The American Senior Fitness Association presents Round-Up

February 15, 2006               

Table of Contents
    • Myth Bustin' (Safety fact)
    • Eliminating Potential Stumbling Blocks (Fall prevention)
    • Marital Harmony Advisable (Medical research)
    • From the SFA Archives (Classic fitness research)
    • More Good News for Exercisers (Update from the Harvard Alumni Study)
    • Salad Days (Diet tip)

    SFA Members can access the current issue of the newletter online at:

    Myth Bustin'

    Everyone "knows" that fire is the leading cause of accidental death
    for persons at home -- but is it really? Not according to the Good Health Fact Book from Reader's Digest:

    Of special interest to older adults is the fact, reported by the National Safety Council, that falling is by far the most common cause of accidental death in the home. Persons past the age of 75 are at the highest risk for fatal falls.

    Falling, both indoors and outdoors, is a widespread problem. Falls can occur on level floors, down stairways, on the ground, on sidewalks, from ladders, and off of roofs. The good news is that most falls can be prevented by following simple safety measures and by maintaining physical fitness. A well rounded exercise program that includes aerobic activity, strength training, flexibility work, and balance training is a good insurance policy against falling. Also, check out your house and yard with fall prevention in mind -- which leads us to our next Round-Up item.

    Eliminating Potential Stumbling Blocks

    Following are a few easy tips that can help to prevent needless falls in the home.
    This information has been excerpted from The Wellness Way, a Canopy Press publication:

    • Stairs are an all too common culprit. Don't wax them! Don't place items on stairways with the notion of saving a few steps later. Never leave scatter rugs right at the top or foot of stairs. Also recommended: Add hand railing to both sides of a staircase, and line the edges of its uppermost and lowest steps with fluorescent tape.
    • Speaking of rugs, be sure to mend tears and nail down curled edges. Use nonskid mats (or rubber backing) under throw rugs.
    • Don't place electrical cords where they might cause someone to trip.
    • Remember that pets underfoot can cause people to lose their footing! Be alert to the position of furry friends, especially small ones, when you are moving about.
    • Repair loose tiles and floorboards promptly. Keep pathways free of clutter both inside the house and outdoors.
    • Spread sand on icy walkways. Wear warm rubber-soled boots in such weather, and use a cane or walker if needed for stability.
    • When hanging curtains or fixing a light, have you ever tried one of those improvised balancing acts that work something like this? You can't quite reach high enough when standing on a chair, so out comes the telephone book to go on top of its seat. It is much safer to use a high-quality household ladder for such projects, and it may be wiser still to ask for help!
    • Any bathroom fall can be serious because there are so many metal fixtures and hard surfaces there. Use a real bath mat on the floor and a suction-type rubber mat in the tub or shower stall. Hand railing is good to have, not only for older persons but for small children as well. Special showering chairs are available for persons unsteady on their feet.
    • Don't grope around in the dark! Use bright light bulbs at home, and keep a flashlight on your nightstand. Use bedside lamps, too, and install plenty of light switches on your walls. For example, have a switch at both the top and the base of stairways. Consider sensor switches, which turn lights on automatically by detecting body heat when you pass by. Other options include motion-, voice- or sound-activated lights (like the famous "clap on -- clap off" variety).
    • Wipe up spills immediately. Kitchen flooring, especially, can be slippery when wet.
    • We can help to protect children from falls, too. When the grandkids come for a visit, make certain that all window screens are sturdy and securely attached. Folding gates can keep little ones out of harm's way and help everyone present to have a relaxing and enjoyable time!

    Marital Harmony Advisable

    A study published recently by the Archives of General Psychiatry
    found that the physical wounds of persons in hostile marriages took longer to heal than the wounds of those in agreeable marriages. The subjects of the study were 42 married couples. The wounds of the hostile couples averaged one day longer to heal compared to the wounds of couples in satisfactory relationships.

    Timothy Loving, co-author of the study, stressed the significance of these findings in terms of having surgery, according to The Pulse Wire Report. When wounds take longer to heal after a surgical procedure, it increases the patient's potential health risks as well as the cost of his or her follow-up care. Therefore, a positive marital relationship is desirable from both a physical and financial standpoint.

    From the SFA Archives

    Occasionally we review our files
    in order to revisit research from the past that we've identified as being particularly relevant and inspirational to older adults. Following are two examples from 1995 that still command our attention today:

    • Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 3(4): Researchers examined the supplemental benefits of strength training in aerobically active postmenopausal women. Eighteen women (61-71 years of age) who had been participating in regular aerobic exercise for the preceding 8 months were randomly assigned to control and experimental groups (9 women per group). Both groups continued aerobic exercise 3 times a week for the 8-week training period. In addition, the experimental group performed 3 sets (8-12 repetitions) of standard knee extension and flexion exercises at 80% of their 1-repetition maximum. Results: In the experimental group, highly significant increases in knee flexion and extension strength were observed. No changes in strength were noted in the control subjects. The data suggest that aerobically active older individuals can greatly increase strength with resistance training, which supports the recommendation that resistance training should be used to supplement aerobic exercise.
    • Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 3(2): The effect of exercise on the cognitive performance in an older population was studied. Thirty sedentary men and women 65-72 years of age participated as subjects. They were given the Ross Information Processing Assessment (RIPA) cognitive test at the beginning and end of the study. Some of the subjects were randomly assigned to a walking program during which they exercised 30-60 minutes 5 days per week for 16 weeks. These were the only subjects to significantly improve their RIPA cognitive test scores.

    Reflecting upon findings such as these can help motivate us to follow a well-designed physical exercise program, including both strength training and aerobic activities.

    More Good News for Exercisers

    Harvard Men's Health Watch
    recently released some new, highly encouraging numbers derived from the Harvard Alumni Study. In a nutshell, the mathematical calculations suggest that men who exercise on a regular basis can add approximately two hours to their life expectancy for every one hour of physical exercise they perform. This needs to be regular (not sporadic) exercise. However, it does not have to be especially strenuous exercise. For example, it could consist of walking briskly for 30 minutes a day.

    Salad Days

    These two very simple fruit salads
    are always a hit at mealtimes -- and during in-between times as well:

    (1) For each single serving, cut a banana into round slices about a quarter inch thick and place them on a dish. Top with a small dollop of peanut butter (no more than 1/2 tablespoon). Beside that, place a larger dollop of plain non-fat yogurt. Sprinkle cinnamon over everything, and serve immediately.

    (2) Mix pineapple chunks (either fresh or canned -- but in 100 percent fruit juice only) with an equal amount of fresh strawberries that have been cut in half. Sprinkle with pecan pieces, then cover and chill until serving time.

    Remember that while nuts are nutritious, they do contain fat, so be sure to keep your pecan and peanut butter ratios modest. No sugar or honey is needed in either of these naturally sweet treats!

    Round-Up readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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