Archive for August, 2011

How to Save Money on Fresh Vegetables

August 28, 2011

It is easy to save money when buying fresh vegetables. Here are some easy tips to getting the best value when eating fresh;

Tip 1. Buy in season, locally grown produce. In season vegetables are cheaper because they are abundant and locally grown veggies taste better and last longer because they haven’t spent days in a refrigerated truck to get to your supermarket. For out of season vegetables substitute flash-frozen supermarket versions.

Tip 2. Don’t just grab a handful of veggies. If you take your time to choose each vegetable individually, you’ll eliminate any that could spoil the lot. Use all of your senses. You want to choose vegetables that have a bright, lively colour, have a pleasing smell or aroma, smooth, unbroken skin, with no blemishes, bruises, soft spots, or mouldy areas.

Tip 3. Buy only the veggies you’ll use within a week. Most vegetables kept longer (with the exception of some root vegetables) are likely to spoil. To know what you’ll use in a week, shop with a list for sides, snacks, and main dish preparation.

Tip 4. Try to grow your own vegetables. If an outdoor garden is not your thing, at least grow some herbs on a windowsill. Have you looked at the prices of herbs in the supermarket lately? Or start some bean sprouts, you will have your own fresh stir-fry ingredients in days.

Tip 5. If you do find yourself with an over supply of veggies about to go bad, freeze them. You can prepare them in a dish, making vegetable stock, soups, or a vegetable casserole first, and then freeze.

Hummus and Guacamole

August 25, 2011

It is always better for you to make your own dips as that way you have no preservatives, no ingrediants you can’t pronounce and you can make low fat versions as well.  Here are two simple recipes for popular dips that you can whip up in less than 10 minutes.


400g can of chickpeas
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic crushed
3 tablespoons of tahini
1/4 teaspoon of cumin

1. Rinse the chickpeas and drain well. 
2. Put the chickpeas, lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of water, garlic, tahini and cumin in a food processor and process until smooth.
3. Transfer to a serving dish


2 large ripe avacados skin and seed removed
1 small red onion sliced thinly
1 clove of garlic crushed
Juice of 1 lemon
1 cups of natural low fat yoghurt
Cracked black pepper to taste

1. Place the avacado, onion, garlic, lemon juince. yoghurt and pepper in a food processor and process until smooth.
2. Transfer to a serving dish

What is lurking in your fridge?

August 23, 2011

You know you’re courting nutritional disaster if you order the fettuccine Alfredo or double bacon cheeseburger when you’re eating out. But what about unhealthy foods right in your own refrigerator? If you’re like most of us, it probably holds some basic food products that are adding extra calories, salt, fat, and/or sugar to your everyday diet possibly without you even realising it.

1. Mayonnaise

It’s white, it’s goopy and it’s really easy for the calories and grams of fat to add up when you’re slathering on the mayonnaise. The truth is that regular mayo isn’t too bad, if you are talking about a teaspoon or two. But most mayo users spread it on thicker than that. And if you’re a true mayonnaise lover, you can rack up 360 calories and 40 grams of fat in a 1/4-cup serving.

Mayo maniacs have three better options: They can use a lower-calorie condiment instead of mayonnaise (mustard, BBQ sauce, salsa or chilli sauce); they can switch to a light mayonnaise (35 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per tablespoon); or they can pare down their portion of real mayonnaise to a couple of teaspoons (contributing 60 calories and 6.7 grams of fat).

2. Soft Drink and Other Sweet Drinks

Sugary drinks are everywhere. Not only are they standard fare in restaurants and vending machines, but the drinks sold in supermarkets are usually sweetened as well (bottled teas, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, etc.).

Sweetened beverages are the epitome of “empty calories.” Soft drink, sweet tea, and fruit drinks generally contribute no nutrients but plenty of calories. And recent research suggests that we don’t tend to compensate by eating less when we drink sweet drinks, so these are truly “extra” calories.

Plain water is best for hydrating the body and should make up most of what we drink each day. But there are several beverages without calories, like green and black teas, that not only hydrate but contribute healthy antioxidants. And while skim or 1% milk has some calories, it also has key nutrients, such as calcium, vitamin D, B-12, potassium, and magnesium.

3. Alcoholic Beverages

Not only is it possible to over consume and abuse alcohol, but from a nutritional perspective, there are definitely better beverages you can have in your fridge. Alcohol calories are empty calories because the body can’t use them as energy. The liver is forced to break down alcohol into fatty acids, which then accumulate in the liver. In fact, fat accumulation can be seen in the liver after a single night of heavy drinking. Liver cells and brain cells actually die with excessive exposure to alcohol.

And then there are the calories. One standard glass of wine has around 170 calories, and a bottle of beer has 150. Each shot of liquor (gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) has about 105 calories, not including any soda or mixers you might drink along with it.

Less is more when it comes to alcohol. Instead of consuming alcoholic drinks at parties or happy hours, consider drinking mineral or soda water with a wedge of lemon or lime, hot or iced coffee or tea, or diet soft drinks in moderation.

4. Processed Lunch Meat

Lunch meats, including deli cold cuts, salami, and ham, make the unhealthy list because they contain lots of sodium and sometimes fat, as well as some preservatives like nitrites.

Processed meat — defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing, or salting or with the addition of chemical preservatives — is linked to an increased risk of colon cancer, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. Some experts suspect that certain substances used as preservatives in processed meats may change into cancer-causing compounds in the body. Further, the sodium in one small serving of lunch meat (one slice of bologna or five slices of salami) ranges from 310 to 480 milligrams. A diet high in sodium is thought to increase the risk of high blood pressure, a major cause of heart disease and stroke.

What should you eat instead? You eliminate the sodium and preservatives and get straight to the protein, vitamins, and minerals when you use freshly roasted and sliced turkey, chicken, or roast beef in your sandwiches. Roast your own, or look for deli brands low in nitrates and sodium.

5. Hot Dogs and Sausage

Also part of the “processed meat” category, hot dogs and sausage are a staple in many a refrigerator. Many people turn to them for a quick dinner entree or, in the case of sausage, as a featured food at breakfast or brunch. Hot dogs and sausage tend to contain lots of sodium (520-680 milligrams per serving) and fat (up to 23 grams total fat and 7 grams saturated fat per serving). Most Americans take in more than double the recommended amount of sodium recommended, according to CDC statistics.

It’s a good idea to substitute lower-fat and lower-sodium meats, such as roasted poultry, pork tenderloin, roast beef, and shrimp for frankfurters and sausage in meals and recipes. Even grilled vegetables such as portabella mushrooms, eggplant, or roasted red pepper will often suffice.

But if it’s got to be a frankfurt or sausage, consider the lower-fat options available in most supermarkets, such as “light” franks, turkey kielbasa, or soy-based sausage substitutes. They may not be much lower in sodium than traditional products, but the amounts of total and saturated fat are often cut in half.

6. Whole Milk Products

While dairy products contain protein, calcium, B-12, and riboflavin, whole-milk products also have ample amounts of fat and cholesterol.

The good news is that lower-fat options are available for most dairy products, be it milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, or cream cheese.

7. Gourmet Ice Cream

In many a freezer, you will find a pint of gourmet ice cream or a box of decadent ice cream bars.

Even if you stick to the modest 1/2-cup serving size suggested on the box, it can send your daily totals of saturated fat, total fat, and calories into overload.  Instead, try some of the great-tasting, lower-fat, lower-sugar, and lower-calorie ice cream options you can find in any supermarket.  For an even healthier dessert, enjoy some fresh fruit with plain yogurt.

8. Creamy Salad Dressing

How many bottles of creamy salad dressing are sitting in your refrigerator? The standard refrigerator fare includes Caesar, Thousand Island, and/or Ranch.

Each 2 tablespoon serving of these traditional creamy dressings adds about 120 calories, 12 grams of fat, 2.5 grams saturated fat, and 380 milligrams of sodium to your salad. Here’s the worst part though: Most people drizzle on double this amount of dressing (1/4 cup).

So aim for downsizing to a 2 tablespoon serving. You might also find some lighter dressings that you enjoy.

9. Stick Butter or Margarine

If it can hold its shape in stick form, your butter or margarine is probably high in saturated fat, because it’s the saturated fat that makes fats more solid at room temperature. In years past, most margarines also contributed high amounts of unhealthy trans fat, though many types have been reformulated.

It’s easier to use more stick margarine or butter than you think because its firm texture makes it difficult to spread lightly on food. And each tablespoon will give you 100 calories and 11 grams of fat. While butter has 7 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon, stick margarines have 2 grams saturated fat and 1.5 grams trans fats per tablespoon.

Switching to canola oil or olive oil in your cooking and baking when possible is the best option because these are “smart” fats, rich in mono and poly unsaturated fat. But if you need a spreadable fat on the table or in a recipe, try a reduced fat margarine with no trans fat and low amounts of saturated fat. If only butter will do, use whipped butter instead. It’s easier to spread lightly, and cuts the calories, fat, and saturated fat by a third.

10. Frozen French Fries

Potato side dishes such as hash browns, french fries, or wedges are popular accompaniments for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Most freezers have a bag of frozen potato products ready to bake with a moment’s notice.

Just one small serving (3 ounces) of some popular potato products contain 8 to11 grams of total fat, around 3 grams of saturated fat, 390 to 540 milligrams sodium, and about 190 calories. And many potato lovers eat double this amount in one sitting.

Your best bet is to eat unprocessed potatoes, like baked potatoes or roasted red potatoes, because they give you all the nutrients of potatoes without added fat, saturated fat, or sodium. Some frozen hash browns contain no added fat, so look for zero-fat grams on the label. If you need frozen french fries, the thick cut fries are often the lowest fat option, but check the label to be sure.

Using Exercise to Ease Lower Back Pain

August 21, 2011

When it feels as though someone is holding a blowtorch to your lower back or stomping on your spine, chances are that you would rather crawl into bed and hibernate than hit the gym.

However once you have relieved the worst of your lower back pain with medication, ice, or another treatment your doctor recommends, getting into a regular workout schedule is actually one of the best ways to speed up your recovery. It can also help to prevent future episodes of lower back pain.

So what exercises can help your back pain? Strengthening and stretching exercises help keep the muscles, joints, ligaments, and discs that support your back limber and healthy.

In fact, one study found that men and women with chronic low back pain who worked out with weights four days a week had 28% less pain and 36% less disability than people who didn’t exercise as often.

Your doctor may recommend that you do back exercises once or twice a day for 10 to 30 minutes at a time while you are recovering. Try to work up to at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day.

Exercises for Low Back Pain

According to research, strength training and stretching may be the most effective lower back exercises.

Strength training

Strength training exercises can help you build stronger muscles, especially the core muscles of the abs, lower back, pelvis and hips, which support your back. Isometric exercises, in which you contract the muscle and hold it (for example, by pressing against a wall) may be easier than lifting weights for some people with lower back pain. Adding an exercise ball to your routine can help stabilise your core while you exercise. A specific type of exercise that strengthens and helps you gain more control over your trunk muscles (called motor control exercises) appears to be especially good for combating low back pain and disability.


Stretching keeps your muscles more flexible which means that you are less likely to injure them. It also can relieve tight spots in your back and elsewhere in your body and improve your range of motion. Remember to move slowly in to and out of each stretch while breathing deeply. Try to hold each stretch for at least five seconds. Never stretch past your limits. If it hurts, stop.

Yoga or Body Balance, with its series of poses that incorporate stretching and strengthening, can be good exercise for lower back pain. According to studies, taking these styles of classes can improve lower back pain and function better than conventional treatment alone. And if you’ve been feeling down about your achy back, yoga or Body Balance might even improve your mood.

Aerobic exercises

Aerobic exercises such as walking, biking, or dancing, get your heart pumping, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and keep your body in overall better health. Sometimes non-impact aerobic exercises like swimming are easier and more comfortable for people with lower back pain.

Whenever you exercise, don’t forget to take time to focus on your breathing. Deep breathing and relaxation training improve oxygen flow to your muscles. They’re also great ways to relieve stress, which can cause muscles to tense up and trigger low back pain.

The Right Way to Do Back Exercises

As you get ready to launch into a lower back exercise program, don’t go it alone. In the beginning it is better to see an exercise physiologist or talk with a personal trainer to help design a workout program that works for you.

They can make sure you’re doing the exercises properly and monitor your progress. One on one sessions can help you learn how to stretch and strengthen your back muscles and the muscles that support them correctly. Your trainer or physiologist will also be able to teach you how to stand and sit to prevent strain and pain.

When you first begin your exercise program, go slowly and gradually work your way up to longer and more intense workouts, but always be conscious of your limits. Avoid any exercises that can aggravate your low back pain, including straight leg sit-ups, leg lifts while lying on your back, or lifting heavy weights above your waist. And remember it is very important to never work out to the point of pain.

Fusilli Pasta with Salmon and Baby Spinach

August 18, 2011
A quick and easy dinner to whip up when you get home from a work out.


4 sprigs of fresh chives – chopped
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
40mls lemon juice
200gms of pink salmon in brine (drained weight)
240gms pasta, fusilli
60gms baby spinach leaves
1 pump of cooking spray oil
240mls evaporated milk – carnation light
24 small cherry tomatoes – halved


1. Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water, following the packet instructions. Drain the pasta well and set aside keeping warm.

2. Heat a large drying pan on high. Spray with oil. Saute the cherry tomatoes and garlic for a minute. Stir in the salmon, evaporated milk and lemon juice.

3. Lower the heat and simmer gently or 2-3 minutes, stirring from time to time until the mixture has thickened slightly.

4. Toss the sauce through the hot pasta with the spinach leaves. Serve with chopped chives. 

Serves 4

Calories per serve: 462
Fat:                          7.9
Protein:                  27.2
Carbohydrates:      69.3
Fibre                        0.7

Healthy Eating During Times Of Stress

August 16, 2011

You just found out that your glowing engine light means another bill from the mechanic. That will strain your bank account, which you’ve already been juggling like a circus performer.
At the mechanics repair shop the vending machine stands nearby, offering sweet, fatty, crunchy and salty snacks. You make your choice, hoping to banish worry with some high kilojoule help, even though you’re not really hungry.
Yet a chocolate bar or packet of chips gives only a momentary boost to sagging spirits. Refined sugars and starches in most packaged snack foods make you feel better for a minute and then much worse.

Emotional Eating and Stress Eating

When you feel tense, stress eating or emotional eating seem to be triggered like an automatic response. That is especially so if your body reacts strongly to stress released hormones. A 2010 study from the University of Michigan showed that when levels of the stress hormone cortisol, were boosted in healthy, non stressed adults, they ate more snack foods.
Indeed, stress may increase your desire for donuts, ice cream, and other high fat or sugary foods. You also are likely to eat fewer regular meals and fewer vegetables. That may be why you grab a handful of cookies during stressful moments instead of healthy snacks such as baby carrots or a few almonds. Not surprising, then, that stress eaters gain weight more often than those who aren’t stress eaters.

Find New Outlets for Stress

Emotional or stress eating soon becomes a habit that changes how you eat regularly. The food drives your behavior and your behavior drives your food choice however you can break the stress eating cycle and enjoy a healthy diet, even if difficult times continue, with these effective ideas:
  • Build a good nutritional foundation. Prepare your brain and body in advance and you will be better able to handle stress when it happens. To keep your emotions in balance, eat regularly during the day, every four or five hours.

  • Enjoy complex carbohydrates. Have oatmeal, raisin bran and other whole-grain cereals and breads, as well as brown rice, whole-grain pasta, vegetables, beans, fruits, and non fat milk. These complex carbohydrates help your brain make the feel-good chemical serotonin, which counteracts stress. Moderate amounts of healthy fats from olives, avocadoes, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, nut butters and olive oil also help.

  • Recognise what is happening. When stressful events or thoughts trigger the urge to eat, stop and evaluate first. Are you hungry or not? Rate your hunger on a scale from 1 to 10. Ask yourself when was the last time you ate, to see if your body really needs food right now. Often, negative emotions trigger what feels like hunger but is really just a habitual response to eat to get rid of negative feelings.

  • Try a little mindfulness. Derail your automatic trip to the cookie jar by becoming more aware of your eating patterns. Mindful eating encourages you to use your senses to choose foods that please you and are nourishing to your body. Pay attention to the physical cues of fullness or hunger that your body sends. Use these to make decisions about when to begin eating and when to stop.

  • Have a Plan B … and C. The stress eating urge usually hits suddenly, so keep healthy snacks with you wherever you go. Try small packets of nuts or trail mix (without added sweets or salt), apples, or bananas. Those better options will help you bypass high kilojoule comfort. When possible eat protein and complex carbohydrates together, such as cheese with a slice of whole-grain bread. Another great option is a small piece of dark chocolate (72% cocoa is good).

  • Fool yourself. In difficult moments, do you crave crunchy snacks like chips or pretzels? Keep cut-up carrots and celery ready in the refrigerator. Soy chips are also a healthier choice than most fried or baked crunchy snacks.

  • Have a sweet tooth? Fruit provides natural sweetness that can reduce your urge for high sugar items.

  • Out of sight really does help. If you must keep stress eating temptations like cookies or chips at home for others, store those foods behind larger packages or stacks of dishes. In the freezer, use bags of frozen vegetables to block your view of the ice cream container. When you are commuting to work or running errands, avoid driving past the bakery or fast-food restaurants.

  • Call on a substitute. To make stress eating less automatic, you need to find better ways to deal with everyday hassles and ongoing tensions. Choose a healthy stress-busting alternative such as going for a walk or run, doing a work out, listening to music, calling a friend for a chat, brushing your cat or dog, or just sitting quietly.

Instead of eating, try one of the solutions mentioned above. Add it to your action choices if it works or try a different one next time. By finding healthier alternatives, you’ll feel more in control.

Read this the next time you don’t feel like getting active…

August 14, 2011

Let’s face it, there are times that all of us really don’t feel like getting active. At these times we often just need a little reminder to get out there and live life to the fullest. This article is sure to motivate you to get active and enjoy the fact that you have the ability to be active. The article is by Pamela Peeke, MD – a wellness expert who works to assist people to achieve mental, nutritional and physical transformations for life. 

Everyday Fitness

with Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP

I’m fresh off the road after keynoting a string of back-to-back events. As I collapsed into my comfy chair and recalled these past weeks, there is one event that captured my heart and profoundly affected me. I gave the keynote at the annual Zumba instructors’ conference at the Orlando convention center and received their first Zumba Fitness International Role Model Award honoring my work as a global fitness leader.
The Zumba leaders also decided to give a second award to one of their own. I was expecting this person to be some lean, sinewy, tight and toned instructor who would salsa his/her way onto the stage to accept this prestigious honor. Instead, we were all gifted with someone who was a living miracle – Corina Gutierrez. I was blown away by this extraordinary young woman and I write about her now so that the next time you do my trademark BMW (bitch, moan and whine) when it’s time to get up and active, I want you to think about Corina.

Corina is a Zumba instructor, and a unique one at that. Born with osteogenesis imperfecta, she has spent her life dealing with this rare disease which, due to a defect in the gene that produces type 1 collagen, leaves her with extremely fragile bones. There are various types and hers is one of the more severe forms leaving her with bowed legs and arms, kyphosis (a hunched back) and scoliosis (curvature of the spine). As a result, she’s been wheelchair bound for years. As a young girl, she experienced more than 200 fractures in her bones. Physicians did not expect her to live beyond the age of 7 years. Yet she’s defied these odds and is now 32 years young. What gives?

I found my answer while hanging out with her at the conference. Her mile-long smile immediately grabs your heart and draws you to her. As the sensuous Latin-hip hop music thundered around us, Corina spun her wheelchair round and round, clapping with sheer joy as she closed her eyes to savor it all.

During a quiet moment, I asked Corina how she’s learned to cope with her disease. Peering into my eyes, she said her faith has helped her adapt and adjust to this burden she carries — literally. In that moment I recalled once again the Darwin quote I have used in my writing and speaking: “It is not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” I call it A2ing it (A squaring it) — adapting and adjusting are the central core of survival. Corina’s living proof.

At one point during the conference, I was sitting in the VIP section of a huge convention center ballroom as the Zumba teams were preparing for their Zumbathon, an incredible dance marathon, this time featuring hip hop artist Pit Bull along with the Haitian musician Wyclef Jean. The air was thick with excitement as the leading Zumba dancers rehearsed, surrounded by frenzied stage hands completing last minute changes. Corina was next to me, totally engaged in all of the commotion and building excitement.

Looking to my right I realized that I was sitting next to the internationally acclaimed director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense), whose wife Bhavna Vaswani is the top Zumba Bollywood dancer featured in the show. We struck up a conversation and when he inquired about Corina, as I mentioned her condition he smiled and said “Yes, I know it well”. Noting my look of surprise, he told me that he’d written and directed Unbreakable, a story about osteogenesis imperfecta. Totally blown away, I thought to myself “What were the odds I’d end up sitting next to a famous Hollywood director who also knew about this rare disease?” As we both gazed at Corina who was lost in ecstasy and oblivious to anything but the on-stage revelry, we knew at a very deep level — myself as a physician, and he as a director fully versed in her disease — the triumph of Corina’s life.

The next day I delivered the conference keynote on a vast stage in front of 6000 Zumba instructors from around the world. Dressed in a wild and crazy Zumba cargo pants and jacket wardrobe, flashing fluorescent green, perky pinks, iridescent yellows and pastel blues, I got the audience up and rocking to their own music. I invited Zumba founder and rock star Beto to the stage for the finale and realized that what was missing was my new best friend Corina. Looking down into the audience, I saw her gleefully twirling around in her chair and motioned for her to join us on stage, which was met by a roar of mass approval from the crowd. Soon, we were three — the doctor (I’m now referred to as Dr Z ), the dance-leader (Beto), and the gift to us all (Corina). Beto took us through his new “sitting” dance program or Sentao. Corina was beside herself with joy as she swayed her little body to a sexy salsa or cha cha, while 6000 Zumbamaniacs were moving in unison. At the end, the ovation seemed to last forever. And so also will my memory of the time I spent with this amazing woman.

  1. Cut the BMW: The next time you start to crank out excuses for not getting up and active and you hear words of B (Bitch) M (Moan) and W (Whine) coming out of your mouth, stop and think about Corina and be eternally grateful that you can get up and experience the joy of assuming the vertical and enjoying your body. Quit complaining and start living life to the fullest.
  2. The Can Do’s Have It: Most of us have at least one anatomical part that hinders our ability to do some forms of physical activity. That’s part of life and a price we pay as we age. But it’s a small price when you think “hey, at least I’m still here to enjoy life”. Instead of obsessing about what you can no longer do, focus on what you can do. OK, so your knees creak or your back’s a pain. Make a list of what does work and let it rip!
  3. A Square It Through Life: You know my rant by now. The key to living long and well is to learn how to adapt and adjust to life’s stresses without self- destruction. We’re all thrown wild balls from left field so plan on spending a lifetime honing your adaptive skills when life nails us with yet another stinging curve ball. Catch it and throw it back. Practice every day of your life. You can do this. You must do this to survive.
  4. Savor Your Support System: Corina couldn’t have made it without her amazing family and friends. Animals and people make wonderful support systems. Surround yourself with special people with whom you share a loving and supportive bond. And don’t be shy about leaning on them when you need it. Hey, you’ll be there for them as well.
  5. Medicate with Movement: Corina’s medical condition actually improved as she built more trained muscle, got stronger and increased her lung capacity. Physical activity is life-saving, mentally and physically. So, get up already!
Photos: Pamela Peeke, MD

Avoiding the F-word: frailty

August 7, 2011
Strength and power … muscles require maintenance after 40.

Osteoporosis might be a household word, but hands up who’s heard of sarcopenia?  Meaning muscle loss, sarcopenia is like the ugly sister of thinning bones: together they work to make us frail as we age. Although we’re told to keep our bones strong from the teenage years onwards to avoid broken bones in later life, health messages about maintaining muscle are about as loud as a whisper. But it’s often when muscles lose power and strength that we fall over and snap a bone. 
When you’re in your 30s and 40s, frailty is the last thing on your mind. Yet this is when frailty-inducing muscle changes can start kicking in, as muscle mass – and more importantly – muscle strength and power, start their slow decline, says Professor Rob Daly of Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research.
“We generally start losing muscle mass –the amount of muscle in the body – at around 45, but we can start losing muscle power as early as our 30s,” he says.

Muscle power means a muscle’s ability to produce power quickly for more explosive movements like jumping, hopping on a bus, or rising quickly from a chair, he explains – and its gradual decline means that between the ages of 30 and 70 you can lose as much as 70 per cent of your muscle power.
This means it becomes harder to do stuff we take for granted – and which can save us from injury – like negotiating stairs, walking quickly across a road and, if you trip, recovering your balance instead of falling. 
“Losing muscle strength starts a bit later, at around 45 or 50 when we lose around 1.5 per cent of strength each year until 65 or 70 when the loss speeds to about 3 per cent each year,” he says.
As for how rapidly we lose the amount of muscle in our body – by the time we get to 60 plus, we can have lost as much as 40 per cent.  
That’s assuming you’re doing nothing to fight back. Although there are age-related changes in muscle cells with time, lack of use is also part of the problem, says Daly, citing the example of masters athletes in their 60s: they may not have the same muscle power or function as 25-year-old athletes, but it’s much better than most other 65-year-olds.
In a perfect world where we’d be doing everything possible to resist frailty – and the nursing home – we’d all be picking up weights in our mid-40s, women included, and using them into old age.
“We need more affordable and accessible exercise programs for middle aged and older adults, that specifically focus on improving muscle function – but we also need to learn to train our muscles in a specific way to get the most benefit,” stresses Daly.
That means not relying just on standard gym machines where exercises are often done sitting down, but by using weights or doing exercises with movements that mimic those we do in real life such as squats or step ups, he says.
As for boosting muscle power with weights, the trick is to do the lifting phase of a movement as rapidly as possible, then return to the starting position in a slow, controlled way. Stepping rapidly up and down on a box or steps using dumbbells is another good move.
Preserving muscle also depends on your training being ‘progressive’ –meaning you don’t stay on the same weight, but challenge muscles to keep improving by increasing the weights as you get stronger, he emphasises.
So if you’re 40-ish and want to stay strong for the long haul, Daly suggests finding a gym and a good accredited trainer and asking for a program to help maintain both muscle power and strength.
Think of it as ‘super’ for your body – a lifelong plan for your functional security in your later years.  
But if you’re already 80 or 90, it’s not too late to improve muscle strength and function, says exercise physiologist Dr Nathan de Vos of The Strong Clinic at Sydney’s Balmain Hospital, which combines resistance training with clinical care for older people with conditions that can be improved by exercise.
“High intensity progressive resistance training improves their muscle function and strength so that daily living activities like rising from a chair, climbing stairs, walking and shopping get easier.
“Some people come in here with walking aids – then find they no longer need them,” he says.
What are you doing now  to stay in shape for when you’re older?

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August 4, 2011