Health and Wellness Q&A

The following questions are from our readers. This section will expand as we add more questions and answers.

Question: I’ve been reading your site and enjoying the great information, but can’t find what I’m looking for. I’m a baby boomer and have heard that there are specific areas I should be concerned about called physical fitness components. Can you tell me what these are?

Answer: You would be referring to health-related physical fitness. Due to you age, these are very important. They are:

  • Cardiovascular (aerobic fitness)
  • Abdominal muscular strength and endurance
  • Flexibility of the lower back and ham-strings
  • Body composition (lean-to-fat ratio)

These areas are considered of significant importance for both young and old. The better performance you can show in each is an indication of overall health status. Because one tends to decrease in performance in each of these areas as he or she ages, the more active you are, the more functional you’ll be with age and the ability to lead an active and healthy lifestyle will be enhanced.

To improve yourself, begin an exercise program that has aerobic, strength, stretching, and general fitness components included. Begin at your own fitness level and strive to improve with time. But, as always, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program. Please see other areas of the My Health and Fitness web site for additional information. Also, match your calorie intake to your exercise program and be persistent in your goals.

Question: I’m currently 52 years old and want to live to see my grandchildren graduate from college and enjoy some time with my great grandchildren. To do this, I need to live until I’m 75-80 years old. What are my chances of doing this?

Answer: Currently, for the average American, your probability of living to that age range is 88% to 79% for youngest to oldest years. However, these are statistics for someone beginning at age 65 and, at an average fitness level. By increasing your fitness level and staying active, an average of 10 years could be added to this barring any unforeseen accidents or chronic diseases. Thus, it’s likely you’ll be able to spend the time you wish with your loved ones.

Question: I’ve been having sore knees and ankles lately, am very overweight and have a difficult time trying to exercise because I don’t like lifting weights or riding bikes at the gym. I also eat lots of sweets due to my wife’s cooking. I had a physical from my doctor and he said the soreness is due to too much weight on the joints. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer: Recently an My Health and Fitness client in Denver, Gregg B., had the same problem. Here is what is likely happening. Being overweight is causing undue stress on your joints and muscles, making them sore, i.e., they just cannot handle the weight load comfortably. By both reducing weight and increasing strength, these symptoms will generally disappear. Since you do not like to exercise, it will be more difficult to reduce your weight, but at the same time, since you are inactive, you must also be careful with the intensity at which you begin to exercise. Compounding this problem is the amount of sweets you eat since too much sugar is the enemy, both from a diabetes standpoint and the fact that it produces triglycerides causing an increase in cholesterol in the blood, and is a major factor in weight gain. Consequently, you need to solve your problem with a dual-pronged attack: 1) Ease into exercising, and 2) Watch your diet; reduce both sugar and caloric intake.

First I’ve begin walking 15 minutes per day for at least five days per week, six days per week if at all possible. Begin with a leisurely stroll, i.e., about 20-25 minutes per mile. You can use the time to think about important issues in your life, listen to music or inspirational messages via cassette or CD and headphones, or spend time with a friend or loved one as a workout partner. After the first week, increase walking time to 25 minutes per day. For the third week, increase walking time to about 40 minutes per day. You can gradually increase walking speed as well on a weekly basis. If you feel like it, try adding a few push-ups and sit ups to your daily regimen. Begin slowly.

Second – Resist overeating. Gregg had a problem doing this so, before each meal, he was required to drink 1-2, 8-ounce glasses of water, which would make him feel full so that he physically couldn’t consume as much food as normal without feeling uncomfortable. Combined with this, reduce your calorie intake about 500 kcalories per day (kcal is the same as calories, it’s just the scientific term we use to express calories). This kcal per day reduction will allow you to lose about one pound per week. If you’re walking too, you would expend about 4 kcal/minute per 100 pounds of body weight during the exercise. For example a 110 pound person would burn 4.1 kcal/minute and a 210 pound person would burn 7.9 kcal/minute at an average pace of 3 mph or 20 minutes per mile. Thus, for 20 minutes of exercise the range would be 82-158 kcalories burned during the walk. If you don’t count the calories expended during the exercise of such low intensity, then you’d wind up losing about 1.2-1.3 pounds per week, which would be acceptable. However, if you begin to exercise at a higher intensity and continually lose weight, you must make up for the calories expended during exercise to maintain a good health level.

Third – Limit sugar intake to twice per week only. This means you cannot eat any treats on other days. For example, have a slice of pie or something else you like on Wednesday and another treat such as ice cream on Saturday or Sunday. The portion of the treat you choose should be one serving; do not over consume! The treat is a reward for your hard effort; use moderation.

Fourth – at the end of 12 weeks, reassess your goals and your program and start over until you obtain the weight you desire.

After 12 weeks following this simple program, Gregg lost 19 pounds and felt better each day. He is more active, livelier, and looks very healthy and has done so without super intense exercise although, the time will come when he will have to increase exercise intensity to increase his fitness and health level. Gregg began at 234 pounds and is now (12/1/02) at 215 pounds. Assuming he loses one pound per week since reassessment, he will weigh about 200 pounds by the end of March 2003. His goal weight is 190 pounds. Realistically, he’ll reach that weight in about mid June 2003. More importantly, he’s much healthier and happier and has become so without dieting.

This requires making a few simple choices, eating in moderation, reducing intake of high fat foods to nominal levels, and having variety in your diet. As an example, if you find yourself going to fast food restaurants, make better choices. Instead of eating fries and hamburgers, opt for grilled chicken or fish and consume water or diet drinks to reduce both sugar and fat intake. Such a simple choice for one meal will account for a significant calorie reduction on a daily basis.

Let us use Burger King as an example. A typical choice would be the whopper with cheese, medium fries, and a coke for a total kcal intake of 1228 kcal. There are 64 grams of fat in this meal, which has a calorie value of 576, i.e., 47% of this meal is fat! The ideal would be 20-30% of your daily calories from fat. As an alternative, let us choose a BK Broiler, water or diet drink, and no fries. The calorie value is 380 kcal with only 18 grams of fat. Notice that there is a huge difference. By simply making an optional choice, you have reduced your calorie intake by 848 calories. That’s a major accomplishment and also allows you to spread calorie intake throughout the day into a more even amount, which allows the body to burn fat and calories more efficiently.

As a note, calorie intake of 1228 calories per day would be the amount required for a 100 pound person that is not doing any exercise. Even if you were 200 pounds in weight, this number would be more than half of your required daily caloric intake.

Please read the diet and nutrition section on the web site for more information concerning this topic. Also, you may wish to attend one of Dr. Tindall’s weight loss and control clinics.

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