I was not standing up straight. But I kept doing it too. I asked my doctor about it at my last annual physical, and he had a simple–but maybe not correct–explanation. He said that I could see that I was shorter by more than an inch. This was because seven decades of activity and defying gravity has worn down the discs between my spinal vertebrae. AND I WAS LEANING OVER (SLOUCHING), BECAUSE IT FELT MORE COMFORTABLE.

I definitely was uncomfortable a lot from a stiff back. He said that maybe I had some arthritis creeping in. I bought a new mattress, and that was a considerable improvement: it decreased my morning back discomfort. So did hot morning showers.

But then a strange event happened. My daughter emailed me that she was very disturbed that I was bending over all the time. She noticed my slumping during her last two visits. I immediately admitted that I felt old doing it, didn’t like what I looked like in the mirror, and gave her the story from my doctor about the thinner discs and arthritis.

But it still bothered her…and she asked if she could help? I told her to text me now and then to remind me to force myself to stand tall. I would picture those professional dancers who look like puppets with strings attached to their heads, pulling them practically off the ground.

And guess what. I started finally to remember. Something my daughter triggered allowed me to completely change my behavior. I was suddenly noticing all the time…whether when washing dishes, showering, walking, sitting at the computer,etc…that I needed to stand tall. And miraculously, some of the discomfort and stiffness in my bank began to lessen and go away. It has been amazing!

Why my father’s words and my wife’s observations–all conveyed gently and with loving concern–failed to lead to any change is troubling to me. But maybe now that I am older, the terrible prospect of becoming OLD!!! was enough to finally frighten me into action.

Fighting inertia and lifelong habits is always a major, sometimes insurmountable, challenge. For two or three weeks now, I have been able to modify my patterns. I will keep searching for a transferable explanation that I can utilize in other situations, where I wish to alter my behavior.

Let me know if you have any insights.

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73-Year-Old John Maultsby Completes 50 Marathons In All 50 States

What I like most about this man’s accomplishment is not that he ran all those races. Not even that he didn’t start distance running until his late 50s and finished his first marathon at 60. No, what stands out for me is that he created this goal for himself that has so much meaning to him that it keeps him going and in shape and in training. Just recently someone said how fortunate it is to be excited about “anything.” My friend Joe always says that not too many people are passionate. Well this runner certainly is, and it’s motivating him to reach his goals.

Now that he is completed a marathon in every state, he wants to run one in every continent. Isn’t Antarctica a continent? How you going to run 26 miles there, Man?

John Maultsby completes his 50th marathon in 50 different states

John Maultsby completes his 50th marathon in 50 different states

Finishing just one marathon in your lifetime is something to be pretty proud of, but for 73-year-old John Maultsby, it just wasn’t enough.

Last November, Maultsby championed a feat few can lay claim to. He finished running a string of 50 marathons–one in every state.

Maultsby was cheered on by a crowd that included his wife, mother, and three daughters as he crossed the finish line at a New Hampshire race.

Maultsby’s daughter, Mabel, said that John had always been a runner, but took up distance running in his late 50s to help lower his blood pressure. He also adopted a vegan diet and soon started running long distances.

His first marathon was at age 60. It was during his first race, when he saw a man wearing a shirt that said “50 States Finisher,” that John thought he too could accomplish the feat.

It’s taken 13 years, but John finally completed his nationwide goal and now plans on running marathons on every continent. He’s run seven marathons this year alone and has run the Boston Marathon nine times.

“He’s so motivated,” Mabel said. “I’m so inspired by his motivation … by his balls-to-the-wall attitude…he still looks like the man he was in his late 50s!”

John believes he “looks older than he feels,” Mabel says, adding that he’s still very much “young at heart.”

As for the secret to staying in shape in his 70s? “The secret to longevity is happiness and a very supportive family,” Mabel said. “He’s trying to keep positive and always keeping goals. That’s what’s kept him going all this time.”

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It’s All Relative

At the end of the summer, I was proud to boast that I had played tennis 18 times in 24 days…including two days with two matches each. But it was too much, and I acquired the infamous “tennis elbow.” Damn. I was playing so well, and now I was hurting. I felt pretty sorry for myself as my right arm had pains every time I hit the ball. I was envious of guys who had no injuries. I was disappointed that the top-level game I was playing (for me) had dropped drastically. I certainly didn’t want to take weeks or months off. Sucks. Even though it is only a game, I love the challenge, the exercise, the sweating and satisfaction. But it was a major setback.

Then I went to a college reunion and learned that one of my fraternity brothers there has cancer, and it is serious, and he may not make it to the next reunion in two years. Yes, at my age too many people are dying. So both college and high school reunions are every two or three years now.

Three weeks later I went back to Florida for my high school 75th Birthday Party. And again I met a classmate who just finished six months of chemo and was told that he is not likely to live more than two years and maybe as little as six months.

So it’s all relative, right? How can I bemoan a measly tennis elbow discomfort, when others my age are dying. No comparison. I am still playing sports and looking ahead to the possibility of 10-15 years of more life. I better not complain even the tiniest whimper. Yet we all forget these realities, when we want more money, time, success, happiness. We are all so greedy and unsatisfied. Is it just the nature of human beings to strive always for more?

I like to think that I am grateful much of the time. That I know this lesson well. That I am not as grasping or insensitive as many others who don’t even notice, much less care about, those who are less fortunate. But even I was disgusted with my injury. It took two trips to reunions to put life back in perspective.

How about you? Are you looking up enviously at those with more and better all the time? Or do you have the ability to look at those who have less and harder lives and feel blessed at your good fortune or wise decisions?

I can see how hard it is sometimes for me…even to make this confession. I came back from the second trip on the 16th of November, but couldn’t bring myself to write this post until now.

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Slowing Down Aging

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 4.53.07 PM

Here is an interesting (though lengthy) article about causes of aging, which lead to decay and death. However some mammals, like whales, can delay aging and live to 200 years. How does this happen?

I was surprised to read that “…a huge body also puts you at enormous risk of cancer, thanks to simple mathematics: the more cells you have, the more likely you are to develop a harmful mutation. (Indeed, one study found that taller people are slightly more likely to develop cancer than shorter people, for this very reason.) And the problems become even greater the longer your life span. “When you live longer, you go through more (cell) divisions, so the likelihood of cancer increases hugely,” says Leonard Nunney at the University of California, Riverside, who researches the evolution of cancer.”

Who’d have guessed? Maybe this is one reason some Asian cultures have lower rates of cancer than Western people. Of course diet could also play a major role.

Interesting to think about, even if you can’t make yourself shorter!

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Keep Moving

I went to the doctor this week to be examined for a possible hernia…or a kidney stone…or a tumor. I felt tenderness and slight discomfort after straining myself lifting weights. But after 17 days it had all gone away. My doctor is always supportive. He sees so many men my age who are in such worse shape that I always hear the same reaction: “You are doing fine, great…don’t worry about anything. Keep doing what you are doing.”

Then I mentioned how I had hurt my back as well and felt really uncomfortable rising from a bed or chair. How I couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes in one position while driving. And then I would reach the tennis court and start playing…and within minutes I wasn’t even aware of any problem. I wouldn’t even think about it until the match was over.

Movement is everything, the doc told me. Keep moving to improve blood flow, warmth, oxygen.

It reminded me of what I once read about the famous cellist, Pablo Casals, who was so arthritic he could barely move around, dress himself or use his hands. But then he would shuffle to the piano or cello, slowly arrange himself and start playing effortlessly and smoothly. His body would transform into suppleness and ease. The link above refers to Norman Cousins great book, Anatomy of an Illness, which illustrates the power of the body over the mind.

Here is someone else’s version of those passages:

The following is a description of the ninety year old musician Pablo Casals:

Upon rising in the morning,…Casals dressed with difficulty. He suffered from emphysema and apparent rheumatoid arthritis. “He was badly stooped. His head was pitched forward and he walked with a shuffle. His hands were swollen and his fingers were clenched.” Then, playing Bach on the piano before breakfast, Casal’s fingers unlocked, his back straightened, and he seemed to breath more freely. Next, playing Brahms, “his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with the music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken, but supple and graceful and completely freed of its arthritic coils.” Having finished at the keyboard, Casals stood up, straighter and taller than before. “He walked to breakfast with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, then went for a walk on the beach.”

Tennis is my cello…should be a book title.

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Running The New York City Marathon At Age 60

Here is a really funny article by JERÉ LONGMAN that was in the New York Times with some photos and a video:

Wilson Kipsang of Kenya won the New York City Marathon in 2 hours 10 minutes 59 seconds — or as I like to call it at my age, a good night’s sleep.

At 60, I also ran Sunday’s race, one of about 3,000 windblown geezers among the field, expected to be 50,000.

“You need a pacemaker?” German Silva asked the other day.

“Hopefully not installed,” I said.

In 1995, before German’s second consecutive victory in New York, I joined him at 13,000 feet to train on the side of a volcano in his native Mexico. By “joined,” I mean that he ran up the volcano while I rode in a car with his coach.

A few weeks later, German finished first in New York, and, well, I finished. Actually, it was the only time I broke four hours. But that was nearly 20 years ago. Whatever speed I possessed receded with my hairline.

In April, I ran my first Boston Marathon: 5 hours 20 minutes. That is less a time for a race than a time for a crockpot recipe.

Not that 60 is a regretful age. Not at all. I’m much healthier at 60 than I was at 20. Back then I was on my way to 240 pounds. When I backed up, I beeped.

You know it is time to lose weight when you go horseback riding and the stablehand says, “Wait a minute; you’ll have to ride Big Boy.” Read the rest of this entry »

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President Bush Parachutes At 90 In Spite Of Parkinson’s Disease

George Bush the elder celebrated his 90th birthday on June 12th by parachuting in tandem out of a helicopter at 6000 feet. He had done it for his 85th, 80th and 75th birthdays as well. It was his eighth jump. Just watch the first two videos in the series above.

What’s most impressive to me is that Bush has Parkinson’s disease and no longer has the use of his legs and very little control of his arms. So he lands and is placed back in his wheelchair! Talk about inspirational.

According to Guinness World Records spokeswoman Sara Wilcox, the oldest tandem parachute jumper was by 100-year-old Bjarne Mæland from Norway, who made a 10,500-foot jump in 1999.

The oldest confirmed solo jumper was Milburn Hart, 96, who made his jump in 2005.

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How Often Do You Dance?

my dad's dance friends had women dressed like this, but not in competitions

my dad’s dance friends had women dressed like this, but not in competitions

I read an article titled Why Don’t We Dance Anymore? When is the last time you danced in public or a party?

When I was a teenager in high school in Miami Beach, and other kids were watching American Bandstand and dancing to that music after school, I had to work after school and on weekends. So for years I was a cabana boy at the hotels serving the tourists. I picked up towels and cigarette butts and straightened out the lounges people lay on. I did errands. I also ogled the young teenage girls, and after work, would head very often to the Teen Room, where a grown-up played records we could dance to and make sure we acted properly.

Chaperones aside, I met lots of girls and taught them how to watch “submarine races” from the beach. And I did lots of dancing. I had the moves. I could really do fancy cha cha cha steps, the lindy, the twist. You had to stand out to impress the girls, and I was highly motivated. Plus it was good exercise (hahahaha!!!).

dancing is fun for all ages

dancing is fun for all ages

There was lots of dancing at frat parties in college and also after graduation. Every party had music of course. But with aging came less dancing…and less and less. There was that Studio 54 period, but I was already married and raising kids. When I separated and eventually divorced, I studied modern jazz at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center studios. I loved to shake to the music. And it was always helpful for a single guy trying to connect with single women…although most of them weren’t too talented. Some were put off by my unconventional moves. Others were perceptive enough to ask me if I were a professional dancer!

As the decades flew by, my peers danced less and less. A couple took tango lessons and went to Argentina with their instructor and classmates. But most sort of made a few easy steps at weddings and reunions. I remember a friend’s 60th birthday party, when we did line dancing and really went crazy with vigorous music. But for the most part, dinner parties with background music had become the norm. I missed those vibrant rhythms.

I remember so well working up great sweats jumping around, shouting and showing what I got. I remember great fun bringing out my old gestures and patterns. I thought I was cool. I remember trying to imitate new moves that I observed. But as an older guy, dancing is a relatively rare pleasure. It’s always with my wife, who is also a good dancer. In my circles, dancing with another women “just ain’t done.” It’s rarely so vigorous that we end up sweaty. And I’m not as nimble as I used to be. So I do it with wistful memories of former times.

My daughter says she and her friends still dance at parties and clubs. Maybe it’s an activity that most people relegate to their youth.

My father didn’t. He loved to dance and did it his whole life, even into his 80’s. He struggled with my mother their entire time together–he wanted to be first on the floor, before it became crowded…she wanted to be the last on the floor, so no one could see her limited abilities…But dad could do all the dances: the Latin variations, like samba, mambo, cha cha cha, salsa…fox trot, ball room dancing, square dancing…he was even a caller and they wore western costumes and went to other cities to dance with regional enthusiasts. My poor mother suffered.

After dad and mom divorced, he danced at a community center every week, and that’s where he met his next wife of maybe 30 years. They danced at contests, hotel bars on Miami Beach, and at fancy ballrooms. One visit to Florida, I joined him (in his mid-80’s) and my step mom on an evening of dance. He limped by then from a car accident, yet he twirled two women at a time. There was a man in a red suit gliding by, and the women were in all kinds of formal or show businessey gowns. It was hysterical. It was elegant. It was magnificent. And it was a “family” of like-minded dancers, of all ages, and backgrounds. Maybe I could find such a gathering in the rural area where I live.

Dad and his breed aside, most of us seem to do it rarely. Too bad. It was/is great fun. A month ago at a friend’s daughter’s wedding, my wife and I hit the very crowded, portable floor under a tent in a horse pasture and tried not to collide with the bride and groom and their boisterous and very energetic friends. They really let loose. There were even some old people who were flapping their wings and stomping quite admirably. Kind of reminds me what I heard about the great cellist Pablo Casals in his final years (he lived to 96): he was arthritic and could barely move…but when a bow was placed in his hands, he came alive and played his cello like he was decades younger.

One high school reunion, maybe the 40th, there was an Elvis impersonator hired to sing the oldies from our 50’s years (we graduated in 1958). I came in late to the hotel dance room, and there were my classmates, now rotund, gray, wrinkled, dancing like kids. They were teenagers again. Some guests of the hotel were watching from the back and laughing at these old people dancing out of character. They were appalled at the sight and shocked at the spectacle. Grey hairs acting like children…instead of the sedate walking dead acting their age. I should have told them about Casals. I should have told them to never act your age, if you don’t want to. But I didn’t. I knew better. And I loved seeing the class’s best dancers still being the best dancers…

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Rudy The Strongman

My high school classmate, Rudy, is 74 years old and was advised to try strengthening therapy, rather than surgery. He has a trainer come to his house twice a week to crack the whip and make him do exercises.

He is ALMOST up to 10 almost-chin ups. Pretty good for anybody…not just a guy in his 70’s…

and then he sent me this: “After that initial set that i sent you, I did three more. 17, 19 and 10. Plus the push ups, bozoo squats with 12lb ball, chin ups, 30 seconds of high speed pedaling on stationary bicycle, between sets of weight lifting, leg lifts, flutter kicks, crunches. And that is the hour.

“The endorphins make me feel great. Like a drug.”

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Looking Forward To Being Old

The indoor tennis season has started up again, and there were the “old guys” on the far court almost every time I arrived. Some barely move, their strokes are often raggedy, and lobs and dinks are a key part of their game. I heard that one of them had turned 90 recently.

Dave is always quick with jokes and clever retorts. I asked him how he was able to live so long? What had he done right? “Suffer,” he said instantly and with a twinkle. “I have suffered a lot, and that’s what has kept me going.” He also said that he was the last of his closest five friends to still be alive.

How have you been able to keep playing tennis? Again he answered brilliantly, “One word…when the ball comes to my side of the net, I turn to my partner and say, ‘YOURS.'” He is always good for a chuckle or laugh.

But his birthday was a real confront. I found that I was actually jealous. A good high school friend of mine died last month…had a stroke when he was packing some boxes and died in the operating room. Many others are gone, of course. So I found myself hoping, longing to be 90 years old. It would mean that I will live 18 more years. I will see my younger kids marry, maybe even the older kids’ kids (my grandkids) marry. I will watch the world evolve, however warmly, spend more time with friends, read more books, etc etc. And maybe I could be one of those rare birds who plays tennis into his 90’s. It’s a real dream for me to live that long. And stay healthy.

I know, I know. Most people equate aging with decay and the inability to do what you could do when you were young and healthy and fit, without having to go to a gym or watch what you ate. The food sludge from years of indifference hadn’t yet clogged up your tubes, a few smokes hadn’t yet blackened your lungs, and a cut or sore would heal in hours rather than take weeks.

Nevertheless. I’d be thrilled to make it to 90 and have all those additional hours of good living–and good tennis–part of my history. Stay tuned…

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Sharon Simmons Is Fit In Her Fifties

Sharon Simmons in pink (rt) trying out for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading age 55

Sharon Simmons in pink (rt) trying out for the Dallas Cowboys cheerleading squad…at age 55

Saw this article about a 56-year-old woman, Sharon Simmons, who has worked out for over 35 years and started competing in fitness competitions just seven years ago, at 49. Of the 20 she entered, she came in first in nine and placed in two national competitions. She also wrote a couple of books about fitness, not letting age and others’ opinions hold you back, and at 55 tried out for a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader slot. You have to admire her spirit and fearlessness to take emotional risks.

No doubt she is exceptional with her physical abilities and looks at her age. Few grandmothers look like her. And even fewer women in their mid-fifties. But her attitude and life style are part of the reason. Check out her web site . And here are excerpts of the article, which includes eight of her lessons for aging and living well.

the Texas granny

the Texas granny

1. “It’s really not all about winning.”

Though Simmons has a long list of fitness competition wins, having a place in the winners’ circle isn’t what motivates her.

“It’s about getting there,” she realized after her first fitness competition in Las Vegas in 2006.

3. “Never allow anyone else to set your limitations for you.”

Over the course of her fitness modeling career, Simmons has had her fair share of criticism from friends, family and strangers alike, she said.

“People think that people over 50 should be on a porch in a rocking chair… Where would I be if I listened to them?” she said with a laugh. “We are in control of what we do to a certain extent. There’s this stigma that ‘Oh, they’re grandparents, they should really start slowing down or retiring.’ Well, why? We’re only just beginning!”

7. “Don’t lose sight of your goals. If you get sidetracked, get back on.”

Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself veering off course from your goals, Simmons advised. Failing to get back on course is worse than dusting yourself off and trying again. “[Figure out] how do I get there and then establish those steps,” she said, “because it will be small steps that get [you] to that goal.”

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Keeping Sports In Perspective And Dealing With Envy

I write this after a week of sadness from the Boston bombings. Right now the manhunt is on for the second suspect.

I have been playing a lot of tennis: tomorrow will be 12 out of 18 days. When I missed shots yesterday, I couldn’t get upset—I was alive and safe. I was healthy enough to be active, while others my age are dead, too sick to run around, or not fit enough to play. Yesterday I hit the best lobs of my life. My ground strokes are improving after I learned a new technique. My serve is a bit harder.

I also had a physical and received the blood work: my cholesterol is still below 200 (197) and my PSA is healthy. Avoiding all those delicious cream sauces and desserts and buttery breads has some benefit. I do miss them though.

I am certainly proud that all the hard work and discipline is paying off. Some boys in their 20’s tell me that I still inspire them with my healthy living. Unfortunately, there are people who are older who find my good health and physical activity “irritating.” They seem to be envious and don’t want to hear about it. They resent my good genetic inheritance. They are jealous that I am able to make myself avoid certain foods, minimize alcohol and fat intake. It is frustrating for me that I have to hide this physical success. Yet here I am the second time in 10 days dealing with other people’s annoyance at my achievements. But it is how humans are. Some things don’t change…you can see infants fighting over who is better and who should keep the toys. Adults are often just infants in grown up bodies…

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Feeling Apologetic For Success

April 5th was my 72nd birthday, and it sounds old old old. I feel like I am in my 50’s, and people tell me to act as young as I feel. So I do. I played two hours of tennis each of five of the last six days. I did my daily exercises, and have done that now for 514 consecutive days. I still watch my diet and avoid excessive food portions and alcohol. And it has been paying off: the deprivation and discipline are keeping me fit.

Though I haven’t had the serious illnesses that many of my contemporaries faced, I am concluding that a lot of my good health is pure luck. I just happened to be born with “good” genes. And I dodged some accidents that others might not have been lucky enough to avoid. (However I did return from an army tour in Korea on a stretcher with hepatitis.) I don’t quite feel guilty, but the more people of all ages I meet who are sick or injured, the more I feel a bit apologetic. I am even hesitating to write these public words, because I don’t want to upset others who read them. Or create jealousy.

In a doubles tennis match this week, I kept returning balls at the net that one opponent was hammering at me. He became so frustrated that I almost felt sorry for him. He kept his cool and often hit away from me, but he seemed to grimace a lot each time I volleyed his ball back for a point. Why in the world do I feel the least bit of empathy for his frustration? I wish I had the killer instinct on the court or was at least indifferent to his annoyance. Yet that is not who I am…I feel badly.

Similarly when I can move and play sports ably, while others are handicapped by age, injury and infirmity, I feel defensive. Yet so much of it is just luck. I just happen to be controlled enough to exercise, to stop eating when I am full, and to eat more healthfully by avoiding fat and salt. It’s who I am and how I turned out.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept who we are, whether bad and failing or good and succeeding. I know, I know…it’s a high-class problem…and after writing these words earlier, I read the paper and saw that an acquaintance I liked died a couple of weeks ago after a long battle with cancer. She was 71.

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Why We Overeat And Why We Age And Die

I discovered this series of brief animations that explain all kinds of questions, from how an orgasm works to how our brains are fooled. You can see many of them right here.

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Our New Year’s Day Football Tradition

Another New Year's Day football game—1/1/2012

Another New Year’s Day football game—1/1/2012

Dave Nichols has spent a lifetime examining sports as an athletic director, professor and teacher. He just sent me this heart-warming story about an annual football game he and his buddies have been playing for 45 years. And he says he is working on his abs. In the group shot below, Dave is wearing a red hat and standing seventh from the right.

On a crisp winter’s day in 1969 Massachusetts, a group of Medford High School students met after partying the evening before to play tackle football in the morning’s snow. The student’s consisted of high school athletes and dubbed themselves the “Fast Guys.” Across the park that New Year’s morn, the Fast Guys noticed another group of young men who lived in the vicinity of the public park playing football as well. A verbal challenge to a game ensued, and the rivalry of the Park Boys versus the Fast Guys began in what would be called their “Snow Bowl.”

For 45 consecutive New Year’s mornings at 11 am, the two teams of seven men each have met to play not for crowds or glory, but simply for their own amusement, regardless of weather or life’s situations. Conditions have run the gamut. During the 1973 game, temperatures climbed into the 60’s, while the 1997 game was played in single digits. The turf has been muddied, iced, and covered with over two feet of snow, and the men—now in their 60’s—simply play on. The rules remain the same as the original contest: centers are still eligible, three consecutive passes warrants a first down, and the field sides change after each touchdown. Protective gear is not allowed, and uniforms simply don’t exist.

The games used to last for hours, but get shorter each year. Basically the length is determined by what the men can stand. When someone who is exhausted says “How about two possessions each,” that is what happens. The Fast Guys dominated in the early years, but the Park Boys have made recent gains, as the Fast Guys are simply not that fast anymore. Snow is a great equalizer. The total record is always in dispute.

The Medford, Mass Snow Bowl Gang

The Medford, Mass Snow Bowl Gang

Players know which team they are on, as many participants have been together since kindergarten, and “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never know me” is the sentiment that prevails. The men travel from all over the east coast to come to their game and do so because they simply love to play.

During the off season (the other 364 days of the year), players harass each other, suggesting their superiority, arguing about the total won-lost records, and glorifying past performances. Sometimes they get together for other athletic endeavors, and other times it is a “Same Time, Next Year” event. No calls are necessary as it just happens.

One guy got married the night before and showed up the next morning. Needless to say he got the game ball. Both teams were hung over in the early years, but knowing what is coming the next day deters serious debauchery. One of the players has actually had surgery three different times the day after the game. Children seldom play. Last year one of the teammates passed, and his son came to take his spot. Families sometimes come by, but generally the fans consist of a passerby walking his dog. Most of the wives don’t really understand why their men do this, and the mantra when guys depart for the game is generally “Don’t come home if you get hurt.”

The only concession made to age is that the men greet each other with a hug instead of a handshake and have come to actually appreciate their opponents. They also hang on to the thought that they may not be as athletically gifted as they once were, but for a moment, just one more instant, they might be as good as ever. To a man they believe that playing together with friends outside in the snow is not just for children, but for men as well, and they are determined to play as long as they can put one foot in front of the other. It is a revolution of sorts, spawned by the spirit of a society of aging men who believe they are exemplary in their pursuit of athletic longevity.

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My 15 Minutes Of Fitness Fame On Reddit

Yesterday my son posted a paragraph on the reddit fitness site (200,000 followers) talking about how I did some exercise 330 days in a row as a challenge to be disciplined and to also keep a little bit more toned than doing nothing at all. Well it really caught on and was voted right to the top for most of the day. He also had some links to this irasabs site, so the traffic numbers were blown way off the charts: almost 25 times the average number of daily visitors. Even today the traffic was six times normal.

But in addition to 729 points, compared to 270 for today’s highest-valued thread, there were 140 comments. My son was proud and amused by them. I certainly was laughing at some of the responses. So here are a few to add some giggles to your day as well. And contrary to what some of the people suggested, I am not on any steroids or other drugs to bulk up…

I hope to be like you when I’m 50+.

Dang, I hope I look like you when I get to 30.

I never was into older men…. but damn you’re the exception

Ira you are an inspiration and a mad cat.

If I am 70 and look like that I will dress like an African Bushman and tell everyone to deal with it.

Your father is in better shape than a lot of men my age (22). Good for him, that’s amazing.

This is pretty awesome. So much of the aging process happens because people stop engaging in physical activity.

mein godt your dad is a beast, mine is in perma bulk mode with fat-beetus and a large amount of heart problems associated with bulking for more than 25 years.

It’s kinda sad that’s probably the best our bodies would look when they’re that age. I don’t wanna get old.

I’m sorry but someone doesn’t look like that at 71 without some help.

My first thought as well. People always assume it’s an insult even though his dedication is awesome either way. People (are) denying the likely reality that he is on gear (slang for steroids), but even if he is there’s nothing wrong with that.

At his age he could easily get prescribed testosterone from a physician too. Anti-ageing clinics everywhere.

Your dad is a very inspirational character, thanks for sharing his legend!!! (“story” seemed unworthy :p)

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Daily Exercise At 96

A friend’s mother died recently at age 96, so I read her obituary in the local paper. In her 20’s she was a club tennis champion, and she played golf as well. Had a hole-in-one. But what really impressed me was that “she exercised watching Jack LaLanne from 1951 until he went off the air and worked out every day until several days before she died.”

Wow! She’s 96 and still exercising every day. I can’t wait to find out what she was doing. She sure must have been healthy and fit to be doing anything physical at 96. Maybe it shows the value of being active and fit. We can all learn from her…

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Obvious Secrets For Living Longer With Minimal Illness

Here’s another Gretchen Reynolds article about the benefits of fitness into old age. The comments are good and predictable too…over 200 of them with first-hand advice. Of course the real goal is to not just live longer, but to delay or minimize infirmity in old age. Middle age fitness helps you do that. Below are some excerpts.

A new study suggests that being or becoming fit in middle age, even if you haven’t previously bothered with exercise, appears to reshape the landscape of aging.

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.

The adults who’d been the most fit in their 40s and 50s often developed many of the same conditions, but notably their maladies appeared significantly later in life than for the less fit. Typically, the most aerobically fit people lived with chronic illnesses in the final five years of their lives, instead of the final 10, 15 or even 20 years.

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.

Interestingly, the effects of fitness in this study statistically were greater in terms of delaying illness than in prolonging life. While those in the fittest group did tend to live longer than the least fit, perhaps more important was the fact that they were even more likely to live well during more of their older years.

Two Comments:

* ellen
* L.A., CA

This time of life offers so much. If you’re lucky enough to be retired it’s certainly easier. However, having said that, when I turned 50 I made a deal with myself that I would exercise every day. I got to say how much, though. Some days it was 5 minutes, some days an hour. Little by little I got to feel so much better that now I do pilates (at home) for about a half hour and then I walk for about 45 minutes. I eat the paleo diet and, at 63, I can tell you I’m in better shape than I’ve ever been in my life. I have more energy. I have no aches and pains. I kayak and dance, and do art. I’m very lucky to be living this life. I’m also very devoted to making the most of it. Oh yes, I take NO MEDS. I’m hoping to live and long and healthy life. But more than hope, I’m working for it. My body is there for me every day. The least I can do is give it a hand. Start small and trust that it will build. You get to like it after a while, Honest. It’s become so much a part of my life now that on a day I might no get to do my walk, say, I miss it terribly.

* RS Close
* Ventura County, CA

Just the realization that living longer is not the goal, but living better is what happens to someone who exercises should be enough evidence to encourage people to move their bodies. I have been taking workout classes for years. Now, I am 71. I do spinning classes 4X week, at least walk or hike on each of the other days…..I am NEVER sick….I do not take medications…I do take vitamins and supplements…..I have all of my original body parts and best of all….my friends are much younger and lots of fun….people my own age are all falling apart. I also eat a very healthy, almost all organic diet and cook most nights…nothing elaborate, but careful planning…it takes focus but it is well worth the results. Hope more people pay attention to the important findings in the article!

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Skewed and Misaligned Abs

actor Shemar Moore has abs

unknown lifter

Shemar Franklin Moore is an American actor and former fashion model. His most notable roles are that of Malcolm Winters on The Young and the Restless from 1994 to 2005, Derek Morgan on CBS’s Criminal Minds from 2005 to present, and as the third permanent host of Soul Train from 1999 to 2003.

Hopefully these pictures will please two readers who asked for more abs pictures. The one on the left was sent in by my friend Chris (age 25) who was impressed by the story about the 72-year-old doctor on steroids whose body looks like he’s decades younger.

Interesting how some sets of abs line up and others don’t. I assume it’s genetics as opposed to how they exercise. Any explanations from you?

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We See This Guy On TV Alot

do you recognize him?

He’s got a pretty good set of abs and body in general…right? But there is something very unusual about him. His name is Jeff Life, and he is a 72-year-old doctor. See him working out below, something he does at least six times a week in the gym.

In an LA Times article , it says his regimen includes hard cardio, heavy weights pushed to the max, martial arts, Pilates, a strict low-glycemic carb diet and lots of supplements. It has also, for the last seven years, been hormonally enhanced by a program that includes testosterone and human growth hormone—a therapy Life views as entirely appropriate, even necessary despite the medical evidence questioning both its effectiveness and safety…

Like most people, Life didn’t give a thought to his testosterone level, his HGH or his fitness as he built his career as a family practice doctor in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. A lapsed Masters swimmer who became inactive in his mid 40s, the father of five became fat and borderline diabetic—”a typical stressed-out middle-aged doctor who ate, drank and didn’t practice what he preached. It was years and years of sloth.”

Dr. Jeff Life–2010

That changed the day Life, then 60, picked up Muscle Media magazine and read about “the Challenge,” a 12-week, before-and-after fitness contest. His competitive fires lighted, Life sent in his before photo and hit the gym.

Three months later, he’d dropped 25 pounds, cut his body fat from 28% to 10%, got genuinely ripped and was named one of the contest’s 1999 “Body for Life” 10 grand champions…

But by age 64, Life found himself shrinking.

His muscles didn’t respond to workouts like they did a few years before. Abdominal fat started piling up. He began feeling mildly depressed. And he wasn’t waking with an erection as often as he used to.

It was a condition he would soon know as andropause, the insidious creep of declining testosterone.

It was time for his second epiphany—and the photo that would change everything…

the whole Dr. Jeffrey Life

Dr. Jeff's ad for the company he works with

In June 2003, Life became a Cenegenics patient, ultimately taking daily shots of HGH along with once-a-week testosterone shots, a regimen he still maintains.

“I could feel the difference quickly. Clarity of thought, a new, sharper focus, increased sexual function, bigger muscles.” He was so impressed that he packed up, moved to Las Vegas and joined the company.

After six months of seeing clients, Life had an idea to keep them motivated: Show them his body.

“They needed to know that I walked the walk.”

That might have been the end of the story—until a year later, when a writer from GQ magazine, in to do an anti-aging story, walked by Life’s office. His eyes bugged out at the sight of the glossy 8 by 11 of the buffed, bald, jeans-wearing guy hanging on the wall.

The shot ended up in his article in the January 2006 issue of GQ….Now it’s been seen by millions. An old, bald head on the young beefcake body. The claim is that this is not digitally modified. Whats your reaction?

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I Should Have Eaten More Steak!

These were the first words said by a woman who just found out she had incurable cancer and was going to die soon: “I should have eaten more steak!” Seven months later, she was gone…

I heard this anecdote from a friend who knows the widower. My friend (let’s call him Goliath, or G for short) and I were discussing mortality, health, and discipline. G often comments how disciplined I am to avoid foods with cholesterol. I often remind him how I used to eat half a pint of ice cream with chocolate syrup almost every night. Then my cholesterol rose to heart-attack-warning levels, so I gave it up. Eat a lot of sorbet now, almost no cheese, fat-free yogurt, soy milk and olive oil instead of more delicious butter. Now my cholesterol is down. Hopefully I will live longer and more healthfully.

Do I miss those foods. Sometimes, for sure. But knowing they are bad for me, I usually am just fine without them. If I suddenly learn that I will be dead in a few months or days, I don’t think it will bother me that I modified my diet and exercised more to stay healthy, fit, and enjoying these later years. But that’s me.

I remember a smoker saying that he is likely to live just 6 or 7 years less than a non-smoker. “Worth it,” he pronounced. Of course his addictions were no comparison to my giving up butter. But it’s all a balance, G and I decided. What if you live 10 years in good health, rather than 20 years in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices?

Of course you could die tomorrow in an accident. In that case you wouldn’t have time to regret having avoided harmful foods and life style. But working out the balance is quite confronting. Why earn more money for older age and health costs, if you think you will die in a year? Why stay fit and flexible? Why not cheat on your wife or husband? Why spend time helping out friends and supporting unemployed children? Do whatever you want!

It’s almost impossible to live solely for the moment, in spite of movies and novels starring glamorous, smiling hedonists. But is it really tempting to you?

When I was working at my own publishing company in the early years, I was newly divorced and wanted to be as stabilizing as possible for my two little girls. When they had summer and holiday vacations, I took huge amounts of time off, regardless of the business consequences. One year I was with the girls 104 days, including 26 weekends (52 of the days). Of course I felt guilty at first, but then I would tell myself that if any of my staff members complained, I would say I only had six months to live. That would justify the time away, I reasoned. In their minds as well as mine.

So I am familiar with that confrontation of how much we…I…should watch the diet, be responsible, do good deeds, exercise, say NO to another beer, another shirt, another vacation.
We each have to work it out, and it a challenge every time we look at a menu, open the freezer, hear about a friend’s trip to Bora Bora, see a friend divorce his wife of decades and become the playboy of the suburban world.

Good luck with your choices. And may the Force of long, healthy life be with you…

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How Some Seniors Stay Fit

My friend Russ sent me some video links to older guys in action. Here is one of a 60-year-old man who does 700 push ups and 10 sets of pull ups and dips five days a week. Now that’s what I call discipline! My doing 100 a day twice a week just doesn’t cut it. I’m inspired…but I thought you should rest muscle groups a day to help them bulk out?

Here is another video of a 90-year-old who is still pole vaulting. Dr. William Bell holds the world record in his age group and jumps three times a week.

This Kodenkan Danzan Ryu Jujitsu master throws his student around with such ease. I think in some of the martial arts, the older practitioners seem very fit and effective.

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