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An Engineering Approach to Health & Fitness

Frequently, I remind myself that I’m not a doctor of anything, nor a researcher in the pure sense. I am an engineer, of electronic circuit design background, with a near lifetime designing missile-borne Radar systems. I am focused on using technologies, techniques and strategies that work, to build a system that performs a function. I “discover” very little; mostly I read a lot of what others discover and what yet others report about those discoveries. I use tools to analyze the expected performance of the system, fix any problems that show up surprisingly, and try to optimize performance within the limits of the specified requirements, budget and schedule.

With my health, the approach is similar, except the schedule is as long as life permits, and the budget is limited by all the other responsibilities that are on my back at the time. I do study the technologies that form the basis of physiology and health. I read a few of the current studies underway in the field, but mostly I read what other serious practitioners in the anti-aging field are coming to understand. I use the acquired understanding to develop personal strategies for living a highly functional and disease-free life. The primary tool I use for evaluating these strategies is how my own body is functioning – I’m my own guinea pig – and I monitor changes in the way I feel and function to optimize the strategies. I also am insisting on more comprehensive tests from my doctors, to better track my progress and find what needs improvement. What I find that works, I pass on to my readers, with no medical guarantees implied or expressed. I pretty much report what other say works for them and what works for me.

The strategies I follow and promote generally fall into six categories that I call the Six Critical Keys to Senior Fitness. The basic strategies are as follows:

  • Anti-Aging:Pay attention to the aging process; learn about and understand the causes and effects of aging, what speeds it up, and what slows it down. Make it a top priority to understand the impact of lifestyle and behavior on how you will function in the future. Study the science involved. Base today’s actions on the implication those actions hold for the next several decades. The next five categories comprise the core areas of concern for optimizing the aging process.
  • Exercise:The human body is designed for motion, and if allowed to languish, it loses muscle, bone density and grows fat. It needs to push on things, pull on things and lift things to be strong, and it needs to walk or run frequently for significant distance and time. All this happens naturally in play when we are young, and we need to keep that kind of activity going for life. For adults, I’m convinced the best return on time and effort is 45 minutes in a gym, weight training at a pace that keeps your lungs working hard and works your muscles to exhaustion when finished. No other form of execise will do as much to maintain or recover strength and muscle mass into advanced age.
  • Nutrition:You are what you eat, and you need to eat a wide variety of real foods. Real foods are typically found on the outside walls of the grocery store, while manufactured foods are found in the inner isles. The serious enemy of health is manufactured and processed food products, with few exceptions. Eat real, organic fruits, vegetables and naturally pastured animals. Eat only whole grain products, and keep them a minor part of your diet. Avoid “snacks” except for nuts. Eliminate sugar, refined grains and their products, soft & fruit drinks, high fructose corn syrup and all refined and hydrogenated oils and products that contain them. The general rule- if it comes in a bag, box or can, it’s probably not good for you.
  • Rest, Recovery and Relaxation:Adequate and sound sleep is imperative for health. You cannot short yourself in this area or you will induce disease and shorten life. You cannot live life at high constant stress levels without doing damage to health. New studies show that both of these will push you into metabolic syndrome in just days or weeks. You cannot exercise too often, too hard or too long without depressing the immune system and scuttling the progress you hope to make in muscle gain and fitness. We have to have down time where we rest and allow our bodies, minds and endocrine system to regenerate. Significant, frequent times of positive pleasure are very good for us.
  • Supplements:I put supplements in three classes; nutritional, performance enhancing and aging compensation. Nutritional supplements make up for the lost quality of the food supply system, or for limited or poor eating habits. They feature vitamins, minerals and food extracts to supply adequate or superior essential nutrient levels. Performance supplements generally let you run harder, push more weight, tire later and recover faster and more completely from exertion. I find them very helpful in maintaining energy for my activities and recovering my sense of purpose. Aging compensation supplements help reduce the impact of aging. Stomach acid production slows as we age, making it difficult to absorb minerals and utilize protein – so take Betaine HCl with pepsin and digestive enzymes. Testosterone levels ramp downward with age – so take herbs and extracts that boost its production. Likewise growth hormone levels decrease – take a night-time secretagogue mix that raises it. The market place abounds with supplements that work quite well to meet all these needs, and life is significantly better using them.
  • Attitude and Thinking:Do you look at the “loss” side of life more than the Blessing side of our experience? Do you expect life to crap on you in the future, or that something engaging and fulfilling is coming around the corner? I do know this – I once was mostly negative about life and my glass was less than half full, but I found and used valuable strategies to change my thinking and become an optimist. Being an optimist makes life a much more rewarding, engaging and enjoyable proposition. The difference is very much about the words and images you chose to represent your internal experience of events and situations. You can learn to run your brain such that life is interesting, fun and fulfilling. My starting point was the book “Unlimited Power” by Anthony Robbins; you might give it a try if you are currently stuck in the negative universe. By the way, adhering to the principles in the first 5 categories above will, on their own, change the way your brain works for the better.

These are six specific classes of strategies that I find to lead to a potentially long and healthy life; a life of quality living. Soon enough we depart this world. Why not minimize the pain and suffering, and maximize the joy and pleasure of good health and functional fitness while we are here – life is a gift to be relished, is it not?

Good Living – Frank

Frank Wilhelmi
Frank Wilhelmi

Frank Wilhelmi – Retired/consultant electronic engineer researches and reports practical strategies for optimizing health and fitness into advanced age. “I have a passion for living life to the fullest, and helping others to do the same.” A rapidly growing body of knowledge now enables us to extend our health and fitness decades beyond popular expectations.

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6-Pillars of Senior Fitness

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