Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

August 17, 2009

Table of Contents:

  • This Will Make Your Day! (Must-see Laughter Yoga video clip)
  • Weight Training and Breast Cancer (Surprising new findings)
  • Alzheimer's and Language Skills (Neurological research)
  • Should We All Live in Iowa? (Exercise and longevity)

This Will Make Your Day!

If we claimed watching a video clip for under three minutes would brighten your whole day, would you watch it? Please do this for yourself!

American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) member Patricia Darcy, certified by the All Florida School of Laughter Yoga, leads playful physical activity classes that tickle her participants of all ages. Founded by Indian physician Dr. Madan Katoria, Laughter Yoga is devoted to uplifting spirits, easing emotional stress, and sharing the physical benefits of movement.

All types of senior fitness programs stand to gain from a good dose of laughter! To see all the smiles in Patricia's Laughter Yoga class, visit www.LaughterYogaFlorida.org.


Weight Training and Breast Cancer

For decades, many breast cancer survivors have received a medical warning that now appears misguided. The advice goes: Avoid lifting weights and other heavy items -- even hefty grocery bags -- because doing so could cause painful swelling of the arm. But a study published this month in the New England Journal of Medicine has doctors taking another look. Results indicate that instead of contributing to the problem, weight lifting helps prevent it.

Dr. Eric Winer, breast cancer chief of Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Center, commented on the new findings for the Associated Press, saying: "How many generations of women have been told to avoid lifting heavy objects? Women who were doing the lifting actually had fewer arm problems because they had better muscle tone."


Alzheimer's and Language Skills

People with higher language skills as young adults may be better able to stave off Alzheimer's disease (AD) well into their eighties and nineties. This is the implication of a small, very interesting study recently published in the journal Neurology.

For many years, scientists have questioned why certain people with AD-typical placques and tangles in their brains still enjoy unimpaired mental faculties throughout their entire lives. That state is called "asymptomatic Alzheimer's disease" by the authors of the new study. It was the subject of earlier research that affected the design of this investigation.

The researchers autopsied the brains of 38 Catholic nuns. At the time of their deaths:

  • 10 had Alzheimer's
  • 10 had asymptomatic Alzheimer's
  • 5 had mild cognitive impairment
  • 13 had no cognitive deficits or brain lesions.
  • The scientists were also able to obtain essays penned by some of the subjects during their late teens or early twenties, when they joined the convent. These early writings were analyzed for grammatical complexity and idea density (the average number of ideas communicated per every ten words). Although grammatical complexity proved unimportant, idea density proved otherwise. The compositions of those with no cognitive problems were significantly denser in ideas than those written by the sisters who later developed AD or mild impairment.

    Lead author Dr. Juan C. Troncoso of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore stated: "Perhaps mental abilities at age 20 are indicative of a brain that will be better able to cope with diseases later in life." Writing of the small study in Neurology, the research team noted: "...it remains a fascinating observation that an intellectual ability measured in the early 20s can predict the likelihood of remaining cognitively normal 5 or 6 decades later, even in the presence of substantial AD pathology."


    Should We All Live in Iowa?

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 41-year veteran of the health-fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he responds to the lifespan-related concerns of an older adult in America's Heartland.

    DEAR JIM: I'm 67 and live in Iowa where people seem to live a little longer than the average, so it might mean that I can milk some extra mileage out of this old body. But it seems to me that most of the older folks I know are spending their later years in nursing homes, so what is the advantage of living longer except for bragging rights? PUZZLED IN PANORA

    DEAR PUZZLED: Iowans do live longer on the average than most Americans, but the margin is pretty slim. Minnesota actually tops the charts, or close to it, most of the time. Still, even Minnesotans live just a few months longer on the average. Sometimes Iowans and Minnesotans get a little cocky about this "edge" they have on the rest of the country. But is it really worth very much in the overall picture? Probably not.

    I think you have already surmised that living longer does not necessarily equate with living better. Many older adults do spend their later years in nursing homes, which can often be attributed to their earlier inactive lifestyles. That should tell you something.

    Quality of life will become a more important issue for all of us as we live longer, so you should be concerned about taking care of yourself, rather than depending on a dubious statistical advantage. There are likely to be continuing improvements in public health and medical technology, but these advances may not be able to keep up with our aging population.

    Exercise, more than any other single factor, will improve your quality of life and add to your potential longevity. It is never too late to start a fitness program, and there is some form of exercise for everyone regardless of age or physical limitations. There is no reason why most older adults cannot be active, vital human beings in their later years if they take care of themselves.

    If you choose not to be physically active, you should expect to pay a price in terms of reduced quality of life. If you didn't wash and wax your car, change the oil regularly, fill it with gas, have regular tune-ups and -- most importantly -- DRIVE IT, your car would eventually break down. The body is not any different. This might seem like a silly parallel, but it's true!

    Most seniors can significantly improve their quality of life by becoming more physically active. But many of them won't. Why? They will say they are too old, too sick, too tired, or too weak. They will tell you they can't. As my father used to say, "can't" never did anything. He was right!

    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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