Earlier this week, a 102-year-old woman hit a hole in one while playing golf. Elsie McLean is now the oldest person ever to hit a hole in one. But this isn't just a great story. It's a great example of a trend that's spreading fast - a lot of "older" people are getting involved in regular exercise. It's great for their health and it helps them live longer (as Elsie will tell you).

But strenuous exercise is another matter. In fact, there's a big problem with strenuous exercise that no one's talking about.

No, I'm not talking about the risk of injury. You're already aware of that. If you do exercise strenuously, make sure the sport you're involved in is safe for your health and athletic ability. For instance, playing golf is plenty strenuous for a 102 year old. But it might not be enough for someone who is 50 (unless you play several times a week and walk the course).

But the real problem I'm worried about isn't one most people even think about. You see, strenuous activity uses up a lot of vitamins and minerals. So people who exercise regularly are often more deficient than the average person.

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A small study recently proved how big this problem is. In the study, researchers evaluated 20 people for micronutrient deficiencies. They split the 20 evenly between sexes. Of the 20, 14 were athletes. The other six were sedentary individuals. The researchers measured vitamins A, D, E, K, B1, B3, B6, B12, folate, iodine, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.

The researchers found that all 20 had significant deficiencies - but the athletes were significantly worse. On average, men had deficiencies in 40% of the vitamins and 54.2% of the minerals. Women had deficiencies in 29% of the vitamins and 44.2% of the minerals.

These are alarming statistics.

Even though this study is small, it raises alarm bells. The average person is likely not getting foods that are dense enough in nutrients. Even those getting ample calories were found to have many micronutrient deficiencies.

This study also shows that if you're engaged in vigorous physical activity, your needs may be far higher. Exertion dramatically increases the protective needs of the energy producers in your body. It also causes your body to use up crucial vitamins and minerals. This only makes sense. If you speed up production in a car factory, you will need more raw materials.

I believe that diet should always be first. God made foods to have the perfect nutritional density. However, there is a caveat to that. You need to eat those foods when they are fresh, ripe, locally grown, in season, and grown on non-depleted soils. That's pretty hard in today's world (but it can be done). This is why I recommend vitamin and mineral supplements. They are the only way most of us are going to get enough nutrients to stay healthy.

I recommend you start with a high-quality multivitamin/mineral, such as Healthy Resolve's Max Plus www.healthyresolve.com/maxplus. But there are a number of other fine brands on the market. If you are athletically inclined, you will have an even greater need for minerals, B vitamins, and nutrients commonly known as antioxidants. So consider taking extra supplements every day.

Ref: "Food Alone May Not Provide Sufficient Micronutrients for Preventing Deficiency," Misner B, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2006; 3(1): 51-55. Originally published in the Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, 2005; 261: 49-52.

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