Top Exercise Guru For Seniors at National Institute on Aging

| May 12, 2014 | 0 Comments | Email This Post Email This Post

She helped develop scientifically proven exercise program for seniors

Andy: This is a really special podcast for us, first we feature the Go for Life exercise manual on our website. We provide a free download of the Workout on the Go. And after you hear this show, I think you’ll agree this is really a well researched and great plan for exercise that can be achieved by most anyone over 55. Secondly, we have the distinct pleasure of speaking to the Co-chair who put together this exercise program. She is Chanda Dutta, PhD, Chief Clinical Gerontology Branch Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology of the National Institute on Aging. Her list of accomplishments includes… she is an internationally recognized expert in physical activity, exercise, muscle physiology, energy metabolism and nutrition in older adults. First of all, let me thank you so much Dr. Chanda Dutta for taking the time to talk with us and let me just start off by asking you, how did you decide to design this exercise program and why?

 

Dr. Chanda Dutta: That’s a very important question, so basically, it’s now probably 15 maybe even close to 20 years ago, we were getting the National Institute on Aging was getting a lot of calls from the general public. From children, from children of older parents and some of the grandparents they were calling us trying to ask us for exercise advice and at the same time we realized that when you go to gyms or other locations that they have exercise materials for older adults, some of the advice was… it wasn’t clear that some of the advice was actually evidence based, in other words, there is scientific research to back up what their recommendations are saying. So that inspired us to actually gather what the MIA and MIH has funded in terms of exercise research for older adults and to package it in a way to make it useful to the general public in terms of what they can or cannot do or shouldn’t do or what they should consider in terms of exercise. So, one of the most important things about our Go for Life materials and the exercise guide is that it is completely evidence based. There is research conducted in specific age groups for which those exercise recommendations are made. What we did was to put together a panel of exercise as experts and these are the actual investigators who conducted these different studies, we formed an exercise and expert panel and they reviewed all the evidence, reviewed which studies were sufficiently valid to be included as recommendations and a guide and that’s how the… that was the basis of the Go for Life Campaign.

Andy: So much of the time we think about the importance of the Aerobic Exercise and getting the heart beat up and so forth, And I’m not an exercise specialist but I do work out but is… I don’t see a lot in terms of getting that heart rate up or what am I missing something there?

 

Dr. Chanda Dutta: No, not at all, we talked about progression, I think one of the things we try to do with the Go for Life materials is not to focus on any one particular exercise group because we feel that all 4 which are highlighted in the materials are absolutely important for everybody to do. So, the 4 categories of exercises should be incorporated into anybody’s exercise regime are Aerobic, The Cardiovascular exercises that you specifically eluded to, the importance of Strength Training, I cannot stress enough for even middle aged to older adults. Particularly, everybody’s familiar with Osteoporosis and loss of bones but it also happens that there are similar losses in skeletal muscle and unfortunately the best we can do is try to prevent the loss because so far, we have yet to identify ways in which we can rebuild skeletal muscles to the same level in older age that we once had. So the strength training is incredibly important. The next area is actually balance. And balance is probably an under-appreciated area of exercise by people of all ages. We take our balance skills for granted and then it isn’t until we actually lose those abilities that we realize how important they are.

Andy: Yes, that seems like an issue that we start sensing of our balance seems to be escaping us a little bit as we get older.

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Not only that but you know, several years ago and this is anecdotal evidence, I always like to share this story because somebody who had worked with firemen who you know are in top shape, they have to be. Somebody actually use the exercise, the balance test in our materials and tested these firemen on their balance skills and it turned out that some of the firemen actually didn’t do well on some of the balance test. So, it just goes to show you that you can regularly run, you can regularly workout.  But there are just unique aspects of those balance exercises that you need to keep up with even at younger ages so that you don’t run into those problems as you get older.

Andy: So, Go for Life acknowledges that and has some advice on how to handle that or how to improve your balance.

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Exactly, and then the 4th area of exercise is flexibility. And again, people think about stretching but I too workout and I see some people at the gym, they do their spinning classes, they do their kickboxing classes, and then they just leave. They don’t really stretch. They don’t work on their flexibility. So, but flexibility is still important, it enables you to do little things in life and later on flexibility can be important in terms of having the range of motion you need to be able to get even get draft or to even cook to reach up to the top shelf of your cabinet, to get whatever ingredients you need to cook, so, these 4 areas impact your life on such a regular basis but they also enable you to do maybe some of the things that you dream about doing which may be going hiking or running a marathon, some physical challenge that you aspire towards.

Andy: So, by using these exercises it may allow you to do something more extreme if you will.

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Sure! Sure. And that’s one of the things we put in the exercise materials, we try to encourage people to exercise and not feel that they have to limit themselves by their age. What limits them so is their history of how active they have been. So, if somebody is really a couch potato, I think for them to envision, they’re going to run a marathon in a week is going to be very unrealistic and they’re likely going to set themselves up for injuries. However, if that’s what you aspire to, to run to a marathon then we give you guidance in the book on how you can progress through those levels and if that’s what you wanna do if you’re capable of doing it and you’ve gone to the doctors and you’re chronic conditions if you have any or under control, then there’s no reason for you to not go for it.

Andy: Now, is this a recommended on a daily basis? Or how frequently should someone be using exercises like this?

Dr. Chanda Dutta: So, the public health guidelines tell you to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity everyday and physical activity is an umbrella term for any kind of voluntary movement. What we recommend in the guide are exercises meaning that there’s a structure and a purpose to that movement. And so, the public health guidelines say you should get about 150 minutes of physical activity in a week, the exercise guide goes a step further than that, no pun intended, we encourage people to exercise everyday to alternate the variety of strength training that they do and it actually adds up to close to 300 minutes of physical activity and exercise in the course of the week. That is asking a lot but once you start to do it, it doesn’t seem like a lot.

Andy: Well, yeah, you bring up a good point there getting started to do at sometimes if people have been a couch potato, even that can be a bit daunting for them.

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Sure, but I think that there are ways that you can make it less unpalatable so to speak or make it seem less like a chore. So one of the things that we found out to our research is that having an exercise body is a powerful tool to keep you motivated and to get you motivated in the first place. There’s nothing like peer pressure at any age to get you to do something and to stick to it. So, if you are a couch potato, find a friend. Find a friend who is a couch potato or find a friend who’s not a couch potato even better and then we have in our Go for Life materials, we have sort of an exercise buddy agreement. It’s sort of just friendly little contract that you sign with your friend and you say, ok, we’re going to stick to this. And you can build in rewards along the way. So, if the two of you agree or doesn’t have to be two people, it can be a group, if they agree that they’re going to walk 2 miles every day and they’ve done it for a week, well, by all means, go have a treat or do something that… go see a movie together, something that you feel is a reward for all the work you’ve put into your exercise routine.

Andy: Now, we’re seeing certain rise and other kinds of activities such as dancing and so forth. And I suppose any kind of activity is good so one can’t say one is bad. I’m getting out there and dancing around the floors is activity, right?

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Absolutely, absolutely and the Go for Life materials encourages people to be creative. I think that one of the biggest things that people have to keep in mind is that you’re more likely to stick to an exercise routine and be more physically active if you enjoy doing it and those activities are of interest to you. So, we point out in the exercise materials that things like gardening, walking, dancing, bowling, whatever you’re interest might be, our part of being physically active. So, we try to encourage people not to be so boxed in with their thinking about what physical activity is and how they might become more active and what exercises they need to do or even where they need to do it. You don’t have to go to a gym, you can do things at home, we’ve given you examples of using different kinds of household materials for weights so on and so forth.

Andy: As we wined up the time that we agreed to, let me just ask you, what tip short and long term benefits is someone were to wonder why they should be doing exercise or what kind of benefits are there?

Dr. Chanda Dutta: So, the benefits of exercise are pretty well known, I don’t think there’s anybody on this planet who doesn’t know that exercise is good for you. We have research to show that exercise reduces your risk from many chronic diseases particularly heart disease, diabetes, the incidence of some forms of cancer or remain physically active and as I’ve mentioned earlier, our musculoskeletal system benefits from being active, it makes natural sense that you’re muscles and bones benefit from exercise. So in terms of aging conditions, it helps you maintain your bone mass so that you don’t develop a risk for fractures and also maintains your muscle mass which aging condition known as Sarcopenia, it further on down the line, Sarcopenia might land to problems walking, balance problems and so exercising across the life span even those who start in middle age or on old age can benefit in many ways in both in terms of maintaining your good bone mass, muscle mass as well as lowering their risk for chronic diseases.

Andy: And you touched upon on my next questions. It’s never too late, that sounds like.

Dr. Chanda Dutta: It’s absolutely never too late. And the prime example I give is one of the landmark studies in exercise research in older adults who’s conducted in the 1990’s and it was a strength training study of 90 year olds. And these 90 year olds were in a nursing home and following a short period of resistance training, they even, they demonstrated gains and strength. There’s absolutely no excuse to use age to limit yourself to say ok, it’s too late, I shouldn’t exercise. You probably stand to lose more by being sedentary than attempting to do some sort of physical activity or exercise.

Andy: And are there any precautions that people need to know about?

Dr. Chanda Dutta: What we advise in the guide is that if you have any undiagnosed symptoms, we encourage you to go to the doctor and have them check you out. If you feel that you need to get an OK from your doctor even if you’ve been visiting them regularly, we encourage you to take the Go for Life materials with you at your next doctor’s visit and discuss it with them. Aside from that, we give tips for each of the 4 types of exercises on how to do them safely so that you can progress in your exercise routine without unnecessarily injuring yourself.

Andy: Well great. Any final words you can think of?

Dr. Chanda Dutta: I think my big advise is go out there and just do it and do what you enjoy so that you’re more physically active.

Andy: And Go for Life!

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Exactly.

Andy: Well, thanks so much for your time, it’s really a great piece of research and application and thank you so much.

Dr. Chanda Dutta: Thank you.

Category: Fitness

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