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Keeping fit and healthy into your 90's!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 Posted by Peter Janiszewski, PhD
Boleslaw Kluczny, 92, exercising in Czestochowa, Poland.



When it comes to defining the earliest personal inspiration for a physically active lifestyle, the sight of my beloved grandfather doing his regular morning exercises/stretches with utmost zest definitely stands out. I must have been at most 6 years old at this point, still living in Czestochowa, Poland, and I remember being so intrigued by my grandfather’s peculiar behavior that I would often join him in the process. In fact, my very first cycling accident (yes, I have accumulated a few over the years) was while riding around the promenade near my grandparent’s home, while under my grandfather’s supervision (he was on his regular walk). I decided to ride down a steep gravel hill (not too long after I learned to ride without training wheels) and due to a unavoidable depression in the gravel, I did a Superman over my handlebars, resulting in many cuts, and a missing tooth. But I digress…

Thinking back, it amazes me that more than 20 years ago, when the concepts of fitness and exercising were fairly esoteric and exclusive to hard-core athletes in the west and non-existent in communist-era Poland, my grandfather had already figured it out – exercise was an important method of keeping you strong and healthy into your late years. If you have any hesitations about my claims, please refer to the above photo (recently taken in Poland by one of my aunts specifically for this blog post) of Boleslaw Kluczny, my dziadzius (grandpa), at the young age of 92 exercising on his recently purchased “exercise machine”, as he calls it. Not having seen my grandfather face-to-face for about a decade, I must have spent a good 30 minutes just staring at this photo.

From recent anecdotes I get indirectly through conversations with my mother, my dziadzius can out-walk my middle-aged aunts around that same promenade at which I lost my tooth over 20 years ago. In fact, my aunts have to take shifts, such that one aunt will walk for a given period of time, get tired, and then be replaced by another aunt to keep my dziadzius company during his extended walks. What’s more important, since the passing of my babcia (grandma), dziadzius has been able to go shopping (on foot), cook, and clean all by himself. Additionally, all his mental faculties are at peak performance – I definitely get the dry humour and the laughing fits from him.

While all this anecdotal evidence may be interesting, the notion that exercise is particularly important among the older demographic was well portrayed in a recent study published by our lab, the results of which I had discussed in detail before. Briefly, the study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine earlier this year, demonstrated that seniors who performed a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise saw tremendous improvements in their ability to perform physical tasks as well as their ability to metabolize sugar - improvements that occurred in concert with reductions in fat mass and increases in muscle mass.

So there you have it – take it from my dziadzius – exercise now and you will be fit and healthy into your 90’s!

Dzienkuje dziadziusiu za inspiracje do aktywnego zycia. Do dzisiaj pamietam dziadziusia ranne cwiczenia.

Special thanks to my dziadzius for posing for the photo, my aunt Grazyna for taking the photo, presumably my uncle Janusz for emailing the photo to my parents, and finally my mom and dad who in collaboration finally emailed me the photo – it was a family effort!

Peter


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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.

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