The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

April 17, 2006               

Table of Contents

  • Hiking for Weight Loss (Exercise science)
  • Osteoarthritis: Sticking with Exercise (Review of the literature)
  • Good News (Gerontology)
  • Help for Dry Mouth (Health facts)
  • Attention Caregivers (Practical advice)
  • Making Major Decisions (Psychological research)
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Hiking for Weight Loss

An ongoing research project on body composition
is already suggesting that a hiker can lose five or more pounds of non-water body weight after as little as one week of backpacking, according to The Pulse wire report.

The study, which is humorously called "Fatpacking," is being led by an MIT researcher and includes participants who are from 15 to 50 pounds over their ideal weight. As more participants hit the trail in this study, some inspirational weight control results may be forthcoming, especially for nature lovers.

Osteoarthritis: Sticking with Exercise

Following is an edited abstract
from "Chronic Osteoarthritis and Adherence to Exercise: A Review of the Literature" by Ray Marks and John P. Allegrante, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13(4), 434:

Osteoarthritis (the "wear-and-tear" form of arthritis) is a chronic disease that disables many older adults. People with osteoarthritis are often asked to adhere to prescribed exercise regimens that must be undertaken in the presence of pain and other disease-related symptoms. We conducted a review of literature that focused on what is known about exercise adherence and the factors that influence exercise adherence among people with osteoarthritis.

Results revealed multiple determinants of exercise adherence. Only a few examples include: self-efficacy (the degree of confidence an individual has in being able to engage in exercise), social conditions (for example, isolation versus family support), personal health beliefs and attitudes, previous exercise experiences, the exercise regimen's characteristics (its complexity, duration, and practicality), physical problems (for example, joint pain and stiffness), emotional state (for example, depression), and functional limitations (for example, difficulty participating in recreational activities).

However, these determinants have not been carefully studied in the context of exercise adherence and osteoarthritis. Almost all studies of exercise adherence among people with osteoarthritis are short-term and do not use validated measures of adherence. Moreover, poor adherence is the most compelling explanation for the declining impact of the benefits of exercise over time.

We conclude that interventions to enhance self-efficacy, social support, and skills in long-term monitoring of progress are necessary to foster exercise adherence among people with osteoarthritis.

Good News

Researchers recently evaluated the health status
of a large population of seniors (ages 65-plus) and reported their findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. A majority of the subjects self-rated their general health as good or excellent. Approximately 90 percent still dwelled at home, and about the same percentage had a healthy mood state.

Eighty to 90 percent of the 65-to-74-year-olds were found to be in good health. In fact, even the oldest subjects appeared to be faring well. Few seniors ages 85-plus were beset by dementia, and most could successfully perform all of their necessary activities of daily living without assistance.

Help for Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia,
is a condition in which there is not enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. Produced by the salivary glands, saliva does more than make one's mouth feel comfortable. It also facilitates tasting, chewing, and swallowing; aids in the digestion of foods; helps prevent tooth decay; and controls the growth of fungi and bacteria in the mouth which, in turn, wards off infection. Without sufficient saliva, one may also have difficulty speaking. What are the causes, symptoms, and available treatments for dry mouth? The Johns Hopkins Medical Guide to Health After 50 provides answers:

Several factors may cause one's salivary glands not to function properly:

  1. the presence of certain diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, HIV/AIDS, and Sjogren's syndrome (which is characterized by dry mouth and dry eyes and, in some cases, dryness elsewhere in the body as well);
  2. the side effects of numerous medications (including some that are used in the treatment of depression and hypertension);
  3. radiation and/or chemotherapy;
  4. nerve damage resulting from a head or neck injury.
In addition to a dry-feeling mouth and difficulty tasting, chewing, swallowing, or speaking, the symptoms of dry mouth might also include:
  1. a tough, sticky-feeling tongue;
  2. a dry throat;
  3. cracked lips;
  4. sores or infection in the mouth;
  5. a burning sensation in the mouth.
Your physician or dentist can diagnose and treat dry mouth. If it is caused by medication, your prescription or dosage may be changed. If the salivary glands are functioning improperly but still producing some saliva, medication might be prescribed to stimulate them. You might be advised to use artificial saliva in order to keep your mouth moistened.

In addition to obtaining qualified medical care, there also are many useful steps individuals can take on their own to help relieve the discomfort of dry mouth:
  1. Limit or avoid caffeinated beverages (not only coffee, but also some teas and sodas), as caffeine tends to dry out the mouth.
  2. Avoid both alcohol and tobacco, as both will parch the mouth.
  3. Maintain good dental care and hygiene.
  4. Try using a humidifier at night.
  5. Keep in mind that eating salty or spicy foods can cause pain if you have a dry mouth.
  6. Enjoy sugarless hard candies and sugarless gum in order to promote saliva flow.
  7. Keep water or sugarless beverages at hand, and sip on them frequently throughout the day. Drinking plenty of water (or other sugarless drinks) with meals may help to make food taste better and can ease chewing and swallowing.

Attention Caregivers

If you are caring for someone
with Alzheimer's disease or someone who has experienced a stroke, be aware that he or she might not be able to sense wetness within the mouth. Although their salivary glands may well be functioning properly, such patients sometimes feel as though their mouth is dry when in fact it isn't. If they complain of dry mouth, their physician or dentist can determine whether or not the condition is present and initiate the correct response.

Making Major Decisions

A recent study published in the journal Science
concluded that when making complex decisions (for example, purchasing a house) people should first gather all the information needed to make a decision, but then postpone their final judgment until the unconscious has had time to sort things out.

Researchers found that conscious deliberation works well for resolving simple matters and making minor day-to-day choices. But when it comes to the really big decisions, people ultimately feel more satisfied with a choice when they have "slept on it," thereby allowing their unconscious to process all the input.

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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