The American Senior Fitness Association presents Experience!

August 1, 2007              

Table of Contents
  • Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living: Part Two (Shifting attitudes on senior health)
  • Study Tells Us What We Already Suspected (Obesity research)
  • Want to Be a TV Star? (Weight loss program)
  • Every Life Unique (A wonderful idea for long term care workers)
  • News that Does the Heart Good (AHA exercise update)
  • A Military Man on the Topic of Aging (Reflection)
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Summer SavingsWhole-Person Wellness for Vital Living:
Part Two

New subscribers who missed Part One
of this five-part series on wellness by SFA author Jan Montague, MGS, can read it by clicking on "Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living." Below, Ms. Montague addresses the current shift in perspective toward wellness solutions and discusses wellness philosophy.

The wellness concept is emerging as a model that can lead not only to decreased health care consumption but also to improved health and quality of life for older Americans. But why are we having this conscious change in perspective? And why now? Several factors are contributing to this shift to a wellness focus:
  • the high cost of health care,
  • relevant research,
  • nationwide acceptance of integrative therapies, and
  • changing demographics and baby boomer influence.
These factors are driving the change in viewpoint and fueling the goal of keeping seniors healthier and proactive toward aging. At the same time, older adults increasingly recognize the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Together, these forces are creating the momentum towards wellness that we see today.

The desire for optimal health as we age, to be functionally-able for as long as possible, has older 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. As noted in Part One of this series, this model incorporates a holistic perspective -- that is, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Wellness was first conceptualized by Dr. Halbert Dunn in the mid 1950s. In his book High Level Wellness he defined wellness as an integrated method of functioning which is oriented toward maximizing the potential of which the individual is capable within the functioning environment.

More recently, the National Wellness Institute -- the principal organization for wellness education, training, and research in the United States -- defined the wellness concept as six dimensional. The six dimensions that embody personal wellness are:
  • emotional,
  • intellectual,
  • physical,
  • social,
  • spiritual, and
  • vocational.
Wellness is a life-growth process that embodies the philosophy of holistic health. It is the integration of mind, body, and spirit throughout life's journey. Simply stated, what you do, think, feel, and believe has an impact on your health and well-being.

(See the next issue of Experience! for Part Three of Whole-Person Wellness for Vital Living, which will discuss each of the six dimensions of wellness one by one.)


Study Tells Us What We Already Suspected

It makes common sense:
If you spend most of your time with companions who are obese, then being heavy may begin to seem like the norm to you.

In a new study published by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers looked at 12,067 subjects of the ongoing Framingham Heart Study. They found that social ties appear to have a major role in obesity risk. The strongest connection was observed among friends -- surprisingly, even friends who lived hundreds of miles apart. An individual's odds of becoming obese increased by 57 percent if a friend became obese. In the closest of friendships, the risk nearly tripled. On average, when an obese subject gained 17 pounds, his or her corresponding friend gained an extra five pounds, too.

Interviewed by the Associated Press, the authors -- as well as other experts not involved in the study -- found it remarkable that social factors seem to be more influential than even genes are known to be. The results support what they have long believed: that people look to one another to determine what is a reasonable body weight. In other words, the findings don't simply indicate that people with compatible eating and exercise habits are drawn together. But, rather, it may be that having friends and family who grow obese alters one's perception of what is an acceptable weight.

Globally about 1.5 billion adults are overweight, of which more than 400 million are classified as obese. And here is a stunning wake-up call for the United States: Two-thirds of Americans are either overweight or obese! 

So, should we curtail our friendships? Definitely not. "There is a ton of research that suggests that having more friends makes you healthier," co-author James Fowler told the AP. "So the last thing you want to do is get rid of any of your friends."

Instead, researchers say that these findings may point toward a new direction in battling obesity -- that is, to treat people in groups rather than just the individual. The program described below (see Want to Be a TV Star?) is popularizing one practical application of this concept.


Want to Be a TV Star?

Biggest LoserNBC's The Biggest Loser
is truly a reality TV phenomenon. The show follows a group of obese contestants for many, many physically and emotionally intense weeks as they compete to regain their ideal weight and good health.

The participants work out with professional trainers and follow medically supervised diets. Some succeed, some falter, and the lively peer group dynamics ensure that the drama is always cutting edge. The stakes are high -- last year's winner lost 214 pounds and won $250,000. While that level of weight loss is extraordinary, most players come away lighter and inspired to continue their active, healthier life styles.

Now the search is on for new competitors to take on The Biggest Loser challenge, and this time the casting call includes retirees!

According to casting associate Holland Striplin, the program seeks outgoing persons with lots of personality, the competitive spirit, and a very strong desire to change their lives. A press release from The Biggest Loser says, "We're looking for contestants ready to shed the pounds once and for all!"

SFA professionals, you may have heard a client express interest in appearing on the show. Other readers, perhaps you think you'd make a terrific candidate! If so, you don't have to audition alone -- if preferred, you can do so with a friend, co-worker, or family member. To try out, attend one of the open casting calls to be held nationwide this month, or forward an application and videotape to The Biggest Loser. All tape submissions must be postmarked by September 4, 2007, so for the quickest details click on "
The Biggest Loser."    


Every Life Unique

The Daytona Beach News-Journal
recently described a touching project undertaken by Lisa Fischer, activity coordinator at the Seasons by Riviera assisted living facility in Ormond Beach, Florida.

Many of the residents under Fischer's care have dementia or Alzheimer's disease. They are no longer able to share with others the stories of their lives and, in many cases, cannot clearly recall the events of their pasts.

Fischer, however, has faced off with these heartbreaking circumstances to create an environment of respect and dignity for her patients. By interviewing and requesting photographs from wives, husbands, sons, and daughters, she has assembled beautiful "memory boxes" that show how special her Seasons by Riviera residents are.

Special indeed! Their histories include serving as college professors, big-city transit supervisors, journalists, artists, musicians, athletes, schoolteachers, exemplary homemakers -- and one was President Eisenhower's bodyguard!

Each framed display box -- which hangs on the wall just outside the resident's bedroom -- includes a write-up about the individual along with colorful images of weddings, children, hobbies, and careers from decades past. To see the entire article, click on "
Boxes Tell the Stories of Their Lives."     


News that Does the Heart Good

Elaborating on previous advice,
the American Heart Association (AHA) says that resistance training can help heart failure patients gain strength for day-to-day life. The new guidance -- published online in the journal Circulation -- supports using muscle strengthening exercise, such as weight lifting, as a complement to aerobic training (but not as a replacement for it).

Amit Khere, MD, director of cardiac rehabilitation at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, said that this broader guidance should help to reassure both physicians and patients that it is probably OK for most people to start exercising after heart trouble, according to an In Brief wire report.

Quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AHA writing group chair Dr. Mark Williams said, "Just like we once learned that people with heart disease benefitted from aerobic exercise, we are now learning that guided, moderate weight training also has significant benefits."

Resistance training is not being recommended for patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure, uncontrolled heart rhythm disorders, unstable heart disease, or other serious heart-related conditions. Many patients, however, may receive medical clearance -- even encouragement -- to participate in the activity.

"For people with cardiovascular disease, the level of resistance should be reduced and the number of repetitions increased, resulting in a lower relative effort and reducing the likelihood of breath-holding and straining," the AHA statement advises.

Several key points from the AHA paper include these recommendations for patients beginning a resistance training program:
  • Start out with a modest weight load.
  • Exercise in a rhythmical manner at a slow to moderate rate of speed.
  • Exhale during exertion and inhale during the relaxation phase of each weight lifting repetition.
  • Alternate between upper and lower body work in order to permit sufficient rest periods between exercises.
"The emphasis at the early stage of training is to allow time for the muscles to adapt and to practice good technique, thus reducing the potential for excessive muscle soreness and injury," Williams said.


A Military Man on the Topic of Aging

General Douglas McArthur
Here's what American legend
, General Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964), had to say about growing older:

"You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair."


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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