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76 Years and Still Ticking

Exercise and nutrition are still the best preventive medicine for heart disease.

Last week I was given a huge surprise gift. It was a happy one, to be sure, but still, a surprise.

 I still had a father.

After 76 years and,

  • a handful of “cardiac episodes” (they don’t always call them heart attacks)
  •  a lot of anger and stress as a younger man
  •  a very sedentary lifestyle
  • an excess 80+ pounds on his 5’7” frame
  • a third bypass surgery (that’s right – it’s not a typo)

Somehow he was still alive.

Sunday night I drove to Enloe Hospital in Chico, basically, to say goodbye to him. I stayed overnight with my mom and we went to the hospital the next morning to be there during his surgery. Struggling to maintain her composure and through teary eyes, my mom confided in me late the night before “I’ve got a bad feeling about this time.”

My dad was an athletic young man, playing football and running track in high school. He had even boxed a little as a youth. I remember the old plastic covered concrete barbells in the garage I always had to step over when doing chores on the weekend.

But after retiring early from IBM, he and my mom moved up to Oroville so he could fish at the lake and along the Feather River. As the years passed, like many of us, he became much less active and, after a knee replacement and a significant weight gain, almost any movement became painful.

Still, there were things he could have done that I would have advised, had he been my client:

  1. Adopting a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, lean protein and whole grains with very limited “empty “ calories
  2. A low impact aerobic exercise program with minimal lower body weight bearing that included some combination of swimming, floor exercises like Pilates, and stationary bike with upper body movement
  3. Full body resistance training to maintain mobility and joint strength
  4. Lots of water and eating 4-6 small meals/snacks per day

He did none of those things. How much did I press him to integrate these practices into his daily life? Let me ask you in response – how receptive is your 60+ year old parent to lifestyle improvement recommendations you make?

It’s no different for a professional trainer. He doesn’t want me to tell him what to do. He wants me to love and respect him. So I do.

But it reminds me that our bodies need love and respect as well. And that whether it’s for the good of our kids, our friends or our parents, the best thing we can do to inspire them to take better care of their selves is to set an example and commit to that lifestyle choice ourselves.

And then, simply, love them.

Dan is a nationally certified personal fitness trainer and former continuing education faculty member of the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise. He is the owner and head trainer at Tri Valley Trainer in Pleasanton, which provides personal and small group fitness training and nutrition guidance. He can be reached at Dan@TriValleyTrainer.com.

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