In this letter . . .

  • The National Institutes of Health Diet & Exercise Study

  • Testing Myself

The National Institutes of Health Diet & Exercise Study

When I turned 50, I was invited to participate in a national study on diet and exercise and their effects on aging. The study is administered by the National Institutes of Health. The American College of Sports Medicine, AARP, and the National Cancer Institute are also involved.

I signed up and periodically they send forms to be completed and occasionally medical tests are required. People from six states in the U.S. take part; the information is collected, studied, and conclusions reached about diet and exercise.

Recently, I received a mailer summarizing some of their findings. They follow:

  • Exercise: Out of the nearly 253,000 participants the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study, those who followed the physical activity guidelines had a 27% lower risk of premature death than those who did not.

    The physical guidelines recommended a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week or at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise three times per week.

    Source: Physical activity recommendations and decreased risk of mortality, by Leitzmann, Park et al. Archives of Internal Medicine December 2007.

  • Diet: Men who followed most closely a Mediterranean type diet were 17% less likely to prematurely die from cancer and 22% less likely from cardiovascular disease. Women were 14% less likely to die of cancer and 21% less likely from cardiovascular disease.

    The Mediterranean diet reflects the traditional cuisine of Crete and neighboring regions, including Greece and southern Italy. It consists of mostly fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, fish, monounsaturated fats such as olive oil; moderate to low amounts of dairy and alcohol; and low amounts of meat.

Full diet study report here.

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Testing Myself

Last month, I tested myself by doing my Deck of Cards workout. It’s a butt-kicker. Here’s how it works . . .

Get a deck of playing cards. Assign an exercise to each suit. I assigned them as follows:

  • Hearts — Dumbbells Clean & Press (don’t go too heavy or you’ll never make it through).
  • Clubs — Pushups.
  • Spades — Bodyweight Squats.
  • Diamonds — Mt. Climbers.

Shuffle the deck several times. Place the deck face down. Start a stop watch.

Turn over the first card. Let’s say it’s a seven of hearts. Clean & Press your dumbbells seven times.

Turn the next card. Suppose it’s a nine of spades. Do nine bodyweight squats.

With each card, do the same number of reps as the number on the card. The face cards are considered tens. Aces are eleven. Remove the jokers or keep them and assign them any number you want to. (I remove the jokers.)

Keep going through the entire deck. Then check your stop watch. Write down the time for your record.

The idea is to go through the deck as fast as you can. If you do it that way, it’s a test — and butt kicker. Of course, the workout is not difficult if you casually go through the deck.

In shape athletes do the workout in less than 30 minutes. The training is supposed to be popular with Japanese wrestlers and judo competitors. But they often confine it to two exercises, such as squats and pushups. I like to do it with four.

How did I do? It took me 27 minutes. When I tested in 2003, I did it in 20:53.79. However, I used a different exercise mix, which may or may not have been less taxing. I tested twice in 2004, finishing once in 21:27.75 and once in 22:22.25.

Though the exercise mix was slightly different each time (meaning there is some degree of “comparing apples with oranges”), there is no denying that I’ve lost a step or two.

Age happens. But I’m still under 30 minutes.

I was sore the next day.

This is not a test for beginners.

The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter is a free publication sent twice monthly to our subscribers. Our purpose is to provide honest and realistic fitness information for people age 50 and above.

Always consult with your physician before making dietary changes or starting an exercise program.

Your comments or questions are always appreciated.


Logan Franklin
The Gray Iron Fitness Newsletter