Topic: Cognitive Fitness

SFA Debuts Online Learning Center

Monday, December 5th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

SFA’s innovative Brain Fitness for Older Adults educational program is now available on-line! And, to help us introduce our new online learning center, this $249.00 course is being offered at a special introductory price.

Until January 2, 2012:

  • Non-members: $199.00
  • SFA Members: $179.00

As many Experience! readers know, on-line testing for SFA’s certificate of completion programs is already available. Now complete on-line editions of our award winning courses are becoming available. SFA’s online courses include all of the valuable information and instructional resources contained in our “hard copy” programs, and they are accepted for continuing education credit by many fitness organizations. For example, the American Council on Exercise awards Brain Fitness for Older Adults 20 hours continuing education credit (2.0 CECs).

Please click here to check-out our "Learning Center." While you’re there, you can even try our "Dowel Exercise" course for free. "Dowel Exercise" is a brief sample on-line educational program that’s very similar in format to our in-depth educational programs. 

So, whether you’re an internet veteran that already knows about the speed and convenience of on-line education or you’re newcomer looking to learn more, don’t miss this opportunity to try our sample Dowell Exercise course and, if desired, enroll in Brain Fitness for Older Adults at a special introductory price.

Note: Special introductory pricing only applies to the on-line edition of Brain Fitness for Older Adults.


Short-Term Memory Loss and Alzheimer’s

Friday, September 30th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

A study of screening tests for Alzheimer’s disease was recently published in the Archives of General Psychiatry and discussed by MedlinePlus, a publication of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Somewhat surprisingly, the Spanish researchers who conducted the investigation found short-term memory loss to be a stronger predictor of Alzheimer’s disease than variables known as "biomarkers" (for example, changes in the composition of cerebrospinal fluid or in brain volume).

Short-term memory loss is an important indication of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Persons with MCI may find it difficult to recall what they did the day before, may frequently lose their train of thought, and/or may feel challenged when trying to find their way around places that are actually familiar to them. These traits may also be accompanied by depression, anxiety, or uncharacteristic irritation and aggression. MCI does not necessarily progress to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, and persons with MCI often can function in a satisfactory manner despite some minor degree of memory loss.

The study involved more than 500 subjects, as follows:

  • 116 with MCI who developed Alzheimer’s within two years;
  • 201 with MCI who did not develop Alzheimer’s;
  • 197 with no cognitive problems.
  • The methods undertaken included:

  • Conducting measures of delayed memory;
  • Analyzing cerebrospinal fluid samples collected at baseline and then annually for two years;
  • Analyzing blood samples collected at baseline for genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Assessing brain volume and cortical thickness through the use of magnetic resonance imaging.
  • Findings included the following:

  • The presence of MCI at baseline was a stronger predictor of Alzheimer’s disease than were most of the biomarkers;
  • Two measures of delayed memory — as well as the cortical thickness of the left middle temporal lobe — were linked with a higher risk of MCI developing into Alzheimer’s disease.
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    Think Smart

    Monday, May 23rd, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Attention senior fitness professionals: You may wish to share the following brain fitness pointer with your older adult physical activity participants – and put it to work for yourself, as well.

    Writing for the May 13-15, 2011, edition of USA Weekend, Cara Hedgepeth recently described the book The Winner’s Brain by Jeff Brown, Mark Fenske and Liz Neporent. Its authors maintain that qualities such as motivation are more important than IQ when it comes to achieving success in life.

    Just one useful idea presented in The Winner’s Brain involves using a technique called “bookending” in order to help oneself prioritize goals and finish the most important task at hand.
    When a number of things are on one’s mind, it can be difficult to focus on the job that needs to be wrapped up first. To utilize bookending, one should mentally employ cue words (such as “now”) to represent the needed bookend. Describing the conscious process, Hedgepeth writes: “Put everything but one task on the other side of that bookend so you can work on accomplishing that one goal. Once you’ve completed that task, lift the bookend and move on to the next.”

    For additional ways to help your older adult health-fitness clients maximize their cognitive function, enroll in SFA’s popular professional education program “Brain Fitness for Older Adults.”


    Ah, the Memories

    Friday, September 17th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Enjoy some memorable mental stimulation by checking out SFA’s September 17 entries on “In the News” (which accompanies this newsletter). The two entries of note concern memory fitness. One is a short report on an interesting scientific study, and the other is just for fun as singer-songwriter Tom Rush performs a tune sure to spark your humor neurons!



    A Neuroscientist on SFA’s Brain Fitness Program

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) is pleased to offer special back-to-school savings on our Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program. Details on this time-limited opportunity are provided below. But first, here are the comments of two recent expert reviewers of the program:

  • Neuroscientist Dr. Ryan McKim: "Cognitive fitness and physical fitness are a natural fit. Drawing on recent neuroscientific research, the SFA has designed a thoughtful and progressive training program for senior fitness professionals interested in integrating cognitive fitness exercises into their existing physical activity programs. This powerful combination has the potential to make a significant impact on the health and well-being of older adults." Dr. McKim continues: "Recent advances in neuroscience are drawing long overdue attention to the importance of cognitive health. The SFA has designed an impressive and well-researched training program for senior fitness professionals."
  • Gerontologist Dr. Kathryn Thomas: "The SFA brain fitness materials gracefully strike the balance between rigorous research and practical, actionable information. The materials synthesize an enormous amount of research in a way that is manageable and enjoyable for the reader. I highly recommend the program to anyone wanting to get up to speed and actively involved in the brain fitness movement."
  • Ryan McKim, PsyD, is a clinical neuropsychologist specializing in the assessment of memory and cognitive rehabilitation. At San Francisco’s VA Medical Center, he is investigating neuroplasticity and developing novel strategies for veterans with traumatic brain injuries. Dr. McKim teaches neuropsychological assessment at the California Institute of Integral Studies and is vice president of research & outcomes at NeoCORTA Proactive Brain Fitness.

    Kathryn Thomas, PhD, is a gerontologist whose research has been published in peer reviewed journals and presented at national conferences. Dr. Thomas is an adjunct professor at Georgia State University’s Gerontology Institute and is director of business development at NeoCORTA.

    Call 888-689-6791 to take advantage of special savings on SFA’s Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program during our back-to-school event ending September 17, 2010. SFA office hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm ET weekdays. For ordering information, click on Special Savings. Be sure to sign in to receive your member discounts.

    SFA, winner of the National Council on Aging’s Best Practice Award for professional education programs, can help you expand your older adult health-fitness services. For details about SFA’s Brain Fitness for Older Adults distance learning course — including selected excerpts from the text — click on Become a Cognitive Fitness Facilitator.


    Make Your Day!

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Please enjoy your LOL moment of the day — while also being entertained and informed by these three short video clips. Each is only a few minutes long, sheds light on the remarkable workings of the brain, and is sure to bring a smile.

    The first is a World Science Festival presentation called "Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale." Simply by hopping about on stage, McFerrin leads a large unrehearsed audience to sing tunes together quite beautifully. He relies on their long-time familiarity with — that is, learning of — their culture’s predominant pentatonic scale (one that includes five notes an octave). It is believed they can so easily follow McFerrin’s unvoiced cues because their brains have learned to anticipate that particular musical pattern. To view, click on All Together Now.

    On another musical note, meet Snowball the dancing cockatoo! If you’ve already seen him on YouTube, look again with this new insight in mind: At first, neuroscientists thought that surely Snowball must only be trained to boogie. But when he aced controlled testing that kept the tempo changing, they found that he was really listening and following the rhythm. This undermines an earlier view that only human beings possess the neural connections needed to dance in sync with music. For a fun overview of this subject regarding the animal kingdom at large, click on Creatures Great and Small. Get down with Snowball’s full dance routine to a Backstreet Boys hit by clicking Do It, Snowball!


    Senior Cognitive Health in 2010

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    SFA president Janie Clark, MA, was interviewed earlier this year by Sandra Dias for her article Cognitive Fitness which appeared in Health Center Today, a publication of the University of Connecticut Health Center. Discussing two of many variables that can affect mental fitness, Clark said, "There is a connection between stress and depression and the state of one’s cognitive health. We teach the instructors and trainers how to integrate stress management and relaxation techniques into their classes." SFA helps health-fitness professionals guide their clients through a lifestyle approach to improving cognitive fitness. On a personal note, Clark added, "My own mom has dementia and we want to do what we can to prevent ourselves and our kids from going through that."

    Others interviewed for the article included George Kuchel, MD, professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and director of the UConn Center on Aging. One of the greatest boosters of cognitive reserve, he said, is lifetime education. As Dr. Kuchel explained and Dias reported: "Intellectual stimulation throughout life is now believed to build brain cells and improve connections between them. It appears that education acts as a buffer against cognitive declines associated with aging, as well as pathological changes." He said it is never too late to challenge the brain and that, in fact, it is critical.

    In other news, while most Experience! readers are aware of the recent National Institutes of Health (NIH) expert panel report on preventing Alzheimer’s disease, broad access to thoughtful analysis of the project has been lacking. The independent NIH review did not find that specific interventions are proven to forestall the disease and, subsequently, some oversimplified interpretations of the endeavor have emerged in the media. Countering that course, we recommend examining useful commentary on the topic by Alvaro Fernandez of SharpBrains. Writing for the American Society on Aging (ASA), he cautions against drawing simplistic conclusions. For example, he asks and answers: "… does this mean that all recent news on the brain benefits of aerobic exercise are somehow unscientific? No, it doesn’t mean that." Elaborating, Fernandez notes that "… perhaps the most important take-away [is that] preventing Alzheimers … is a different outcome from improving cognitive fitness which, I would argue, is what most people care about …" To read this nuanced treatment of the matter in its entirety, click on ASA Article 1 and ASA Article 2. These links will open as PDFs.


    Don’t Get Left Behind

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Don’t miss out on this economical opportunity to further professionalize your senior fitness skills and services. Call 888-689-6791 to take advantage of special savings on SFA’s Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program during our back-to-school event ending September 17, 2010. SFA office hours are 10:00 am to 5:00 pm ET weekdays. To order on-line click on Special Savings. Be sure to sign in to receive your member discounts.

    Here’s what recent graduates of the course are saying about SFA’s Brain Fitness for Older Adults professional education program:

  • "Lots of new information about keeping old brains young." -David, Georgia
  • "It was very thorough, clear and easy to follow the course outline. All aspects and materials included in the course were pertinent ‘knowledge-wise’ and of value ‘practice-wise’ … I REALLY enjoyed and appreciated what I learned (very positive and uplifting)." -Marie, Canada
  • "I liked how in-depth the information was … very specific, maybe too advanced for some." -Jeff, Connecticut
  • "Many thanks for a wonderful course. The valuable information was clear, straightforward and in language I could understand — precise without being lofty. I currently teach yoga and tai chi, mainly to seniors. This course will enhance my own life and those of my students greatly. Thank you so much!" -Dixie, Georgia
  • "This course has brought a great deal of excitement to our program. Thanks!" -Mark, Texas
  • "This course started my interest in neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, and social intelligence plus play! I now have a library …" -Patricia, Florida
  • "The fact that I can implement cognitive and physical activities at once — this awareness is a lot more than I could ask for. Thanks." -Sandra, California
  • "Very enlightening and helpful to learn more about how the brain functions and what we can do to improve our cognitive fitness … Very glad I did this course. Thank you." -Diane, United Kingdom
  • "What I liked most was the review of brain anatomy and the multitude of suggested ideas for incorporating cognitive fitness." -Jeanne, Kansas
  • "I found it very informative. I liked the suggestions for incorporating brain fitness into exercise routines. Some of the content is very scientific …" -Debra, Florida
  • "Excellent, current information, easy to follow directions, excellent DVDs, great stress management strategies …" -Hanne, Canada
  • "I like the suggestions for activities and the explanations about the various functions of the brain." -Mary, Pennsylvania
  • "Easy to follow." -Sonia, Virginia
  • "I liked the clear way of explaining everything." -Erika, Florida
  • "I enjoyed the knowledge on how the brain works and how to improve — or that we have the ability to improve …" -Monique, California
  • "I like the combination of theoretical basics of the functioning of the brain as well as the wealth of practical applications to keep the brain fit …" -Dawn, Canada
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    Feed Your Brain

    Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The French physiologist Pierre Cabanis, who lived from 1757 to 1808, was a man ahead of his times. Consider his words, quoted below, in terms of their application to the values of mental stimulation and continuing education:

    "Impressions arriving at the brain make it enter into activity, just as food falling into the stomach excites it to more abundant secretion of gastric juice."

    – Pierre Jean George Cabanis, translated from French



    NeoCORTA for Proactive Brain Fitness

    Friday, July 16th, 2010 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) strongly urges older adult fitness providers to help clients achieve whole-person wellness, which includes taking practical evidence-based steps to optimize brain health.To that end, SFA’s respected professional education program Brain Fitness for Older Adults teaches senior fitness leaders how to integrate cognitive fitness into their physical activity services. To credibly and confidently offer such guidance, senior fitness specialists need a basic understanding of: (1) brain anatomy and physiology; (2) social, emotional, lifestyle and other impacting factors; and (3) how to make current research actionable in the older adult health-fitness setting. SFA’s popular distance-learning course, Brain Fitness for Older Adults, provides these necessary foundations.

    Today, we are pleased to announce SFA’s endorsement of a related resource, the NeoCORTA proactive brain fitness service, which is exceptionally compatible for use with SFA’s study program and brain fitness activity plans. Together, SFA and NeoCORTA professional tools well-equip senior fitness instructors, trainers, and program directors to provide their mature clientele with comprehensive, state-of-the-art cognitive fitness support.

    Founded in 2008, NeoCORTA is an internet-based service that applies assessment and predictive modeling capabilities in its mission to enable adults to maintain and improve their brain fitness. Its Brain Fitness Check-up assesses each person in 32 key areas and uses this data to forecast specific changes in each individual’s brain fitness status. Each user receives a Personal Brain Fitness Report, which relates their results and suggests specific actions (physical activities, lifestyle changes, nutritional corrections, etc.) that will help them reach their personal brain fitness objectives.

    NeoCORTA’s assessment and analytical procedures utilize scientific findings from more than 200 major studies, including extensive data from the NIH Healthy Brain Project. NeoCORTA’s instruments were designed by Dr. Jay Chyung, who earned his MD and PhD in Neurobiology from Harvard Medical School and has led research on the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and mood disorders.

    The NeoCORTA Check-up is a questionnaire that users can complete privately at their own pace. This typically takes fewer than 45 minutes, after which each person’s data is analyzed to produce a unique, detailed report for each individual. NeoCORTA evaluates 9 direct measures of cognition and emotion that indicate current brain fitness status, plus 23 key influencers that can cause changes in brain fitness over time. Included are:

  • Key Measures of Cognition. Cognition involves processing, coordinating, strategizing, and responding to information. It includes critical brain functions such as the ability to remember, pay attention, and make decisions. NeoCORTA measures cognition in 4 main areas: Memory, Attention, Processing Speed, and Executive Function.
  • Key Measures of Emotion. Emotional well-being allows one to calmly handle day-to-day challenges, maintain a positive outlook, adapt to change, and understand and care for others. NeoCORTA measures emotion in 5 areas: Anxiety, Stress, Mood, Emotional Control, and Emotional Recognition.
  • Key Influencers of Brain Fitness. NeoCORTA measures 23 variables in 4 domains that can affect long-term brain fitness: Lifestyle and Behaviors (physical activity, diet, etc.); Psychosocial Factors (social support, optimism versus negativism, etc.); Medical Status (cardiovascular health, medications, etc.); and Functional Status (sleep patterns, hearing, etc.).
  • SFA president Janie Clark says, "With NeoCORTA, senior fitness professionals can help clients appraise their brain fitness status, anticipate potential changes, and personalize a practical action plan. It’s easy, economical, and science-based. Whether you manage a large facility or operate a one-trainer business, this presents an excellent opportunity to expand your professional services and better serve your older adult fitness clients."