97-year-old doing double on treadmill

97-year-old doing double on treadmill

Margaret Renton was the surprise star of a seminar on aging, this week.

Dr. Karim Khan, moderator of Staying Mobile: The Secret to Aging Well, brought the Kelowna grandmother up to the microphone and asked her to explain her exercise routine. "After a bowl of cereal with half a banana, I go on the treadmill for 25 minutes," she told 190 people at UBCO's clinical academic campus (southern medical program) beside Kelowna General Hospital. That is followed by an outside walk of 30 to 60 minutes but during the winter, she doubles her time on the treadmill, she said. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, she has group sessions with weights, stretching and tai chi. And she participates in other fitness programs.

Asked her age, Renton proudly announced: "I am 97."

The enthusiastic, sustained applause that followed reinforced the message from a panel of UBC experts in bone and hip health lined up by the UBC alumni relations office. Their message was simple: exercise is essential to quality and quantity of life.

Professor Heather McKay, an orthopedic researcher, lamented the fact the younger generation is the first in history with a poorer quality of life and lower life expectancy than parents. Afterwards in an interview, McKay said the word "discouraging" would come to mind, "if you just think about what's not currently being done. "But 'encourage' would be the word when you realize what is possible." For many aging challenges, "we have solutions and we are working toward finding evidence to solve the other problems. A large part of our job is having these conversations with governments at all levels to have them as partners in the solutions," she said.  "I think we are seeing a change, a shift. Before, prevention was never part of the conversation and now, it's a big part. All of us (here) travel around the world sharing the message. Part of the reason we do that is some of the best evidence around solutions is being generated in B.C., some of the best research around preventing hip fractures, preventing falls and around school-based physical activity models."

In his brief talk, Dr. Gareth Jones, a human kinetics specialist in the UBCO health and social development faculty, warned: "You really don't notice the changes (from aging) until it is almost too late." During the past two years of refining guidelines for physical activity, he found everyone needs a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week. When questioned for more detail, he responded: "Work at an intensity that you consider moderate to vigorous but make sure you push yourself every day." Afterwards in an interview, he noted: "We're great at inventing technology to make life easier. And making life easier, we are basically killing ourselves." If the panel was discussing the same subject 40 years ago, "people didn't need to exercise because their lifestyle incorporated enough physical activity in the day that they got those health and fitness benefits." Researchers and academics often talk about the "toxic environment" of modern day life, he said, recalling a recent cartoon showing an older-model, "fat" tube-TV with a thin person watching and a modern thin-screen TV with a fat person watching it.  "It's so easy now for us to just be captivated by that medium in front of us all the time and not need to go outside and not to move. I see it as a challenge really of trying to modify and educate people as best I can," he said.

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