May 3rd, 2010

Table of Contents:

Phone a Friend for Fitness (Boost your energy expenditure)

Funny Research (Laughter meets the scientific method!)

Exercise and Knee Replacement (Beware of post-surgery weight gain)

Weightlifting and High Blood Pressure (Mayo Clinic guidelines)

Earlier Alzheimer’s Detection (A simple test may help)

Phone a Friend for Fitness

by American Senior Fitness Association

Here’s a tip for incorporating more physical activity into your daily schedule. American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) president Janie Clark suggests that, instead of sitting down for a long "gab-fest" with absent friends and family, you make a "walk and talk" phone date. You can coordinate with your sister in Seattle, your old roommate in Cleveland or your mother in Boca Raton to "meet" for a walk at a pre-set time.

Describing your surroundings as you walk may even help to create new conversation topics and shared experiences of nature and the great outdoors. Plus, differing fitness levels won’t be a factor.

Janie recommends utilizing a phone with a headset to allow for freedom of arm movement and selecting a safe walking environment where neither traffic nor the occasional distraction might put you at risk of injury. Health-fitness professionals, you may wish to pass this idea along to the clients you’ve been encouraging to do some walking on their own between scheduled fitness sessions under your direction.


Funny Research

by American Senior Fitness Association

Seth Borenstein, science writer for the Associated Press, recently interviewed scientists whose research goals include establishing a better understanding of laughter and its potential benefits. His resulting article notes that laughter is fundamentally a primal, social behavior often performed involuntarily. Not only do human beings laugh — so do apes, chimpanzees, dogs and even rats who, current research has disclosed, take delight in being tickled and will laugh during the pleasurable experience!

Laughter has been linked to the production of a chemical that acts as an anxiety-reducer and antidepressant. Although researchers quoted in the piece did not assert that laughter alone has been proven to provide direct health benefits, it was pointed out that this may be because it is scientifically difficult to isolate laughter from distraction and mood improvement, two variables which have been found beneficial to patients. Interviewed for the article, Baltimore neuroscientist and laughter researcher Dr. Robert Provine observed: "Isn’t the fact that laughter feels good when you do it, isn’t that enough?"

To read Borenstein’s complete article, click here.


Exercise and Knee Replacement

by American Senior Fitness Association

It may make common sense that the pain relief gained through knee replacement surgery would instigate more physical exercise and, thereby, better weight control. But that is not what researchers found when they tracked 106 patients for two years following their knee replacements. Instead, 66 percent of the subjects had gained an average of 14 pounds.

The good news is that the other one-third had lost, on average, approximately four pounds. In those who lost weight, no decline in quadriceps strength was seen, whereas the quadriceps had weakened in those who gained weight.

Researchers explained that, after surgery, single knee replacement patients have a tendency to place more weight on the knee that wasn’t replaced. The added load of weight gain can compromise both knees and, in particular, may hasten the progression of osteoarthritis in the non-operated joint.

In summary, knee replacement patients should take care to maintain a healthy body weight. If knee pain persists following the surgery, such patients may wish to consider swimming, pool aerobics or other joint-sparing workouts designed to control weight and promote heart health.

This research was conducted at the University of Delaware. Click here to read the university’s report on the study.


Weightlifting and High Blood Pressure

by American Senior Fitness Association

The Mayo Clinic has some sound advice for persons with high blood pressure who are interested in taking up weightlifting, as follows:

  • Consult with your physician before beginning any exercise program in order to adopt a plan that is individualized to your needs and medical status.
  • Note that weightlifting can cause a temporary rise in blood pressure; how much is mainly dependent upon the amount of weight lifted. However, regular physical exercise (including moderate weightlifting) leads to health benefits outweighing the risk for most people and can lower blood pressure in the long-run.
  • If you have high blood pressure, lift lighter weights. Heavy weight causes more strain and, in turn, a higher spike in blood pressure. To challenge your muscles using lighter weight, increase the number of repetitions you perform.
  • Never hold your breath while weight training. Breath-holding can raise blood pressure dangerously. Do breathe naturally and continuously throughout every lift.
  • Use proper form to minimize the risk for accidental injury.
  • Stop activity if you experience severe shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain or chest pressure.
  • SFA guidelines call for notifying one’s physician at once in the case of chest pain or pressure, and in the event of recurring breathlessness or dizziness.


    Earlier Alzheimer’s Detection

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    The tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease is exacerbated by tardy detection, especially since newly developed medications work better when started early. This problem inspired Dr. Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at the Ohio State University (OSU) Medical Center, to design a quick and simple test to help determine if someone is exhibiting the early memory and reasoning deficits that all too often foretell the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

    In an OSU press release, Dr. Scharre (who specializes in treating Alzheimer’s) said it is often more than three or four years after symptoms of cognitive impairment first begin to appear before he sees affected patients. "People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears," he said.

    Scharre’s test is called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). Research shows that 80 percent of persons with mild thinking and memory issues will be detected by the test, and 95 percent of those with normal thinking will achieve normal SAGE scores.

    While other accurate assessment instruments for cognitive disorders are presently in use, SAGE offers a number of advantages. Available cost-free to health workers, it only requires a paper, pen and about 15 minutes to self-administer. Therefore, it can be taken in the waiting room before seeing one’s doctor, doesn’t take much time away from medical staff or from the appointment itself, and is user-friendly for elders who are not comfortable with computers.

    Abnormal scores can alert physicians to look for problems other than dementia, such as certain thyroid conditions, that can affect memory — and that may be treatable and reversible. Dr. Scharre added: "Abnormal test results can serve as an early warning to the patient’s family. The results can be a signal that caregivers may need to begin closer monitoring of the patient to ensure their safety and good health is not compromised and that they are protected from financial predators."

    To read the full OSU press release about SAGE, click here. Healthcare personnel can download the actual test free of charge at