The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

May 15, 2006               

Table of Contents

  • Man's Best Friend (Fitness research)
  • Stronger Body, Better Memory (Senior strength training study)
  • Anger and Injury (Psychology)
  • Lesions in Brain Associated with Gait Problems (Medical research)
  • High-Normal Blood Pressure and Heart Disease (Cardiology)
  • Dieting Controversy (Weight loss) 
  • Meditation and the Brain (Mental fitness)
  • Thanks, Kid (Humor)  

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Man's Best Friend

According to a study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine
, the dog owners among us seem to get more physical exercise than "dogless" people. Analyzing the results of 351 interviews that probed participants' dog ownership status and their exercise habits, researchers found that dog owners devote more time to all forms of light and moderate physical activity. In fact, dog owners walk nearly twice as many minutes a week as people without dogs.

Stronger Body, Better Memory

Following is an edited abstract
from "The Effects of Strength Training on Memory in Older Adults" by Margie E. Lachman and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 14(1), 59:

The authors examined whether resistance training has an effect on working memory span. Participants included 210 sedentary community-residing older adults (men and women ranging in age from 60 to 94 years old) with at least one disability from the Strong for Life program, a randomized controlled trial that examined the effects of home-based resistance exercise. Elastic exercise bands were used to provide resistance for the exercise group.

Memory was assessed at baseline and again at three and six months into the intervention. The intervention did not have an overall effect on memory change when the exercise and control groups were compared. Within the exercise group, however, change in resistance level during the intervention was a significant predictor of memory change. The results suggest that strength training can benefit memory among older adults, especially when using higher resistance levels.

Anger and Injury

Research recently published
in the Annals of Family Medicine links anger to an increased risk for sustaining an injury, according to a report by Reuters Health. The study looked at more than 2,000 emergency room patients with bone fractures, lacerations, and other injuries (and at a control group of uninjured persons). Especially for men, anger appeared to increase the risk for injury.

Extreme anger in men was found to make them more than seven times as likely to be injured. Lesser degrees of anger and hostility also raised men's risk.

Women, on the other hand, were found to be at increased risk only when feeling extremely angry or hostile -- and even then their risk was lower, compared to men's.

Surprisingly, this study didn't detect a strong correlation between anger and injuries resulting from vehicular accidents. It did, however, connect angry feelings to a higher risk for being hurt intentionally by somebody else (perhaps due to getting in fights). Anger was also associated with other types of injuries.

Lesions in Brain Associated with Gait Problems

A study published in the Annals of Neurology
has linked impaired gait to brain tangles (as seen with Alzheimer's disease). In persons who do not have dementia, gait problems of unknown origin might be predictive of future Alzheimer's disease or other dementia. More study is being planned on the subject.

High-Normal Blood Pressure and Heart Disease

A study of approximately 9,000 persons
over a period of more than 11 years, published in the American Journal of Medicine, has found that individuals with prehypertension are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Patients were considered prehypertensive when their blood pressure readings fell in the range from 120/80 to 139/89 mm Hg.

After controlling for other variables, the researchers found that people with prehypertension had 2.5-fold the risk that those with optimal blood pressure had for developing cardiovascular disease. More coronary heart disease than stroke was observed during the course of the study. Risk was particularly high among African Americans, obese individuals, and persons with diabetes.

Dieting Controversy

Science has not resolved the question
of how often one should step onto the scales during a weight-loss diet. Does weighing-in on a daily basis help dieters lose weight? Or could it just make them feel discouraged?

In a recent study published by the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, dieters who weighed themselves daily lost the most weight, those who weighed themselves regularly came in second, and those who seldom weighed themselves came in last.

That investigation covered a period of 24 months. Researchers have yet to reach a definitive consensus on the question. Meanwhile, dieters should trust their personal life experience when deciding how often to weigh-in.

Meditation and the Brain

New research indicates that clearing one's mind
and breathing rhythmically, mental and physical states long associated with the art of meditation, may produce desirable structural changes in the brain, according to The Pulse wire report.

The study, being conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital researchers, involves participants who meditate daily for 45 minutes to an hour. They practice a Western-style version of the ancient Eastern art practiced by Buddhist monks. Findings were recently presented at the Society of Neuroscience's annual meeting.

In meditators, areas of the brain's cerebral cortex were found to be thicker, which may shed light on why meditation can achieve such outcomes as lowering blood pressure and psychological stress.

Of special interest to older adults, this thickening may also help to counter the memory loss associated with the aging.

Thanks, Kid

An SFA employee received a birthday card
from his younger brother. On the front page was written, "I know!! Let's get older!!!"

On the inside it said, "You go first!"

Experience! 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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