Paul Bernstein, aka Mr. Physical Fitness USA™ is now 72 years young and reaching for 100+. He shares his views on optimal healthy aging and how he has achieved his remarkable psyche and fitness, even though he is approaching his 8th decade.
I remember that on my 71st birthday, I woke up to the phone ringing. It was sister from Dallas, and as she wished me a happy birthday, I realized the reason for the early morning call. After the conversation, I sat and reflected. What had happened to the time? Many of my closest friends were gone. Too many more are waiting to die. At night we are bombarded with television commercials telling us that we need scooters so that we don’t have to walk too far after a certain age.
This cheery news is followed with another company explaining how they can bury you inexpensively! As if this were not enough to totally depress you, your children get ads from homes that will take their parents off their hands and take care of them so that they don’t have to. “Out of sight; out of mind.”
Then your spouse receives offers in the mail for long-term home health care implying that if you live long enough, you are going to be a liability to her and those around you that may care.
My answer to all of this is to say, “BALONEY!” Actually, what I really said could not be printed here! When I look in the mirror, I see a 21-year old, and I feel that way, too. This 72-year old intends to be young until 100 and then some. If you want to change a few of your life-threatening habits, you can come along and learn that whilst “Aging is inevitable; growing old is optional.”
I make a positive goal daily and the picture you see of me is a current photo. It is how I look now and I know that I can continue to look like this for years to come; in fact I can grow younger as I grow older.
I work out 5 days a week at one of several fitness centers near my home in Houston. Almost every time I go to one of these clubs, I am asked the same question, “What is my secret?” There is no secret formula, it is called knowledge gleaned from 50 years in the fitness industry. Allow me to pass on an abbreviated version of the knowledge that I have gained through my experience and contacts.
When I was born in 1933, one was considered lucky to live to age 65. Hardly anyone lived to see his or her grandchildren grow up. Thank God, I have had the opportunity to see my great-grandchild be born, what’s more I intend to take her through her first workout.
What is the answer to living younger longer? My suggestions follow this introduction. Remember what they always say; “The buck stops here.” It is your responsibility to take charge of your health and learn how to extend your life and improve the quality of your life now and later.
I break down my suggestions into four parts; one-third mental attitude; one-third, exercise and one-third life-style:
- My mental attitude: “The glass is always half full.” Think young; enjoy your family; get in touch with that teenager inside of you. When I get up, the first thing I do is open the door and look up. If it’s sunny, it’s a great day! If there are clouds, I admire the beautiful patterns they make. If it is raining, I enjoy the fresh, clean smell. Use your mind for constructive things, such as, mentoring a young person, helping your community, starting a new business. Right now I am developing three new projects. Get rid of anger. Clean the garbage out of your mind. Leave more room for good thoughts and great ideas. Give yourself a goal each day, no matter how small.
- Getting in Shape or shape up: These two expressions refer to two different things though they are often used interchangeably. Getting in shape refers to internal changes, like strengthening the heart and lungs, improving circulation, getting more flexible, and increasing stamina. These things are usually accomplished best by aerobic exercises. Choose an activity that you truly enjoy: bike riding, swimming, jogging, skating, or walking. Your gym will have aerobic classes for those times when outdoor activities are impossible. Shaping up refers to the external or physical appearance. Most people have one or more body parts that they do not like about themselves. Making physical changes is done by means of exercising with weights. Notice I said, “with weights.” This does not mean HEAVY weights. Use a weight that you can move comfortably. Free weights or exercise equipment with weights can be used. Choose the one that feels more natural for you. You may start an exercise program at any age, whether or not you have ever exercised, or it has been a long time since your last workout. Studies have been done in hospitals and retirement homes with seniors over 70, 80, and 90. In a matter of just a few months, these elderly people, who are usually couch potatoes, gained an average of 20% in muscle mass and lost around 10% of their body fat. We are lucky today. There are fitness centers on every corner in most major cities. There are more fitness centers than there are 7-11’s! No matter what your age, you will meet some nice people there. Most of these fitness centers have good trainers who will be happy to show you how to use the machines to your best advantage. If you don’t live near a fitness center, or the cost is prohibitive, there are websites where you can get good exercise information, dozens of books on exercising, and many excellent tapes and CD’s with simple instructions.
- Lifestyle/ medical: Most people in the fitness industry usually feel that there is no need for a doctor. They prefer to find a vitamin or an herb on their own; or as they often say, a “natural” remedy. Don’t self-medicate without advice. To live a VERY long and healthy life (and enjoy life to its optimum), the most important factor will be finding the right wife/ husband. Your other life-partner is going to be your physician, your companion, your cheerleader, etc. This may confuse you coming from Mr. Physical Fitness, USA, but let me continue. Doctors don’t have a partnership with God. You must look around and ask questions. Be informed. To me there are two kinds of doctors. (a) The traditional doctor that we are most accustomed to is the old-fashioned doctor who makes you feel better by treating your symptoms when you get sick. I call them the “Sick Doctors.” (b) But today there is another type of a doctor in a new field of medicine called, “Anti-Aging Medicine.” This doctor should become your closest and most trusted friend. They are doctors dedicated to “wellness.” Have a full-spectrum blood test at least twice a year, replacing those hormones that decline with age, to help keep the body working smoothly at optimum efficiency, like maintaining the fluids in your automobile. Work out your wellness plan with your doctor. Doctors list their specialties. Two of my favorite antiaging medicines are growth hormone and piracetam, they’ve made a big difference for me. If you do not find antiaging doctors in your telephone book, visit A4M or IAS and ask about antiaging physicians in your area. The right advice can literally add years to your life.
Always be good to yourself. Treat yourself to a spa treatment, good skin care, the right diet, activities you enjoy, and a healthy environment. The dividends will be a longer life that is more fun, and your family will love you better for it.
Paul Bernstein, Mr. Physical Fitness, USA™ has been a pioneer in the Health & Fitness Industry for more than 45 years. He has owned many health clubs, written articles, lectured at Senior Seminars, publishes a Health & Fitness Digest, appears on television talk shows, and plays a heavy occasionally in movies.