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For November 12, 2018

  • Calories Burned During Physical Activities
    Calories Burned During Physical Activities

    When you perform a physical activity, your basal metabolic rate will increase, burning more calories. The good news is that your BMR will stay high even after you stop the activity, continuing to burn calories. In addition, the ideal exercise or activity for losing weight is not one where you are "out of breath". It is better to perform an aerobic exercise, where you can continue to hold a conversation while performing the activity. This helps your body to actually burn fat, instead of sugar. The chart below shows the calories burned for one hour of activity for various exercises for both 140 lb and 195 lb people:

    Activity (1 hour)140 lbs195 lbs
    Aerobics, general381 531
    Aerobics, high impact 445 620
    Backpacking 445 620
    Basketball, game 508 708
    Basketball, shooting baskets 286 398
    Bicycling, <10 mph, leisure 254 354
    Bicycling, 10-11.9 mph, light effort 381 531
    Bicycling, 12-13.9 mph, moderate effort 508 708
    Bicycling, 14-15.9 mph, vigorous effort 636 885
    Bicycling, 16-19 mph, very fast, racing 763 1062
    Bicycling, Mountain or BMX 540 753
    Boxing, punching bag 381 531
    Boxing, sparring 572 797
    Canoeing, rowing, moderate effort 445 620
    Dancing, aerobic, swing, ballet or modern, twist 381 531
    Football, touch, flag 508 708
    Golf, carrying clubs 350 487
    Golf, pulling clubs 318 443
    Golf, using power cart 222 310
    Hiking, cross country 381 531
    Hockey, ice 508 708
    Jogging 445 620
    Judo, karate, kick boxing, tae kwon do 636 885
    Mowing lawn 350 487
    Racquetball, casual 445 620
    Rock climbing, ascending rock 699 974
    Rope jumping, moderate 636 885
    Rowing, stationary, moderate effort 604 841
    Running, 5 mph (12 minute mile) 508 708
    Running, 5.2 mph (11.5 minute mile) 572 797
    Running, 6 mph (10 minute mile) 636 885
    Running, 6.7 mph (9 minute mile) 699 974
    Running, 7 mph (8.5 minute mile) 731 1018
    Running, 7.5 mph (8 minute mile) 795 1107
    Running, 8 mph (7.5 minute mile) 858 1195
    Running, 8.6 mph (7 minute mile) 890 1239
    Running, 9 mph (6.5 minute mile) 953 1328
    Running, 10 mph (6 minute mile) 1017 1416
    Running, 10.9 mph (5.5 minute mile) 1144 1594
    Running, stairs, up 953 1328
    Shoveling snow 381 531
    Skateboarding 318 443
    Skating, ice 445 620
    Skating, roller 445 620
    Skiing, cross-country, moderate effort 508 708
    Skiing, snow, downhill, moderate effort 381 531
    Skiing, water 381 531
    Snowmobiling 222 310
    Soccer, casual 445 620
    Softball or baseball 318 443
    Swimming laps, freestyle, light/moderate effort 508 708
    Tennis, singles 508 708
    Tennis, doubles 381 531
    Volleyball, competitive 254 354
    Walking, 3.0 mph, moderate pace 222 310
    Weight lifting, light or moderate effort 191 266
    Weight lifting or bodybuilding, vigorous effort 381 531

    Numbers are from the "Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine."

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  • 12 Ways to Restart Stalled Weight Loss
    12 Ways to Restart Stalled Weight Loss

    What to do When the Scale is Stuck

    (From Prevention, Nov 1997; 49(11), By Marisa Fox)

    Reaching a plateau in weight loss when dieting is common but it can be overcome. The problem is caused when the diet is no longer burning enough calories for the new lower weight. Tips include: monitoring portion size, eating more whole foods, drinking more water, and burning more calories.

    So you're still doing the same things that peeled off the first 5, 10, or 50 pounds. You've kept up the daily walk, and you're a role model for low-fat eating. So why does it seem that your scale is stuck?

    You're on a plateau. Join the club. It happens to people losing weight all the time. "Plateaus can happen when you're doing the same thing as you always were, diet and exercisewise," says Terri Brownlee, R.D., dietitian at the Duke University Diet & Fitness Center in Durham, NC.

    What's changed is you.

    The smaller you are, the fewer calories you require. So the diet and exercise program that helped you get from 190 pounds down to 160 may not be burning enough calories to get you to your goal of 145. This doesn't mean you have to swear off satisfying meals or walk to the other side of the state and back to get rid of more pounds. You just need to stop for a minute and grab a pencil.

    Keep a Positive Attitude

    "Instead of getting down on yourself, try to understand what's not working and rethink your strategy," is the advice for dieters given by Cathy Nonas, R.D., administrative director of the Theodore B. VanItallie Center for Nutrition and Weight Management at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York City.

    That's what Cathy Upchurch did when she hit a two-month plateau after losing 70 pounds. "I kept on giving myself pep talks and refused to give up," says this 45-year-old Colorado work-at-home woman. "I kept telling myself that I was an athletic person underneath it all and that there were all these fun things I wanted to do." Cathy eventually lost another 70 pounds and has kept it all off for eight years. Like Cathy, thousands of people have come up against plateaus and been victorious. You can too! As important as a positive attitude is, you need specific and careful evaluation as well. "Once you see what the problems are, you can get back on track," says Pamela Walker, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. "It shifts the focus from 'something is wrong with me' to problem solving."

    The first thing you want to take a look at is what you've been eating and doing:

    • Have your portions expanded as your waistline has shrunk? "Many people who experience success start getting overconfident and complacent," Dr. Walker says. "Portions start creeping up, and sweets are slowly added again."
    • Has your exercise routine taken a backseat to less strenuous activity? Exercise is always one of the first things to go. Walks get shorter or get skipped.

    Careful examination of eating and exercise logs can pinpoint areas where your guard may be down. Skipping your evening workout in favor of drinks with friends or indulging your sweet tooth more frequently? No time to pack a healthy lunch, so you're resorting to the vending machines?

    "It makes you accountable to yourself, and frequently you're shocked to see that you did start eating more and exercising less," Dr. Walker says.

    Get Calories Under Control

    No matter how you got on the plateau, the answer to blasting off it is to shake things up. You need to start burning more calories than you're taking in. But don't despair. That's not as hard as it sounds. Here's how to get going:

    1. Measure your portions. Arm yourself with measuring devices like scales or cups, so you don't have to rely on your eyes (or your stomach), says Nonas. Once you're familiar with what your portion sizes should be, you need only measure from time to time to make sure you're still on track. Keep portions reasonable. (But don't put limits on plain veggies -- raw or cooked. And try for three to five servings of fruit a day.)

    2. Shortcut portion control. Stock up on prepackaged low-fat meals. Food labels make it easy to know exactly what you're getting -- and you save yourself the job of measuring portions.

    3. Try a meal substitute. Liquid meals can be helpful, especially when you're on the run. This shouldn't become a long-term strategy, but it can help break a plateau.

    4. Fill up on whole foods. Bananas, carrots, and air-popped popcorn pack more fiber and fewer calories than reduced-fat cakes or cookies. Result: You feel full on less food.

    5. Postpone dinner. Eating half an hour or even an hour later than usual may be just what you need to take the edge off late-night munchies.

    6. Drink up. "Put a liter of water on your desk, and make sure you drink it by the end of the day," says Nonas. Filling up on water during the day can help make portion control easier at meals.

    7. Limit mealtimes. So you stuck to your portion, but then you ate your kids' leftovers, and before you knew it, you were noshing ad infinitum. "It's important to do things that signal the end of the meal, like brushing your teeth," says Nonas. "Or set a timer when you sit down to dinner, and when it goes off, you're out of the kitchen or dining room."

    Burn More Calories

    1. Add a minute. "Gradually extend the length of your workouts," says J.P. Slovak, fitness director at the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas. A few extra minutes here and there can go along way toward producing real results.

    2. Lift some weights. To combat the decrease in metabolism that often comes with weight loss, increase your muscle mass. Muscles burn more calories than fat, even when you're sleeping. And they take up less space, so you look slimmer.

    3. Try something new. You're not the only one who gets bored on the stationary bike -- your muscles do too. If you always work the same muscles in the same way, they become very efficient and then won't burn as many calories as when you first started doing the activity, explains Tedd Mitchell, M.D., medical director at the Cooper Wellness Program in Dallas. If you want to shake up your metabolism, work your muscles in new ways by cross-training. If you're walking, try swimming. If you're running, try boxing. No one activity should ever get to be too easy.

    4. Add some intervals. Invigorate your routine with short blasts of very intense exercise. "Try not to mosey along at the same pace," says Dr. Mitchell. "Sprint for an interval if you're running. Pedal really fast on the bike if you're cycling." Intervals not only make working out more exciting and challenging, they help burn extra calories.

    5. Go the long way. "You don't need to have gym clothes on to get exercise," says Kyle McInnis, Ph.D., a professor in the department of human performance and fitness at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. Use the second-floor bathroom or the copier down the hall. "Accumulating physical activity throughout the day, such as walking more and taking the stairs, adds up," he says.

    A Veteran's Advice

    "The important thing is to realize how far you've come and to remind yourself of your goals," says weight-loss success Cathy Upchurch.

    And that's exactly what Cathy did. She celebrated her victories, didn't dwell on what the scale said, and reevaluated her exercise regime. When she added biking to her daily 1-hour walk and water walking in the pool, the weight started to come off. Today Cathy climbs mountains, mountain bikes, and even snowboards. She's every inch the athlete she always wanted to be.

    Is it really a plateau -- or your ideal weight?

    If you're still 70 pounds more than what most weight tables recommend for your height, chances are you're just on a plateau. If you're merely 10 pounds more, then it might be time to accept your weight. In between? That's a gray area.

    Ideal weight varies among individuals. But the term has become a statistical figure generated by insurance people who are telling you what to weight to live the longest based on averages. "That's something very different," says David Levitsky, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.

    So if you're in that gray area, here are some things to consider when deciding if you should lose more weight:

    • Are you weight training? Muscle weighs more than fat but looks a heck of a lot better.
    • Where's the weight? If those stubborn pounds are around your middle, they could be increasing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and even some types of cancer. Waist measurements greater than 39 inches for men and premenopausal women younger than 40, greater than 35 inches for men and women 40 or older, and greater than 33 inches for postmenopausal women pose greater health risks.
    • Do you have any signs of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or high blood glucose? These may be the first clues that your weight is affecting your health.
    • Is it realistic to eat any less or exercise any more?

    "You can't diet forever," Dr. Levitsky says. "It's better to choose a lifestyle that encourages healthy weight -- in which exercise and healthy eating are a regular part of the program -- than to obsess over a few pounds.

    Balancing Act

    The slimmer you get, the less effective your current weight-loss plan will be. Here's why:

    If you were 190 pounds and sedentary when you started, you burned 2,280 calories a day to maintain that weight. (Men burn slightly more.) If you ate 2,280 calories and burned 344 calories in a 1-hour walk, you burned 344 calories more than your body needed to maintain that weight -- so you lost weight.

    Say you reach 160 pounds. Now, you need only 1,920 calories to stay at your current weight. But you're still eating 2,280 calories and going for a 1-hour walk. Since you're lighter, your walk burns 292 calories. Now you're eating more -- 68 calories -- than you're burning. Keep it up, and the scale will start moving in the wrong direction. Here's how it adds up:

    If you weigh 190 and:

    • You eat: +2,280 calories
    • You burn*: -2,280 calories
    • You exercise: - 344 calories

    Result: -344 calories a day and weight loss

    If you weigh 160 and:

    • You eat: +2,280 calories
    • You burn*: -1,920 calories
    • You exercise: - 292 calories

    Result: +68 calories a day

    This means a plateau, even though your eating and exercising habits haven't changed. Over time, you'll regain some weight unless you shift the balance.

    *to maintain your current weight if you're sedentary

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  • Difference Between Aerobic , Strength and Flexibility Exercise
    Difference Between Aerobic , Strength and Flexibility Exercise

    The sweat experts divide exercise into three general categories: aerobic, strength, and flexibility and strongly recommend a balanced program that includes all three. (Speed training is also a major category, but is generally practiced only by competitive athletes.)

    Aerobic (Endurance) Training

    Aerobic exercises build endurance and keep the heart pumping at a steady but elevated rate for an extended period. Practicing them regularly can enhance cardiac function, boost HDL (the "good") cholesterol levels, strengthen the bones in the spine, and lower the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and even some forms of cancer. Aerobic exercise also trims body fat and can improve one's sense of well-being. Jogging, swimming, cycling, stair-climbing, and aerobic dancing are all examples. As little as one hour a week is helpful, but three to four hours per week are optimal. People who are out of shape or elderly should start aerobic training gradually with five to ten minutes of low-impact aerobic activity (e.g., gardening, yard work, or walking) every other day and build toward a goal of 30 minutes per day three to seven times a week. Because it is so natural and convenient, brisk walking is an excellent and easy way to accomplish aerobic exercise.

    Some research indicates that walking at a swift pace burns at least as many calories as running or jogging for the same distance and poses less risk for injury to muscle and bone. Swimming is an ideal exercise for many people with certain physical limitations, including pregnant women, individuals with musculoskeletal problems, and those who suffer from exercise-induced asthma. Swimming, however, will not raise the heart rate quite as much as other sports because of the so-called diving reflex," which causes the heart to slow down automatically when the body is immersed in water. For swimming, use a heart rate target of 75% of the maximum and then subtract 12 beats per minute.

    Shoes and Clothing. Although Americans spend nearly $2 billion on home exercise equipment, all that's really necessary for a workout is a good pair of shoes -- well-made, well-fitting, and broken in but not worn down. They should support the ankle and provide cushioning for impact sports such as running or aerobic dancing. Airing out the shoes and feet after exercising reduces chances for skin conditions such as athlete's foot. Comfort and safety are the key words for workout clothing. For outdoor nighttime exercise, a reflective vest and light-colored clothing must be worn. Bikers, rollerbladers, and equestrians should always wear safety devices such as helmets, wrist guards, and knee and elbow pads. Goggles are mandatory for indoor racquet sports. For vigorous athletic activities, such as football, ankle braces may be more effective in preventing ankle injuries than tape.

    Aerobic-Exercise Equipment. A lot of money spent on equipment does not always translate into a better workout or better results. A simple jump rope improves aerobic endurance for people who are able to perform high impact exercise. Jumping rope should be done on surfaces that have some give to avoid joint injury. (A good floor mat is important to provide cushioning for all home exercises.) Home exercise machines can be adapted to any fitness level and can be used day or night. For burning calories, the treadmill has been ranked best, followed by stair climbers, the rowing machine, cross country ski machine, and stationary bicycle.

    Recently, elliptical trainers have been gaining popularity and, according to one study, are even better than treadmills for elevating heart rate and increasing calorie and oxygen consumption. Stationary bikes and stair climbers condition leg muscles. Stationary bikes are fairly economical and easy to use safely. The pedals should turn smoothly, the seat height should adjust easily, and the bike's computer should be able to adjust intensity. Stair machines offer very intense, low-impact workouts, which a recent study showed to be as effective as running with less chance of injury. Rowing and cross-country ski machines exercise both the upper and lower body.

    Cheaper models of exercise machines tend to be flimsy and hard to adjust, but many sturdy, moderately priced machines are available. The higher-end models may utilize computers to record calories burned, speed, and mileage. While their readouts may provide motivation and gauge the intensity of a workout, they are not always accurate. Before investing in and bringing home an exercise machine, it is wise to test it out first at a gym. In addition, initial supervised training when using these machines can reduce the risk of injury that might occur with self-instruction.

    Isometric (Strength or Resistance) Training

    Where aerobic exercise emphasizes endurance, isometric exercise focuses on strength. Adding 10 to 20 minutes of modest strength training two to three times a week is important for a balanced exercise program. People who only exercise aerobically eventually lose upper body strength. Isometric training builds muscle strength while burning fat, helps maintain bone density, and improves digestion. It appears to lower LDL (the so-called "bad") cholesterol levels.

    Isometric exercise is beneficial for everyone, even people in their 90s. In fact, strength training assumes even more importance as one ages, because after age 30 everyone undergoes a slow process of muscular erosion, which can be reduced or even reversed by adding resistance training to an exercise program. (Please note, people at risk for cardiovascular disease should not perform isometric exercises without checking with a physician.) Individuals should first select a weight or rubber band tension that allows a maximum of eight repetitions. When 12 repetitions can be completed, a higher weight or tension that limits the individual again to eight repetitions should be used. Once 12 repetitions can be completed at maximum tension, resistance can be lowered and the number of repetitions increased to 15 to 20. While doing these exercises, it is important to breathe slowly and rhythmically. Exhale as the movement begins; inhale when returning to the starting point. The first half of each repetition should last two seconds, and the return to the original position should last four seconds. Joints should be moved rhythmically through their full range of motion during a repetition and not locked up. For maximum benefit, one should allow 48 hours between workouts for full muscle recovery.

    Strength-Training Equipment. Any heavy object that can be held in the hand, such as a plastic bottle filled with sand or water, can serve as a weight. Heavy rubber bands or tubing are excellent devices for resistance training; they are inexpensive, come in various tensions, and are safer and more convenient than free weights for exercising all parts of the body. Latex bands are easier on the hands than tubing. Many inexpensive hand weights are available to help strengthen and tone the upper body. Ankle weights strengthen and tone muscles in the lower body but are not recommended for impact aerobics or jumping. Hand grips strengthen arms and are good for relieving tension. A pull-up bar can be mounted in a doorway for chin-ups and pull-ups.

    Flexibility Training (Stretching)

    Flexibility training uses stretching exercises to prevent cramps, stiffness, and injuries. It also ensures a wider range of motion (i.e., the amount of movement a joint has). Yoga and T'ai Chi, which focus on flexibility, balance, and proper breathing, may even lower stress and help to reduce blood pressure. Authorities now recommend performing stretching exercises for 10 to 12 minutes at least three times a week. When stretching, extend the muscles to the point of tension -- not pain -- and hold for 20 to 60 seconds (beginners may need to start with a 5 to 10 second stretch).

    Certain stretching exercises are particularly beneficial for the back. It is important when doing stretches that involve the back to relax the spine, to keep the lower back flush with the mat, and to work only the muscles required for changing position, usually the abdomen. It is also important to breathe evenly while stretching. Holding one's breath defeats the purpose; it causes muscle contraction and raises blood pressure.

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  • Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA's).
    Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA's).

    Recommended Dietary Allowances or RDA's were developed to provide appropriate nutrient intake levels for healthy people. RDA's are recommendations, not requirements, based on age and gender with the understanding that individual needs are not identical but fall within a range. RDA's are revised every five years based on current nutrition research. They are published by the government, but the study group that recommends them is composed of nutritionists and other scientists, not politicians. The reliability of RDA's is limited by the physical variances in humans -- some are tall, some are short, and they have different levels of activity. Nevertheless there is enough of a safety margin that using them as a yardstick to measure the adequacy of individual intake is useful.

    A separate set of recommendations called the U. S. RDA's have been developed by the Food and Drug Administration. These are non gender, non age specific extrapolations from the RDAs. Typically the highest value from the RDA is used as the standard for the U. S. RDA which is used specifically for labeling food products and supplements. For example, of all the RDA's, the highest recommendation for vitamin A for any age or gender is 5,000 International Units, which is the value used for the U. S. RDA.

    Additionally, seven specific Dietary Goals were published by the U. S. Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs in 1977. Seven less specific and less controversial Dietary Guidelines replaced the politically motivated Goals in 1979. These include:

    • Eat a Variety of Foods Daily,
    • Maintain Ideal Weight,
    • Avoid Too Much Fat,
    • Eat Foods with Adequate Starch and Fiber,
    • Avoid Too Much Sugar,
    • Avoid Too much Sodium, and
    • If you Drink Alcohol, Do So in Moderation.
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  • Dan Wirth - Flat vs. Incline Bench, Which Will Make You Stronger?
    Dan Wirth - Flat vs. Incline Bench, Which Will Make You Stronger?

    This article was written in response to the following question: Dan, how do you feel about the Incline Bench compared to the Bench Press when it comes to developing great upper body strength?

    Ah, the infamous Incline Bench Press. The great and almighty 45 degree sports specific force producer! Seriously, the Incline Bench is a great exercise, but, not one that should use a full periodization schedule. Meaning, it is not my "major stimulator" or Primary Strength Exercise (PSE) for the upper body.

    PSE�s are complex movements that utilize more than one muscle group. They are the exercises that will use a full periodization schedule working from higher volume and lower intensity phases into maximal strength and power phases. This would be in contrast to a Secondary Strength Exercise (SSE) like the Incline Bench, or an Assistive Strength Exercise (ASE) like a Dumbbell Curl that would not use a full periodization schedule and would not work into maximal strength and power phases!

    By major stimulator, I am simply talking about exercises that you can inherently lift the most weight with therefore creating the highest neuromuscular or contraction activity in the muscle groups being used (notice the plural use of the word �groups�, the Bench is not just a chest exercise, but more on that later!)

    FLAT BENCH IS KING

    The Bench Press is inherently set up so that you should be able to push more weight than you could with an Incline bench (barring any injuries or biomechanical problems). If you took one thousand athletes or fitness buffs and tested them on the Bench Press and the Incline Bench Press, about 97% of them, not all but most, would be able to Bench Press more than they could Incline Bench. This is especially true for the 35-45 degree Incline Bench Press which is pretty close to the optimal angle of release for a shot putter and a close representation of the pushing angle after the initial contact phase of a football lineman.

    It is for this reason, and this reason only, that the Bench Press is my upper body Primary Strength Exercise. The angle of the Incline Bench is what makes it a great exercise but it is also what keeps it away from PSE status. PSE�s for me are the Power Clean, Squat, and "Flat" Bench in athletic based programs. And, I substitute the Deadlift exercise for the Power Clean in programs for people who want to develop great strength.

    BIG GAINS WITH PSEs

    We could use the Power Clean and the Squat as further examples of Primary Strength Exercises. In most strength and conditioning programs, in sports where strength and power output are vitally important, the Squat exercise is the major stimulator as opposed to the Front Squat, or the Barbell Step Up. The same thing applies with the Power Clean versus the Power Snatch for example. This is not taking anything away from the Incline Bench, Power Snatch, and Front Squat exercises. Many times I emphasize these lifts in my strength and power programs, but, when I am focusing on absolute strength and power increases during certain training cycles it is the Power Clean, Squat and Bench that I use.

    When I mentioned neuromuscular activity levels earlier, many research buffs would like to bring to my attention an occasionally found research example of the Decline Bench exercise having a higher neuromuscular activity than the Bench Press (found through EMG testing). I would say yes, this is true in some cases. However, the Decline Bench has some problems with it�s limited range of motion. But, that�s another story.

    Now, this brings me to a very important point: The Bench Press is not just a chest oriented exercise. It is a Chest, Shoulder, and Triceps exercise. And, this is precisely the reason why most people can lift a heavier poundage with this exercise! The strength of those three muscle groups combined is ultimately stronger than a lift like the Decline Bench which is primarily only a chest developer or the Incline Bench which activates the shoulders even more than the chest.

    Finally, my upper body strength philosophy is pretty simple. Use the Bench Press as your PSE for the upper body. And use the Incline Bench as your SSE on heavier upper body days, or use the Dumbbell Incline Bench as an ASE on lighter upper body days.

    One final note about anyone doing heavy pressing movements: You have to consistently work the posterior head of the deltoid along with performing stabilization exercises such as external rotators in order to keep the shoulder joint healthy. This will ensure you can keep on benching injury free!

    Dan Wirth M.A., C.S.C.S.
    Fitness Director (Fitrex.com)
    Director of Strength and Conditioning
    The University of Arizona
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  • The Anti-Aging Battle
    The Anti-Aging Battle

    (WebMD) -- This is the first in a two-part series on staying young.

    Age spots were the last things Linda Walsh wanted to see developing on her feet and legs three years ago. Just 42 years old, her hair was also beginning to fall out, her joints were increasingly stiff and she was constantly fatigued.

    Today the Southern California resident's skin is blemish-free, and her hair is as lustrous and full as it has ever been. She's healthy and active, running her growing business. Walsh said that she owes the turnaround to antioxidant supplements and the specialized skincare products she religiously lathers all over her face and body.

    As more Americans such as Walsh join the ranks of the aging population, they're finding that staying forever young isn't always as simple as taking a few pills and smearing on special lotions. Geneticists say that's because the cause of aging goes much deeper, all the way into the core of the body's cells -- the genes -- the blueprint of human life, which dictates how people grow, develop and age.

    With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer reporting that Americans are now living an average of 30 years longer than they did in 1900, the thought of increasing human life expectancy may no longer be a fantasy.

    "There are lots and lots of genes that can make a difference in how we age and how long we live," said Dr. George Martin, adjunct professor of genetics at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

    For the last 10 years, Martin has been studying Werner's syndrome, a disease that causes people to develop symptoms of aging as early as age 20. Persons with the syndrome develop gray hair, osteoporosis, heart disease and diabetes, symptoms that mirror the health of an aging person.

    In 1996, Martin and his colleagues in laboratories around the world isolated the cause: a gene they call recQ, mutated so that it no longer works to support the cell's gene-maintenance machinery. When the machine slows down, the person affected begins to display the signs of premature aging.

    Martin points out that because an alteration in a gene causes symptoms of aging, physicians might someday be able to target certain genes to slow the aging process.

    The antioxidant connection

    What's offering more clues, however, is the study of animals whose genes can be very similar to human genes. University of Colorado scientists have found several genes in roundworms, for example, that, when mutated, allow the worms to live twice as long.

    One of these genes controls how much antioxidant the body produces, said lead researcher Thomas Johnson, professor of behavioral genetics at the university's Boulder campus. When the gene is mutated, more antioxidant is produced to fight free radicals, byproducts of the body's energy-making process that cause aging by damaging tissues and cells. Roundworms that have more of the antioxidant live twice as long as worms that have the normal amount of antioxidant.

    However, while antioxidant supplements may have rid Walsh of age spots, the supplements, including vitamins A, E and C, don't necessarily increase the body's ability to fight free radicals, Johnson added, explaining that some studies are showing that the body produces less antioxidant if it's already supplied through the diet.

    On the genetic frontier

    Information Johnson is collecting from research could potentially help increase the human lifespan. Johnson recently set up a company, Denver-based GenoPlex, that will try to develop drugs to interfere with the aging process on the genetic level.

    "It's impossible to predict what can happen," he said. But "there's no formal reason why we couldn't manipulate genes ... in humans using drug approaches that would disrupt genes in the same way."

    Manipulating genes may be the way to go, agreed Helen Blau, professor and chairman of molecular pharmacology at Stanford University School of Medicine. She and her team of researchers have been developing genetically engineered muscle cells, which could stimulate the body to produce blood vessels. Reinvigorated blood vessels could prevent the development of heart disease and poor circulation, as well as delay the muscle atrophy and the difficulties in wound healing that afflict older people.

    So far, the genetically engineered cells have been successful at stimulating blood-vessel growth in mice, Blau said. With this success, she will begin clinical trials in the near future to see if the cells can cause blood vessels to grow in people.

    However, like most scientists, Blau insists the anti-aging therapies aren't going to happen today. Instead, she said that while scientists now know so much about the genetics of aging, actual genetic therapies are a thing of the future.

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