Sitting is hazardous to your health.
|Keynote speaker David Gobble, Ph.D., speaking to group on the campus of Bowling Green State University. (Photos: J.D. Pooley/Sentinel-Tribune)
So are trading real-life friends for social media; simple carbs for fruits, vegetables and fish; and excess TV time for "mental gymnastics."
Dr. David Gobble, keynote speaker for the Optimal Aging seminar held Monday at Bowling Green State University, has the recipe for both longer life and better life, and he's eager to share it.
Gobble, director of the Masterpiece Living Academy, and a professor emeritus of gerontology at Ball State University, exhorted his multi-age, capacity audience to look to their laurels lest they become sucked into the health crisis that is unnaturally shortening people's length of life.
"This is where everyone is headed if all you do is sit in a chair," Gobble said, pointing out two shocking statistics about the physical demands of daily living as we age, in light of the fact that we naturally lose about 1 percent of physical strength each year:
• Taking a shower - a 75-year-old uses approximately 50 percent of full strength, and women have even less strength than that.
• Getting out of a chair - takes 70 percent of available strength at 50 years old.
And yet, the frailty of old age is largely reversible. It isn't until between ages 80 and 85 that our bodies stop making significant new muscle fibers, Gobble noted.
Gobble recommended a regular regimen of resistance, aerobic and flexibility exercises, and pointed out that exercise doesn't just strengthen the muscles in our arms and legs.
People don't realize that the brain, "which is, after all, a muscle," is modifiable. It can create more neurons, if stimulated.
"Everybody should be in the equivalent of a college course every day," as the best insurance against dementia.
What most frightens people is the thought of developing Alzheimer's disease but Gobble pointed out that there are eight verifiable ways to reduce one's personal risk for developing it.
Besides exercise, these include limiting simple carbohydrates "which will eliminate these high glucose spikes;" reducing abdominal fat; eating fruits, vegetables and omega 3 fatty acids (fish); drinking red wine and coffee; mental exercises; taking statins and managing inflammation.
Taken together, they reduce all risk factors for cardiovascular disease and get more blood flowing to the brain.
Another reason to get active now is, of course, the country's worsening obesity epidemic.
|Panel discussion during Optimal Aging seminar on the campus of Bowling Green State University.
"We burn 50 fewer calories a day than we did in the 1950s," on average.
Yet at the same time, we eat more.
Gobble told of taking his first serious girlfriend on a hot date to this "great new restaurant with yellow arches."
"In the early 1960s a McDonald's adult meal of burger, fries and soft drink" - the meal he and the girlfriend consumed - "today those same sizes are what is called the Kids Meal."
The rewards of a healthy lifestyle include delaying the onset of disability by eight to 14 years, and reducing near-death morbidity by one-third to one-half.
Gobble is particularly a fan of aerobic exercise.
"Vigorous walking reduces biological aging up to 12 years in people over age 65. It prevents atrial fibrillation and increases brain density in people with early Alzheimer's.
"It improves memory performance and increases oxygen uptake 25 percent."
Addressing the college students in the room he recommended that anyone who has to take an exam should "go exercise first. It pumps more oxygen to your brain."
To those who say they are too busy to exercise, he put up a power-point image of a doctor addressing his patient: "What fits your busy schedule better, exercising one hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?"
Gobble, who has been recognized by the National Wellness Institute as one of the top-100 wellness experts in the world, stated that social connections are also important for successful aging.
Social connections add 3,285 days (9 years) to our lives, and being married adds 1,825 days (5 years), on average.
On the other side of the equation, "loners are four times more likely to come down with a cold, the risk of death is two to three times higher in people who are isolated," and according to a Harvard medical student 30-year study, "loners" had 16 times more cancer than all other groups.
He advised the men in the audience to take a cue from women.
"Women are so much better at hanging on to older friends" from many different periods of their past life.
He advised everyone to develop the habit of answering "yes" if anyone calls and asks them to do anything. And if nobody is calling, "look at why."
To be the kind of person others want around them, Gobble suggested staying adaptable.
"Give up the need to be right. Because if you're right, that means the other person is 'wrong.'"
And finally, people need to keep meaning in their lives: "Some purpose that is greater than yourself."
It can come from traditional religious beliefs, philosophy and ethics, or service to others.
"Aging is hard. Let's not kid ourselves. Some days you get up and it hurts. That's why you need meaning and purpose."
The Optimal Aging seminar was co-hosted by BGSU and the Ohio Masonic Home.