April 2003

Easter is a special time of year reminding us of the sacrifice Jesus made with his body to assure each of us the possibility of eternal life. Another great blessing is the power of the resurrection power. Many of us in First Place have found that we need God’s power to continue this journey in First Place. For many, myself included, it has taken a long time to get to our goal weight. For others, their weight goal came very quickly, but the journey does not end there. We then begin to understand that this journey to achieve and maintain fitness is for a lifetime.

Recently, I read an amazing statistic. 100 years ago the life expectancy for an American was 48 years; it is now 77.2 years for a male and 79 years for a female. It makes me think of that humorous saying, “If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Another true statement that certainly applies to First Place is, “It’s never too late.”

The truth is that First Place may be even more important as we age. The frailty that many experience as they grow older is not inevitable. You are probably well aware by now that some of the frailty comes from porous, gradually weakening bones called Osteoporosis. Even more universal than a critical loss of bone is frailty that stems from a loss of muscle called Sarcopenia. Sarcopenia usually starts to set in around age 45 when muscle mass begins to decline at a rate of about 1 percent per year. Not surprisingly, as muscle mass decreases, so does muscle strength. And as strength goes, so does physical functioning-the ability to climb stairs, do chores, dance, take walks, enjoy a day of touring, go grocery shopping, or accomplish other activities. The loss of strength from Sarcopenia can create a vicious cycle. When it takes a great deal of physical effort to perform daily tasks, we shy away from doing them to avoid discomfort. The inactivity then only serves to speed up muscle loss, creating even more weakness.

The muscle loss occurs in people of all fitness levels, even master athletes. But those who have less muscle to begin with pay a higher price. Women in particular face risks from lost muscle mass. While you can’t completely halt Sarcopenia in its tracks, there’s much you can do to slow it dramatically, and thereby remain nearly as active in your 70s and 80s as much earlier in your life. If you were sedentary as a young adult and in middle age, you can even end up with more muscle mass in later years-and more strength-than you had in your 30s and 40s.

The answer to pushing back Sarcopenia lies in two parts; strength training—lifting weights and working resistance machines—and proper nutrition, especially proper amounts of protein and vitamin D. Proper nutrition is built into our First Place Live-It. Many of us have to increase our exercise program to get the proper amount of strength training. Most of us are doing very well in the area of aerobic exercise, which is great, because it strengthens the heart and lungs, but isn’t sufficient by itself to hold back Sarcopenia.

Studies have proven that high-intensity is the key to a good weight-lifting program. Less than an hour and a half of strength training each week at the proper intensity can ward off Sarcopenia. You may want to seek professional advice to develop a program that is right for you. There is much in print to aid you in beginning your strength training regiment. One such source is the National Institute on Aging’s free video and booklet, both entitled “Exercise.” They’re available online at here or by sending $7 (for shipping and handling) to NIAIC< Dept. W, PO Box 8057, Gaithersburg, MD 20898-8057. Or call (800) 222-2225 to place an order.

Doing our part to fight off Sarcopenia and Osteoporosis, along with a host of other illnesses, is one way to say thank you to Jesus for His great sacrifice. If we truly want to love him and serve the best that we can, we need to “feel like” getting out of our chair.

May God Bless Each of You this Easter Season!

Kay Smith
First Place Associate Director

Kay is the associate national director of First Place and has been on the First Place staff since 1987.

Kay is a popular speaker at retreats, seminars, Conferences, FOCUS Weeks and Workshops across the country. Kay is the First Place food exchange expert and writes a monthly article in the First Place E-Newsletter on nutrition. She also was a contributing writer to the Today Is the First Day devotional book. Her delightful personality and love for people endears her to everyone she meets, and they quickly become her new best friend.

Kay and her husband, Joe, live in Roscoe, TX. They have two children and five grandchildren. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit. Two of the young grandchildren are making a name for themselves on the golf circuit, and the three oldest grandsons are all involved in numerous sporting events, which Kay and Joe attend as often as possible.