January 10th, 2012

Table of Contents:

Winter Delight (With just a touch of honey)

It’s a Fine Line! (Try this simple balance exercise)

“Alzheimer’s” in Pets (Activity helps their brains)

Obesity and Colon Cancer (Keep exercising)

More on Obesity (Some surprising science)

Robots Aiding Stroke Survivors (Technology)

Taking a Walk at New Year’s (Reflection)

Winter Delight

by American Senior Fitness Association

During the chilly season, warmed fruit dishes make cozy treats. So here’s a delicious breakfast idea that you may wish to share with your senior fitness clients and try out yourself at home. Simply drizzle a little honey onto fresh grapefruit halves. Microwave on high for about one minute if the grapefruit started out at room temperature, or for about two minutes if it came straight out of the refrigerator.

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It’s a Fine Line!

by American Senior Fitness Association

Line-walking can be an enjoyable and useful dynamic balance activity in both group-class and personal training settings. Before conducting your exercise session, use chalk or tape to mark a straight line on the floor. Let space availability and participant functional level be your guides in setting the length of the line.

Have participants try to stay on the line while walking forward. For safety and balance-promotion reasons, participants should look ahead — not down at their feet — while walking. Permit them to slow down their walking speed, as needed, for this exercise. Also, be sure that each individual has sufficient space to use his or her arms to help maintain balance if necessary.

Over time as participants improve at performing this activity, progression can be achieved by gradually lengthening the line that is to be walked. Of course, with continued practice, participants may naturally increase their rate of speed within sensible limits as well. Just remember, safety first.

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“Alzheimer’s” in Pets

by American Senior Fitness Association

Many older adults benefit from the friendship of a companion pet. Like people, pets are living longer these days which may help to explain why an Alzheimer’s-like syndrome (called cognitive dysfunction, or CD, in animals) is receiving growing attention from veterinarians and scientists. Writing for USA Weekend, Steve Dale recently reported on the issue:

Veterinary behaviorist Gary Landsberg of Ontario, Canada, is conducting research on CD in cats. Carl Cottman, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at University of California-Irvine, has investigated the disorder in both people and dogs. These researchers and other leaders in the field have learned that social interaction, physical exercise, enrichment (e.g., lifelong learning) and good diet appear to contribute to cognitive health in pets as well as in people.

Below are signs that CD may be present in a pet:

  • Disorientation/confusion;
  • Change in social interaction (e.g., withdrawal);
  • Sleeping disturbances;
  • Soiling in the house.
  • However, such problems could be caused by certain medical conditions like declining vision or diabetes, so veterinarians seek to exclude other medical explanations before settling on a diagnosis of CD. In some cases, CD and one or more additional health problems may be present.

    The experts agree that both cats and dogs should be given regular physical exercise. One of the best steps (pun intended) canine lovers can take is to walk their dogs. Moderate exercise is good for the heart and good for the brain — and that applies to the pet and to his or her human companion alike.

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    Obesity and Colon Cancer

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    Here at the start of the new year, many of us pledge to exercise more and shed extra, unwanted inches. Recent research provides some added incentive to stick with those resolutions. Reporting on a study published by the American Journal of Epidemiology, Reuters Health Information has summarized its results as follows: Older persons who are heavy, particularly around the middle, appear to be at higher risk for developing colon cancer than do leaner older adults. There is also evidence that physical exercise plays a significant role regarding that risk, especially in women.

    The project followed approximately 120,000 Dutch subjects (ages 55 to 69) for 16 years, during which roughly two percent developed colorectal cancer and most of those were ultimately diagnosed with colon cancer.

    For men, the findings were rather straightforward:

  • The risk for men who were obese or significantly overweight at the beginning of the study was 25 percent higher than that for men in normal weight range;
  • Men with the greatest belly girth measurements had 63 percent more risk than those with slimmer waistlines.
  • For women, the findings were more complicated:

  • Women of large girth who exercised little were 83 percent more prone to develop colon cancer than those with trimmer middles who exercised more than 90 minutes a day;
  • However, a large middle was only connected with higher risk in women who also exercised little (fewer than 30 minutes a day).
  • "One of our more intriguing observations," the study’s lead author Laura Hughes told Reuters, "was that abdominal fat was associated with colorectal cancer in women only when combined with low exercise levels."

    Exactly why this may be true is not yet well understood. Hughes noted that calorie balance (that is, one’s dietary caloric consumption versus one’s caloric expenditure via physical exercise) could be important. She recommends that women concentrate on living an overall healthy lifestyle, as opposed to focusing mainly on body weight.

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    More on Obesity

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    Despite the very best of intentions, a New Year’s resolution to lose body fat may be more difficult for some people to fulfill than for others. New brain scan research indicates that in obese persons, neural activity in the brain may encourage over-eating. Writing in a recent issue of Science News, Janet Raloff explained the problem:

    After a hungry person eats a meal, blood sugar glucose levels return to normal. In people of normal weight, this causes the shut-down of a neural system that promotes positive feelings toward food. It is the brain’s way of acknowledging satiation and signaling that the need for calories has been met. At that point, normal-weight persons stop eating.

    But in obese persons, the system may not turn off following a meal. No matter how much they have just eaten, it still lights up at the sight of rich, high-calorie fare. This can occur even though blood sugar glucose levels have returned to normal. It may contribute to the persistence of obesity in some individuals who have tried and failed repeatedly to lose body fat.

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    Robots Aiding Stroke Survivors

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    SFA author Jim Evans is a 42-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today he describes promising innovation in the area of stroke rehabilitation.

    DEAR JIM: My wife suffered a debilitating stroke last year at age 70 and still has trouble using her arms. She has made considerable progress working with her physical therapist, but many of her arm movements still seem awkward and unnatural. Do you have any advice to help her regain the normal use of her arms more quickly? WORRIED IN WACO

    DEAR WORRIED: I would not want to contradict anything in your wife’s current physical therapy regimen because it seems to be working, albeit more slowly than you would like. It typically takes time to recover from a stroke, and recovery is usually measured in very small increments — especially after the first three months or so. Sometimes survivors do not recover substantially even with the best of love and medical attention, so prepare yourself for the long haul and relish even the slightest improvement, no matter how small.

    But take heart, too, because researchers are constantly working to find new and better ways to help stroke survivors. Research appearing in BioMed Central’s open access Journal of euroEngineering and Rehabilitation shows some significant success using robots to help stroke survivors regain the normal use of their arms.

    The researchers’ robot assists patients as they attempt to guide its "hand" in a figure-eight motion above a desk, pulling in the correct direction and resisting incorrect movements to a minutely controlled degree. This interactive assistance allows for alternating levels of help, encouraging patients to re-learn how to use their arms.

    According to Elena Vergaro and a team of researchers from the University of Genoa, Italy, "Our preliminary results from this small group of patients suggest that the scheme is robust and promotes a statistically significant improvement in performance. Future large-scale controlled clinical trials should confirm that robot-assisted physiotherapy can allow functional achievements in activities of daily life."

    "Stroke survivors," said Vergaro, "perform arm movements in abnormal ways, for example, by elevating the shoulder in order to lift the arm, or leaning forward with the torso instead of extending the elbow. Use of such incorrect patterns may limit their ability to achieve higher levels of movement ability, and may lead to repetitive use injuries. By demonstrating the correct movements, a robot can help the motor system of the subject learn to replicate the desired trajectory by experience."

    Robots are being used in various other ways to help stroke survivors, too, so there are some exciting developments that may be available to your wife in the near future. In the meantime, please continue to be patient and supportive while your wife goes through this difficult and painstaking recovery.

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    Taking a Walk at New Year’s

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    "We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives… not looking for flaws, but for potential."

    – Ellen Goodman

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