When you think fitness, what comes to mind? Toned muscles, flat abs, strong and trendy fitness influencers? Chances are that your mind doesn’t think of progressive muscle weakness, but that’s exactly what former fitness industry leader Augie Nieto experienced when he was diagnosed with the crippling disease ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis), otherwise referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Photographed: Lynne and Augie
Photographed: Matt Bellina and Team
But what is ALS and who does ALS affect?
“ALS is a disorder that affects the function of nerves and muscles”1. One of the mysterious things about this disease is that researchers don’t yet know what causes it, but they do have some insight on those most heavily afflicted by the disease.
Per the ALS Association, Massachusetts Chapter –
Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. However, cases of the disease do occur in persons in their twenties and thirties. Generally, ALS occurs in greater percentages as men and women grow older. ALS is 20% more common in men than in women. However, with increasing age, the incidence of ALS is more equal between men and women.2
While an exact cause has not yet been discovered, “it is known […] that military veterans, particularly those deployed during the Gulf War, are approximately twice as likely to develop ALS.”3
One fortunate thing about this disease is that it is not contagious. However, that doesn’t help ease the minds of friends and families whose loved ones struggle with this deliberating condition.
Fifteen new cases are recorded each day4, estimating that as many as 20,000 Americans have the disease at any given time. The onset of ALS symptoms can be as common as muscle weakness or stiffness. Once the disease progresses, however, “vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing”5 are lost.
There is currently no cure for ALS.
In 1995, the FDA approved a drug known as Riluzole. This drug has scientifically shown “to prolong the life of persons with ALS by at least a few months.”6
Each year, LA Fitness partners with Augie’s Quest, founded by Life Fitness leader, Augie Nieto. His foundation raises money to help fund ALS research. It’s his mission to one day find a cure for this horrible disease.
If you would like to learn more about how you can donate, please visit www.lafitnesscares.com.
Photographed: Collin Hadley and family
Photographed: Andrea Lytle Peet
- “Who Gets ALS?” org, webma.alsa.org/site/PageServer/?pagename=MA_1_WhoGets.html.