The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

July 16, 2007              


Table of Contents

  • Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living (Insights from our special guest author)
  • Decrease in Mammogram Rate (U.S. health officials troubled)
  • Ah-Choo! (Myth bustin' during the allergy season) 
  • Sex, Race, and Muscle Power (Senior fitness research)
  • Double the Pleasure (Humor)
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Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living

Jan MontagueThis is the beginning of a five-part series
on senior wellness matters by SFA professional Jan Montague, MGS. Ms. Montague has a Master of Gerontological Studies degree and has been involved in wellness and health promotion for more than 25 years. She is the Vice President of Community Life for Lakeview Village, Lenexa, Kansas, and serves on several national and international advisory boards. Among her many professional accomplishments, she has authored numerous articles on whole-person wellness.

Today's feature, Part One of five installments, is entitled Why Wellness? Why Now?

Newspapers, magazines, television, radio, and the Internet -- all are constantly reminding us that our population is aging. Haven't we always been aging? Well, yes and no. Never before in our history have we had so many older people living so long. Life expectancy at birth has increased by about thirty years, from 47 years of age in 1900 to about 76 years of age in 1996. Furthermore, demographers predict the number of persons age 65 and older to increase to 69 million by the year 2030. To understand the enormity of growth within this defined market, consider this: In 1980 there were 25.7 million individuals age 65 and older in the United States. From 1980 to 2050, this group is projected to nearly double, from 12 percent to 23 percent of the population.

This demographic switch has numerous implications for both individuals and society; perhaps the most vital is the concern surrounding health care needs and resources. Proponents of the "live longer and healthier" model cite research that indicates older people have increased knowledge and awareness about the importance of health management -- including both traditional and integrative medicine techniques. Research also shows that older people are more health conscious than other age groups and when health promotion programs are available, accessible, and appropriate, older people participate. Information provided by American Sports Data Research in the report Tracking the Fitness Movement showed the 55 and older market leading the way in healthy living, for example:
  • Individuals 55 and older have the largest percentage (29 percent) of frequent participants in fitness activities, compared to all other groups;
  • The number of people 55 and older who exercise frequently has soared by 75 percent since 1987 to 14.2 million;
  • 2.7 million belong to a health club;
  • More than a million lift weights twice a week.
However, as the older population increases in numbers and age in the coming years, some fear that medical costs will continue an upward spiral at alarming rates. To address this concern, the wellness concept has emerged as a model that can lead not only to decreased health care consumption, but also to improved health and quality of life for many Americans.

The desire for optimal health as we age -- to be functionally-able for as long as possible -- has people embracing the concepts of wellness as a leading model of health management. The wellness model promotes self-responsibility for health and well-being within all areas of a person's life. This model incorporates a holistic perspective: The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. It integrates, balances, and blends the six dimensions of wellness (emotional, social, intellectual, physical, spiritual, and vocational) into individualized programming. Research shows that for many aging individuals, participation in whole-person health programs slows the aging process and promotes independence.

(See the next issue of Experience! for Part Two of Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living, which will address society's new interest in wellness and provide a working definition of the wellness philosophy.)

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Decrease in Mammogram Rate


After rising steadily for years,
the percentage of American women undergoing mammograms has dipped somewhat in recent times. According to the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the portion of women age 40-plus who had a mammogram during the past two-year period:
  • rose from only 29 percent in 1987 to 76.4 percent in 2000, but then
  • fell to 74.6 percent between 2000 and 2005.
These statistics have led U.S. health officials to express concern that the fight against breast cancer may be waning. Two possible explanations for the decline, as offered by the CDC and other medical researchers, are:
  • a shortage of mammography screening facilities and specialists, and
  • an absence of health insurance among patients.
Note to fitness professionals: In light of this negative trend, you can perform a public service by encouraging your physical activity participants to have regular mammograms on the schedule recommended by their personal physicians.

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Ah-Choo!

Is it true
-- as a popular rumor goes -- that when one sneezes, one actually "dies" ever so briefly? That is, for just a split-second during each sneeze, do the senses shut down? Does the heart stop? And does the brain cease to function?

No on all counts! That's what AP reporter Jeff McMillan discovered when he investigated the authenticity of this persistent myth. McMillan interviewed Dr. Ash Kacker, an ear, nose and throat specialist and sinus surgeon at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

McMillan learned that while people do hold their breath for a fleeting moment immediately before sneezing, those ominous-sounding questions posed above are simply the ingredients of an old wives' tale. In fact, there are three stages to the involuntary process of sneezing:
  • taking a deep breath,
  • holding it for about a second, and
  • releasing air forcefully through the nose in order to expel mucus, pollen, or other irritants from the nasal passages.
Quoted for the AP report, Kacker said, "Sneezing is a really critical function. Like a cough, sneezing helps cleanse the nasal passages." 

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Sex, Race, and Muscle Power

Following is an edited abstract
from "Muscle-Power Quality: Does Sex or Race Affect Movement Velocity in Older Adults?" by Neil A. Doldo and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 14(4), 411:

To determine sex and race differences in muscle power per unit of muscle contraction, knee-extensor muscle power (normalized for knee-extensor muscle volume) was measured in 79 middle-aged and older adults: 30 men and 49 women, age range 50-85 years.

The results revealed that women displayed a 38 percent faster peak movement velocity than men and that African Americans had a 14 percent lower peak movement velocity than whites of a similar age when expressed per unit of involved muscle.

As expected, men exhibited greater knee-extensor strength and peak power per unit of muscle than women, but women had a faster knee-extension movement velocity per unit of muscle than men at the same relative strength level.

African Americans had greater knee-extensor muscle volume than whites, but exhibited lower knee-extensor strength and lower movement velocity per unit of muscle when tested at the same relative strength levels. While African Americans showed greater power at higher relative loads, no other power differences between the races were observed.

This investigation was the first to explore sex and race differences in peak power and peak movement velocity when normalized for the volume of muscle directly involved in the movement. The authors recommend that future research examine how these variables act to influence sex and race differences in functional ability with aging.

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Double the Pleasure

One well-known contemporary American humorist
made the following observation in a book he published in 1990:

"Thanks to modern medical advances such as antibiotics, nasal spray, and Diet Coke, it has become routine for people in the civilized world to pass the age of 40, sometimes more than once."

                                                          -- Dave Barry from Dave Barry Turns 40

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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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