Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

September 2, 2008              

Table of Contents

  • Doga (Yoga for dogs and their people)
  • Exercise to Overcome Depression (Healthy aging)
  • What's New? (Senior exercise DVDs)
  • Couch Potato Workout (Humor)


It rhymes with yoga. It's an enjoyable way for people and pets to relax together. And it's being practiced in places ranging from New York City to Washington DC to London, England. In doga, people perform their yoga routines while also helping their dogs assume comfortable stretched positions. It comes with plenty of nuzzling, rubbing, petting, and human-canine togetherness.

A charming article by Katherine Shaver of the Washington Post documented just how doga works. It's not at all a matter of compelling dogs into pretzel-like poses. Instead, the pets provide and enjoy companionship during their special person's yoga session -- and are themselves helped into natural stretches that encourage them to feel relaxed and content. For example, in the chaturanga pose, they lie on their abdomens while having their backs stroked. In the savasana relaxation pose, they lie on their backs while having their bellies rubbed. (Dog participants agree: It doesn't get much better than this -- life is good!)

The Post article offered a number of helpful tips for achieving a successful doga experience, as follow:

  • If your dog doesn't want to perform doga, don't insist on it. Instead, simply welcome him or her to hang out with you on the mat as you move through your yoga routine.
  • Before doga, take a walk with your dog, which will serve to burn off restless energy.
  • Never force your dog into any position. Instead, help your pet to stretch in ways that he or she already does.
  • Avoid touching regions which may be tender, for example, the ears and the paws.
  • Honor your dog's unique individual preferences. For example, some dogs do not like to be picked up and others don't like being rubbed in certain places.
  • With older dogs, be especially gentle, as they may have arthritis.
  • Take special care when doing doga with a large dog, so as not to over-strain yourself while trying to hold him or her in position.
  • Being careful not to pinch, rub or massage your dog by using smooth, deep strokes.
  • Never attempt doga with an aggressive dog.
  • Seek to make yourself calm and relaxed. Your own pleasant feelings of tranquility will tend to transfer to your dog.

  • Exercise to Overcome Depression

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 40-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized senior fitness consultant. Today, Jim offers advice and hope to a widower battling depression.

    DEAR JIM: At 72, I find myself feeling blue most of the time. My wife died last year, and many of my friends have passed away too. I have some minor health issues, but sometimes I just feel like I haven't got the energy to keep going any longer. Someone told me that you had recommended exercise as a way to overcome depression, but surely it can't be that simple. DOWN IN THE DUMPS IN DETROIT

    DEAR DOWN IN THE DUMPS: No, it's not always that simple, but exercise can be an effective tool in treating depression. It is important to recognize that what you are experiencing is not unusual. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), emotional experiences of sadness, grief, response to grief, and temporary blue moods are normal -- but persistent depression that interferes with one's ability to function is not. If you feel that you are depressed most of the time, make an appointment with your doctor right away, and you will probably find that he or she will prescribe a regular dose of exercise along with medication and psychotherapy.

    "Exercise is not a magic bullet, but increasing physical activity is a positive and active strategy to help manage depression and anxiety," says Kristin Vickers-Douglas, PhD, a psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. I couldn't have said it better myself. Research has shown that exercise in almost any form -- even small amounts of 10 to 15 minutes at a time -- can be an effective component in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. You see, physical activity produces a temporary endorphin surge or "feel good" mood almost immediately afterwards, but it also creates a constant feeling of physical and mental well-being when it becomes a regular habit. According to the Mayo Clinic, it can also help you to sleep better and can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

    Where to start? Keep it simple. Just take a walk around the block, around the lake, or around the shopping mall. Make a conscious effort to say "hello" to people as you pass them along the way and SMILE even if you don't feel like it. Even a "forced" smile soon becomes the real thing when you see the positive effect it has on others. And, as fitness legend Jack LaLanne says, "Just keep moving."

    I'm not talking about a structured workout here. Just step out the front door and put one foot in front of the other. As you start feeling better -- and you will -- you can progress to other forms of exercise such as dancing, gardening, yoga, tai chi, bowling, or some other type of physical activity that you enjoy to improve your fitness and quality of life. Getting started on an exercise program can be difficult, but scheduling an appointment with your physician is the first step, and that's not so hard, is it? Please do so at once. It will change your life and restore a feeling of hope for the future.

    What's New?

    The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) has recently received review copies of senior exercise DVDs from three separate producers, each of which is discussed below.

    Take 5 To Exercise is a five-part DVD set of chair exercises developed and hosted by trainer Kelly Ward. This series is not intended to address cardiovascular fitness but, rather, to provide a fall prevention regimen for elders who need gentle exercise. Day One focuses on flexibility, Day Two on strength, Day Three on posture, Day Four on strength again, and Day Five on maintenance. Certain featured exercises are revisited from day to day. The workouts are characterized by sound training technique that complies with SFA guidelines. Ward and her senior exercise participants perform their seated routines in appealing outdoor settings. She provides viewers with well-informed explanations of her training procedures. Additionally, Kelly Ward comes through as a genuine and very caring person and trainer. For details, visit

    The AGE RIGHT TRAINING SERIES includes three "Comfort Zone, Feeling Younger Workout" DVDs led by Feldenkrais practitioners Seth Paris and Laura Paris. Suitable for complementing a balanced exercise program, most of the movements and positions are performed while lying on the floor. By design, these routines are extremely slow-paced and are not accompanied by music. The DVDs are titled: (1) Relieving Tension in the Neck and Spine, (2) Improving Posture and Relaxing the Shoulders, and (3) Releasing the Lower Back. The slow, easy, calm approach is aimed in part at easing pain, improving balance, and enhancing participants' awareness of how the body moves. For details, visit

    Grandfun with Grandkids is an upbeat intergenerational exercise DVD starring 65-year-old dance and fitness teacher Benna Miller and three of her grandchildren. This is a colorful, energizing production filled with ideas for promoting family fun through shared movement activities. It includes aerobic exercises, muscle conditioning, balance work, and some very innovative use of balls and other fitness accessories. SFA-trained professionals will want to make adjustments in some of the technical training specifics. That said, this DVD is really about inspiration, creativity, staying active, and sharing laughter, joy and love with younger family members -- and it delivers on all counts. Miller is a vibrant, beautiful lady and her grandsons are delightful, terrific boys. The four of them show viewers that smiles and good times occur when grandparents and grandkids take part in physical activity together. For details, visit

    Couch Potato Workout

    We're certain this wry observation doesn't apply to any Experience! readers!

    "If it weren't for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of us wouldn't get any exercise at all."

    -- Joey Adams

    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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