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Are You Ready To Join The Resistance?
Remarks from a recent talk given by René Burton at the Rotary Club

Sorry, couch potatoes - the verdict is in: People who exercise regularly really do live longer and healthier lives. I have very good news for everybody in the audience. About a quarter of you are likely to celebrate your 100th birthday, and everyone else is likely to live to be at least 90. I hope you all have wonderful birthdays, even if you have to go through several huffings and puffings to blow out all the candles. Thanks to medicine and science and better living habits, we've added a whole new chapter to our lives.

We used to go, pretty abruptly, from middle age to old age - from playing tennis to sitting in a chair, retired not only from our jobs, but, seemingly, from life. But as we get older we are getting a new lease on life. We can keep playing tennis in our 60s and even later, and if we have to hang up the racquet, we can still swing the golf club or hike the trail.

But if you want to be the beneficiary of all this progress, don't count completely on medicine and science. They may stretch out your life, but its quality will depend to a great extent on what you do yourself. You're already doing a lot. You are likely eating less red meat and more fish, passing up dessert (at least some times) and not smoking. And you're walking, gardening and doing many other active things.

But is that enough as we become 55+? What is enough? So what do we need to do to stay strong as we get older? We need to join what I call "the resistance". By the age of 30-35, our bodies start to lose muscle and bone mass. When we are younger, this isn't a big deal. First, even though our muscles and bones start to deteriorate the decline is gradual. Besides, in our 20, 30s and 40s, we're likely to be engaging in enough physical activity that keeps muscle and bone deterioration in check. But by the time we reach 70, if we have not been exercising we will lose half of our bone and muscle mass.

When we hit our mid-50s or "retire" in our early or mid-60s, we often decide to slow down. We'll go for walks around the block or on the beach, play a round of golf, maybe get on the bike once in a while, but, mostly, settle for Cruise Control as far as physical activity goes. Physiology experts say that as we embark on this new chapter in our lives, it's more important than ever to engage in a physical exercise program - challenging ourselves to be the best that we can be, by participating in an exercise activity at least 3 times per week.

My mission is to change perceptions about aging in America. My plan of action is to promote fitness for baby boomers and seniors through my, "IT'S NEVER TOO LATE" fitness program. Older adults have been stereotyped and put into boxes labeled "take it easy, you can't do it, or handle with care". Sometimes they themselves believe these statements, and are boxed in with the same perceptions. I want to release them from these misconceptions by my "IT'S NEVER TOO LATE" program tailored to the needs of baby boomers and seniors. Unlock their potential, unleashing their minds and bodies. It's not their bodies that are too old it's their attitudes and expectations. Only 12 percent of those 65 to 74 years of age engage in enough resistance activity - about an hour two days a week - to keep their muscles and bones strong.

That number goes down to 10 percent for those 75 years of age and older . You have the ability to change that percentage in the year 2006! When we don't do enough resistance activity, we're asking for trouble. In our mid-50s, the deterioration of our muscles and bones gains momentum. Each year, 340,000 Americans annually fall and break their hip, 40 percent of whom are forced to enter nursing homes. Falls can have devastating outcomes, including decreased mobility, decreased function and loss of independence. Falls and fall-related injuries impose an enormous burden on individuals, society, and the nation's health care system.

As the population of the United States ages, the negative impact of falls continues to increase, according to the Center for Disease Control, (CDC). " By 2020, the estimated annual cost for fall-related injuries for people age 65+ is expected to reach $43.8 billion. It doesn't have to happen - even if we are 75 or 85. We can make our older years active and vibrant through just a few hours of correct physical activity and prevent injuries from falls. If you are 55 or older, if you want to be able to climb stairs, reach the highest shelf in the kitchen cabinet, or pick up your grandchild, you have to do a combination of exercises, " Low impact weight bearing aerobics- to improve cardiovascular fitness and endurance. " Strength training - using free weights and resistance bands - to build muscle and bone strength. " Stretch and Flexibility exercises - for coordination, relieving stress and improving posture. " Balance exercises - to prevent falls. "

"Resistance" sounds like it's going to be hard work, and when you are retired, who wants to be doing hard work? But it can be fun. I know. My students are not only having fun - they are getting physically stronger regardless of their age - my oldest student is 93. I have students who have Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, arthritis. One of my most vigorous students had triple heart by-pass surgery three years ago.

Here are some comments from my students: Jim, 64 "Better flexibility and balance. Enjoy social interaction with others. Provides relief from the stress which is important for my Parkinson's disease". Dori, 64 "I am able to do household and gardening chores with ease. Lifting grocery bags is effortless and they actually act as workout weights from store to parking lot. I seldom use a cart. The walks with my husband provide time for reflection and pleasant conversation. The group workouts provide fun and laughter with others my age that have a positive outlook and are striving to keep fit. A day without exercise is worse than a day without sunshine. We must have it to survive".

I conducted a six month study, of 162 of my students. This study shows that significant progress was made by all the students, even those with serious medical problems. Among other data, the study measured Body Mass Index (BMI) and perceived mental attitude. After six months, participants lowered their BMI by an overall average that was the equivalent of a seven pound weight loss for the average person. All of them also reported improvement in their mental attitude at six months.

My study was published by gerontology guru, Dr. Walter Bortz II, (author of "Dare to Be 100" and "We Live Too Short and Die Too Long), in the Fifty-Plus Lifelong Fitness bulletin. Dr. Bortz is a member of the teaching faculty at Stanford University Medical School. My program "IT'S NEVER TOO LATE" was developed through my 25+ years of experience, beginning with my dance training in New York. 15 of these years have been devoted to working with and teaching seniors. Remember when I was talking about the most important forms of exercise needed? Such as…..balance, flexibility…. and so on? Putting emphasis on posture, gait and functional fitness are all the foundation of this program.

I achieve all this through a combination of Yoga, Pilates, low impact aerobics, weight and resistance training. Yes, some of you may live to be a hundred. Most of you will live into your 80s and beyond. But what kind of quality will that new chapter in your life have? Will you be forced to spend most of your time sitting, perhaps confined to a wheelchair because of lack of exercise?

Recent studies have found that regular exercise has payoffs for the mind as well. It has been shown to improve overall well-being, reduce stress and depression. Make small changes in your life, get out and walk 20 to 30 minutes each day. Adding a little activity to your daily routine can have major benefits. Exercising regularly also enables people to live healthier lives free from a host of chronic illnesses that can make it hard for people to enjoy their later years.

Medicine and science can let you live longer, but the richness of your extended life cannot be delivered through an operation or a pill. The prescription for achieving that is up to you. So join the resistance, and I hope you all have a wonderful 100th birthday.

I WOULD LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH A QUOTE FROM MARK TWAIN: "AGE IS AN ISSUE OF MIND OVER MATTER, IF YOU DON'T MIND IT DOESN'T MATTER. Thank you.

Reference: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Center for Disease Control (CDC)

 

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Rene Burton specializes in Senior Exercise Videos promoting Senior Fitness through exercise.



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