The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

November 1, 2006               

Table of Contents

Help for Exercise "Haters" (Motivational tips)
Avoiding Pressure Sores (Caregiver information)
Attention Cracker Snackers! (Healthy nibbling)
Qigong: A Nontraditional Exercise Option (Senior fitness research)
Hey, Turn it Down (Humor)

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Help for Exercise "Haters"

Everybody wants to be an exercise lover.
So why are dropout rates so high? Following are some helpful hints for sticking with your training program (excerpted from The Wellness Way, a Canopy Press publication):
  • Probably the most important key to success is finding a form of exercise you enjoy. Because so many exercise opportunities abound everywhere, there is sure to be a method out there for everyone. Does music get you going? Try wearing headphones while hiking on a safe walking trail, or join a fitness class that features invigorating music. Intrigued by the new high-tech gym equipment? Have a go at it. Nervous about exercising on the streets? Consider mall-walking. Like swimming pools? Try an aquatics program. Need a gentle routine? Follow a chair-seated workout on DVD or videotape. Want to gain exercise benefits without "exercising" per se? Think sports, clogging, line dancing, or ballroom dancing. Want something a little different? Study an ancient art like yoga or Tai Chi (also see our article on qigong, below). If one form of exercise leaves you feeling less than thrilled, remember that there are others just waiting to be tried.
  • Reinforce your good intentions with a cultural support system. Encourage a buddy to participate with you. Try to make exercise a family activity. Or, join a fitness center where you'll be surrounded by others with similar goals and concerns.
  • Splurge on cool exercise clothes.
  • Vary your program if you start to get bored. Try substituting a different activity (say, square dancing in place of low-impact aerobics) for a while.
  • Read materials that will increase your health and fitness knowledge.
  • Set reasonable goals. Break big goals down into smaller steps that will allow for more frequent feelings of accomplishment.
  • Seek moderation. People who try to do too much too fast tend to drop out. Those who adopt a sensible regimen enjoy a higher adherence rate.
  • Envision success. Picture yourself completing that extra mile of walking or executing all of your class's dance steps with ease. If in your mind's eye you can see yourself doing it, chances are that in time you will be doing it.
  • Measure your progress. Keep a record of how far you go, how long you continue, how many repetitions you complete, or how much resistance you handle. Write it down when you improve. Then when you need a lift, just look at how far you have come. Health clubs have procedures for testing fitness levels and quantifying progress.
  • Be active in influencing your fitness program. That's easy if you work out alone or with a private trainer. If you belong to a club, speak up about what types of classes, equipment, and music you like. Take on an attitude of ownership, because people tend to care the most about programs they have had a part in shaping.
  • Reward yourself with healthful indulgences (especially for periods of faithful participation: another week, a full month, a whole year!). Examples might include a relaxing massage or a visit to the local day spa.
  • Help someone else. Invite that neighbor who needs more exercise to go for a walk. Or, once you've learned "the ropes" at your club, show a newcomer around. Through some curious, expressly human mechanism, when we help another to grow in exercise skill and motivation, we usually help ourselves as well!

Avoiding Pressure Sores

If you are the caregiver for someone restricted to bed
, preventing bedsores is of the utmost importance. They tend to develop in predictable areas (elbows, hip region, knees, heels, ankles -- places where bone is close to skin and may rub against it). Following are some practical safeguards provided by The Good Health Fact Book from Reader's Digest:

  • A key to prevention is changing the patient's position at least once every other hour.
  • When changing positions, be especially gentle when the patient's skin is delicate and thin. Carefully roll the patient's body, smoothing the sheets beneath it in order to remove any wrinkles that could irritate the skin.
  • The skin should be kept clean (which is of particular concern if the patient is incontinent).
  • Body lotion can be gently applied to help lubricate the skin.
  • A foam rubber egg-crate mattress pad may help to reduce pressure.
  • Specially-made pillows and sheepskin products (available at pharmacies and medical supply houses) can help to protect susceptible areas of the body.
  • Don't fail to recognize the initial stages of a bedsore: First, a reddened area will appear. Soon it will grow darker and become ulcerated.
  • Seek medical assistance immediately because infected bedsores can be life-threatening, especially in the frail elderly.

Attention Cracker Snackers!
Lots of folks enjoy crackers
and, unfortunately, most of us enjoy them even more when they're smothered with fatty cheese spreads. When crackers are eaten, use moderation and be sure to choose whole grain crackers. Look for baked brands with low or no sodium and fat.

To replace unhealthy spreads, begin with natural mixed sprouts, which are available in the fresh produce sections of most grocery stores. You can buy packages with mixtures of sunflower, wheat, radish, lentil, and alfalfa sprouts. Mix this thoroughly with plain non-fat yogurt. It makes a spicy, satisfying spread for whole grain crackers.

Qigong: A Nontraditional Exercise Option

Following is an edited abstract
from "Pilot Study Comparing Physical and Psychological Responses in Medical Qigong and Walking" by Victoria Kjos and Jennifer L. Etnier, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 14(3), 241:

Identifying alternative exercise modalities in an effort to stimulate and promote participation in physical activity, especially among older adults, is a critical health consideration. The purpose of this study was to compare physiological and psychological responses to medical qigong with self-paced brisk walking.

As explained by the authors, quigong refers to methods for promoting and controlling qi (also known as chi) for purposes that may include enhancing health, self-defense, and/or spiritual growth. The literal translation of qi is vital energy and that of gong is work. Qigong originated in China five thousand years ago and now comprises many different branches. The branch used in this study was a form of medical qigong, which focuses on the healing of disease.

Older women (55 to 79 years of age) performed 22 minutes of either qigong or walking on two separate days. During exercise performance, heart rate and ratings of perceived exertion were assessed. Psychological affect, blood pressure, and pulse rate were assessed before and after the exercise bouts.

Heart-rate data indicated that both forms of exercise were at a moderate level of intensity. In addition, similar values were found for the physiological and psychological variables as a function of the two forms of exercise.

Therefore, it was concluded that this form of medical qigong can be considered a moderate-intensity physical activity that should have both physiological and psychological benefits for older women.

Hey, Turn it Down

Here's a quotable quote
that teenagers can't identify with -- but some of us here at Experience! are beginning to be able to appreciate the concept:

"The first sign of maturity is the discovery that the volume knob also turns to the left."
                          -- Jerry M. Wright

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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