May 17th, 2012

Table of Contents:

It’s Time For Spring Savings! (Industry news)

Gardening and Arthritis (Successful aging)

A Rosy Outlook Is Healthful (Psychological news)

Hold the Salt (Nutrition)

Activity Level and Alzheimer’s Disease (Cognitive health)

Can Financial Incentives Boost Fitness? (Pending research)

Joy in the Garden (Reflection)

It’s Time For Spring Savings!

by American Senior Fitness Association

To celebrate Spring and to honor Older American’s Month, SFA is reducing the enrollment fees on all of our award winning educational programs. But don’t delay, these reduced fees are only available through Wednesday, May 31 2012.
Please call SFA at (888)689-6791/(386)423-6634 or visit our online order center to learn more.

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Gardening and Arthritis

by American Senior Fitness Association

The potential benefits of gardening are many and include both physical and emotional rewards. For example:

  • Gardening can provide regular physical activity that strengthens the major muscle groups, increases one’s range of motion and promotes joint flexibility
  • Growing the right plants can add healthful nutritional options to one’s diet.
  • Enjoying the great outdoors can help counter stress, perhaps even lower blood pressure, and can increase vitamin D levels for bone health.
  • But what if gardening has become painful due to arthritis? A partnership between AgrAbility, a U.S. Department of Agriculture-sponsored program, and the Arthritis Foundation’s Indiana Chapter is tackling that question. For starters, the group recommends working in an environment designed to minimize arthritis-related aches and pains. For example:

  • Try tending a smaller garden.
  • Grow lower maintenance plants (such as perennials, which require less frequent replanting).
  • Take advantage of technology! Try out ergonomic gardening tools especially made to combat wear and tear on the body — like tools with extendable handles that cut down on the need to reach and to bend over.
  • Arrange for a nearby source of water in order to avoid hauling heavy water pitchers and hoses.
  • Raise or lower work surfaces, as needed, to ward off discomfort.
  • The group also has some good-sense tips for preventing overexertion while gardening. For example:

  • Warm up with some gentle stretching before getting to work.
  • Break down ambitious projects into smaller tasks. Don’t try to do everything in one day!
  • Alternate more demanding activities with less taxing ones.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Take rest breaks often.
  • If a task is too strenuous, get help.
  • Persons with physical impairments or yard-space limitations that preclude outdoor gardening can still enjoy this wholesome activity! Many flowers, herbs and vegetables will thrive in pots kept on the porch or on windowsills.

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    A Rosy Outlook Is Healthful

    by American Senior Fitness Association


    A recent analysis of more than 200 studies found that optimism appears to lower the risk for cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. The Harvard School of Public Health review was published online in the journal Psychological Bulletin. Positive feelings were also associated with lower blood pressure, better blood-fat levels and desirable body weight.

    In a news release, lead author Julia Boehm said, "The absence of the negative is not the same thing as the presence of the positive. We found that factors such as optimism, life satisfaction and happiness are associated with reduced risk . . . regardless of such factors as a person’s age, socioeconomic status, smoking status or body weight. For example, the most optimistic individuals had an approximately 50 percent reduced risk of experiencing an initial cardiovascular event compared to their less optimistic peers."

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    Hold the Salt

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics offers these great ideas for tasty alternatives to salt when preparing recipes:

    • Flavorful vinegars such as balsamic vinegar;
    • Citrus fruit juices;
    • Chopped raw onions;
    • Chopped fresh garlic; and
    • Salt-free herbs and spices.
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    Activity Level and Alzheimer’s Disease

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    New research published in the journal Neurology indicates that performing everyday activities — including those that don’t officially meet the definition of "exercise" — may lower one’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
    The researchers, led by Aron Buchman of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, found that elderly persons who moved about more (compared to their less active peers) were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. This was true even for active persons who did not work out, but who nevertheless kept busy by gardening or puttering around the house.

    The study involved more than700 subjects, average age 82, without dementia. Their activity was monitored for up to ten days by an actigraph. The actigraph, a small device worn by the subjects, detected when they engaged in conventional forms of exercise, as well as when they moved around in other ways.>

    Fast forward roughly four years. During that follow-up period, 71 subjects developed the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Those in the 10 percent of subjects who were most active showed an 8 percent likelihood for developing signs of the illness. Those in the 10 percent of subjects who were least active had an 18 percent likelihood.

    Since 602 of the 716 test subjects were female, it is not clear whether this study’s results can be applied to the general population. As no cause and effect relationship has been proven, one question that remains unanswered is: "Which comes first, lower activity level or cognitive decline?" (It is possible that experiencing the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease somehow leads people to slow down.) Even so, this investigation adds to earlier research suggesting a possible connection between regular physical activity and brain health. Increasing all types of movement may be healthful in the long run.

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    Can Financial Incentives Boost Fitness?

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    The University of Florida Academic Health Center, which conducts patient care activities under the banner "UF&Shands," is the most comprehensive program of its kind in the southeastern United States. The following news release describes an important upcoming UF&Shands venture:


    GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Joining a gym to log in hours on the elliptical or hiring a nutritionist for guidance are good ideas to shed pounds but typically too pricey for people with low incomes, as are many programs geared toward boosting wellness.

    To address that issue, University of Florida researchers have received a $9.9 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the Texas State Health and Human Services Commission to test whether increasing access to wellness services could improve the health of patients already facing physical and mental health conditions.

    Study subjects who take part in the Texas Wellness Incentives and Navigation project will receive a small stipend to pay for items such as gym memberships, tools to quit smoking or even a simple bathroom scale. They also will work closely with a navigator who will help them set goals and identify health risks, said Elizabeth Shenkman, director of the UF Institute for Child Health Policy and the grant’s primary investigator.

    “We know that patients with co-morbid physical and mental health conditions are at particularly high risk for a shortened lifespan, a sedentary lifestyle and alcohol use. They also are at risk for high health expenditures because they are hospitalized or use the emergency room often,” said Shenkman, who also serves as chairwoman of the UF College of Medicine department of health outcomes and policy. “Some of these folks have conditions such as asthma, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease combined with depression or other mental health problems. The improved healthy lifestyle can help people better manage their physical health conditions and also have a positive effect on their mental health.”

    For each year of the three-year study, participants will receive a $1,150 debit card to use on various wellness services and products, based on the plan each makes with his or her personal navigator.

    Using a counseling technique called motivational interviewing, navigators will coach participants and help them determine what services they need and what steps they need to take to achieve a healthy lifestyle. Participants will meet with their navigators once a month.

    “The utilization of motivational interviewing has been shown to be effective in improving patient engagement in and commitment to the treatment process in numerous clinical contexts, including in health care settings,” said Carson Ham, a UF psychologist and expert on motivational interviewing.

    The researchers are developing an electronic form that will not only help assess patients’ risks and needs but also will be coded to provide links to resources in the specific areas where patients live.

    “Many of these patients have transportation issues that affect their access to services, too,” Shenkman said.

    The study is one of 10 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently funded to assess how helpful financial incentives are in promoting wellness. After the studies are complete, the most effective projects will be used as models for the rest of the country.

    Keeping in mind the ability to serve as a model, UF researchers are working in concert with three health plans in Houston that handle Medicaid. The navigators are working with patients through the three health plans as part of the grant.

    “We want the project to take place in a context where it could be implemented in other settings,” Shenkman said.

    To measure the success of the study, researchers will examine several key outcomes, such as whether it reduces visits to the emergency room. They also will monitor participant’s blood pressure and cholesterol levels and total health care expenditures. If health benefits and cost savings are achieved, hiring health navigators and providing small stipends for wellness up front could save money down the road by keeping patients out of hospitals, Shenkman said.

    “We are very excited about this partnership with the health plans, to really test a novel program and see what works best,” Shenkman said. “This is a phenomenal opportunity.”

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    Joy in the Garden

    by American Senior Fitness Association

    Some avid gardeners share their thoughts:

    “There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.”

    – Mirabel Osler

    “The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.”

    – Hanna Rion

    “Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.”

    – Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

    “God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.”

    – Author Unknown

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