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I Would Like You to Meet AGNES

I would like you to meet AGNES –
Part 1 of a 3 Part Series on the Pillars of Wellness as We Age

By Janet Bertrand ACE

Every day we are faced with choices. We make those choices and build our lives based on a pattern of decisions, one after the next. Those choices dictate how we live our lives, how our bodies feel, and what quality of life we will have in the future. Woody Allen said it best, “No one gets out of this world alive” and although that is true, the quality of our lives is important and something we need to invest in as soon as possible.

Choosing to exercise, practice good nutrition, and cultivate positive relationships are the three pillars of that investment. Going to the gym is not a luxury; it is investing in the future you, in the body that you will end up in later in life. It all comes down to choices that build upon themselves over time, and how we can make positive choices that will affect us for years to come. In the first of a three part series on the pillars of wellness as we age this article will focus on movement and exercise.

Recently some researchers from MIT developed a suit called AGNES, which stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System. It was designed by researchers at MIT’s age lab to emulate what it feels like to be 75 years old with arthritis and diabetes. This suit was created to make the wearer just as uncomfortable as an elderly person who has spent a lifetime eating poorly and doing very little exercise. The main purpose of this suit is to help retail, car, and clothing companies understand the limitations of an older consumer.
This is not a pretty picture of aging. A helmet with straps attached to it compresses to the spine, and more straps attached to the shoes decrease hamstring flexibility, shortening the wearer’s gait. Special shoes create a feeling of imbalance. The suit also has braces on the knees and elbows that limit joint mobility. Gloves give the illusion of decreased strength and mobility in the hands and wrists. Ear plugs make it difficult to hear high pitched sounds and soft tones. Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT’s Age Lab, says “There are three words associated with wearing AGNES- Fatigue, friction and frustration.”

Although the original intent of the suit was to research the way elderly people feel, move and experience life on a daily basis, other benefits have come from wearing the suit. Some of the younger people that have come into contact with AGNES have started thinking differently about their own future and how their own lifestyle will play a part in how they end up later in life. It is hard to imagine ourselves at 75 or 80 years old, hard to understand how it feels to have limited mobility and fatigue. By wearing AGNES young researchers have had a chance to experience life another way and still have time to do something about it.

When it comes to a higher quality of life, the word to start with is mobility. The more you move your body, everyday, throughout the day, the better your body will not only look and feel but also how it ages. In fact when it comes right down to it, how much you move is even more important than what you eat, although diet is right on the heels of mobility and will be the focus of part 2 of this 3 part series.
When looking at movement and how it affects the body we also see an increase in blood flow to the brain which increases oxygen and nutrients in the brain. This in turn leads to better awareness and mental stability. After studying the effects of daily exercise on monkeys, Judy Cameron, a neuroscientist at the Oregon Health and Science University, found that the monkeys showed more alertness and were better engaged in cognitive tests. In addition the monkeys that were active learned at an accelerated rate and were more productive. Overall their findings supported the argument that with exercise we see an increase in mental alertness, in increase in productivity and more engaged activity in everyday life.

If you are not already exercising on a daily (that’s right I said daily!) basis, you need to get moving, NOW! It is time to start thinking about exercise as not just ascetic, but an investment in your health. The American Heart association suggests 45 minutes to an hour of exercise EVERY DAY. This can be in the form of walking, riding a bike, hiking, running, lifting weights, yoga, or anything else that gets your heart rate up and gets some sweat going. It does not need to be a hard workout every time, maybe some recovery work focusing on joint integrity or joint mobility. Yoga provides a great balance of cardiovascular, flexibility, and strength benefits. Cycling is great, whether it is stationary or mobile, reducing impact on joints but still providing the muscular and cardiovascular challenge needed for health benefits. Start with three days a week, making sure at least one day is focused on weight baring exercises. Then add a day every other week until you make exercise as basic and essential as brushing your teeth. Would you go one day without brushing your teeth? What would happen if you went a week without brushing? Now what do you think happens to your body when you don’t exercise? Start thinking in these terms and you will make exercise and mobility a habit you don’t want to break!

In the end AGNES is a badly behaved lady who didn’t eat well or exercise much if at all. Coughlin reminds us all, “AGNES is not the destiny of everybody.”

Janet Bertrand
Personal Trainer, Fitness Quest 10

Janet Bertrand, a personal fitness trainer, started her love of fitness while still in high school. After starting her family and increasing her own personal knowledge of health and fitness, a passion to help other people became a natural next step toward a career. While attending San Diego State University for their personal trainer course, she met instructors familiar with Fitness Quest 10 and their phenomenal reputation. She began her internship at FQ10 in 2003, after receiving her Personal Fitness Trainer Certificate from SDSU and PFT Certification from American Council of Exercise (ACE).

Janet started training with a passion to share her enthusiasm about exercise. She feels inspired by working with people who are interested in making fitness and clean living an integral part of their lives.

In her spare time, she enjoys running, spinning, lifting and being a Mom to her four kids. Since 2004, Janet has worked with a diverse array of clients at FQ10 and feels truly blessed to be a part of such an amazing team of fitness professionals. Janet understands the demands of today’s busy schedules but thrives on encouraging people to reach their fitness goals in ways that work with their own individual schedules and goals.

Janet believes the power to reach your goals is already inside you. Everyday is a new opportunity to embrace change and challenge yourself. Her clients often hear a motto she came up with long ago, “Earn your shower!”

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