April 1, 2006               

Table of Contents
  • Tough Love (Diabetes resource)
  • High or Low Intensity? (Senior strength training study)
  • Arthritis: Exercise Counters Functional Decline (Medical research)
  • Parkinson's Disease: Hopeful New Trials (Gene therapy research)
  • I Think, Therefore I Am (Fascinating health facts)
  • Steadiness and Functional Performance (Functional fitness research)
  • Exercise and Wound Healing (Exercise science)
  • Let's Hear It for the Arts (Successful aging research)




Tough Love

What can you do
when someone you care deeply about simply won't take good care of his or her health? SFA author Jim Evans was faced with that question from a wife profoundly distressed by her husband's cavalier attitude toward his diagnosis of diabetes.

To help her convince her husband to treat diabetes seriously, Jim supplies the concerned wife with some sobering facts about the disease to share with her spouse. You can read Jim's article
"Diminishing the Complications of Diabetes" on SFA's web site www.seniorfitness.net.

While you're there, you can also access additional articles by Jim Evans. A 38-year veteran of the fitness industry, Jim is a respected consultant, syndicated columnist, and radio program host who regularly provides illuminating articles to SFA members. This time he's not pulling any punches in urging the nonchalant husband to stop taking diabetes lightly.



High or Low Intensity?

Following is an edited abstract
from "Strength Training and Detraining Effects on Muscular Strength, Anaerobic Power, and Mobility of Inactive Older Men Are Intensity Dependent" by I.G. Fatouros, A. Kambas, I. Katrabasas, K. Nikolaidis, A. Chatzinikolaou, D. Leontsini, and K. Taxildaris, British Journal of Sports Medicine, 39, 776:

Although it is known that strength training enhances physical function in the elderly, little is known about the effect of training and detraining adaptations in musculoskeletal fitness. The researchers set about to determine the effect of exercise intensity on strength, anaerobic power, and mobility in older men subjected to a 24-week strength training protocol followed by prolonged detraining.

Fifty two healthy but inactive older men (averaging about age 71) were assigned to a control group, a low-intensity training group (at 55% of 1 repetition maximum), or a high-intensity training group (at 82% of 1 repetition maximum). They carried out a 24-week whole-body strength training program (10 exercises, two to three sets per exercise) followed by a 48-week detraining period. Upper and lower body strength, anaerobic power, and mobility were measured at baseline, immediately after training, and during detraining.

Although low-intensity training improved strength, anaerobic power, and mobility, the high-intensity training elicited greater gains in all three areas. All training-induced gains in the low-intensity group had been abolished after four to eight months of detraining, whereas in the high-intensity group strength and mobility gains were maintained throughout detraining. However, anaerobic power had returned to baseline levels after four months of detraining in both groups.

In conclusion, higher intensity training protocols induce greater gains in strength, anaerobic power, and whole-body physical function in older men. Moreover, higher intensity training may maintain the gains for more prolonged periods after training ceases.


Arthritis: Exercise Counters Functional Decline

A recent study
of 3,554 persons ages 53-63 years old, published by Arthritis & Rheumatism, indicates that physical activity -- even in amounts less than recommended -- helps to prevent arthritis-related disability.

Subjects in the study who exercised the most faithfully saw the greatest benefits. However, those who were less consistent and yet remained physically active also gained significant protection. Both groups were less likely than sedentary subjects to experience functional declines during a two-year follow-up period.


Parkinson's Disease: Hopeful New Trials

In Parkinson's disease
, brain cells with the specific task of producing the chemical dopamine are lost. Dopamine is critical to the nervous transmissions necessary for muscular control. As its levels wane, the symptoms of Parkinson's disease intensify. They include tremors, stiffness, slowed movement, and poor balance and coordination. Limbs can sometimes "freeze up" in mid-movement.

At the University of California, San Francisco, and the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, study is under way utilizing a nerve growth factor in an attempt to save moribund brain cells, according to the Associated Press. A harmless virus carrying the gene for the growth factor neurturin is being injected into the brains of human research subjects.

The hope is that this procedure may check the actual disease, not simply reduce its symptoms. Previous research using monkeys was promising. However, this investigation is in its very early stages. Scientists must first determine whether the methodology is safe. If so, they can move forward to ascertain whether it works. Although it is far too soon to predict the results of these trials, it is never too soon to hope for a breakthrough.      


I Think, Therefore I Am

The Pulse Wire Report
recently provided a list of interesting facts about the history of placebos. Following are some highlights:
  • A World War II physician first used the term "placebo effect" upon seeing wounded soldiers being given salt solution injections after battlefield morphine supplies ran out. The soldiers who received the salt solutions felt much better, as though they had actually been given a painkilling medication.
  • The mind can play an important role in how patients experience a particular treatment. For example, patients who believe that a treatment will cause side effects such as headache, nausea, or rash may develop those very symptoms -- even when their treatment is only a placebo.
  • Likewise, there have been some cases in which patients appeared to grow addicted to placebos. One patient underwent withdrawal symptoms when the placebo was discontinued.
  • When it comes to pills, a placebo's effect may depend in part on the dosing schedule, pill size, and pill color. For example, blue placebo pills were more strongly associated with drowsiness than pink ones in one study.


Steadiness and Functional Performance

Following is an edited abstract from
"Force Steadiness in the Lower Extremities as an Independent Predictor of Functional Performance in Older Women" by Olivier Seynnes and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13(4), 395:

The relationship between isometric force control and functional performance is unknown. In this study, submaximal steadiness and accuracy were measured during a constant force-matching task at 50 percent of maximal isometric voluntary contraction of the knee extensors in 19 older women (70-89 years). Functional performance was assessed during maximal performance of walking endurance, chair rising, and stair climbing. Isometric steadiness (but not accuracy) was found to independently predict chair-rise time and stair-climbing power. Walking endurance was related to muscle strength but not steadiness.

These results suggest that steadiness is an independent predictor of brief, stressful functional-performance tasks in older women with mild functional impairment. Thus, improving steadiness might help reduce functional limitations or disability in older adults.


Exercise and Wound Healing


Recent research published in the Journal of Gerontology
shows that older adults who exercise regularly appear to enjoy accelerated wound healing, compared to their sedentary counterparts. Researchers followed the healing process of small skin punctures in active and inactive persons ages 55-77. The punctures healed 10 days faster, on the average, in seniors who exercised three times per week.


Let's Hear It for the Arts

"The artist is not a special kind of man
, but every man is a special kind of artist," Ananda Coomaraswamy once said. Today we have some engrossing reasons to take those words to heart. Evidence is emerging that older adults who are active in the arts enjoy better health than those who aren't.

As part of a charming new study, seniors in San Francisco, New York City, and Washington, D.C., have been singing, painting, and needle-working their way to better health, according to a report by Cox News Service.

The average age of participants in the "Creativity and Aging Study" is 80 years old, and the oldest participant is 103. The study compares participants who follow artistic endeavors to control-group participants of matching age and health status (who don't engage in artistic activity).

Sponsors of the research include the National Endowment for the Arts, the AARP, the National Institute of Mental Health, and others. Participants in the study have pursued various visual arts and have joined choral groups, many of them for the first time in their lives.

Results from the ongoing experiment are already coming in, and they are remarkable. After the first year, the control-group subjects encountered health declines predictable by age, but those in the arts group reported better health than when the study began. Not only did their health stabilize; it improved.

The researchers are finding that seniors involved in the arts visit their doctors less often, use fewer medications, and experience fewer falls. In addition, they've found a delightful way to build better health!


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


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