Drink LeChaim…To Life!

It’s not what you think. Unlike the song from Fiddler on the Roof, we are not talking about alcohol, but instead our good friend H2O.

NBC News and many other news outlets reported on a new study from the National Institutes of Health indicating that poor hydration may lead to chronic disease and early aging. The study took place over the course of 25 years; participants started in their mid-40s to mid-60s and follow ups went through ages 70-90.

There is not total agreement on the meaning of the results. The research used blood sodium levels as an indicator of dehydration, which some scientists believe may not be the most accurate way to measure. Others believe that dehydration is not as widespread a problem as most people believe it to be; in other words, most of us are properly hydrated most of the time.

What is important about the research is that it sheds light on the continuing benefits of drinking water and other non-sugary decaffienated beverages. Drinking plenty of water tends to keep the kidneys healthier; kidneys filter the blood which is then circulated to the rest of the body. The “cleaner” the blood the better it is for the cells that rely on blood for nutrition.

It is also significant that those with higher concentrations of sodium in their blood (which could be the result of not enough hydration), were more likely to have high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. These are all signs associated with faster aging. On the flipside, those with lower levels of sodium were less likely to have these conditions. While most participants were in the normal range for sodium, those at the higher end had a 20% increased risk of death than those at the lower range.

More research will need to be done, but current recommendations are that women drink 6-9 cups of water per day, and men should consume 8-12. Although water is best, other non-caffeinated beverages are also OK; fruits and other foods with high water content can also increase hydration levels.

Until that research is done, it is always a good idea to keep hydrated–especially before, during, and after workouts, as well as when the weather is warmer.

Tevy from Fiddler on the Roof, had it right. Drink…to life!

At Home Senior Fitness is Growing…Again!

It has been about four months since I told you about my welcoming At Home Senior Fitness’ first additional personal trainer, Sam Kalamasz. She is steadily growing her client base and bringing our unique brand to the Brunswick/Medina/Strongsville area near Cleveland as well as the rest of the world via the internet. I am looking forward to her continued success and growth.

As of the first of the year, I welcomed Victoria (Vicki) Yannie to AHSF as well. I hinted at it in my year-end reflection, and now it is official. Vicki brings a wide range of skills and experience. Both her undergraduate and Master’s Degrees are in the areas of physical education and she is a certified Silver Sneakers instructor. She has extensive experience working with older adults, has written papers, and made presentations on a wide variety of topics related to fitness. Vicki will be helping me to cover the eastern suburbs of Cleveland as well as some on-line work.

When I started AHSF, I was not sure if there really was demand for what I was offering. It was a risk, but it has paid off–not only from a business standpoint, but also in the ways that we have been able to help older adults become stronger, more flexible, and even more independent.

The big news, then, is that At Home Senior Fitness is able (finally!) to accept new clients. If you are or know an older adult who wants to get the most out of their years, contact me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net or http://www.athomeseniorfitness.net.

Thanks to all my clients and everyone else who has supported AHSF! Here’s to a bigger, better, and healthier 2023!

Reflections on 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, I have a few reflections on the work that I have been doing for the last 12 months.

There were many successes. I have engaged two other trainers to work with me; the newest will be introduced on this blog soon. This has become a necessity as I continue to get regular inquiries about my services and there are only so many hours in a week. My book of clients has been maxed out for a while. Once I get these two trainers up to their desired number of hours, I will consider expanding further. All of this was unimaginable to me when I started At Home Senior Fitness over two years ago.

The rabbi work continues to be fulfilling. My part-time pulpit at Beth El – The Heights Synagogue continues to allow me to do some of the work that I enjoy best and for which I have decades of experience. Our small congregation of 80 families feels just like that–family; this, of course, means that there are squabbles just like in any family, but we always look out for each other. The most exciting developments this year have been the addition of some new families/individuals who have brought fresh ideas to what we do, and the inititation of a fundraising campaign to raise $250,000 to write a new Torah scroll and have some money to cover extraordinary expenses.

I continue to help out at a local synagogue that is “short” a rabbi. This is like being a substitute teacher but, in general, the “students” are more respectful and appreciative of the work I am doing. Most of the time (sometimes weeks on end), I have no responsibilities, but there are other times when I have my hands full with hospital visits, funerals, leading services, etc. I am glad that I can help this congregation as my family and I have many wonderful connections there.

I also have a very part-time gig as a consultant for American Greetings, based here in Cleveland. They have a line of greeting cards for Jewish occasions and I make sure the content and artwork are appropriate for the given purpose. This is actually fun and lets me flex some creative muscles (see what I did there?).

On a less positive note, two of my clients passed away. I blogged about one earlier; the other passed away in the fall–quite suddenly. He was one of my best clients, training with me three times/week for 45 minutes; I really enjoyed our time together and miss him and his sense of humor. Other clients have been through injuries and medical crises, but thankfully most are back to working out or on their way to recovery.

Best of all, I have had a good year health-wise: no surgeries! I did have COVID and am still dealing with Long COVID, but I am grateful that my case was mild and my continuing symptoms are mostly manageable.

It has been a good year. 2023 will be filled with lots of opportunities. I will continue to blog about what matters to older adults when it comes to their health, and I will continue to service the community in other ways as well.

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, and fit 2023!

That Time I was a Guest on a Podcast

As many of you know, I was asked to be a regular columnist for Northeast Ohio Boomer magazine last year. Each issue I wrote about a different issue related to exercise/fitness and older adults. The magazine also hosts a number of blogs and has a podcast as well for which I was interviewed. If you’d like to hear my voice and my thoughts about fitness, click here. The podcast is about 20 minutes long.

I am waiting for 60 Minutes to contact me next….

Leave the Cannoli

Many of us are familiar with the line from The Godfather, “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Research from JAMA Network Open, a publication of the American Medical Association (AMA), says we should think about leaving the cannoli as well.

The investigation found that the number of adults in the USA over the age of 65 with poor diet quality increased 10% from 2001-2018; the percentage rose from 51% to 61%–both of which are alarming. The percentage in the same demographic whose diet was considered “ideal” in the study was 0.4%–that’s just 4 in 1000! This may help to explain why so many adults are living with diet-related diseases.

What is to blame? Older adults are eating more processed meats, sugar-sweetened drinks, and foods with high salt content. Intake of healthier foods like fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains has gone down. This is a trend nearly 20 years in the making, but the AMA hopes that by raising awareness it will be possible to reverse the trend.

The issue transcends older adults. Healthier foods are often more expensive and less readily available than processed foods and junk food. Restaurant food can vary widely from more healthy items to those that are downright artery-clogging. As adults age and are less able to prepare food for themselves–or less willing to do so–the choices become less and less healthful. Throughout many age groups this has contributed to the obesity epidemic in our country.

Older adults are living longer than in past generations. The question is whether those added years will be quality years or ones filled with poor health. A big part of the answer has to do with our diet. Improved eating habits can lead to better health outcomes and quality of life. The choice is ours.

Losing My Mind or Just Long COVID?

Some weird stuff has been happening lately; the kind of stuff that makes me think I might be losing my mind. I am already a regular player of my favorite game: “What did I come into this room for?” but this has gone a little further. I will leave out the details, but it was enough to warrant my discussing it with my primary care physician at my annual physical; he said that I should see if the symptoms clear up in the next three months because it could be an affer-effect of COVID and would probably dissipate by then. If not, I was to be in touch.

The weirdness continued and some fogginess and spaciness (more than usual!) persisted so I sent a message to my PCP. Within a few days I had a video call with the Nurse Practitioner who agreed that this was probably some form of Long COVID. Long COVID is when symptoms persist even after testing negative, or new/different symptoms arise; the issues can go from mildly annoying to disabling. I had a relatively mild case, so this was surprising to me; she assured me that they have been hearing from lots of patients with similar complaints. I was refered to the Cleveland Clinic’s ReCOVery Program–it is great to have a world-class medical center nearby! Today I met with a practitioner there and was reassured that it was not Alzheimer’s but fairly classic symptoms of one kind of Long COVID.

The next steps are some lab tests, meeting with someone at the Integrative Medicine program, and meeting with a Speech Therapist. Speech Therapist?!? That is what I thought too! It turns out they do a lot more than work with speech disorders; they also have training in memory, organization, and task-completion issues. I am eager to see what help they can provide me.

Why do I share something so personal? I think that there are probably others who are experiencing what I am, and are just as worried that it might be something much more serious. Rather than fretting alone, it is worthwhile to reach out to a medical professional to see if there is help out there. I am glad that I will be getting help for my brain fog, but even more grateful that the evaluation done leading up to today’s appointment confirmed that I do not have early onset dementia. It was worth just to have that sense of relief.

Are you worried about brain fog, spaciness, confusion, forgetfulness? Did you have COVID? Talk to your doctor!

Thinking about Thanking

I have blogged several times in the past about the health benefits of being grateful. Our general outlook on life (positive or negative) can have a profound effect on our health and wellbeing.

In the spirit of the holiday, and in the interest of good health, I would like to briefly reflect on those things for which I am thankful this year at Thanksgiving. Of course, I am grateful for my health, my family, my friends, and my general welfare, but I want to discuss a few more obscure blessings in my life.

I am truly grateful for the clients in my personal training business, At Home Senior Fitness. I am truly fortunate to have a great group of clients–not just because they help me pay the bills, but also because I have been able to build great relationships with most of them. I have shared meals with clients, visited them in the hospital, and seen them through joyous occasions and times of loss as well. They have also seen me through ups and downs. I really do care about my clients and that care and concern is returned in spades.

I am grateful for the personal trainers that I had as a client. I always enjoyed the workouts and the results, but did not realize what a huge effect they had on me, pushing me to always do more and better. This has influenced the way that I train my clients as well. I also learned from them the importance of relationships as well as building and maintaining trust.

I am thankful that I have a network that has helped me build my business. Sam Kalamasz, who is working with me, has been a great resource and is committed to helping me grow my client base. ACE (through whom I maintain my certification as a personal trainer) has been helpful and informative. FAI (through whom I have my specialization to work with older adults) continues to enrich my skills. IDEAfit is the main source of my continuing education credits; their on-line resources and conferences are pretty top notch. SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) is also an invaluable tool; they exist in most cities and helped me get organized as I launched my business. I definitely could not have done this all on my own and these organizations have been vital.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage all of us to go beyond the “typical” things we are grateful for and consider some of the other factors that have helped us get where we are. The next step, then, is to try to be the person that others are grateful to have in their lives.

Best wishes to all for a happy and fit Thanksgiving!

Two Years on my Own (sort of)

Today marks two years that I am working on my own as a Personal Trainer. November 15, 2020 was my last day employed at the local JCC. Last year I blogged about my thoughts on the one year anniversary; and it was an interesting read.

I wrote “sort of” in the title because I am not exacly all on my own any longer. The addition of Sam Kalamasz to my team means that I have someone who is helping me expand my territory and business. Sam will begin offering on-line classes aimed at a more beginner/intermediate level; my fitness classes are more on the challenging side. Once we get one class up and running, we will expand the offerings further. These classes will be offered virtually, so if you are interested or know others who would be, please contact me at michael@athomeseniorfitness.net.

There are still many opportunities out there. I would like to get into the digital realm and hope that 2023 will be the year that happens. I will be in need of more help the east side of Cleveland soon as I have potential clients whom I have turned away. I am also eager to find ways to partner with others who serve older adults. It is all looking up.

It is important to mark milestones like these. It is a time for reflection–looking back and looking forward. For now, as we are about to head into the Thanksgiving holiday, I am grateful for all the help and support.

Here’s to many more anniversaries!

Yes, I Can!

As I studied to become a personal trainer, one of the concepts that I learned about was self-efficacy in exercise. Self-efficacy is the belief that one is capable of completing a task–in this case, exercising. The reason why it is important is that when we believe that we can exercise–in spite of impediments such as a busy schedule, being tired, feeling intimidated at the gym, etc.–we are more likely to actually carry out the physical activity. It sounds somewhat self-evident, but the issue is a little bit complicated.

It is not unusual for me when I am working with clients to hear them say something like, “Oh, I can’t do that,” or “I have never been able to do that before.” It is up to me to safely push them out of their comfort zones. Once they realize that they are capable of doing what I am directing, it builds up their confidence. Later on, I can refer to that success when confronting a new or challenging exercise; I may say, “Remember how you thought you could not balance on one foot for 10 seconds and you could? I bet you are also capable of doing reverse lunges that also involve an element of balance.” Each success builds on the other creating higher levels of self-efficacy.

The concept of self-efficacy goes beyond just exercise, and is particularly important for older adults. The scope widens to include a belief that we are able to influence the events in our lives. As we age, we often sense that we are losing control as our bodies do not function as they once did, and cognition declines. The greater our self-efficacy, the more likely we are to engage in the kinds of activities and practices that will help us to live longer and better. In other words, if we experience greater challenges carrying out activities of daily living, we may reach the conclusion that life will just be a long decline, so there is no reason to “bother” doing anything to improve our levels of health and fitness; on the other hand, if we feel like we can influence our health and fitness, we will act upon that. In both cases, it can create a self-fulfilling prophesy. This is why self-efficacy is so important for older adults.

How to start? Sometimes we have long-standing feelings of inadequacy; confronting those beliefs is difficult and may require help from a mental health professional. If, in general, we do feel adequate (or even proficient) in life, it becomes a matter of continually challenging ourselves to do more. This is why many older adults are attracted to fitness classes or personal trainers where clear directions are given with appropriate progression from easier tasks to more difficult ones. It lessens the likelihood that we will go easy on ourselves or convince ourselves that we simply are not capable.

As I have grown older, I have come to realize that there are certain things that I may longer be able to do. At the same time, there are other activities where I have doubted my ability and come through with flying colors. I would not say that it is all in our heads, but belief in our ability to influence the direction of our lives can have deep and long-lasting positive outcomes.

Sex and the Senior

It has been clearly shown that living a healthy lifestyle (eating properly, exercising, and getting rest) can lower the odds of getting certain diseases. It can also contribute to greater brain health and longevity. These are all important data points, and they become all the more crucial as we grow older.

As we age, we know that there are many changes to our bodies; we can notice transformations in our appearance (wrinkles and graying or disappearing hair). There are changes in our cardiovascular system, in the musculoskeletal structures, in digestion, and in cognition. Every one of these area can be improved by engaging in regular physical activity, eating a balanced and healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.

What most articles about the effects of aging leave out is a topic that is of interest to many seniors. How will getting older affect our sex lives?

Women experiences changes before, during, and after the process of menopause. Hot flashes, hair loss, weight gain, and mood changes may occur. Some women have a diminished sex drive. There can also be other changes that make the act of sexual intercourse more difficult and even painful.

Men may experience erectile dysfunction. They may also have problems related to an enlarged prostate or prostate cancer. Libido may decrease as well.

These are natural occurences, but they can be exacerbated by other health issues, medications, drinking alcohol excessively, and smoking.

The good news is that there are ways to maintain sexual health in our senior years. The National Council on Aging published an article in late 2021 that outlines some of the ways that we can have better outcomes when it comes to matters of intimacy. There are three main strategies when it comes to a better sex life: 1. Talk to your doctor. It may seem embarassing, but s/he has probably heard it before; your doctor can help address whatever issues you are facing. Normalize talking with your health professional about everything that concerns you, including your sex life. 2. Talk with your partner. If you are in a long-term relationship with a spouse or partner, be open about the changes and what expectations are on both sides. Many older adults may find themselves in new relationships after being widowed or divorced. This will require open communication; do not make assumptions since everyone’s sexual history is unique. 3. Live healthy. Diet can help or hinder our sexual health. Those who exercise regularly may have greater stamina and less circulatory issues which can contribute to longer-lasting lovemaking, greater arousal, and better orgasms.

Sex is one of the great gifts given to human beings. As we age, there does not necessarily need to be a lessening of intimacy between loving partners. NCOA has excellent resources as will most physicians. Here is to love and joy in the golden years!