Working to Be Healthy

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


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

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

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

Question: How can yoga help promote healthy aging? 

Patricia Bloom: Yoga is really, I think, a great pursuit. First of all, it’s really beneficial physically and you probably know there are many different schools of yoga, so you can probably go down the block here to a gym where they’re doing power yoga, and it’s extremely physically taxing. Or a lot of people have a kind of idea about yoga. They see pictures of yogis in these terribly complicated pretzel-like poses and they just know that that’s just not for them. They could never do that. And that’s a certain approach to yoga, which I think is especially prevalent in our society because we tend to be very competitive athletically and we want to do those complicated poses. But the kind of true roots of yoga are yoga as a meditative practice, as I said, it falls under the umbrella of mind/body medicine because yoga is really a way of bringing the mind into focus. That’s how it originated. The ancient yogis developed yoga both as a preparation for sitting medication so your body would be able to sit for long periods of time, but they also conceived of it as a form of meditation. So, meditation really is just focusing your mind. So in yoga, you focus your mind on your body and you really bring your full attention to body movements. 

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

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

Recorded on April 14, 2010