Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

January 16, 2009

Table of Contents

  • Brain Fitness Program Proving Popular (Industry news)
  • Update an Old Stand-By Exercise (Try this timely variation)
  • Train the Brain (A new anti-falling strategy)
  • Cold or Flu? (How to tell them apart)
  • A Universal Truth (Humor)

Brain Fitness Program Proving Popular

Pre-publication orders of "Brain Fitness for Older Adults" are presently being shipped. So, if you are among the many who took advantage of SFA's pre-release enrollment discount, your package is on its way. Response to the new professional education course, which shows how to incorporate brain fitness into physical activity programs, has been phenomenal. SFA professionals truly are on the way to changing the face of senior fitness for the better and on a massive scale. For more information about the "Brain Fitness for Older Adults" professional study program, click on www.seniorfitness.org.


Update an Old Stand-By Exercise

Depending upon the health status and functional fitness level of their senior exercise participants, some older adult physical activity professionals rightly do not include lunges in their workout sessions. Those who train active, healthy seniors often do lead gentle lunges for lower-body strengthening and fall prevention. One basic safety technique is ensuring that the knee of the lunging leg never moves to a position forward of the ankle during a lunge toward the front. The addition of certain senior-friendly modifications can help make lunges do-able for older adult participants who are new to the exercise:

  • Choose your words carefully. If instructed to "lunge," some beginners might be inspired to throw their leg out in an uncontrolled manner or exaggerate the length of their stride, thereby exceeding a prudent range of motion and/or assuming an untenable posture balance-wise. If, instead, you introduce the activity by having participants think of it in terms of taking a "step," they will be more likely to stay within their comfort zone and execute the exercise successfully. The movement certainly does not have to be a "giant step" at the start. With time and practice, longer stepping can gradually by mastered and the term "lunge" can be integrated into your workout lexicon. While the shorter steps are still in use, be especially vigilant about knee placement.
  • Take your time. Especially in group-class settings where participants are accustomed to moving in sync with a fixed musical beat, relax the "rules." Be sure to provide ample time for everyone to assume mindful, secure, and accurate positioning.
  • Prevent that "I'm about to topple over" feeling. Balance support can be made available to touch or rest a hand on during mild lunges toward the front, back, or sides. For example, if a ballet barre or the back of a sturdy chair is positioned nearby at one's side, one need only turn and face the opposite direction in order to change from a right-leg side-lunge to a left-leg side-lunge. With such an arrangement, most participants will feel comfortable performing front- or back-stepping lunges with either leg while facing in one direction.
  • Avoid rigidly locking the support knee. Whereas both knees should naturally bend somewhat during front or back lunges, the non-lunging leg needs to straighten more during side lunges. Even so, you can minimize unnecessary strain by encouraging a stable but not "stiff" stance.
  • Regarding fitness participants who can safely perform lunges with both hands on their hips, once the exercise has come to feel routine it may be enjoyable to try out the following variation recommended recently by Nicole Clancy of Prevention magazine:

  • Think of yourself as standing on -- and right in the middle of -- a large clock-face with 12 o'clock in front of you.
  • Lunge forward toward 12 o'clock with your right leg, then return to starting position.
  • Lunge to the side toward 3 o'clock with your right leg, then return to starting position.
  • Lunge to the back toward 6 o'clock with your left leg, then return to starting position.
  • Lunge to the side toward 9 o'clock with your left leg, then return to starting position.
  • Starting with your left leg, repeat the routine but in a counterclockwise direction. In this way, you can "rock around the clock" -- or, rather, lunge around it -- and help to "turn back the hands of time" all in one workout!

  • Train the Brain

    University of North Carolina (UNC) researchers are pursuing a promising lead in the fight against falls, according to a report by Thomas Goldsmith for MiamiHerald.com. Their approach will be of particular interest to senior fitness professionals since it combines cognitive training with physical activity.

    Preliminary findings indicate that not only strong skeletal muscles and structured balance training, but also one's capacity to mentally respond to complex situations, can help to protect seniors from accidental injury. Clearly, lower-extremity strength is important, as are safety considerations in terms of reducing environmental hazards (such as poor lighting, slippery or uneven floor surfaces, etc.). However, boosting one's concentration while moving appears to make an even greater difference.

    To that end, the UNC scientists have added special activities to local senior fitness classes. These exercises impose simultaneous demands concerning memory, specific movement tasks, and rate of speed. The goal is to improve one's ability to interact properly with the environment.

    The fear of falling itself can lead individuals to curtail healthful lifestyle activities such as social interaction and physical exercise. Researchers note that such inhibitions can even begin to set in as early as a person's forties or fifties. Growing gradually less socially and physically active, though, will only exacerbate a negative vicious cycle.

    One potential solution to that downward spiral is to advance older persons, when possible, beyond chair-seated conditioning programs. Ambulatory movement blended with appropriate cognitive challenge may be more effective at decreasing falls. One example is walking while actively engaging in an ongoing conversation. For a higher level of difficulty, lead researcher Tiffany Shubert, PhD, suggests: Try naming every other letter in the alphabet aloud while maintaining a consistent walking speed.


    Cold or Flu?

    Editor's note: Following is some good information for senior health-fitness professionals to pass along right away to their clients, and also to take note of for themselves.

    This time of year it is not unusual to experience a sore throat and a stuffy or runny nose. Do you have the common cold? Or have you contracted the flu? In his "On Call" column for the News-Journal of Daytona Beach, Florida, medical writer H.E. Cohen, MD, has provided us with some answers and good advice:

    Both maladies are caused by viruses, more than 200 different types in the case of colds (fewer for the flu). An effective preventative measure for both includes diligent hand washing, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleaner. Washing hands is especially critical in connection with certain activities:

  • After using the restroom,
  • Before eating,
  • Before applying makeup, and
  • Before touching your face for any reason.
  • Regarding the flu, a practical means of greatly reducing one's risk of infection is to take the annual vaccine. Don't think it's too late to do so this season. Flu vaccines are widely available through February, even later in certain cases.

    Colds and the flu share certain symptoms, including that nagging cough, nose and throat discomfort, fatigue, muscle aches, headaches, and fever. However, there is usually a contrast in onset. Whereas cold symptoms generally develop over the course of a few days and may include temperature elevations up to 102 degrees, the flu typically makes a more dramatic entrance. It tends to develop suddenly and present with a fever above 102 degrees. Other typical differences:

  • While both conditions are usually accompanied by a stuffy nose, colds are more likely to also produce watery eyes and a runny nose with a yellow or greenish discharge.
  • Chills and sweats are more characteristic of the flu than of the common cold.
  • Nausea and loss of appetite are more characteristic of the flu than of the common cold.
  • For flu treatment, there are some prescription drugs that can be given to help reduce its length and severity, although they are typically most useful when taken within 48 hours of the appearance of flu symptoms.

    As most of us have heard repeatedly, there is no known cure for the common cold. Dr. Cohen stresses that since the cold is viral, antibiotics will not help and should not be taken. However, he offers a number of useful tips that apply to weathering both cold and flu:

  • Get lots of rest.
  • Avoid alcohol, but drink generous amounts of other liquids such as broth and water.
  • Don't smoke, and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Consult your doctor if your temperature remains over 102 degrees for a prolonged period of time, if your symptoms last longer than 10 days, or if your condition grows worse rather than better.
  • Consult your doctor if you feel as though you may faint, if you have trouble breathing, or if you experience chest pain.
  • If you have a weakened immune system, see your doctor even if your symptoms are not as severe as those described above.
  • Try a saline nose spray to help loosen up mucus and moisten irritated tissue within the nose.
  • Over-the counter medications may help relieve body aches and fever. However, talk to your doctor before taking them if you use other medications or have other medical conditions such as hypertension.

  • A Universal Truth

     

    What do astronauts know about bad colds, growing older, and embracing the lighter side of life? A lot!

    "There is still no cure for the common birthday."

                                                                 -- John Glenn

    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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