Topic: Exercise

Exercise and Lung Disease

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

With medical approval, physical exercise can be very beneficial for persons with chronic lung disease. In fact, it has been shown to improve their endurance, decrease symptoms and reduce hospital stays, according to the book Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions.* The authors recommend working with one’s doctor to develop a personalized exercise plan, to start out at a very low intensity level, and to progress very gradually. Over time, one’s shortness of breath at a given exertion level should begin to decrease. Following are some additional training tips specific to lung disease from the authors of Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions:

Using your medicine — especially an inhaler — before exercising can help you to exercise for longer periods of time and to do so with less shortness of breath.

If you become severely short of breath upon minimal exertion, your physician may wish to adjust your medicines. For some patients, the doctor may order the use of supplemental oxygen before beginning an exercise session.

Perform lengthy, thorough warm ups and cool downs. While warming up and cooling down, breathe in through the nose, allowing your belly to expand outward, then exhale slowly through pursed lips. Establish a daily low-intensity routine on which you can build gradually.

During exercise, mild shortness of breath is to be expected. Also, prior to exercise, you may experience an "anticipatory" increase in heart rate and breathing rate. Although this is normal, it can be intimidating or tiring for some persons with chronic lung disease. A gradual warm up period including pursed lip breathing can help. Also, avoid your
personal "trouble zones" of shortness of breath by limiting exercise intensity and duration to levels well under the threshhold at which severe shortness of breath occurs.

Throughout the exercise session, breathe in deeply and slowly. Exhale through pursed lips, taking two to three times as long to exhale as to inhale. When walking, for example, if you take take two steps while inhaling, practice exhaling through pursed lips over four to six steps. Exhaling this slowly improves air exchange in the lungs and will likely increase endurance.

Note that arm exercises may cause shortness of breath sooner than leg exercises do.

Cold air and/or dry air can make breathing and exercising more difficult for persons with chronic lung disease (which is why many choose swimming as their preferred exercise activity).

With physician approval, strength training (for example, calisthenics or light weight lifting) may be especially helpful for persons who have been weakened or deconditioned due to medications such as steroids.

For exercise beginners who have low endurance or who fear exerting themselves, using a restorator can offer a greater sense of control, build self-confidence, and provide a secure, user-friendly way to get used to physical exertion. A restorator lets you stay chair-seated during exercise. You can start and stop the device as desired. It is a small piece of equipment featuring foot pedals that you place on the floor at the foot of your chair (or even attach to the foot of your bed if lying-down exercise is needed). To exercise, simply pedal. The resistance level can be adjusted, and leg length and knee bend can be accommodated by placement of the restorator. This can be particularly useful for persons who have poor balance.

*Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, Third Edition, was written by Kate Lorig, RN, DrPH; Halsted Holman, MD; David Sobel, MD; Diana Laurent, MPH; Virginia Gonzalez, MPH; and Marian Minor, RPT, PhD; with contributor Peg Harrison, MA, MSW, LCSW.

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The Upside of Exercise

Monday, April 15th, 2013 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

You may know SFA professional Caroline Anaya, MS, as author of the popular book The Curious Upside of Aging. She also offers a short video, The Upside of Exercise, that can be an effective recruiting tool for health-fitness professionals. It provides 29 inspirational testimonials in 30 minutes on DVD. These authentic and heartwarming testimonials have already motivated many seniors to move past their concerns, issues and mistrust regarding the benefits of exercise… and give it a go! For more information, visit www.Great-Senior-Fitness.com.

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Balance Basics

Monday, March 4th, 2013 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

When planning physical activity sessions with fall prevention in mind, don’t forget to include the good old tried-and-true heel lift, also known as the ankle pump. Have standing exercise participants lift up their bodies on tiptoes and then lower their bodies back down while holding on to the back of a sturdy chair. Participants with poor balance can perform this exercise in a chair-seated position by lifting up their heels on tiptoes and then lowering the heels back down. In either case, perform approximately 15 repetitions, as well tolerated. The heel lift is a good anti-falling exercise because it improves ankle strength and balance.

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Core Strength for 50+

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

Subtitle: A Customized Program for Safely Toning Ab, Back & Oblique Muscles
Copyright: 2012
Number of pages: 127
Suggested U.S. retail price: $15.95

The publisher’s description:

"Stay young with effective, efficient core strength training. From swinging a golf club to carrying a bag of groceries, the core is everything. Balance, agility and youthful stature are just a few of the benefits of a toned and powerful midsection. Core Strength for 50+ has everything you need to:

  • Improve posture
  • Enhance sports performance
  • Guarantee low back health
  • Avoid injury
  • "With workouts ranging from basic mat routines to unstable training with foam rollers and stability balls, Core Strength for 50+ provides more than 75 exercises that build and maintain strong muscles in the abs, obliques, lower back and butt."

    On page 16, Dr. Knopf writes:

    "I work with many 50-plus folks, and they’re often concerned about their appearance. They’ll spend great amounts of money on hair products, facials, and clothes but spend little or no time on their posture. To better understand posture’s role in how we look, check out a local high school play and see how the actor portrays an old person — all hunched over!

    "If you want to look young, stand tall. If you want to look thinner, stand tall. Core training is all about how you look and feel. Every time I do my core-strengthening exercises, I think about how they’ll help me stand straight and therefore improve my appearance."

    Along with other topics, the book addresses:

  • What is core strength?
  • Where is the core?
  • The benefits of a strong core
  • Core training the right way
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    Make the Pool Your Gym

    Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Subtitle: No-Impact Water Workouts for Getting Fit, Building Strength and Rehabbing from Injury
    Copyright: 2012
    Number of pages: 103
    Suggested U.S. retail price: $14.95

    The publisher’s description:

    "Step into the non-impact, total-body benefits of water exercise. Once used primarily for rehabilitation, water exercise has been proven to build strength, improve cardiovascular fitness and burn calories — all without the strain and trauma of land-based activities. This flexible training tool can help you:

  • Improve muscular strength
  • Increase flexibility
  • Enhance cardiovascular fitness
  • Alleviate pain
  • Rehabilitate injuries
  • "With step-by-step instructions and clear photos, Make the Pool Your Gym shows how to create the effective and efficient workout best suited to your needs. Whether you’re a non-swimmer, an elite athlete or someone with a chronic condition, you can make a splash in your fitness level without even getting your hair wet."

    On page 14, Dr. Knopf writes:

    "When performing water workouts, try to keep the majority of movements in the water. Having your arms out of the water will change your heart rate and influence your body mechanics. (When your arms are out of the water, your heart rate becomes artificially higher and doesn’t provide a true representation of your exercise intensity.) More importantly, when your arms are out of the water, you’re not applying any resistance to the upper body. Bottom line: Arm exercises out of the water should be limited."

    The book also provides special aquatic exercise advice for persons with:

  • Arthritis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Low back pain
  • Hip problems
  • Knee problems
  • Shin splints
  • Ankle/feet problems
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    Kettlebells for 50+

    Wednesday, October 31st, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Subtitle: Safe and Customized Programs for Building & Toning Every Muscle

    Copyright: 2012
    Number of pages: 127
    Suggested U.S. retail price: $14.95

    The publisher’s description:

    "Stay young with these safe, effective and efficient exercises. Designed to meet the unique needs of active adults, Kettlebells for 50+ presents functional exercises carefully adapted and tested to provide a comprehensive total-body workout. Step-by-step photos and explanatory captions make it easy for anyone from fitness novice to longtime athlete to train smart and stay fit for life. Kettlebells for 50+ offers progressive programs that will:

  • Improve strength
  • Foster core stability
  • Increase hand-eye coordination
  • Boost mind-body awareness
  • Enhance sports performance"
  • On page 13, Dr. Knopf writes:

    "The exercises in Kettlebells for 50+ are practical and functional, and they’ve been tested and selected for the 50+ person based on years of experience. Some have been adapted from their original form to better serve the baby boomer’s body. These movements will provide a complete and comprehensive workout of both the major and minor muscles of the body in a short amount of time. While more kettlebell exercises exist (as you may see in other books or on DVDs), many have been eliminated from this book to offer you the safest kettlebell approach possible."

    Along with overall conditioning programs, the book provides specific training routines for persons who participate in:

  • Baseball/Softball
  • Basketball
  • Golf
  • Kayaking/Paddling
  • Skiing
  • Soccer
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
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    Exercise May Ease Leg Cramps

    Friday, July 27th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Nighttime leg cramps are a problem for many older adults. In his Daytona Beach News-Journal column "To Your Good Health," Paul Donohue, MD, advises that performing leg exercises before going to bed may offer some relief. In addition to stretching exercises, Dr. Donohue notes that stationary cycling may be beneficial. If it is the calves that usually cramp, he suggests this pre-bedtime exercise:

  • Stand on a stair with both heels projecting off the stair. (Hold on to stair railing for balance support.)
  • Lower the heels, and hold that position for ten seconds.>
  • Repeat ten times.
  • Also perform this exercise three times, spaced out, during the day.
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    Keeping Your Brain Sharp

    Friday, July 27th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The following article was written by Lynn Wallen, PhD, the Vice President for Research and Development of Super Noggin TM. She and several other Super Noggin staff members have successfully completed the American Senior Fitness Association’s in-depth "Brain Fitness for Older Adults" professional education program. We know that you will enjoy Dr. Wallen’s informative report, below:

    If you are one of the "worried well," concerned about staying mentally sharp as you age, here is good news for you! There are things you can do to be proactive about your brain health.

    Brain fitness is a topic of great interest right now, not only because 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day, but also because of new and exciting discoveries in neuroscience.

    Probably the most surprising finding is that it is possible to grow new neurons — a type of brain cell — throughout life in a process called neurogenesis. This is a revolutionary discovery because neurons are not like other cells in the body. Unlike skin cells or blood cells or muscle cells, brain cells do not divide and reproduce themselves. That is why scientists used to think that once our brains were developed in childhood, we had all the brain cells we would ever have. The only change would be that they would gradually die off as we aged, unable to be replaced.

    But now we know that new neurons can develop from neural stem cells. The neural stem cells act like seeds from which new neurons develop in a part of the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain is involved with learning and memory, so if we could choose any place for new neurons to grow, we’d probably pick the hippocampus.

    In addition to growing new brain cells, we can also strengthen the connections between existing brain cells and even re-wire those connections in response to our experiences. This ability of the brain to adapt and change is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity allows us to compensate for loss of function due to injury or illness and allows us to adjust to certain disabilities.

    For example, studies show that a part of the brain devoted to vision will alter itself to respond to touch in blind people who learn Braille.

    Or, a right-handed person whose right arm ends up in a cast for many months can learn to do things with his left hand that he could not do — or thought he could not do — with his left hand before. The brain is amazingly adaptable and plastic.

    We can use what we know about neurogenesis and neuroplasticity to keep our brains active and growing. Only thirty percent of how well (or badly) we age is governed by our genes. The other seventy percent is under our control through lifestyle choices we make every day. And what is the number one lifestyle choice? To stay active.

    Regular physical exercise is the keystone to physical health. Everyone knows this. But not many know that physical exercise is also necessary for brain fitness because the condition of your brain is closely tied to the fitness of your body. People who do not move enough are not pumping blood and oxygen to their brains to the degree necessary to support the growth of new brain cells.

    And the news just keeps getting worse and worse for the couch potatoes. Here is what the neuroscientists currently tell us about neurogenesis: The only way to grow new neurons is through physical exercise. Mental exercise and cognitive stimulation will strengthen the connections between brain cells you already have, but only moving can grow new neurons. One experiment suggests that the exercise has greatest benefit if it is voluntary.

    In studies of mice, those who had a running wheel in their cage produced a 15 percent growth in their hippocampus — the part of the brain that processes memory. Mice love to run on their wheels and will spend several hours a day doing it if they can. The sedentary mice in cages without a running wheel did not increase their brain size, and — here’s the interesting part — a group of mice that were forced to do exercise did not increase their gray matter either. These mice were thrown into a pool of water and had to swim around until they found a way to get out of the water. Mice don’t like to swim. It appears that you have to choose to do the exercise to get the brain benefits.

    The 15 percent growth in the hippocampus occurred in young mice. What happened when senior citizen mice were put through the same experiment? They had even better results: Three times the number of new cells in the hippocampus. No one knows why the old mice did so much better. But the evidence was there.

    In addition to the brain-boosting power of exercise, there are many other benefits to staying active. This list is published by the National Institute on Aging:

  • Increased self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Reduced anxiety and stress
  • Improved mood; may alleviate depression
  • Improved sleep
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased risk of heart disease
  • May improve cholesterol levels
  • Slowed rate of bone loss with age
  • More efficient use of insulin
  • Lowered risk of certain cancers
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Helps control weight and prevent obesity; increases calorie burning efficiency.
  • So get moving every day! It’s not only good for your body, it’s the best brain booster available.

    This article is based on Step One of "Ten Steps to Brain Fitness," a workshop in the Super Noggin TM brain fitness series developed by LEAF Ltd., a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting cognitive wellness. Lynn Wallen, Vice President for Research and Development, is the designer of the Super NogginTM program. For more information, visit www.SuperNoggin.org

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    Exercise to Reduce the Pain of Neuropathy

    Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    American Senior Fitness Association author Jim Evans is a 45-year veteran of the health-fitness industry and an internationally recognized fitness consultant. Today Jim offers hope to an older adult seeking guidance in managing a prevalent health concern, neuropathy.

    DEAR JIM: I am 75 years old, and for the past seven years I have been afflicted by painful neuropathy in my feet. It usually comes on at night when I am trying to sleep and, as you can imagine, I haven’t been sleeping very well. Sometimes my feet feel as if they are on fire! My doctor has told me repeatedly that I should be more physically active, but I don’t see how that would help. In the meantime, he keeps giving me pain medication, but it hasn’t helped very much either. What do you
    suggest? DOUBTING DEBBIE IN DUBLIN

    DEAR DOUBTING DEBBIE: It’s a funny thing about doctors. We believe everything they say unless it is something we don’t want to hear. For seven years you have been taking pain medication with very little relief, and for seven years your doctor has been telling you to exercise, but you have ignored his advice. You must be a glutton for punishment!

    According to the Neuropathy Association, more than 20 million people suffer from neuropathy in the U.S., so you are not alone in your misery. Neuropathy — or peripheral neuropathy, as it is more commonly known — is pain, tingling or numbness caused by nerve damage and usually occurs in the hands and feet. It is difficult to treat and is most often seen in patients with trauma, diabetes and certain other conditions. In fact, more than half of all diabetics suffer from neuropathy. Neuropathey is often associated with poor nutrition, too.

    Exercise is commonly recommended for patients with chronic pain, and a recent study published in Anesthesia & Analgesia, the official journal of the International Anesthesia Research Society, provides evidence that exercise helps to ease neuropathic pain by reducing inflammation. Running (or walking) on a treadmill or swimming were the specific forms of exercise used in the study. Is there any reason why you cannot do one or the other, or both?

    Exercise is not going to eliminate your neuropathic pain entirely, but patients in the study experienced a 30 to 50 percent reduction in pain. Sounds pretty encouraging to me.

    The bottom line is that your doctor is right about exercise as a way to reduce the pain of neuropathy, so start listening to him for a change — and not just what you want to hear! You might also have your blood tested for any nutritional deficiencies because certain vitamins can sometimes help to relieve your symptoms, too.

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    Can Financial Incentives Boost Fitness?

    Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    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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