Exercise: A New Anti-depressive
In mice at least,
physical exercise appears to boost the production of a naturally
occurring brain substance that has anti-depressive effects. Exercise has
long been credited with indirect effects in terms of mitigating
depression. A recent study, published in the journal Nature Medicine,
suggests how it may have a direct effect as well.
Laboratory mice that worked out for a week on a
running-wheel exhibited altered activity in 33 genes, one of which was
for a specific nerve growth factor that helps develop and maintain
neurons of the hippocampus, a vital area of the brain. The hippocampus,
which is integral to memory formation and retrieval, has also been
associated with mood regulation and with the brain's response to
antidepressant drug therapy.
Relief for Aching Knees
author Jim Evans is a 40-year veteran of the health-exercise
industry and an internationally recognized senior fitness consultant.
Today, Jim provides common-sense measures that can help to diminish knee
DEAR JIM: I'm only 69 years old, but my knees
feel like they're 169 years old! There is a persistent, almost
unbearable pain, under my kneecaps -- especially when I climb stairs or
try to stand up after sitting in a deep chair or couch for any length of
time. I have tried ice packs, aspirin, and other home remedies, but they
only work temporarily. Is there anything else that might help relieve
the pain? ACHING KNEES IN KNOXVILLE
DEAR ACHING KNEES: Your condition sounds like
patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). A mouthful, isn't it? Actually, it
is a common injury occurring around and under the kneecap, often
affecting runners, hikers, cyclists, and other athletes. But it can
affect inactive people, too -- particularly older adults.
Most older adults have a tendency to lean
forward when they climb stairs, placing virtually all of their weight on
their knees rather than allowing the larger hip and thigh muscles to
absorb the stress. The smaller knee joints naturally become inflamed,
often advancing into PFPS. Fitness professionals typically instruct
their clients not to let their knees extend past their toes when
performing knee bends. The same principle applies when climbing stairs:
Don't let your knees extend beyond your toes.
Try standing more erect when you climb stairs,
and push off with your instep -- not your toes. It will probably be more
tiring in the beginning until the muscles of your hips and thighs become
stronger from the increased work load. But it should reduce the pain
within your knees, and eventually climbing stairs should become much
easier for you. Hold on to the handrail for stability, but let your hips
and thighs do the work.
Of course, the problem of trying to stand up
after sitting on a deep couch or chair is easily remedied by not sitting
on a deep couch or chair in the first place! Again, fitness
professionals will tell you not to sit "below parallel." In other words,
the tops of your thighs should never be lower than parallel with your
knees. If the chairs in your home are too low or deep, consider having
them elevated by placing carpeted platforms beneath them or adding extra
cushions. Even traditional toilets can be replaced with higher,
wall-mounted units to make it easier to get up and down.
Our knees are very vulnerable to injury, and
sometimes making simple adjustments in our day-to-day lives can help to
prevent injuries and/or relieve existing pain and discomfort. Try these
suggestions -- also follow up with me (to discuss medical intervention).
Step It Up
Utilizing the good-posture and the
good-technique approaches described above, one can enlist stairs to
optimize balance training. When performing the following exercise,
suggested by Daytona Beach News-Journal medical writer Paul Donohue, MD,
participants should make use of the stairway's handrail as needed for
support. Also, they should have someone at hand to assist, in case they
become unsteady and start to fall.
To begin, stand facing the stairs. Lift your
left leg, placing its foot on the bottom step. Your right foot is still
on the floor. At this point, the left knee is bent. Slowly straighten
the left knee until your right foot rises to the height of your left
foot. However, do not place your right foot on the step. Instead, simply
tap it lightly on the step, and then bend the left knee until your right
foot is back on the floor again. Reverse leg positions, and repeat.
Perform this exercise several times per day as well-tolerated (reducing
the number of repetitions if muscle soreness develops).
Senior Physiology 101
adult fitness practitioners -- as well as exercise physiologists,
gerontologists, researchers, and university students -- will be
interested in Human Kinetics' impressive new book Physiology of
Exercise and Healthy Aging by Albert W. Taylor, PhD, DSc, and
Michael J. Johnson, PhD. In fact, although geared toward professionals,
the text is sufficiently reader-friendly that well-informed laypersons
with a strong interest and the habit of delving into this topic area
should also find it quite navigable. The 304-page hardcover textbook,
published in 2008, can be ordered through any bookstore.
Physiology of Exercise and Healthy Aging
is organized to present information in terms of three major groups:
average-aging individuals, the frail elderly, and master athletes. It
theories on aging,
the aging process,
structural and functional changes that
characterize advancing age,
exercise programming concerns for the
drug use and abuse by seniors,
and the benefits of physical activity.
That last topic -- exercise benefits --
receives an especially thorough-going and highly enlightening
discussion. Physiology of Exercise and Healthy Aging makes an
irrefutable case for physical activity's positive contributions to
longevity, to the delay of specific age-related diseases, and to the
enhancement of quality of life in our aging population.
Man's Best Test
We can undergo extensive medical procedures
to confirm what we already know in our hearts: that we need to perform
more physical activity! Or, we can employ a much simpler method to
arrive at the same conclusion, as follows:
"If your dog is fat, you're not getting enough
-- Author Unknown
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 www.seniorfitness.org.
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.
American Senior Fitness Association | 1945 W Park Ave | Edgewater, FL 32132
Address mail to P.O. Box 2575, New Smyrna Beach, FL 32170
Copyright 2008 American Senior Fitness Association (SFA)