Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

July 1, 2008              

Table of Contents

  • Enjoy These Sunny Days Wisely (Skin protection tips)
  • Women, Nutrition, and Heart Health (Medical research)
  • Keep Working the Little Gray Cells (Cognitive activity vs Alzheimer's disease)
  • C'mon, Let's Step It Up! (Seniors still don't exercise enough)
  • Healing the Heel (Plantar fasciitis)
  • Exercise: A Proven Therapy (Reflection)
  • Celebrate Summer (Savings on SFA educational resources)

Enjoy These Sunny Days Wisely

The advent of summer is great for luring people outdoors. So, let's all venture forth, enjoy the natural world, and get some fresh air. At the same time, make sure to protect your skin with these quick sunscreen pointers based on wire reports and research published in the British Journal of Dermatology:

Little known fact #1: Sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 blocks about 93 percent of UV (ultraviolet) rays. An SPF of 30 blocks about 97 percent of UV rays. Any rating above 30 remains in the 97 to 98 percent range.

Little known fact #2: SPF ratings apply only to UVB rays, but it is also important to protect against UVA rays, which penetrate more deeply into the skin. Some sunscreens, regardless of their SPF rating, provide no protection against UVA radiation. Those containing avobenzene, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide will block UVA.

Little known fact #3: The amount of sunscreen used is critical to one's level of protection. Smoothing on less than two ounces of sunscreen over one's whole body during a single application can result in an actual SPF much lower than the number shown on your product label. In this case, more really is better.


Women, Nutrition, and Heart Health

A large-scale study funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involved women as subjects, but its findings may reasonably be extrapolated to the benefit of the male population as well.

The researchers tracked more than 88,000 healthy women for nearly 25 years. They analyzed the women's diets and recorded how many of the participants experienced strokes or heart attacks. The fewest incidents of stroke and heart attack were found in the women whose diets most closely followed U.S. government guidelines for reducing blood pressure. The government plan, which is called the DASH diet, emphasizes:

  • Fruits and vegetables,
  • Whole grains,
  • Low-fat milk, and
  • Plant-based proteins (as opposed to meat).
  • The DASH diet is provided free of charge on the NIH website. Click here to visit the site.


    Keep Working the Little Gray Cells

    A study of 700 older adults, which was conducted at Rush University Medical Center (Chicago) and published in the journal Neurology, supports staying mentally engaged during old age, according to a report by Reuters Health.

    The subjects of the study were evaluated annually for up to five years. Ninety people developed Alzheimer's disease during that follow-up period. Frequent performance of cognitively stimulating activity was linked to a 42 percent lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Furthermore, frequent cognitive activity was also associated with a lower rate of mild cognitive impairment and with a slower decline in cognitive functioning with age.

    Interestingly, the results suggested that cognitive activity during old age was associated with these desirable outcomes even after controlling for cognitive activity level and socioeconomic factors before the onset of old age.

    Examples of effective cognitive activity provided by the study's lead author Dr. Robert S. Wilson included reading magazines, writing letters, and visiting the library.


    C'mon, Let's Step It Up!

    SFA president Janie Clark was interviewed for a June 2008 article in USA TODAY that highlighted a most disturbing trend -- or perhaps more accurately, a disturbing non-trend. According to a new report released by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), eight out of 10 older Americans do not perform meaningful physical exercise. Because those statistics applied in 1997 and still did in 2006, the NIA report concluded that the physical activity trend-line among senior citizens is flat.

    In her article "Older and Wiser, But Less Active," USA TODAY reporter Kim Painter correctly pointed out the irony of these disappointing findings amidst today's mass-marketing atmosphere that depicts "a new breed of fit, vibrant oldsters dancing, tai-chiing, and power-walking their way through retirement." Painter interviewed a number of experts and discussed a short-list of potential barriers to older adult exercise participation, including:

  • As noted by Janie Clark, persons with certain chronic conditions often fear that exercise may worsen their symptoms even though physical activity actually can ease health disorders ranging from joint pain to hypertension.
  • Persons who have not worked out for an extended period of time may feel embarrassed to exercise around others who they perceive as younger and/or fitter.
  • Late-life crises, such as an accidental injury or the loss of a spouse, can disrupt one's ability to sustain a regular exercise plan.
  • Generalized projections of improved health and longevity may not be sufficiently motivating for seniors.
  • There was one bright spot in the NIA's wide-ranging report: Strength training among older adults appears to be on the rise.

    Senior fitness professionals understand that for every obstacle to physical exercise participation, there is also a solution -- and that for every individual, there is a suitable and enjoyable form of exercise just waiting to be tried. Examples given by the experts interviewed for USA TODAY's article included:

  • "Can't walk a mile? Walk a block."
  • "Hate classes? Use a fitness DVD."
  • "Can't think of a reason to get moving? Think of playing with your grandchildren or living independently or traveling the world for years to come."
  • It is never easy to reverse longstanding trends or to prompt changes in human behavior, so senior fitness advocates certainly have their work cut out for them. The American Senior Fitness Association knows that SFA members are up to this challenge and, in fact, are already making a significant, positive difference. We will prevail!


    Healing the Heel

    Numerous Experience! readers, many clients of SFA fitness professionals, and even some of our SFA authors have had run-ins with plantar fasciitis. The word plantar derives from the Latin plantaris and its forerunner planta, meaning sole of the foot. The plantar fascia is a sheet of fibrous tissue beneath the surface of the skin that extends along the sole of the foot from the heel to the start of the toes.

    The best, most to-the-point article we have seen on this topic appeared in the June 2008 "ask the GeezerJock doc" column in Masters Athlete magazine. The GeezerJock Doc is Pittsburgh-based orthopedic surgeon and Masters sprinter Allan Tissenbaum, MD. Following is a brief summary of his words of wisdom on plantar fasciitis. For more information about this excellent publication, Masters Athlete, click on www.masters-athlete.com.

    The pain experienced from plantar fasciitis typically occurs about an inch or two from the end of the heel bone, on the bottom of one's foot. This region can be especially painful first thing in the morning -- after the fascia has shortened during sleep -- when one's first step of the day abruptly stretches it. As the day progresses, the discomfort may ease. However, it frequently worsens in those who must spend much of their day standing on a hard floor and in those who endure repetitive impact in shoes without adequate arch support.

    Dr. Tissenbaum advises stretching the Achilles tendon as a first-line treatment for plantar fasciitis. If the Achilles tendon becomes tight, it will pull on the heel bone, thereby shortening the plantar fascia. Physical therapy may help to reduce inflammation, and special splints can be worn to bed in order to prevent the fascia from drawing up overnight. A person with symptoms of plantar fasciitis needs to consult his or her physician, who will assess the unique architecture of the patient's foot and may determine that orthotics are in order. A relatively new approach, shock wave therapy (originally used for kidney stones), also has demonstrated some success in lessening elbow and heel pain. Although not recommended as an initial treatment, one's doctor may prescribe a cortisone injection for stubborn pain that has not responded to more conservative measures. As a last resort, surgery may be considered. However, plantar fasciitis usually can be treated successfully with less drastic interventions -- starting with proper stretching of the Achilles tendon.


    Exercise: A Proven Therapy

    "Movement is a medicine for creating change in a person's physical, emotional, and mental state."

    -- Carol Welch


    Celebrate Summer

    SFA is welcoming the arrival of summer with big seasonal savings. Until July 10, 2008 you can take advantage of your regular SFA member discount and extra summer savings. Simply click on the "Members Area" link below or call SFA at 888-689-6791 to order your program at these specials rates.

    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.


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    Copyright 2008 American Senior Fitness Association (SFA)