My doctor recently retired and last week I met with a new personal care physician. I told her that my goal is to be as healthy, fit and active as possible into my 90s and then to drop dead, which is called squaring the geriatric curve.
I explained to her that I try to follow the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) recommendations. My goal is to exercise at least 10 hours a week, including many of its specific recommendations.
For overall good health, the ACSM recommends year-round:
- Cardiorespiratory: I should accumulate a minimum of 150 minutes / week of cardio exercise up to 300 minutes / week, or 75 – 150 minutes of intense exercise or a combination of the two most days of the week.
a. I usually do at least five hours a week of road and MTB riding, hiking, swimming, cross-country skiing and snow-shoeing. The MTB and XC skiing provide good intensity without doing structured workouts.
- Strength training: I should do strength training two to three days / week, which should include exercises for all the major muscle groups (shoulders, arms, chest, core, hips, and legs). 30 minutes / session is plenty.
a. I only do an upper body workout once or twice a week saving my legs for riding, skiing, etc. I work on strength carrying wood (legs and upper body), chopping wood (upper body), weed whacking (core) — all of these count as part of my 10+ hours a week.
b. The doctor and I agreed that I should hit the gym and /or do heavy chores at least twice a week and that I should work on my core (not my favorite) at least three times a week.
- Stretching/flexibility exercises: I should stretch all parts of my body at least four times a week.
a. I stress the importance of this to my athletes but only do so a couple of times a week. Time for the coach to get with it — stretching only takes 5 – 10 minutes per session!
- Weight-bearing exercises: Riding — even sprinting — doesn’t load the skeleton as much as plain walking! After breaking my ankle in January I had my bone density tested. I have a little osteopenia (loss of bone mass). I should do 30 – 60 minutes a day three to five days a week of weight-bearing exercise. Carrying a pack while hiking, snow-shoeing and XC skiing count as does lugging firewood. Adding lower body strength training also help to strengthen my bones.
- Balance exercises: I practice Tai chi most mornings, which is great for balance and also my flexibility.
Flattening the geriatric curve includes both staying as fit as possible by meeting the ACSM recommendations and a healthy lifestyle. I told my doctor that I eat Mediterranean-type diet and don’t use alcohol and tobacco.
Family history is another factor. My mom died of colon cancer in her 70s, and I get a colonoscopy every five years. My dad lived a healthy lifestyle walking daily and maintaining a healthy weight. His only vices were red meat and eggs. He died of a heart attack in his 80s and I figured I was stuck with his genetics.
Although I exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet, my cholesterol is a little on the high side. My doctor told me that I have a 12 – 14% risk of dying in the next ten years. I’m right that my above normal cholesterol is due to my genetics. However, the doctor informed me, I can do something about that. She suggested taking a statin, which would lower my risk to a 7 – 9% risk of dying in the next 10 years. Possible, although not frequent, side effects of a statin include muscle aches (not severe pain) or an upset stomach. If one of these afflicts me she’ll change the prescription.
Another downside is that experiments with large groups of individuals indicate that people on statins don’t improve as rapidly from a structured exercise program as people who don’t take statins. As the doctor and I talked I thought about the implications. I don’t race so achieving a high level of fitness isn’t essential. More importantly, gaining a little less fitness but reducing my risk of dying by 35-45% seemed like a good deal.
I also have had several basal cell carcinomas. These are a low risk type of skin cancer; however, if not removed one could metastasize into other parts of the body and become more serious. I check my skin monthly and see a dermatologist twice a year. I wear sun-protective clothing from Boure Sportswear and put on sunscreen every 80 minutes, as recommended.
To flatten your geriatric curve, see your physician and find out all the things you can do to prevent a premature death.
My eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes interviews with two MDs: Gabe Mirkin (82) and Malcolm Fraser (68). Each describes his exercise program and gives recommendations for a long, healthy and active life. Anti-Aging also includes interviews with 10 other male and female roadies ages 54 to 75. They describe their exercise programs in terms of the ACSM recommendations. They talk about changing exercise goals over time. They emphasize the value of intrinsically enjoying an activity rather than doing it because it’s good for you. They describe many ways to adapt positively to the aging process. The 106-page eBook Anti-Aging: 12 Ways You Can Slow the Aging Process includes is available for $14.99.