trainer Rickie Ali works with Jenny Rodriguez at a gym
in Miami Lakes, Fla., on April 17, 2014. Building
cardio-vascular health as well as muscle mass and bone
density can make it easier as one ages.
ó Astrid Flaherty nimbly hops off a low platform and then
swoops from side to side touching orange plastic cones.
she is 70 years old and a breast cancer survivor, she seems
barely winded. Her secret: lifelong exercise and healthy
is the best anti-aging pill you can take," says Dawn
Davis, a fitness instructor at Shulaís Athletic Club in
Miami Lakes, Fla.
Flaherty has discovered on her own what doctors and fitness
experts are saying: people can age more successfully if they
develop a healthy lifestyle when theyíre young that includes
exercise, a healthy diet, sufficient sleep and watching their
Miami Lakes resident still hits the gym three times a week and
plays tennis on Saturdays. And her diet emphasizes fresh,
good shape also helped when she was diagnosed with breast
cancer in 2007. "My doctors were amazed that I was able
to come back from my chemo sessions so quickly," she
need to think about the aging process throughout their lives.
I know itís hard when youíre 20 years old," says Dr.
Sara Czaja, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences
and the scientific director of the Center on Aging at the
University of Miamiís Miller School of Medicine.
really important to take advantage of what we know,"
Czaja says, "and we do know a lot about how to age
includes staying socially engaged throughout life and being
mindful at a young age of the dangers of smoking, the links
between skin cancer and overexposure to the sun, and having
recommended preventive screenings, Czaja says.
lot of chronic disease ó diabetes, high-blood pressure,
cardiovascular disease, obesity ó may be prevented by
maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout life too," she
weíre also learning more and more is the importance of
engaging in physical exercise. That leads to not only better
cardiovascular health but also better cognitive health,"
Czaja says. "There is suggested evidence that being obese
can cause cognitive problems."
reality is what initially motivates many people to exercise is
concern about their appearance ó not their health, says
Rickie Ali, a fitness/wellness specialist and personal trainer
at Shulaís Athletic Club.
fitness business knows this ó with the ads about six-pack
abs and all that," he says. You can get lean following
some of the programs now in vogue, he says, but they are not
complete and some also put people at risk of injury by trying
to do too much too fast.
main goal for people is for them to have the fitness they need
to get through their everyday activities," he says.
"By default, the body gets leaner. But that is not my
who wants health for life needs to address lifestyle habits,
nutrition, wellness and fitness at every phase of their lives,
mantra for anyone who wants to age well is move, move, move.
20s and early 30s that means building strong muscles, bone
density and as healthy a cardiovascular system as possible,
Ali says. "Itís like when you build a house. You need
to build a solid foundation."
anyone who embarks on a fitness program needs to improve their
nutrition as well. "Think of food as a fuel like gas for
a car," Ali says. "You might want to drive that car
five days a week, but if the gas isnít there, you canít do
people head toward middle age, their metabolism may slow and a
more sedentary lifestyle and chronic ailments may begin to
take a toll.
the exercise movements for those at mid-life are basically the
same as for a younger person but the number of repetitions and
intensity may vary.
older people, itís important to work on movements that
encourage better balance, flexibility and stability, Ali says.
He might have people in this age group do balancing exercises
on one leg, work on posture and alignment, and do stretches.
you have strong muscles and core, itís easier to stop
yourself from falling and risking injury," Davis says.
Eaves, 75, a retired salesman who trains with Davis, was
almost an everyday runner before a recurrent foot injury
stopped running, "my resilience just wasnít there. I
felt like if I fell, I would just lie there like a limp rag
and wouldnít be able to get up," Eaves says.
after a year of thrice weekly training sessions with Davis, he
says the strength and flexibility he had as a runner have come
people age they need to adapt to changing realities, Czaja
says. "Your life may be different but that doesnít mean
youíre not aging successfully."
news is that even if youíve never exercised or havenít
worked out regularly, itís still possible to ease back into
a fitness routine and find success at any age.
Fuentes, 39, an office manager from Hialeah, Fla., says she
returned to the gym when she found she couldnít control her
weight anymore and was feeling pain walking up and down the
year working with a trainer and doing corrective exercise for
her posture, she has lost 30 pounds. "I feel
phenomenal," she says. "My breathing is better. I
stand up straight now."
important before beginning an exercise regime, says Ali, to
get medical clearance from a doctor and let your trainer know
if there are any limitations. He also recommends a physical
and lifestyle assessment to establish a baseline for building
a fitness program.
Anaisys Ballesteros, a family practice physician with Baptist
Health Medical Group, said her key advice to younger patients
is: Donít forget your annual preventive physical.
people donít tend to come in until theyíre sick, she says.
But regular preventive screenings can show them whether they
are at risk for diabetes or high blood pressure when they are
still young enough to modify diet, lifestyle ó including
controlling stress, fitness and weight, says Ballesteros.
though sheís only 27, Stephanie Martinez says she realized a
few years ago it was time to make some changes herself.
was younger, she thought nothing of eating a whole pizza or a
big plate of food. "Iím Hispanic so a big plate of food
is a big plate ó rice, beans, protein, plantains, avocado,
tomatoes and then I would always have dessert, a very sweet
dessert like mango marmalade with cream cheese."
though she was active, her weight began to creep up ó first
20, then 30 pounds ó and she tired more easily.
when she began to exercise, made healthy changes in her
kitchen and got creative with recipes. Although Martinez is
busy with graduate school and her job as a speech therapist
assistant, she says now sheís committed to making wellness a
I wish that when I was younger, my family would have gone
bike-riding instead of to the mall," she says.
"Parents need to give their children healthy