Vail Valley health: Stay strong in your 60s
May 7, 2012
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – After rotator cuff surgery and two months without strength training, certified personal trainer Louanne Perfetti said she could see the difference in her arms.
“Most of my muscle mass was gone,” Perfetti said. “I did regain it – you can regain muscle mass at any age – but it doesn’t come back as quickly as you want it to.”
Perfetti is just a few months away from turning 60 and has been a personal trainer for over 30 years. She’s an owner and trainer at Fitness Tactics in Edwards, where she said her clients are mostly in their 50s and older.
“My clientele has become more so of those who are 50 and above,” Perfetti said. “Those are the ones who know they need to be here on a consistent basis, otherwise they know they will lose a certain quality of life.”
Quality of life vs. quantity of life
The 60s, like most decades of later life, can’t be defined by specific symptoms of age or eluded according to certain fitness and nutrition regimens. Age is just a number, after all, and Perfetti said that some of her older clients are stronger than her younger clients.
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“At age 40, you start to lose muscle mass at about 1 percent per year, and as you age that percentage goes up depending upon what you are doing,” Perfetti said. “You can retain some of that muscle mass with a good exercise program.”
Bill Wilto is 66, and has been a full-time resident of Vail Valley since 1972. He’s an avid seasonal skier – carving snow in the winter and water in the summer. Although he has been staying active with his sports for most of his life, he attributes a lot of his health to good family genetics.
“I’m really lucky,” Wilto said. “I inherited some reasonably good genes from my parents. My dad is 98 years old, and my mom was healthy until she died at 91.”
Wilto said he tries to maintain a balanced diet and get an adequate amount of sleep. He said he does often feed his self-described “incredible sweet tooth,” but that he keeps drinking alcohol to a minimum and always works to stay within his target weight range.
“Three years ago I had exceeded my acceptable weight range, so I cut out alcohol for six months and practiced more portion control,” Wilto said. “By six months I had lost ten pounds and was back to my right weight.”
A baseline level of fitness also helps Wilto stick to his weight and fitness goals.
“I’m not very good at going to the gym,” Wilto said. “I will get on the stationary bike three times a week and I do some core workouts.”
Wilto said his main form of exercise is just going out and doing the active things he enjoys, although he said there is always room for improvement.
“I’m happy with what I’m doing, but I do see people who are doing things way above my level,” Wilto said. “Areas like Vail inspire people like me to try to be better at the things we have a passion for.”
Keep your body strong
Perfetti said she believes that people need to do some kind of strength training two to three times a week, and should do a cardio activity six or seven times a week.
“It’s important to keep your bones and muscles strong,” Perfetti said. “I think all and all it makes most of my clients feel better. They don’t want to be that person in a wheelchair.”
Posture and mobility are factors that people should be aware of as they age, and Perfetti said that it’s never too late to start working on improving them.
“That hunch will start to come up in your back, you will begin to round your shoulders and then a weak back will start to work its way down your whole body,” Perfetti said. “People may begin to shuffle their feet and not pick them up when they walk, and when those muscles get weak those people may end up falling.”
She said that strength can be built, even for those people who have not done much exercise prior to their 60s.
Perfetti uses a combination of fitness techniques with her clients to keep their 55 minute workouts interesting. Clients will work with strength equipment including free weights, cables, straps, balance disks and balls, as well as a variety of cardio machines, including spin bikes, treadmills, elipticals, step mills and ladders.
“We just try to make it fun so that they want to come,” Perfetti said. “I don’t really have too many people who walk in the door and aren’t ready to go for it.”
Karen Berlanti is 67 and works with Perfetti for personal training. Berlanti said she has always lived an active lifestyle, but that when she moved from Santa Fe, N.M., to the Vail Valley, she let her fitness slide a little.
“I took a bit of a hiatus with the move,” Berlanti said. “But Louanne got me back into shape.”
Berlanti said she is borderline Osteopenia, a condition where done mineral density is less than normal. She said that strength training exercises with Perfetti have helped bring her numbers down for the condition, and Berlanti said the training has also helped her tennis game and made her legs stronger for skiing.
“Right now, I am in as good of shape as I have ever been,” Berlanti said. “Physically, I don’t feel any different that I did in my 30s. I’ve even started running again and it’s not hurting my knees as much.”
Stay on top of nutrition
Perfetti is also a certified health coach, and said that fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand.
“People should balance out their meals with their macronutrients – carbohydrates, proteins and vegetables – and should drink a lot of good water,” Perfetti said. “Stay away from processed foods and eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. I’m also a big advocate for buying organic products and grass-fed meats.”
Taking supplements is also essential, Perfetti said, and should include a quality multivitamin, calcium, vitamin D and fish oils.
Dr. Tracee Metcalfe, adult hospitalist at the Vail Valley Medical Center, said women should limit alcoholic beverages to one drink a day, and men should limit their intake to two drinks a day.
Stay forever young
Metcalfe said it’s important to stay physically and mentally engaged in your world.
“Stay active mentally if you are no longer working,” Metcalfe said. “Try to get more involved in community and volunteering, and pick up a new hobby – learn a new language, dance or musical instrument.”
She said that with aging, body composition begins to change from muscle to an increased percentage of fat, so exercise is still very important. She recommends thirty to sixty minutes of cardio exercise, five times per week. Metcalfe also said weight-bearing exercises, such as walking and lifting weights, should be done three times a week for thirty minutes.
“Discuss what are normal aches and pains – versus what is abnormal – with your doctor, and learn what pain medications are safe for you,” Metcalfe said. “If you may be suffering from depression, discuss it with your doctor.”
Strength in their years
Berlanti said she still waterskies and wakeboards, just like she did when she was in her 30s.
“You do have to pay attention,” Berlanti said. “You have to work hard to stay in shape or else it goes.”
Wilto emphasized the existence of a physical and emotional life balance.
“As we get older we can get complacent,” Wilto said. “You need to continue to have goals, as well as a balanced life with your family, business, community and spirituality. I think it’s essential to continue to understand what makes you thrive and give the time to stay devoted to those things.”
Contact personal trainer Louanne Perfetti at Fitness Tactics by appointment only. By phone at (970) 926-4414 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.