Wellness Wednesday: Why Do I Miss Being a Patient?

I sat alone in the audiologist’s isolation room, my eyes closed, and concentrated on listening. And there it was, a beep. And another. And … there, another.

Why was I having my hearing tested? As we emerged out of the pandemic and into society, it seemed to me that I wasn’t hearing people as well. Maybe it was the masks. Or my ears. Or both. My husband, who wears hearing aids — most of the time, though masks wreak havoc with other things hooked around ears— thought I wasn’t hearing as well. So, I went to the ENT practice which had last tested my hearing in 2018.

We’ll get to the results shortly. Here’s what happened to me first.

Being in that small, quiet room and following the audiologist’s orders brought back an unexpected wave of nostalgia for the comforting simplicity of being a hospital patient. No errands. No to do list. No bills, no calls. Just being in that bed for that time was all that was required. Doing what I was told.

It felt really weird to miss it.

It was a simpler time. Maybe like “doing time”? Definitely much nicer than being locked up, but similar in requiring the acceptance that I was in this place and that’s all there was to it.

How did I lie in a single bed for three months? I just did.

The trade off, of course, was that a big bunch of that time there was absolutely nothing my body could do for itself. I was an indebted, and often inert, captive. But my body held on until my mind could join in the effort. I was a very good patient. I aced it.

So here I was sitting alone in this small room, following the audiologist’s commands, when I was overcome with nostalgia.

My reverie was interrupted by the audiologist as she prepared me for the next test. Had I had any antibiotics by IV? Yes, I said, loads while I was hospitalized in 2019. She nodded, wired me up, and shut the door. I anticipated hearing more beeps and tweets. Nothing happened. Or maybe, I thought, something had happened and I couldn’t hear it. Not one sound for what seemed like minutes.

“Sorry,” her voice called over the equipment, “Got a little tied up there. OK, now we’ll start.”

The beeps restarted. I sailed through the test. The audiologist pronounced my hearing “perfect.”

Despite all that I’d been through, I’d avoided damage that hardcore IV antibiotics can cause to the sensory cells in the inner ear that detect sound and motion, resulting in hearing loss, dizziness, and tinnitus. It’s called ototoxicity. Another bullet dodged. Another one-in-a-million story.

That night, I Googled the question, “Why do some people like being in the hospital?”

Because being hospitalized can be like a retreat. No decisions, other than medical ones. No dishes to wash,no housework. No work deadlines. 3 meals, clean sheets. A call bell.

Nancy Walters, on Quora

And, in my case, because these men and women became my community. Who wouldn’t miss this amazing support team?

Family Friday: How My Dog and I Supported Turtle Rescue

Just north of us, in the seaside town of Juno, there is a stretch of sand known for being one of the largest nesting sites in the world for sea turtles. Adjacent to that beach is Loggerhead Marinelife Center, a conservation and rehabilitation organization that each year treats nearly 100 sea turtles and 1,000 hatchlings. Through an amazing network of volunteers, LMC tracks and protects nests each season and facilitates after-dark tours. Around the Fourth of July several years ago, we participated in such a tour and witnessed a turtle actually laying her eggs and then dragging herself back across the sand to the sea.

A couple of weeks ago, our rescue Lab, Kumba, and I participated in a LMC fundraiser, a virtual four-mile race called Run 4 The Sea. We walked our own local route and were 141st out of 183 participants. The 2021 Run 4 The Sea raised about $30,000 for sea turtles!

In return for our effort, we got an adorable LMC tote bag and a set of wooden utensils (in a canvas bag from Atticus Printing) to use on our next picnic.

We also got a nifty new t-shirt which Kumba kindly modeled for me. Yeah, he was rolling his eyes in this picture.

Our black Lab, Kumba, resting on his favorite stuffed toy as he models his Race 4 the Sea t-shirt
Kumba, resting on his favorite stuffed toy as he models his Run 4 the Sea t-shirt.

Having the ability to do the distance is something Kumba and I have worked at every morning since he came to live with us in February, 2021. We were both frail when we began our morning walks, me not quite a year into my recovery from a ruptured arterial aneurysm and Kumba nearly done in by illness and trauma before being saved by the Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida.

We’ve made huge strides since then. Next year, we have our eye on matching the results of the event’s oldest participant, about a decade older than me and clocking a sub-15-minute mile.

I think Kumba will be happy just NOT to wear the t-shirt. Hey, LMC, how about a doggie bandana for next year’s Run 4 the Sea?

My rescue Lab, Kumba, modeling our turtle rescue fundraising t-shirt
My rescue Lab, Kumba, modeling our turtle rescue fundraising t-shirt.

Wellness Wednesday: How Am I a One-in-a -Million Outcome?

In her opinion column in the Sunday New York Times, Dr. Daniela J. Lamas writes about unexpected ICU turn-arounds, when the grim repetition of bad news is trumped by unanticipated good news:

… the one in a million outcomes, the patients who surprise and humble us.

Daniela J. Lamas, pulmonary and critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

I am one of those patients. I dodged death on May 5, 2019, when I suffered a ruptured arterial aneurysm while on vacation in Amsterdam, barely making it into the ER as my heart stopped. I dodged it again after sailing through surgery a day later, and repeatedly over the next several weeks, as my organs took turns failing. Somehow, I survived.

As tempting as it is to focus only on life or death in the ICU, there is a vast world between survival and true recovery.

Daniela J. Lamas, pulmonary and critical care physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston

And here I sit in the patio of our home in South Florida two years and two months later, on this Independence Day, celebrating that rarest of miracles, full recovery. What made the difference? Being lucky enough to be taken to OLVG Hospital, for starters, where the staff were skilled, compassionate, and supportive. Being strong to start with. Trained by my early years to make the best out of any situation. And laughter.

Skill and compassion

The talented team of English-speaking doctors and nurses at OLVG hospital acted fast to stop the hemorrhage and never gave up as my body crashed, and they were also compassionate human beings that supported me and my exhausted family through those awful ICU weeks.

Support

My dear friend Anne, one of the nurses who most encouraged me in the weeks after my surgery, was so matter of fact about the inevitability of my complete recovery, so relaxed about my progress, that I never once doubted that I’d make it. My physiotherapist, Gemma, was sure I’d walk out of there. And I did.

Anne and her colleagues on 7A, OLVG Hospital, sent me this greeting a few weeks back. They are still in my corner.

Strength

It helped tremendously that I was physically fit. I danced in my 20s, developed a lifetime jogging habit, and taught exercise for the five years preceding that fateful trip. Six weeks of being motionless in the ICU sapped me of a quarter of my weight and the ability to move, but I had a surplus muscle and a love of moving to draw on. Eventually, it felt familiar. Then, good. Then, great.

Determination

I’ve never been particularly ambitious, but I’m very good at making the most of whatever circumstances I find myself in. I give credit to my upbringing in the Foreign Service. Learning how to chew and swallow again took days. Learning how to walk again took months. Full recovery took two years, and I continue to book an hour of my morning, every morning, to getting stronger every day.

Laughter

My love of a good community laugh has carried me over many a hurdle. I think I have to thank my Dad for that gene in my DNA, along with my passion for writing and my love of singing.

Words matter — a lot. Choose them carefully. Humor and wit matter — a lot. And puns are always good. And, music matters — sing it, play it, listen to it.

My sister, Susan Robb Amerson Hartnett, eulogizing our father, Robert C. Amerson in 2006

Lying inert in my ICU bed, unable to move and fighting for my life, I broke out into song — “Barbara Ann” by the Beach Boys. Although I don’t remember much of those weeks, I clearly recall hearing an ICU alarm marking that iconic beat — “Bah, bah, bah” (rest) “Bah, bah, bah” (rest) — and it seemed like the most natural thing in the world to pick up the tune, just as I did many times while teaching exercise with this fun music.

Bah, bah, bah, (rest) bah, Barbara Ann (rest). Bah, bah, bah, (rest) bah, Barbara Ann (rest).Bah, bah, bah, (rest) bah, Barbara Ann (rest)

Barbara Ann, by Fred Fassert, recorded by The Beach Boys in 1965

My sister and my daughter (who had flown in from the States) smiled at my husband. “That’s her,” my sister said, and joined in with the harmony. Within moments, my family and nearby nurses and doctors added their voices, all of them laughing.

Starting my next book

All of which has got me ready to begin the book about all this. Working title: “Singing in the ICU: How A Community of Strangers Saved My Life.” Or something along those lines, witty and musical and wordy as Dad would have wanted.

Stay tuned!

My father, Robert Amerson, and me singing in Caracas circa 1956
My father, Robert Amerson, and me singing in Caracas circa 1956

Wellness Wednesday: Why Yoga is For Me

Midway through my weekly virtual yoga class last weekend, I sensed that I was being watched. I was belly-down, chest up doing the cobra on my mat in our backyard, and there, staring at me through the fronds of a spider plant, was an iguana. He was spring green, his spiky back like blades of grass, his neck a series of folds that could have been helped by a little yoga. I held my pose, he held his, and then we both slowly moved on.

An iguana in my backyard
An iguana in my backyard

Jade Light Yoga, Yoga 4 All

I’ve been taking Yoga 4 All with Jade Wonzo through the Palm Beach County Library for several months. Tired of a pandemic-full of ideal bodies showing us mere mortals how simple it is to do impossible things, I was intrigued by the inclusiveness of the class description.

Begin or continue your yoga journey with Jade Wonzo in an inclusive (online) space that recognizes the beauty in all shapes, sizes, colors, identities, and abilities.

The Palm Beach County Library

The instructor’s website, Jade Light Yoga, continues the theme, as she describes herself.

A curvy, short haired, biracial, brown skinned woman.

Jade Wonzo

Which she is.

She is also an insightful, calm, and light-hearted teacher who gives her students crystal clear, seamless instruction with options to take things up or down a notch along the way. I taught dance, fitness, and even a little yoga for many years, and I can say that you are in good hands with Jade.

IMG_4150.jpg
Jade Light Yoga

Perfect for my phase of recovery

Letting myself be directed by Jade for an hour every Saturday has become a highlight of this phase of my recovery.

In 2019, just days after leaving my fitness teaching work, I survived a ruptured arterial aneurysm while on vacation in Amsterdam. Six weeks in an Amsterdam ICU sapped my body of the ability to move. Six more weeks in OLVG’s recovery ward, and I was strong enough to fly home.

One year later, I had recovered my ability to fully use my body.

Two years later, I am sturdy and working on becoming supple. Jade’s Yoga 4 All is exactly where I’m at.

Yoga 4 All is free of charge thanks to the Friends of the Palm Beach County Library and is held on Saturdays at 11. Register here . See you there?

Wellness Wednesday: How to Have Better Posture

We’ve spent the past 15 months doing a lot of sitting and slumping and vegging, and none of that has done much for our posture. But, we can improve simply by paying a little attention.

Here some advice from my friend Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness, along with the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic. First, a simple exercise to check how you’re sitting.

A three-step posture exercise

Try this, right now, as suggested by the New York Times:

Picture the top of your head. Put your hand there. Lift that point higher.

Lower your hand.Let your shoulders grow lower and wider.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Better posture equals better health

Bad posture habits can cause imbalanced body alignment, strain on ligaments and muscles, chronic pain, injuries, impingement, low back pain, neck pain, hip pain, joint stiffness and muscle tightness.

Alynn Kakuk, physical therapist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program

Better posture also improves the functioning of our inner organs.

Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness

Living in our bodies requires constant learning

Living in our body is not like riding a bike. It is counterintuitive that the thing we should know how to use the best —the vessel we live in — we must continually train.

Good posture involves training your body to stand, walk, sit and lie in positions where the least strain is placed on supporting muscles and ligaments during these activities.

The Cleveland Clinic

Here are some specific suggestions.

Hold phones and tablets at eye level

“Forward head syndrome” is rampant among all ages, thanks to our electronic devices. Llittle kids with iPads are getting the curvature of the upper back that we used to call a dowager’s hump Rather than looking down as you work, read, and play on your hand-held electronic equipment, try to keep your neck elongated. To remember how that feels

Get up and move once an hour

Standing up and focusing on good posture for a few minutes can relieve muscle strain and improve breathing and circulation, which also helps improve attention and engagement.

Deborah J. Rhodes, M.D.,physician and cancer researcher at Mayo Clinic

Boy, is to easy to fixate on what we’re doing. My Apple Watch reminds me to breathe once an hour. I often ignore it, missing a simple opportunity to take a 60-second break from whatever I’m doing. A ten-minute brisk walk around the block is even better, and our rescue Lab Kumba agrees.

Strengthen the standing muscles

We tend to underuse our upper back muscles, leaving them unable to help us stand up straight, while our chests tighten. Lower in the torso, our core muscles — our abdominals, pelvic floor, and the muscle running up our spine — are essential to good posture.

Kegel exercises became part of my daily routine at the end of 2019, when I learned how to strengthen my pelvic floor muscle in order to rid myself of the vestiges of incontinence, the result of catheterization during my three-month hospitalization. Yeah, recovery is complex and sometimes not too pretty. I do them four times a day. Every day. Check out the Easy Kegel app.

Check your posture with Marlo

Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness, demonstrates how to have better posture

Wellness Wednesday: How We Are Navigating Our Return to Normal

From March 2020 through Friday, my husband and I ate only what I prepared for us at home. I’m pleased to have managed our nutrition very well, and our recent bloodwork shows that we are holding our own against disease. I’ll write a post on nutrition another time to share some of the recipes and cooking tips I picked up along the way.

Today, however, I have to write that …. we broke out and ate at not just one but two restaurants this week. One was just okay, and the other was a homecoming.

Comfortably locked in for a year

The pandemic locked us in, and we got habituated to those limits. We found ourselves enjoying each other’s 24/7 company — not a surprise, but what a bonus after 40 years — and engaging outdoors at a distance with neighbors. I didn’t miss outside society very much at all. In fact, I’d decided that hermit living was just my style, or perhaps it was the idea of breaking out of our self-imposed limits that made me anxious.

Many of us have gotten very comfortable with the safety that our isolated environments have provided and taking these initial steps out of our safe, home-controlled environments can cause fear and anxiety.

Dr. Marni Chanoff, integrative psychiatrist at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Hard-wired for fear

Coming on the heels of a slow recovery from my near-death 2019 illness, the pandemic terrified both of us. The unseen enemy lurked everywhere. We adopted strict cleansing habits. Masks, gloves, and bottles of disinfectant popped up on counters and cabinets around the home and in the car. It was war.

Because our brains have evolved to encode fear so well, it’s hard to turn off.

Kirsten Koenen, professor of psychiatric epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

Taking baby steps toward old behavior

I walked into a grocery store for the first time in nearly a year when we got our first vaccine. The Publix pharmacy was near the bread aisle, and I will associate the sweet scent of dough with freedom for the rest of my life.

When we were fully vaccinated and outdoors, we began to relax around others. I went to Target, to Publix, to the post office. Not all at once, but here and there.

The way to work through anxiety is to take very small steps forward and expose yourself to manageable amounts of anxiety.

Marni Chanoff, integrative psychiatrist at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School

One giant step into a restaurant

Then came last week, when the CDC announced that vaccinated people could go maskless. Our daughter’s visit coincided with that announcement, and I made reservations — at an outdoor table — at our old favorite weekly dinner place.

It was the first time I’ve had mahi-mahi since the pandemic hit. And blue cheese dressing. And anything someone else cooked.

My family enjoyed an outdoor dinner at Bimini Twist in West Palm Beach

Choosing to keep new patterns

Still, that dinner did not feel like a homecoming. I hadn’t missed dining among strangers, and that included the wait staff, none of whom were our old regulars. Things change over 15 months. Including us.

A lot of people have found that this year has really allowed them to slowdown, to let go of things, to create new patterns and ways of being.

Marni Chanoff, integrative psychiatrist at McLean Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Two days later, we hit a homerun at our favorite breakfast place, where Latino sisters welcomed us back like family. Oh, how we’d worried about them. Other than being unemployed for three months, they and theirs are all well. Tucking in to a hearty Mediterranean omelet and homemade bread, I knew we were on our way to a new normal.

For a lot of people, it’s going to take some time to readjust to a new norm that isn’t quite pre-pandemic but getting closer.

Dr. John Whyte, chief medical director of WebMD.

How are you handling this phase of our unprecedented life?

Family Friday: When COVID Hits Home for a Reporter

Micaela Watts has spent the year of pandemic tracking the mounting data for the Memphis Commercial Appeal, part of the USA Today Network of newspapers of which my daily, The Palm Beach Post, is part. Her work meant understanding the virus better she ever wanted to know and listening to more heartbreak than she ever wanted to hear. Then, it came for her 100-year-old grandmother, and Ms Watts’ own heart broke.

The two worlds I strive to keep separate came crashing together: my job and my family. I was face to face with COVID-19, a set of genetic codes contained in a virus strand that brought the modern world to its knees. And now it had my grandmother, my Mimi. I had dutifully avoided seeing her for a year, even as I worried it would be her last. She was, after all, 100 years old.

Micaela Watts, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Here is a portion of the article Micaela Watts wrote about her grandmother’s final hour. I found it so touching that it needs no more words from me. Please read through to the end, as the final line broke my heart, too.

The COVID-19 unit was bright and clean. And though Brett had warned me I might hear a lot of different alarms and beeps, it was eerily quiet.

As my gaze moved toward the top of the bed, I first became aware of the dull roar of her oxygen supply. It reminded me of the closed-air system on airplanes, the hiss they make when planes are idling on the runways. I went up to her. Underneath the oxygen mask, her lips were dark. She took a ragged, gravelly breath. I heard her drowning in her own body.

The palliative care doctor, Dr. Blair, placed a hand on my back. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep her comfortable. She won’t be in any pain.” I burst into sobs. I looked over at Dr. Blair. To my surprise, I saw her eyes fill with tears. After a year of the pandemic and her career in palliative care, she was still moved by a granddaughter saying goodbye.

“If this is too hard, and you need to leave,” Brett the nurse said, “I’ll stay with her. I promise you, she will not go out alone.”

Over the next hour and a half, I held her hands and talked, loudly. Between her faulty hearing and the whoosh of the oxygen, I knew I needed to shout. I wondered if anyone passing outside her room could hear me yelling Psalm 23. “I love you,” I yelled. “I love you and it’s OK to go now.”

I watched as a single tear started to spill out of the corner of each of her closed eyes. She tried speaking, tried sitting up. She was already halfway gone. At 100, time was already coming for her, that was true. But did that make watching your loved one die any easier? Not for me.

When Brett next entered the room to administer her next shot of morphine, I knew it was time. “Brett …” I began, turning toward him. “You can turn it off now.” Brett nodded and pivoted toward the control panel for her oxygen. The hissing stopped. The silence that followed was the loudest sound I ever heard.

“She’s going to go quickly now,” he said. I nodded and kept Mimi’s small hand in my grip. She gripped back, hard. I watched her draw fewer and fewer breaths until there were none noticeable. Her grip went slack. I felt a hand on my back again. It was Brett. I looked at him, and he nodded. He didn’t have to say anything.

I slumped over in my chair, and he folded me into a hug. He reassured me that, since there was no intubation, no drawn-out fight, Mimi’s passing was one of the most peaceful he had seen in a solid year of watching people die.

At precisely 10 a.m. that day, the health department sent out their customary tweet with the day’s COVID-19 numbers as well as the daily press email. I opened it up.

There was one new reported death due to complications from COVID-19.

Micaela Watts, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Memphis Commercial Appeal reporter Micaela Watts and her grandmother, Evelyn Watts

Wellness Wednesday: How I celebrated my second anniversary of being alive

As I sipped my first cup of coffee this morning, I checked for the Amsterdam time. It was about two in the afternoon, two years ago to the hour from when my heart stopped on May 5, 2019.

My second anniversary

We’d just crossed the Atlantic on a Holland America cruise ship and should have been at Keukenhof Gardens but my husband had bronchitis, so we had stayed in Amsterdam to pick up medicine when I fainted on the sidewalk.
The EMTs arrived quickly, but my vital signs were within normal range and I told them I felt perfectly fine. Of course I did not feel perfectly fine. I’d had several days of cramping in my abdomen but I had been ignoring it, focused as I was on the next leg of our journey and a reunion with family at the Oslo Opera. “Take us back to the ship,” I commanded.

The ship doctor would not let us back on board unless we signed waivers relieving Holland America of the responsibility for our actions. I was determined, R was sick, and getting back to our room seemed like the only thing to do. We signed the waivers and got to the room, but when R returned with lunch 15 minutes later I was sprawled on the bed, semi conscious. This time, the decision was made for us — the ship doctor and his staff, along with a new set of EMTs, evacuated us off the ship within minutes. Although I understand I must have been unconscious, I remember someone saying as I was rolled into the ER at OLVG Hospital, “We are starting CPR.”

Imagine my poor husband watching this drama unfold, sitting in the ER lounge with our luggage and still very, very sick himself.

Surviving

The ER team identified a ruptured arterial aneurysm in my abdomen as the reason for my condition, and they quickly performed a clamping procedure that stopped the leak. However, the amount of blood in my abdomen had already begun to wreak havoc with my organs, and I spent the next six weeks in the ICU as my body fought off failure.

Our daughter and my sister flew to be at my husband’s side through these very long and dark weeks, and they were supported by the remarkably compassionate OLVG doctors and nurses and the extended family of another ICU patient. These dear people became our friends forever — I just mailed them some gifts.

Recovering

When I was discharged to the hospital’s gastroenterology unit, I had lost 30% of my bodyweight and the ability to move. The doctors told me that I might not have made it at all had I not been strong, the result of teaching water exercise to fellow retirees in Florida. The lifetime exercise habit gave my body the muscle memory it needed as I slowly recovered my ability to move, then to stand, then to walk.

R and I flew to Florida at the end of July, where the University of Florida Shands Hospital took over my care and confirmed that I was strong enough to continue my recovery as an outpatient. I shuffled down my neighborhood sidewalk using a walker and then a cane, and regained my ability to walk unassisted through physical therapy. We even joined a gym, and then, just weeks before my first anniversary, the pandemic hit.

Living

Quarantine did not stop me. My walks got longer and faster. The hand weights came out from the closet. I worked out on Zoom with my sister’s Colorado fitness instructor. We bought a stationary bike. I swam in our community pool and jogged in the ocean.

I have regained, maybe even surpassed, my May 5, 2019 strength and resilience. My next Shands checkup is in July, and we’re expecting me to be discharged.

Gratitude

I really wasn’t sure how I was going to celebrate this day. But then, I got a surprise call from Marsha, who was the first person to entrust me with being her personal trainer in the water. Marsha had just finished a water exercise class with an instructor who was filled with joy and enthusiasm, the feeling that I hoped to impart with every class when I was teaching. The repetition of exercises we’d worked on together, the freedom of moving in water and connecting with others — well, she simply had to call me.

As we caught up with each others lives, I was filled with gratitude for Marsha and all my former students who helped me to be strong enough to survive in 2019. We have made it through this awful pandemic year and will see each other over breakfast or in a pool when conditions permit. We are in each other’s lives, and that is a wonderful thing.

Indeed, I am reminded, today and every day, that life is a wonderful thing.

Wellness Wednesday: How Ordinary Activity Improves Your Life

I am approaching the two-year anniversary of my shocking illness. On May 5, 2019, an undiagnosed aneurysm ruptured while my husband and I were in Amsterdam. Three months later, I left Amsterdam’s OVLG Hospital, whose skilled staff saved my life while their compassionate hearts helped me to begin recovering in a body that was left wasted by repeated brushes with death.

It has taken me two years to fully rehabilitate. I am grateful every time my feet hit the floor, or I roll over in bed, or I grab a heavy pan, or I sit up straight. I will never again take movement for granted. And neither should you, because you can improve your quality of life through ordinary activity.

Here is my experience and the findings of new research from the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego.  

Mobility Disability Affects One in Four of Us

When I returned home, I could stand, but not long. I could walk, but not far. And I could not lift my foot high enough to step up on a curb. I was among the 25 percent of older women who are mobility impaired.

One in four women over age 65 is unable to walk two blocks or climb a flight of stairs. Known as mobility disability, it is the leading type of incapacity in the United States and a key contributor to a person’s loss of independence.

Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego 

Exercise Guidelines Are Unrealistic

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity a week, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.

The Mayo Clinic

Before my illness, I was a fitness instructor, putting 55-plus men and women through hour-long aerobic, strengthening, and stretching classes many times a week. Since I dedicated myself to recovery, I have inhabited a far more real world of older Americans who are just not going to get those 150 minutes in. Ever.

Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity is increasingly more difficult to perform as people age.

John Bellettiere, Ph.D., UC San Diego

Light-Intensity Movement is the Key

We found that, among older women, light-intensity physical activity preserves mobility later in life.

Andrea LaCroix, PhD, MPH, UC San Diego

When you’re learning how to move again, every activity is challenging. As I’ve regained my strength, it’s tempting to disregard everyday movement, but it’s precisely this kind of routine activity that turns out to be the key to independence.

All movement counts if you want to maintain mobility.

Nicole Glass, UC San Diego

— Standing up during the television commercials.

— Making yourself that cup of tea.

— Browsing the garden to see what’s coming up this spring.

— Emptying the dishwasher (this is one you can “gift” to your housemate.)

— Taking a walk down the block. Or around the block.

And, as my friend Marlo Scott said in our post of last week:

Have fun while you move!

Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness.

You can find out more about Marlo Scott’s fitness and wellness work here.

Wellness Wednesday: Exercise Doesn’t Guarantee Weight Loss, So Why Do It?

I’d like a good swim or long walk to earn me a Snicker’s bar, but that’s not how it works.

As a rule of thumb, weight loss is generally 75 percent diet and 25 percent exercise.

Shawn M. Talbott, PhD, nutritional biochemist and former director of the University of Utah Nutrition Clinic, cited on Oprah.com

So, why exercise if it’s not about weight loss?

I posed that question to my friend Marlo Scott, owner of First Class Fitness and Wellness and a former colleague when I taught exercise classes to active seniors in nearby Boynton Beach. Marlo, a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor, holds a Masters degree in Health Education and is on the faculty of Broward College.

Although exercise alone doesn’t guarantee weight loss, it does make us healthier by reducing blood pressure, the risk for diabetes, arthritis pain, and depression and anxiety.

Marlo Scott

Exercise reduces blood pressure

The Mayo Clinic explains the correlation: physical activity makes your heart stronger = pumping more blood with less effort = reducing the force on your arteries and lowering your blood pressure.

Exercise reduces risk for diabetes

The Joselin Diabetes Center says that exercise alters fat to release a protein into the blood system, helping to improve glucose tolerance.

Exercise reduces arthritic pain

The Aquatic Exercise Association has partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to develop pool-based classes that use water’s buoyancy, resistance, and pressure to facilitate movement and relieve arthritic pain. I was an AEA-certified instructor before my 2019 illness, and being in water gave me back my body after losing so much muscle mass in the ICU.

Exercise reduces depression and anxiety

The Mayo Clinic says that exercise releases feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals, and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being. Getting more social interaction lifts the spirit. And the positive feed-back loop about knowing you’re doing something good for yourself brings you back for more.

Above all, find something that you enjoy! Have fun while you move.

Marlo Scott, First Class Fitness and Wellness

You can find out more about Marlo Scott’s fitness and wellness work here.