Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

February 2, 2009

Table of Contents

  • SFA Wins "Best Practice Award" (Industry news)
  • The Snacking-Sleeping Connection (Dietary research)
  • Speaking of Snacks... (A heart-friendly choice)
  • Aging, Depression, and Visceral Fat (A troubling link)
  • Medical Visits and the Elderly (Bringing a companion can help)
  • To Each His Own (Humor)

SFA Wins "Best Practice Award"

The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) has been chosen for the 2009 National Council on Aging Health Promotion Institute's Best Practice Award. SFA earned the award based on its professional education programs, which provide training for older adult physical activity instructors and personal trainers.

The National Council on Aging describes the award program as follows: "This award is given in recognition of a program that not only meets its goal of promoting good health, but also demonstrates a creative response to the barriers and issues that confront all health promotion programs." In determining Best Practice Award recipients, the judges consider innovative retention of older adult fitness participants, evidence-based evaluation of program effectiveness, funding and marketing procedures, and the use of volunteer personnel.

Since 2005, three to four community-based fitness programs have received the Best Practice Award annually. However, SFA was selected for its educational training of older adult fitness professionals on an international scale. The association provides distance-learning courses in senior group-exercise instruction, personal fitness training, and long-term care physical activity management.

SFA officials will accept the award in Las Vegas on March 17, 2009, at the National Council on Aging and American Society on Aging's annual conference. "We are deeply honored to receive this tremendous distinction," SFA president Janie Clark said.

The American Senior Fitness Association has conducted older adult fitness professional training since 1992. It has been a leader in developing international curriculum guidelines for senior fitness professionals and in establishing senior-specific fitness testing protocols and norms. It has contributed to numerous academic textbooks, scientific articles, and mainstream publications and productions on older adult health and fitness topics.

SFA recently launched a new educational program, Brain Fitness for Older Adults, which teaches senior exercise professionals how to incorporate cognitive fitness into their physical activity programs. For more information about SFA professional education programs, click on

The Snacking-Sleeping Connection

The amount one snacks appears to be related to the amount of sleep one gets. That is the finding of University of Chicago and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, as summarized by the Pulse wire report.

In general, less sleeping may lead to more snacking. The study was conducted at the sleep research laboratory of the University of Chicago and was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers compared subjects who slept 8.5 hours per night with subjects who slept just 5.5 hours per night. Those who slept less took in, on the average, 220 more calories the following day.

Two particularly interesting results of this study apply to the lower-sleep, higher-calorie participants:

  • The additional calories they consumed came from extra snacking, which was undertaken mainly at night and which consisted mostly of carbohydrates; and
  • Their longer period of being awake was not characterized by being more active.
  • Persons interested in weight control or body fat reduction are well advised to take stock of their sleeping habits. Trimming off a significant number of unneeded calories on a regular basis could be as simple as getting more sleep every night.

    Speaking of Snacks...

    If you follow a Mediterranean diet (rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and fish), adding a daily snack of just a few nuts could help to reduce your risk factors for heart disease after a year. If you follow a high-calorie Western diet (rich in fats and junk foods), adding nuts will only make matters worse. However, eating a handful of nuts in place of undesirable snack foods, such as chips, is highly recommended.

    The information above stems from work completed by Spanish scientists, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, and widely disseminated by the Associated Press. The researchers found that adding nuts to a Mediterranean diet lowered heart risks more than increasing the olive oil in a Mediterranean diet, although both of those approaches were more effective than simply following a low-fat diet. The participants in the study who snacked on nuts did not usually lose weight, but often underwent reductions of belly fat while also improving their blood pressure levels and cholesterol profiles.

    Regarding those participants who saw the greatest health gains, exactly what combination of nuts had the researchers advised them to snack on? About three whole walnuts, seven or eight whole almonds, and seven or eight whole hazelnuts.

    Aging, Depression, and Visceral Fat

    Visceral fat is a dangerous type of internal body fat that surrounds, or accumulates around, internal organs. Often presenting as the "belly fat" to which the preceding article referred, visceral fat increases the risk for both heart disease and diabetes.

    Now, in a rather disconcerting study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, scientists at Wake Forest University's Sticht Center on Aging have reported that septuagenarians who are depressed are twice as likely to gain visceral fat, compared to their counterparts who are not depressed.

    This link appears to be more complex than one for which obesity could account. Instead, there may be a biological connection between visceral fat and an individual's mental state. Some researchers postulate that depression spurs excessive levels of cortisol, a stress hormone known to contribute toward the development of visceral fat.

    For older adults, family caregivers, and professionals who serve aging clients, this study reinforces a crucial message: Do not ignore, overlook, or downplay the importance of symptoms of depression. Qualified medical treatment should be sought -- not only to improve personal quality of life, but also to discourage the onset of heart disease and diabetes.

    Medical Visits and the Elderly

    Having a companion along when visiting the doctor may help elderly patients feel more confident and satisfied with the medical care they receive, according to a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Companions can be of assistance in a number of ways, including:

  • Providing helpful information to the physician with regard to the patient's condition;
  • Taking notes for the patient and ensuring that he or she understands the physician's instructions;
  • Helping to schedule future appointments;
  • Keeping the patient company and providing emotional support;
  • \Providing the patient with transportation and/or physical assistance.
  • A survey of more than 12,000 Medicare patients ages 65-plus found that approximately 39 percent of the respondents regularly were accompanied by a companion during medical visits. Such patients tended to be older, less educated, and in poorer health than those who routinely went to the doctor's office alone. Spouses served as companions in slightly more than half of the cases, followed in descending order by adult children, other relatives, roommates, friends or neighbors, other non-family members, and professional workers from the nursing, legal, or financial sectors.

    To Each His Own

    Many experts agree that the key to sticking with a physical exercise program is to find something you really enjoy doing. It's easy to tell what type of activity scores points with today's quipster:

    "An hour of basketball feels like 15 minutes. An hour on a treadmill feels like a weekend in traffic school."

    -- David Walters


    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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