Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D
In the last forty years, I have added thirty-five pounds. According to the formula often used to calculate bone loss with aging, I may have lost 10% of the calcium from the same frame I carried forty years ago.
Aging bears down on the weight-bearing joints. I don't know if there is a significant deterioration in the ligaments and tendons of my weight bearing joints.
Muscles support the weight-bearing joints. Inactive people on average lose 20 to 40 percent of their muscle tissue as they get older. Currently, a lot of research is being conducted on "sarcopenia," which refers to the loss of muscle and strength and deterioration in the quality of muscle tissue related to aging. Fortunately, I have regularly exercised, which might have helped some, if not totally stopped the deterioration of the joints-supporting muscles.
So here I am, carrying an extra 35 pounds on the same skeleton except that it has thinned by ten percent and the strength and support of the ligaments, tendons and muscles may or may not be what it was forty years!
We really fight an uphill battle, don't we? As we get older, we tend to exercise less and generally reduce activity. This causes us to put more weight onto our frame, which increasingly becomes (hate to use that word) "frail!"
A program called, "America on the Move" claims that the average American who has been gaining an extra pound or two a year has to burn off about 100 extra calories a day to avoid putting that weight back on the next year.
So, what will I have to do if I don't want that extra pound next year that I have been so consistently putting every year? I must find a way to knock off those 100 calories. I believe I have two options: 1) Reduce calorie intake by one hundred 2) Or exercise or walk. To walk off one hundred calories, I must walk two thousand steps a day, which comes to approximately one mile a day.
According to the Cooper Research Institute, human beings are meant to walk ten thousand steps (five miles) a day. Our defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld is a staunch believer of that theory. He always carries a step counter attached to his belt to make sure he takes those ten thousand steps every day! I often fall short of my daily goal by two thousand to four thousand steps a day, which may account for adding a pound a year.
When people ask me how often they should exercise or walk, they expect to hear something like "two or three times a week." To tease them I say, "Exercise on days you eat. Take a day off on your fasting day." That always draws laughter from my friends.
Dr. Barbara Rolls, a nutrition expert at Pennsylvania State University makes the following observations from her review of the current research literature:
1) We eat more when we're given more.
2) Package size influences us to eat more.
3) If we eat too much at one sitting, we don't often compensate by eating less at the next mealtime.
Studies being conducted on "stress-obesity" relationship are highlighting the psychological and hormonal mechanisms by which stress contributes to obesity. In one study, those who reported higher levels of stress also reported that they ate more fatty diets and exercised less often than those reporting less stress.
The stress-obesity relationship is a complex one. Among many explanations, we find these:
We tend to eat more to relieve stress.
At such times, we don't care about our health and may make unhealthy food choices.
We may be too tired or simply unmotivated to exercise.
Particular genes and hormones may drive some to eat more and select particularly fatty foods.
Stress is associated more specifically with the increase of "central fat," also known as "gut" in some circles.
Studies on rats show that chronic stress activates negative stress hormonal feedback. When rats eat high fat food and gain belly fat, it seems to reduce the negative hormone feedback.
Another animal study shows that eating high carbohydrate and high fat foods reduces the brain's drive to activate the stress hormone chain.
Don't overly fret about the stress-fat relationship. Here is the good news: exercise, particularly, aerobic exercise and walking is good for stress management. Exercise also burns calories and body fat, builds muscles and improves calcium intake from food.
So, you can kill two birds with one stone or if you don't like that expression, "buy two for the price of one."
Copyright 2004, Mind Publications
Posted April 2004