Health Notes 1

Two simple steps to keeping your balance at any age

I’ve been critical of the weight- lifting and exercise crazes for a long time. The “body shops” are, for the most part, a sociological phenomenon. It’s a great place for the boys to check out female body parts as they really are and not as they appear to be when fully dressed. And for the girls, it’s a place to meet the boys. Of course, many of them also suffer under the delusion that they are also going to lose a little weight in the process.

But the people who actually need a little weightlifting and some mild exercise are hardly ever found at such places. A nationwide survey shows that only about 11 percent of people age 65 and older regularly perform any sort of strength exercises.

You don’t necessarily need a gym membership, though. I have always maintained that all those over 65 need are a long walk once daily-a half-mile out and a half-mile back-and a few simple weight exercises.

The thigh muscles are probably the most important ones to concentrate on, since they’re the ones that can help you keep your balance to avoid a disastrous fall. So in addition to taking a daily walk, I also recommend doing squats while holding about 2 pounds of weight in each hand. Just be careful to hold your spine straight or you may injure your back.

If you are unsure about what to do, you can go to a gym and tell one of the “trainers” that you want to strengthen your leg muscles. Tell him you are only interested in thigh strength and you do not want a comprehensive muscle-building program. If he asks why you don’t want the full program, tell him that is all your doctor recommended. He will probably try to sell you a lot of bodybuilding capsules and pills. Don’t waste your money.


“Strength Training Urged for Elderly,” Reuters Health news, 1/23/04

“Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,”Centers for Disease Control (, 1/23/04

The tastiest way around no-smoking restaurants

For years I have agonized over the nutrition benefits of tobacco. It’s a plant, right? It’s green, right? Well, why can’t you eat it? Why can’t you prepare it as a soup or a salad? Does it taste terrible? Will it kill you? I have never had the nerve to try it.

But since the iron curtain has fallen over New York, where now it’s a crime to even display an ashtray in a restaurant (honest!), the rebellious spirit of the average New Yorker has exploded into a counter attack. The restaurants have cooked up a way to smoke out the bureaucrats. At the Serafina Sandro restaurant in New York City, you can order filet mignon in a tobacco-wine sauce, gnocchi made with tobacco, and for dessert, you can order tobacco panna cotta. With your after-dinner cigar (Whoops, sorry–illegal), you can enjoy a glass of tobacco-infused grappa. I can just see the warning plastered on each page of the menu now: “The surgeon general has determined that eating tobacco is a danger to your health.”

“Smoke-easies” can’t be far away. Oh, the fun of it; I can hardly wait.


“Eatery Offers Menu for Tobacco-deprived,” Reuters News, 4/3/03

Act your age

My bride Melissa and I went to Argentina a few months back. I highly recommend it, honeymoon or otherwise. But I did have one bad experience I wanted to share with you.

We took the ecological (whatever that means) tour at Iguau Falls, which is one of the great natural wonders of the world. The group was about 20 in number, mostly 20-something American girls.

After doing a very nice Tarzan-type swing through the jungle, we got to the rappelling part of the adventure. At the rappel site, we found that all you had to do was bounce down a slick, moss-covered granite wall using a rope slowly let out by the crew at the top. It was only about 100 feet down to the rocky bottom, where the two waterfalls crashed into a great spray. The distance between these two gushers wasn’t more than 6 feet-your path to adventure and glory.

Well, heck, I’m only in advanced middle age. Those kids were popping right down, so I figured I could do it: piece of cake. I got into position over the edge of the cliff and took my first, tentative step down.

That’s when my right foot slipped, my body spun, and, suddenly, I was suspended by the safety belt, being pummeled by great columns of water from both sides. The guides were yelling at me but I couldn’t hear what they were telling me to do. So they dragged me up the granite wall, which ultimately resulted in a painful injury to my right elbow.

I was frustrated, fenestrated, variegated, and humiliated.

The moral of this little adventure story is: Even though you may only be in advanced middle age, you’re not the man/woman you used to be.

Action to take:

Leave the hang gliding, scuba diving, and rappelling to the young and foolish.