By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
The headlines came screaming out: Obesity on the Rise! 36% of America is Obese Today and 60% Will Be By 2030!! That’s no surprise given the fact that newer technology brings more virtual activity and with it, a more sedentary lifestyle. Heck, even gyms are stuffing virtual games into treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes.
But a recent set of studies is worth looking at, especially if you are a bit overweight…ok, if you are obese. I wrote my thesis on obesity way back in the dark ages of the ‘70s and the data looked gloomy then for those who were obese for longevity, heart failure, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Today, it’s as if obesity, as commonly measured by a simple ratio of heart and weight, is talked about as if it’s a death sentence. That is, unless you understand the “obesity paradox.”
Simply stated, the obesity paradox suggests that patients with a number of chronic diseases of normal weight are twice as likely to die as those who are overweight or obese with those same diseases. So is there a need to reexamine the assumptions we’ve all been sold on about the association between body fat and disease? You bet there is!
Whether it’s overweight/obese dialysis patients, coronary disease, diabetic patients—it seems that study after study points to a similar finding. Cardiovascular fitness is a far more useful predictor of mortality risk than simple numbers on a scale. Trouble is, in many studies, fitness is not measured as it relates to disease processes. But evidence is growing that’s compelling medical researchers to take fitness into account.
When studies do take fitness into account, they come up with a terrific finding for those of us passionate about our fitness—“being fat and fit is better than being thin and unfit.” Get that? Here, it’s worth repeating, —“being fat and fit is better than being thin and unfit.”
Need to pick one? Of course, not. Being fit and at a healthy weight (taking into account body fat, lean muscle mass, and metabolic abnormalities) are best. But the latest research tells us if you do have to choose one, it’s more important to maintain fitness than leanness. They gym is the place where fitness and maintaining a health weight can be combined best. With individualized personal training and nutritional assistance by one of the club’s highly skilled certified trainers, the correct program, delivered appropriately for you, means your best chance for healthy living.
Add the psychological components of knowing how to create positive emotions, being engaged fully in the flow of enjoyable daily activities, developing and appreciating healthy relationships, finding meaning in your life, and taking pride in your accomplishments, you’ve got it all right for a life that’s healthy, fit and happy!
Depending on who you ask, it seems almost everyone these days is “middle-age.” The US Census says it’s basically between 35-54 years old. Some say between 45-60, and others say it extends to 65 years old. Point is the idea of “middle-age” covers a whole lot of people, including a lot of members of The Sporting Club.
The visible signs of aging, including loss of skin elasticity, graying of hair, 10-20 lbs. accumulation of body fat, decrease in aerobic performance, maximal heart rate, strength, flexibility, and fertility, and of course, menopause, to name just a few of the common “ills” middle-age can bring, are seemingly universal. But the chronic health conditions associated with older age are more troubling.
Well, guess what? If you are somewhere in the middle-age range of life, you can not only foil these mid-life widespread conditions, but perhaps even more important, you can help reduce the risk of developing chronic illnesses up to twenty years later! Want to delay biological aging by more than a decade? Get aerobically fit in middle-age and create an independent lifestyle.
Research at the Cooper Institute, University of Kansas and the University of Houston, have all looked at middle-aged people who regularly exercise and are physically fit. They all report similar findings—these people have a much lower risk of developing major chronic health conditions in old age.
Alzheimer’s disease, colon/lung cancer, kidney disease, COPD, stroke, heart disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure are tempered by a moderate increase in physical fitness during mid-life. Simply stated, the more fit you are in middle-age, the less likely you may be to face these chronic illnesses two decades later.
With an aging population along with increased obesity and a corresponding growing sedentary – virtual life – lifestyle, the incidence of chronic diseases among seniors will rise significantly.
The answer? It’s right here at your La Jolla gym, The La Jolla Sports Club. Increase your regular exercise and increase your physical fitness now. The research, and common sense, tells us clearly that fitness is, in fact, one important key to healthy aging.
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Do you ever wonder if the world you live in is normal? Given the vitriolic political scene where everyone is made out to be a bad guy, corrupt office and business politics, insane drivers and Coronado bridge jumpers, yet another massacre—this one in Colorado and with its very own San Diego ties, the economy flowing downhill (or is it?—depends on whether you listen to MSNBC or Fox News, I guess) and value clashes at fast food restaurants, you have to wonder how anyone can stay positive these days.
I have some answers, and no, exercise or protein shakes are not necessarily at the top of the list, though they do lots of good and will always head you in a healthy, happy direction. First, remember that as a member of The Sporting Club, you have already expressed hopefulness that life can be better. The team of trainers, sports medicine staff, and spa professionals—everyone who works here—is focused on helping you find the positivity and well-being that you sought when you joined.
So here’s my take on what you can do to build positivity in today’s not-so-positive world—ask me again a month from now and I might offer you a number of different answers, all with the same goal—living a healthier, better life, fit and happy. That’s what positivity is all about.
1. Change your mindset, use a different word, make a subtle change in your physical environment and researchers tell us it can improve your health and well-being. Positivity comes from embracing the “psychology of possibility.”
2. Find beauty in the people that fill your life and your days will be filled with grace and kindness. It’s reciprocal. Smile at everyone you see on the second floor of the club and ignore everyone on the third floor. Which floor “seems happier and friendlier” to you? Hmmm. Wonder why? Maybe it’s what YOU radiate. Want positivity in your life? Radiate a positive feeling of compassion, love and beauty and see what you are offered in return? Will it work every time? Probably not. But it will work enough to leave you not particularly caring when it doesn’t.
3. Along the same lines, keep smiling. Research tells us that during brief stressors, grinning and bearing it, holding a smile for a moment or two, helps to reduce the level of your body’s physical reaction to stress, get this, even if you don’t feel “happy.”
4. Corny, but enjoy the gift of nature. That sunlight vitamin D relationship has lots going on for it. The positive outlook you begin being aware of is not a coincidence of taking a walk along the beach, it’s the consequence of it. Stare our of the window of the Sporting Club between sets and appreciate the beauty that surrounds this club.
5. Be mindful that there is no “no.” Regardless of what happens in your life, traffic, flat tires, loss of money, wrong choices, bad decisions, work and relationship problems or worse—understand there is a reason, and always a good one, for the “seeming NO.” Fact is, there is a “yes” but as in all of life, it’s a matter of time and place—when and where will you find the “yes”? Just keep looking for it and understanding that what seems like a “no” is really just a message that will lead to the “yes” you are looking for.
6. Exercise your heart and lungs, stretch and build your muscles, feed them well and you’ll move along the health, fitness and performance continuum of fitness just fine.
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
Looking for a way to cut calories, sugar and salt from your lifestyle but still want to enjoy your local pub? That means, still want to enjoy a couple, ok a few, drinks now and then, ok every weekend?
I’m no bartender, and my go to fave is Grey Goose on the rocks with blue cheese stuffed olives, but there’s plenty of wisdom out there that says cocktails, shots, frozen drinks and wine drinks can all be fully enjoyed…well, without feeling full of guilt.
First, use your common sense…that means before you start drinking, while you still have common sense, follow a couple of simple guidelines:
1. Reduce your sugar intake by using only fresh squeezed fruits if you like fruit in your drinks. 2. Reduce your salt intake by avoiding carbonated water and choosing seltzer water instead. 3. Reduce your sugar intake even further by making your own syrup if your drinks call for syrup, with ½ tablespoon of honey and ¾ tablespoon of warm water. 4. Light alcohol trumps dark alcohol if you want to lessen the hangover likelihood. 5. Reduce your calories by limiting your total alcohol content to one shot, even in a multi-cocktail concoction.
Here’s what San Diego mixology experts tell me are ten low-calorie cocktails you can enjoy guilt-free, well almost: Gin and Juice (pour over ice and use ½ cup of fresh squeezed oranges, a shot of gin and ½ cup of seltzer Vodka & Sprite Zero (or with a splash of pomegranates or cranberries) Appletini Mojito with the simple syrup recipe above Tequila with lime juice and seltzer soda Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Champagne Watermelon Martini with agave nectar Margarita on the rocks (blend the syrup recipe, ½ lemon and 1 lime, leave out the Cointreau, add wasabi powder) White wine spritzer (diluted with water or seltzer soda) Mimosa lite with fresh squeezed oranges, sparkling wine and ¼ cup seltzer
Of course, it’ll be quite the party having all of these, which is why the Grey Goose and blue cheese stuffed olives are easiest…and still allow you to get to the gym in the morning.
Keep in mind that an average 12-ounce domestic beer contains about 150 calories, the same as a 3.5 ounce glass of sweet wine. 1.5 ounces of 90-proof alcohol contains about 110 calories, and when you add carbonated sugar-filled sodas and juices, you also add on the calories. Alcohol adds empty calories and is converted to acetate that hampers your ability to burn fat. Think of it this way, a hefty cocktail will double-cross you by cancelling out that heart pounding, fat-burning workout you enjoyed earlier in the day.
My advice? Be aware of what you are drinking and go for the low-calorie fun. Drink plenty of water between your cocktails, and plan your weak spots in advance.
You can either drink anything and as much as you want, OR you can keep your waistline. You just can’t do both.
Check out “Stress and Food” for great tips on curbing your appetite for unhealthy foods and drinks!
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
“OK, Rebecca, Kayla and Max, Mommy is going to the gym so you kids behave and listen to daddy.” Sound familiar? Of course it does. Going to the gym for many moms, and yes dads, is time off, a chance for renewal, for developing real health and happiness.
But what about your children? Is “…behave and listen to daddy” the best you can offer them? What about, “…and you kids be sure you are playing, exercising, and having fun too while mommy does the same at the gym.” As someone who provides mental strength and performance coaching to developing and elite athletes, I can tell you that encouraging young children to enjoy free-play is a critical building block in their overall health—emotional, physical and intellectual.
Many parents believe, inaccurately, that focusing their young children’s physical activities on sport specific training trumps more general types of movement, exercise and activity. It doesn’t. Like you, needing proper warm-up time before you begin any specific exercise, think of your children’s free-play as their warm-up time for later focused athletic training. And if they aren’t headed towards becoming world-class tennis, soccer, baseball, basketball or football players, then think of their free-play as benefitting them in a thousand other ways to build a base for lifetime health and fitness.
When you are headed to they gym, keep these three points in mind:
1. Free-play means just that. Running, jumping, playing catch, skipping, playing in the grass, and riding their bikes all build essential balance, mobility, endurance and strength. Sounds like fun, right?
2. That leads to the second point. Don’t forget to play in the dirt with them when you come home from the gym, work, or shopping. Remember how you played outside until it was time to come in for dinner (or in my case when the street lights went on)? Show them how you can enjoy hopscotch, hula-hoops, dodge ball (easy does it) and they’ll love it too.
3. Focus on the process not the outcome. Our bodies were made for movement, exercise, and activity. Why? To keep us healthy and have fun, not just for winning a game, getting a scholarship or a trophy. Emphasize the value of fun, happiness, and enjoyment with your young children, not losing weight, building muscle or getting an athletic free ride to UCLA. There’s plenty of time for focusing on sport-specific skill building in those children and early adolescents who show interest, desire and proficiency in a focused sport.
4. Along the same lines of process, not outcome, be sure to keep your praise for your youngsters on their effort, determination, and resolve instead of their winning. “Daddy told me that you guys really had fun and enjoyed racing in the backyard when mommy was at the gym…that’s so terrific!”
This sure beats video games and donuts, doesn’t it?
By: Michael R. Mantell, Ph.D.
“I’m willing to make some lifestyle changes as long as I don’t have to do anything different,” said one client of mine. She was only half joking. I told her that her school teachers may have told her to sit still and settle down when she was a kid, but she can now stop!
The evidence is beyond convincing. Gardening, walking, being engaged in moderate to vigorous activity 30 minutes daily, healthy nutrition, regular exercise, and thinking rationally, are all directly related to lower mortality rates.
But it’s more than just how old you are when you die. It’s how healthy you live. And to remain healthy throughout aging, that is to age successfully, there are four processes in particular that smart folks are paying attention to and doing something about.
Here’s an admittedly elementary, basic, description of the four age promoters that we can all do something about.
1. Methylation Methylation, simply stated, is a detox process that can destroy cancer-causing toxins, repair damaged DNA and produce anti-aging hormones. When the enzymatic process of methylation doesn’t work well, homocysteine accumulates in the blood and can cause premature aging and death due to improper maintenance and repair of DNA. A blood test can help you determine your level of homocysteine and help point you in the direction of what you can do to make sure you have the proper level of nutrients necessary to enable healthy methylation to take place.
2. Oxidation Losing an electron by an atom or molecule, oxidation, is not necessarily a radical threat to life, unless that molecule is a protein or an enzyme. Imagine an apple that quickly turns brown or a nail that rusts. That’s oxidation. Free radicals cause this type of oxidation. Without the proper amount of anti-oxidants to immobilize these hungry free radicals, those unstable molecules can damage your body’s healthy cells and cause premature aging. Healthy diets, avoiding exposure to toxins, avoiding too much sun, reducing stress, adding vitamin C, D, beta-carotene and selenium with your physician’s input are smart ways to gain antioxidants. Green tea (no sugar!), berries, and multi-mineral vitamins (my faves are from Life Extension), along with CoQ10 and alpha-lipoic acid, may also be valuable in boosting antioxidant levels.
3. Glycation This is one tough process leading to sugar and protein/fat molecules combining to create inflexible tissue, translated to mean wrinkles inside and outside of your body, making you not only look old, but due to the inelasticity of connective tissue, narrowing blood vessels, and high blood pressure, making you feel older as well. Oh, and those free radicals? Aged Glycation End-products create large numbers of those life-sucking devils. The “bad cholesterol” LDL, is also part of the glycation process—it’s a central player in the undesired cross-linked molecules of glycation. High blood glucose (sugar) and food eaten at high temperatures cooked above 250 degrees F (barbequed, fried, grilled and roasted) may contribute to glycation. Cut way back on sugars, carbs, fast foods microwaving food and burning your hamburgers.
4. Inflammation Ever have a high sensitivity C-reactive protein blood test? Your doctor is looking for inflammation. Why? Because low-levels of chronic inflammation without external signs of swelling, heat or pain, (i.e., “acute inflammation”) may indicate serious disease, including cardiac and artery illness, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes type 2, arthritis, and cancer. Diet and supplements are often valuable in treating inflammation. Fresh veggies, berries, reduced pasta/bread/rice, reducing sugar intake, low glycemic index foods, and healthy fats are important components of a diet that is “anti-aging” = anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 fish oil, with DHA and EPA, bromelain and vitamin K may also be useful supplements. Like herbs? Add natural ginger and turmeric for an anti-inflammatory effect. Don’t forget the value of healthy sleep for anti-inflammation properties.
I guess the fifth “ation” may also be important for longevity—vacation! Don’t forget to add that to your longevity regimen.