The American Senior Fitness Association is pleased to present Round-Up
a periodic digest of senior fitness research, news, health facts and wellness tips.
  SFA ... American Senior Fitness AssociationWhether you're an older adult, senior fitness professional, health care worker, family caregiver -- or any combination of the above -- "Round-Up" provides you with information of interest and news you can use.

August 1, 2005

Table of Contents

  • Widespread Obesity Proving Costly  (Research)

  • Possible Side Effect of Parkinson's Drug  (Research)

  • "An Apple a Day" -- Still a Wise Proverb  (Diet tip)

  • Tai Chi: An Effective Weapon Against Falls  (Research)

  • Go Figure  (Nutrition)

  • Studying the Studies  (Research)

  • Think About It!  (Inspiration)
  • Nutrition and Bone Health  (Research)

  • Hip Care  (Exercise Modifications)
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Widespread Obesity Proving Costly

Citing a study published recently by the journal Health Affairs, Reuters reports that the costs of treating medical problems related to obesity rose tenfold in the United States during the 15-year period from 1987 through 2002. Researchers examined the records of approximately 28,000 privately insured persons and found that annual private health care spending on obesity-related problems had swelled from 3.6 billion dollars to 36.5 billion dollars. Diabetes, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, and back problems are among the obesity-related conditions contributing to these soaring medical cost increases.

Possible Side Effect of Parkinson's Drug

A recent report in the Archives of Neurology advises that there may be a link between the use of Mirapex (and similar medications that lessen the tremors associated with Parkinson's disease) and the development of compulsive gambling. A number of cases have been identified, and other compulsions -- such as excessive shopping -- may also be involved. When the dosage is reduced, the problematic behavior usually comes to a halt.

"An Apple a Day" -- Still a Wise Proverb

Reducing the amount of saturated fat in one's diet is always an excellent goal. The challenge comes in finding ways to follow a less fatty diet without sacrificing meal appeal. So, try this quick tip from to lower the fat, but retain the tastiness, in your favorite oven recipes. When it comes to baking, just substitute applesauce for butter or cooking oil.

Tai Chi: An Effective Weapon Against Falls

A study published recently in the Journal of Advanced Nursing found a reduced risk of falling in elderly South Korean Tai Chi participants, according to United Press International. Twenty-nine subjects, average age 78, took part in a 12-week structured Tai Chi program. As compared to 30 non-exercising controls, the Tai Chi participants significantly improved their physical fitness levels. Specifically, they strengthened their knee and ankle muscles, increased mobility, enhanced flexibility, and improved balance.

Go Figure

As a general rule, we should aim to eat foods that derive no more than 30 percent of their calories from fat. Less is better! To calculate how many fat calories are in a food product, plug its label information into this formula:

(1) Multiply the grams of fat in one serving by 9. (This gives you the number of fat calories in one serving.)

(2) Divide that number by the total number of calories per serving.

(3) Multiply that number by 100. (This gives you the percentage of calories from fat.)

Studying the Studies

Following science is important. Here at SFA we do so and regularly bring news from the research world to you. However, a cautionary note regarding medical research should be applied.

A recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) review of major studies -- which were published in three prominent medical journals from 1990 through 2003 -- found that the results of 16 percent of those studies were contradicted by subsequent research. Another 16 percent, upon further investigation, ultimately yielded weaker results than were reported in the original papers. That is, almost a third of the original findings were not upheld when subjected to further study.

Included in the review were 45 widely publicized articles that had identified certain medications or treatment therapies as effective. The moral of this disappointing news? Physicians and patients should avoid placing excessive trust in any single new report. Medical research is vital to unlocking the cures of the future. Still, initial reports may be somewhat exaggerated and should be taken with a grain of salt -- at least until the findings can be duplicated and supported by ensuing independent study.

Think About It!

Here's a poignant quote from the renowned American author Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803--1882): "The years teach much which the days never knew."

Nutrition and Bone Health

Following is the abstract from "Micronutrient Requirements in Older Women" by Ronnie Chernoff, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81(5), 1240S
(Supplement: Women and Micronutrients: Addressing the Gap Throughout the Life Cycle):

Osteoporosis and low bone mass are currently estimated to be a major public health threat. Adequate nutrition plays a major role in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis; the micronutrients of greatest importance are calcium and vitamin D. Calcium has been shown to have beneficial effects on bone mass at all ages, although the results are not always consistent. Higher doses than the current US recommendation (600 IU) of vitamin D in the elderly (age greater than or equal to 65 years) may actually be required for optimal bone health (800-1000 IU/per day). The elderly can clearly benefit from increased vitamin D intakes; however, the potential importance of vitamin D in peak bone mass is just being investigated. Vitamin D has been related to falls, with supplementation reducing the number of falls. There are clear fracture benefits demonstrated in randomized clinical trials of calcium and vitamin D supplementation. The other micronutrient needs for optimizing bone health can be easily met by a healthy diet that is high in fruits and vegetables to ensure adequate intakes for magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, and other potentially important nutrients. Healthcare professionals need to be aware of the importance of adequate calcium and vitamin D intakes for optimal bone health, as well as the prevention of falls and fractures. In addition, a healthy diet that includes 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables should optimize the intake of micronutrients required for bone health.

Hip Care

Many thousands of total hip replacement surgeries are performed in the United States every year. How does such surgery affect exercise tolerance and performance? The following information has been edited and reprinted by permission of the Senior Fitness Bulletin, an SFA publication.

Hip replacement patients often report a dramatic improvement in their ability to participate both in routine activities of daily living and in physical exercise, which is important for maintaining mobility and quality of life after surgical intervention. These positive effects are generally the result of a decrease in pain.

However, because a major outcome of successful joint replacement surgery is reduction or elimination of pain, patients must be careful not to over-do with their new joints. Self-limiting pain becomes less accurate as an indicator of the extent of safe exercising. Therefore, the risk of joint damage may increase in terms of loosening or dislocating a newly implanted prosthesis. Exercise should involve only smooth, controlled movements performed cautiously and deliberately at a slow-to-moderate rate of speed.

Post-surgical exercises following a total hip replacement vary depending upon the patient's condition, the physician's preference, and the type of surgical procedure utilized. However, certain safety measures can be expected to apply universally in order to help prevent hip dislocation:

Avoid immoderate bending (for example, attempting to reach downward from a chair-seated position to tie your shoe laces). In particular, avoid excessive bending of the hip or knee.

Do not perform exercises that require crossing your legs (in any position: lying, seated, or standing).

Avoid extreme tasks such as sitting in a chair and trying to lift your knee all the way -- or nearly all the way -- up to your chin.

Continue observing the precautions listed above until specific medical clearance to cease has been granted.

Most post-operative exercise candidates can safely perform gentle conditioning and limbering movements which do not involve strain or call for excessive use of range. Examples include:

  • Gluteal squeezes (consciously "pinching" your buttocks muscles together);
  • Ankle rotation ("drawing" circles in the air using your toes); and
  • Chair-seated heel and toe lifts (from a starting position wherein the feet are flat on the floor).

Spare the joint by modifying conventional calisthenic exercises to involve less work against gravity. Favor gravity-reduced or gravity-eliminated positions. For example, slide your leg to the side on a large exercise mat while in a back-lying position (as opposed to lifting it toward the side, through the air, while side-lying or standing).

If a firm surface is available, bed exercises may be performed in lieu of floor exercises. This can reduce discomfort or the risk of falling potentially involved in getting up and down for floor exercise.

Fall prevention is essential to safe physical exercise following hip surgery. When medical clearance is obtained to resume weight-bearing activity such as standing stretches and strengthening exercises, incorporate the use of balance support. That is, work beside a ballet barre, the wall, or the back of a sturdy chair, which can help you to maintain your balance.

Free SFA Membership

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Fitness and health professionals:

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