March 2, 2007
Table of Contents
SFA author Jim Evans has good advice for seniors who may be at risk for dehydration. His recommendations are especially apropos this time of year when we could catch one of those nasty "bugs" going around that intensifies fluid loss due to nausea and/or diarrhea. For practical steps on maintaining adequate hydration and electrolyte balance, click on Jim's article "The Importance of Proper Hydration" on SFA's web site www.seniorfitness.org.
While you're there, you can access additional articles by Jim Evans, who is a 40-year veteran of the health-fitness industry, a nationally recognized senior fitness consultant, and a regular contributor to Experience! and other SFA publications.
Navigating the Cold Season
Between now and springtime, another bug sure to be circulating is the common cold virus. Follow these easy good-sense tips, compiled by Cox News Service, to help protect yourself and others:
Age and Forgetfulness
Growing forgetful may not have as much to do with aging as has always been thought. Instead, it might result from a slight shift in the function of a certain normal memory process. Moreover, with further research and understanding, it may be treatable someday with drugs or other to-be-developed therapies.
Dr. Thomas Foster, researcher at the McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida, made those findings by working with young and old rats in his laboratory at the university's School of Medicine.
Foster studied memory formation, which occurs via increased synaptic signals between specialized brain cells called neurons. Facilitating that activity's ability to efficiently create a memory, the signaling among less-involved neurons decreases.
"This is a normal process that helps with the sculpting of memory," Foster explains. "After all, we do not remember everything in perfect detail and we would not want to. This same mechanism probably is used to clear the brain circuits and make them ready to be used the next day. However, this mechanism in excess may lead to rapid forgetting as seen during brain aging."
Dr. Foster's lab rats were taught to find a hidden platform for climbing out of a pool of water. In rats who were forgetful of the technique, the normal forgetting mechanism described above was overly robust. Future therapeutic strategies will seek to strike the right balance between mechanisms that render synaptic connections within the brain either stronger or weaker.
For further details about this study, click here "Problem Forgetting May Be a Natural Mechanism Gone Awry."
Hope for Osteoporosis
Miles away in another southern U.S. laboratory, other scientists and other rodents are tackling an entirely different research question at the University of Alabama in Birmingham.
Investigators there have developed a way to increase the bone density of mice, according to a Pulse wire report.
Although this research is preliminary (meaning that it could be years before it yields human applications), it may one day lead to methods that will stop bone loss and even boost bone density with age.
Smart Ideas to Reverse a Sad Trend
Now here's an unappealing publication title: the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. It obviously wasn't named to attract a widespread mainstream audience! Rather, it is a product of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its November 17, 2006, issue uncharacteristically documents a trend the general public should find fascinating.
First the bad news: Over a recent 10-year period (1993-2003), the rate of fatal falls in people ages 65 and older rose from 23.7 per 100,000 people to 38.8 per 100,000 people. That's a 55.3 percent jump. Although greater longevity may have contributed toward this increase in fatal falls, a grimmer possible explanation is that more individuals now live with chronic diseases that not only raise their risk for falling, but also their likelihood of dying from any resulting injuries.
How about some good news? The CDC and others have launched outreach programs to inform elders about sensible measures they can take to decrease their risk for falling. Below are four key precautions that the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) has previously published in Experience! but which definitely bear repeating:
More on Fall Prevention
Speaking of physical exercise, here's an excellent balance training activity that fitness professionals can lead at the gym -- and individuals can also try on their own at home. Simply pretend you're tight-rope walking.
First, take from 10 to 20 steps forward. Walk in a heel-to-toe fashion by placing the heel of one foot immediately in front of the opposite foot's toes with every step.
Next, try walking backwards in the same manner (except now, of course, it will be toe-to-heel) on the same imaginary tight-rope line.
Exercise Thumps Depression
Following is an edited abstract from "Depression and Exercise in Elderly Men and Women: Findings from the Swedish National Study on Aging and Care" by Magnus Lindwall and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 15(1), 41:
This study investigated the relationship between light and strenuous exercise and depression, as well as gender differences in this relationship. The subjects were a representative sample of 860 elderly Swedish suburb-dwelling men and women, ages 60 to 90, drawn from among participants in the Swedish National Aging and Care study. The relationship between depression and self-reported change in exercise status over time was also examined.
Exercise activities were measured with four survey questions. The participants were asked: "How often did you exercise with light intensity (for example, walking on roads, in parks, or in the woods; short bicycle tours; light gymnastics; golf; or similar activities) in the last 12 months?" and "How often did you exercise more strenuously (for example, jogging; long and high-intensity walking; heavy garden work; long bicycle tours; intense gymnastics; skating on lakes; skiing; ball sports; or similar activities) in the last 12 months?" Also, in order to determine prior exercise participation, the same two questions were asked, except that the phrase "last 12 months" was changed to "more than 12 months ago."
The answer options for the questions were (1) never, (2) one to three times per month, (3) several times per week, and (4) every day.
Depression was evaluated with the Montgomery Asberg Depression Rating Scale. It is specifically designed to measure depression and to be sensitive to the effects of treatment.
The inactive elderly had higher depression scores than more active individuals, both in terms of light and strenuous exercise. The continuously active group had lower depression scores than both continuously inactive individuals and individuals reporting a shift from activity to inactivity during the preceding year.
The findings indicated interesting differences between the men and women participants. Light exercise had a somewhat stronger effect on depression for women. That is, the effect of light exercise on depression was mathematically significant for women and close to significant for men. When it came to light exercise, the lowest depression scores were associated with exercising several times a week.
The effect of strenuous exercise on depression was significant for men, but not for women. When it came to strenuous exercise, men who exercised every day had the lowest depression scores.
Window of Opportunity
If you've been thinking about gaining new skills as an older adult group exercise class leader, now is the time to act. For one week only, SFA's Senior Fitness Instructor training programs are available at a reduced rate. You can earn continuing education accepted for up 25 hours credit by most fitness organizations, a recognized Certificate of Completion to enhance your existing credentials and/or a respected professional certification as an SFA certified Senior Fitness Instructor.
Don't delay. This opportunity is only valid from March 2 to March 9, 2007.
To learn more or to order please click here or call SFA (M-F, 10:00 am - 5:00 pm Eastern) at 800-243-1478 or 386-423-6634.
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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