Tag: aging

Good Health and Good Relationships Susan Raab-Cohen, PhD Psychologist & SACDT Member

Most of us at Seattle Athletic Club are swimming, running or lifting because we want to increase our odds of living today and tomorrow with strength, vigor and flexibility.

It could be, though, that we are overlooking one of the most important variables contributing to good health: the quality of our primary relationships. A good relationship is the single best recipe for good health and the most powerful antidote to aging.

Research shows:

Men gain health benefits simply by getting married. Their health status improves, negative physical symptoms decrease, and positive behaviors increase.

For each year of marriage, a woman’s risk of dying prematurely decreases.

Consistent emotional support lowers blood pressure and bolsters the immune system. It appears to reduce the death rate from cancer as well as the incidence of heart disease and infectious disease.

A secure connection significantly lessens susceptibility to anxiety and depression and makes us more resilient against stress and trauma.

Close connection is the strongest predictor of happiness, much more than making masses of money or winning the lottery.

A successful, long term relationship may do as much for your longevity, mood and physical resilience as the hours you spend working out. However, a lack of attention to your relationship may have the same negative consequences as inactivity:

Men who are divorced experience health risks equal to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.

Women‘s health appears to be more susceptible to marital discord than men’s health. For women, poor relationship quality is associated with an increased risk of premature mortality and an increased risk of heart disease.

Obviously not everyone wants to be in a relationship, nor is it easy to find the right person even if you want to do so. Many people persist in relationships while feeling lonely, angry or hopeless. They have done whatever they can to improve their relationship but their efforts have been unsuccessful. Resignation seems the only possible outcome.

However, we now know more about strengthening the underlying bonds of marriage for straight, gay or transgender couples than we ever have. We understand that the attachment bond that defines the parent/child bond also defines the underlying bond of adult commitment. We see the power of that bond to build resilience in adults. We know what happens when the bond is broken—and we now know much more about how to repair it.

John Gottman, PhD, here at the University of Washington, did pioneering work describing what happens in the interactions of marriage. While Gottman studied thousands of hours of couples trying to get along, Sue Johnson, PhD, watched thousands of hours of couples in marital therapy and figured out what works. She developed Emotionally Focused Therapy, a theory and practice of couples therapy that has an extensive research record demonstrating its effectiveness. She also wrote a book: Hold Me Tight, which gives consumers a theory and outline for improving their relationships.

Sue Johnson also developed a consumer workshop based on her book:
Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for Connection®. This workshop is also evidence-based. It is now being offered all around the world.

My colleague, Dorsey Green, PhD, and I will be offering this seminar here in the Pike Place Market March 7-8 and May 30-31.

Rob Lauren has seen a direct connection between the mission of the Seattle Athletic Club and a focus on relationship health as related to physical health. We are appreciative to him for his willingness to partner with us this spring. SACDT members may attend Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for Connection at a discounted rate. This program is nonjudgmental (neither of you will feel blamed) and intimate (10-15 couples with significant time spent talking 1:1 in a structured way).

Interested?  You can learn more about the workshop as well as see comments from past participants on our website: www.holdmetightseminars.com.

Still curious? Click on this four minute video—What Is a Healthy Marriage? http://www.holdmetightseminars.com/what-is-a-healthy-marriage/

Lastly, the video below explains a very powerful research study that describes how love and trust change our neurochemistry and resilience to pain:

Soothing the Threatened Brain: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J6B00d-8lw

**Research references available upon request



I’ve recently had several people ask me what the benefits of strength training are as we age. It seems that this question continues to get asked a lot and I decided it might be most helpful to provide and share one of the many reasons.


The tendency towards inactivity naturally increases as we age; leading to many age-related degenerative issues and diseases.  Just think of your grandparent’s frailty, stooped posture, unsteady and uncoordinated movements, loss of strength and sagging skin due to muscle loss. What I’d like to stress here is; it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the most prominent benefits to strength training as we age is maintenance of muscle tissue.


Why is this important?


As we age our bodies go through Sarcopenia which is a loss in strength from a reduced muscle mass and a loss in mobility from the reduced functional capacity of the muscle. These muscle changes happen because of issues between motor unit restructuring, protein deficiency and changes in hormone concentrations. This motor unit restructuring is the most important to maintain, as it causes the death of and/or decreased production of specialized motor neurons that send electrical impulses to the muscle fibers. This leads to nearby motor neurons to take over for survival, often with less precision and coordination in motor unit firing. This process usually begins at middle age (around 40) at a rate approximately half a pound muscle loss per year. Around the age of 50, this rate can double and it accelerates further towards the age of 70. If an individual is inactive, these numbers can exaggerate further.


Strength or resistance training can prolong, even slow this process. In one study by Roth, Ferrel & Hurley 2000, (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10936901) strength training was discovered to have a positive effect on the body’s neuromuscular system, protein synthesis and hormone concentrations by increasing production rates in response to strength training stimuli. Strength training (or better known as lifting weights) stresses the muscle by requiring the neurons to fire between the brain and muscle fibers in a more synchronistical way. The more motor neurons fire, the more muscle fiber recruitment involved which leads to a more coordinated, faster muscle contraction and greater muscle force production. Muscle mass helps to maintain protein synthesis rates which is needed for muscle tissue growth and regeneration. This may explain why individuals with a higher level of lean muscle mass may heal faster upon injuries (another benefit!).


Several human hormones responsible for muscle protein metabolism and closely related with protein synthesis usually decline due to age and atrophy. These hormones levels can be maintained however, through a continual strength-training program and were shown to improve when inactive individuals incorporated lifting weights into their exercise program. The overall take home message here is, if you don’t use it you will lose it!


The human skeletal muscle is a truly amazing, adaptable organ. Muscle will grow when repeatedly stressed during an intensive and progressive training program. No matter what the current motor neuron loss, muscle will hypertrophy using the neurons it current has. No matter one’s age or fitness level, studies have shown that muscle strength and mass can be regained. It is always advisable to seek the professional advice of a personal fitness trainer, especially if new strength training or experienced in age. Correct form and lifting mechanics, intensity, frequency and current fitness level all need to be factored in a strength-training program. The program also needs to progress at the appropriate overload rate to avoid injuries and gain improvements.


To maintain lean muscle, strength, coordination and mobility, it is important to continue to strength train or begin it now! You will keep your body functioning optimally well into your ‘experienced’ years, prevent degenerative issues and create a healthier version of you!  For further information on personal fitness training at SAC, please contact Kendra Kainz.