The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

April 17, 2007              

Table of Contents
  • Elder Topics (Introduction to special issue)
  • An Exercise That's Good for Everyone (Age not a factor!)
  • "Dowager's Hump" (Exercise for osteoporosis)
  • When the Crisis Is Over (Caregivers' trauma may go on)
  • Self-Care for Caregivers (Stress management)
  • Brain-Oxygen and Alzheimer's Disease (Research)
  • Attention Caregivers and Fitness Leaders (Exercise-guide bargains)
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Elder Topics

Most issues of SFA's newsletter Experience!
provide information on a wide variety of health and fitness subjects. But sometimes we like to focus on a single theme that touches aTwo Elderly Ladieslarge segment of our readers. Devoting today's issue to elder care topics was an easy editorial decision in light of the U.S. Census Bureau's finding that there are nearly 80,000 centenarians living in the United States today -- and 580,000 expected by the year 2040!

How do people live to be 100? The health agency Evercare recently asked 100 persons ages 99-plus to share their secrets of longevity, with interesting results, according to a report by Reuters Health. Of course, many of the respondents cited a healthy diet and not smoking (or at least quitting) as keys to a long life. Spirituality was also strongly represented (34 percent named their priest, rabbi, or preacher as the person they most trust or admire). Being happy in general was high on the list as well. Perhaps the most surprising result was the degree to which the centenarians surveyed had kept up with technology and "the times." Many followed the daily news. More than 30 percent had watched reality TV shows, 24 percent had bought CDs, and 15 percent had played video games.

As quoted by Reuters, Dr. John Mach of Evercare said, "Certainly we know that social interactions make a difference over a lifetime, so maintaining those social emails, the Internet, and being able to converse about current events, that does contribute to the overall social well-being of people which we know contributes to successful aging."

In other news, 102-year-old California resident Elsie McLean recently became the oldest golfer ever to make a hole-in-one on a regulation course, according to the Associated Press. McLean broke the age record of 101 set in 2001 by a gentleman in Florida. She explained, "Well everybody wants a hole-in-one, and I said, 'Why can't I have a hole-in-one?'"

Here at SFA, we recognize the value of physical activity for maintaining vigor and energy over a long, satisfying lifetime. With that in mind, be sure to see the final item in today's newsletter for some special help with exercise design and implementation for elders.  


An Exercise That's Good for Everyone

Patients in long term care settings
may be limited with regard to the type and amount of physical activity they can perform. But here's one healthful exercise that virtually anyone can do: belly-breathing.

Belly-breathing is often recommended for persons with chronic bronchitis and for those with emphysema. At the same time, it is useful for elite athletes, singers, and musicians who play the wind instruments. In fact, belly-breathing is beneficial to persons of all ages and at varying fitness levels.

However, if you instruct elderly long term care residents to use their bellies to breathe, they quite reasonably may become confused. After all, we breathe with our lungs, which are in our chests, not in our bellies! A fuller explanation is needed in order to successfully teach belly-breathing to fitness participants of any age group.

Belly-breathing is actually deep breathing. To perform it, one must rely upon the diaphragm, that horizontal sheet of muscle which separates the chest and abdominal cavities. With a truly deep breath, the diaphragm descends dramatically. This allows air to rush into the lungs, expanding the chest. But that downward movement of the diaphragm also displaces the stomach and abdominal organs somewhat, pushing them outward.

Sharing this information when conducting belly-breathing exercise can help participants to understand and, in turn, master the technique. When they see their abdomens move forward with every deep breath, they'll know they're really belly-breathing.


"Dowager's Hump"

SFA author Jim Evans
provides many useful facts about osteoporosis -- as well as an easy-to-learn exercise for getting off to a good start at managing the condition -- in his latest article featured on SFA's website.

Jim Evans is a 38-year veteran of the exercise industry and a nationally recognized senior fitness consultant. To see Jim's article concerning osteoporosis, click on "
Exercise for Dowager's Hump."


When the Crisis Is Over

Researchers at the University of Florida (UF)
have published some interesting findings inDr. Michelle Bishopthe online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. It seems that caregivers for cancer survivors sometimes fare worse than do the patients themselves during the years following intensive treatment.

The paper's lead author Dr. Michelle Bishop said, "We are concerned they may be neglecting their own mental health. The larger caregiver literature would say they are likely to neglect their own physical health needs as well."

This study revealed that cancer patient caregivers are nearly three and a half times more likely to be clinically depressed than their healthy peers and that they frequently face a host of other challenges that can linger on for years. Among other findings, the caregivers in the study were seen to experience emotional and sleep problems at levels on par with survivors, but they perceived less social support, less spiritual well-being, and less positive personal growth in the aftermath of the treatment.

The results of this investigation add to a growing body of evidence indicating that the strain caregivers endure can have long-term consequences. It calls attention to the need for screening family members and providing them with information, support, and counseling. For more details, click on UF's article about the study "
Quality of Life a Long-Lasting Concern for Cancer Patient Caregivers."   


Self-Care for Caregivers

In its publication "Ways to Counteract & Relieve Stress,"
Hospice of Volusia-Flagler (Florida) offers advice that can help not only individuals coping with loss, but also lay-person caregivers and professional elder care service providers. Here are some of its recommendations for persons under stress:

  • Learn to relax. Find a quiet place where you can be alone, and spend 15 minutes there each day to help relieve daily tension. Also pursue an interest you enjoy -- it can be anything from painting to cooking to gardening. This provides a creative outlet, which refreshes the spirit.
  • Exercise. Like relaxing, performing physical activity also relieves mental and physical tension. In addition, it helps you keep fit and increases self-confidence.
  • Eat a proper diet. Include adequate protein, vitamins, and minerals because they help repair the damage caused by stress. Limit starches and sugars; the sudden burst of energy they produce quickly flags. Fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will supply the lasting energy you need.
  • Practice stress-reducing behavior. Replace thinking "I should" with "I could" and "I want to." This eliminates pressuring yourself and experiencing guilt when you don't complete everything on your to-do list. It's important to like yourself and to understand that you don't have to earn self-acceptance through achievements or by trying to become someone you're not. Set priorities in your life. Once they're clear, your day-to-day choices will spring from "I want to" thinking.  


Brain-Oxygen and Alzheimer's Disease

Reporting for HealthDay,
Ed Edelson recently interviewed the lead author of a Canadian study that reinforced the link between the brain's oxygen supply and the risk for Alzheimer's disease. The research team from the University of British Columbia, headed by psychiatry professor Weihong Song, has published its findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study, conducted on laboratory mice, addressed questions regarding a specific gene which may be key to the disease process. While further research is needed to resolve those questions, the study underscored earlier findings that low brain-oxygen levels (due to reduced blood circulation) increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease.

"If we can improve blood flow to the brain, maybe we can help slow Alzheimer's progression," Song said. Regular physical exercise promotes an efficient cardiovascular system which, in turn, is better able to provide a good oxygen supply to the brain.

For more information about Alzheimer's disease, click on the
Alzheimer's Association.


Attention Caregivers and Fitness Leaders

Exercise is a priceless tool
for improving the quality of life in frail elderly individuals. Whether you're the caregiver for an aged loved one or a professional serving the disabled elderly population, SFA has practical resources to help you provide safe, productive, and enjoyable physical activity.

In conjunction with this special "Elder Topics" issue of Experience! SFA is providing a temporary price decrease on SFA Long Term Care Fitness Leader educational programs.

Caregivers (and others who don't need continuing education credit or professional certification) may purchase how-to exercise manuals and workout-tapes separately at the discount rate.

This rate reduction is limited to Long Term Care Fitness Leader resources only and to orders placed by Monday, April 30, 2007, only.

For details, 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.

Free SFA basic membership: If you aren't already a member of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), just sign up online at There are no fees or membership dues. And, we don't give out our members' personal information to others! When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Experience!" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, and wellness tips.

Fitness and health professionals: You may distribute copies of Experience! to your exercise clients and patients as a free newsletter service. Copies of Experience! or excerpts therefrom must always ascribe credit to the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA). To fulfill that requirement, include the complete banner (title information at the top of each newsletter) as well as all post-newsletter notes, messages, copyright information, and the SFA logo.

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