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Working to Be Healthy

Question: What will be the recession’s effect on the health of\r\n Baby Boomers? 

Patricia Bloom: Well, there’s a plus \r\nand a minus side to that I would say. I mean, yes, of course it’s a huge\r\n concern that, you know, the numbers are really frightening of what \r\npercentage of people have saved enough to retire. And now with the \r\nrecession, it’s only added to that and people have seen what they \r\nthought was enough to retire on shrink. So, that’s all very worrisome \r\nand you know, the whole economic situation is a worry. 

But \r\nhaving said that, I think that we’re going to come to think about work \r\ndifferently as people get older and older. And what I said earlier about\r\n engagement, for a lot of people they do find that in their work. So, \r\npersonally, I think the ideal situation is if an older person can cut \r\nback in their work requirements, they’re not locked into that nine to \r\nfive, you know, hectic lifestyle anymore, but that they do have the \r\nability to pursue something that they find meaningful, and that might be\r\n in the world of work, or it might be outside of a paying job. But as I \r\nsaid, it’s a plus and minus type answer. I think some people are going \r\nto have to keep working longer, but the silver lining there is, if you \r\nhave to keep working longer at something that is meaningful to you, that\r\n I think is actually good for your health. 

Question: \r\nHow can yoga help promote healthy aging? 

Patricia \r\nBloom: Yoga is really, I think, a great pursuit. First of all, it’s \r\nreally beneficial physically and you probably know there are many \r\ndifferent schools of yoga, so you can probably go down the block here to\r\n a gym where they’re doing power yoga, and it’s extremely physically \r\ntaxing. Or a lot of people have a kind of idea about yoga. They see \r\npictures of yogis in these terribly complicated pretzel-like poses and \r\nthey just know that that’s just not for them. They could never do that. \r\nAnd that’s a certain approach to yoga, which I think is especially \r\nprevalent in our society because we tend to be very competitive \r\nathletically and we want to do those complicated poses. But the kind of \r\ntrue roots of yoga are yoga as a meditative practice, as I said, it \r\nfalls under the umbrella of mind/body medicine because yoga is really a \r\nway of bringing the mind into focus. That’s how it originated. The \r\nancient yogis developed yoga both as a preparation for sitting \r\nmedication so your body would be able to sit for long periods of time, \r\nbut they also conceived of it as a form of meditation. So, meditation \r\nreally is just focusing your mind. So in yoga, you focus your mind on \r\nyour body and you really bring your full attention to body movements. 

But\r\n so the physical aspects of yoga are extremely beneficial. And we’ve \r\nseen that. We’ve offered yoga at the Martha Stewart Center now for about\r\n six years. And you would just be amazed at some of our patients who \r\nstarted with yoga quite a few years ago with us and we literally have \r\npeople in their 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s who could barely get down onto the \r\nground, they couldn’t get down onto the ground when they started, and \r\nthey just enormously improved in their flexibility, their strength, \r\ntheir mobility, and they love it. It’s a great form of social engagement\r\n as well. So, it’s extremely good physically and there’s a lot of new \r\nand interesting research in a whole lot of different ways that yoga is \r\nbeneficial. And you start to see yoga studies creeping in even to the \r\nconventional medical literature. Not very often, but if I pick up my \r\nAnnals of Internal Medicine, which is the leading journal in internal \r\nmedicine. I remember, I think it was last year; there was a study \r\nshowing that yoga was more effective than standard physical therapy for \r\nlow back pain, for instance. 

So, there’s more research going on \r\nto document the benefits of yoga. I just did a small study with a great \r\nyoga teacher; her name is Nancy Elks, who was recommended to me by one \r\nof our lung specialists at Mt. Sinai. He said, "You know, my patients \r\nwith emphysema,"—which is a terrible disease—he said, “One of them said \r\nto me, ‘You know doctor DePalo, I love you, but yoga has done more for \r\nme than all of you medicines have.’” And so he got interested and \r\nstarted referring his patients to this young woman, Nancy Elks, who I \r\nhad the great opportunity to work with recently. We did a little yoga \r\nstudy on having people with serious lung disease, these are people with \r\nreally pretty major league emphysema learn yoga techniques that helped \r\ntheir muscles in breathing and then importantly improved their strength \r\nand endurance, and they loved it and benefited.

Recorded on April 14, 2010

The ideal situation for an older person is to cut back on their work requirements while still remaining engaged.

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