• Paulo Andalaft

Daily Function or Fitness Excellence?

Hello, my friends,

In a recent conversation with a friend, we discussed the difference between chronological and functional aging or primary and secondary aging. ​

Chronological (or primary) aging is what we also call biological aging. It is the aging process common to all living creatures. We are born, mature, peak, decline, and then we die. Primary aging is our grey hair, our wrinkles, vision or hearing impairment, occasional setbacks, etc.​ We cannot control it.

Functional (or secondary) aging is what we also call lifestyle aging. These are our choices - nutrition, physical activity, stress, environment, smoking, sleeping, and consequently how we move, feel, think, and act. We can control it.

Studies have shown that most of the negative aspects associated with our aging process are due to secondary and not primary aging.​ Let me say that again. Poor health, chronic disease, functional and cognitive decline, poor strength, risk of falls, lack of sexuality, fatigue... (I could go on and on) are primarily due to our lifestyle rather than our chronological age.​

I love to give you examples of functional aging to show you it is possible to live a vibrant and active life well into our 80s, 90s, and possibly 100s!

Don Phillips, is a 91-year-old retired veterinarian, who won a few medals at the recent National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale.

But the real value of his healthy lifestyle is far more ordinary.

It is also what we should aim for as we age:

Functional Fitness

Don recently drove 250 miles to a school reunion. He putzes around the yard doing odd jobs, gets what he needs off high shelves (and puts it back). He travels, carries grocery bags, rides his bike, and jogs.

This fall, he is going on a deer hunt.

How does he manage all this?

Simple: Exercise.

Don lifts weights twice a week. In addition, he walks or jogs 2 to 3 miles a few times a week outdoors or on a treadmill when the weather gets bad.

Study Says: Crank It Up

He also has focused on cranking up the intensity of his workouts. That makes sense.

A 2017 Mayo Clinic study showed that HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) could reverse some cellular aspects of aging. This type of training involves repeated bouts of high intensity effort followed by varied recovery times.​

​It is as simple as increasing the speed of your walk for a minute, then slowing back down to your regular pace, rising again for another minute, slowing back down, and so forth.

Studies have shown that HIIT is effective and safe for us aging adults.

"We encourage everyone to exercise regularly, but the take-home message for aging adults is that supervised high-intensity training is probably best," says K. Sreekumaran Nair, a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist and senior researcher of the study.

The study agreed with previous research that all exercise improves lean body mass, insulin sensitivity, cardio-respiratory health, muscle mass, and more. And maintaining strength, endurance and agility is key to performing our ADLs (Activities of Daily Living).

His Turning Point

At this spring's National Senior Games in Fort Lauderdale, Don entered 13 events and won eight gold medals in the 90-94 age group. Yes, eight out of thirteen.

Many may think: " - What? At 91? ".

Me? I am not surprised at all.

"I had never been to a track meet. I had never seen a track meet before the Senior Games," Don said. "I started doing this for health reasons."

Don was 57 when a neighbor returned from a doctor's visit under orders to exercise. The man's knees were shot. He was overweight, diabetic, and in poor overall health.

That made a big impression on Don, who started his fitness journey right then.

He will turn 92 this summer.

The neighbor? He died at 73.

"Too young," Don said.

Whether you want daily function or fitness excellence, we can help you reach your goals.

See you soon.