Topic: Healthy Living

Research to Help Seniors Stay Healthy

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

For the latest good news on staying healthy while growing older, enjoy this recent news release from the University of Florida’s Institute on Aging:

The University of Florida Institute on Aging has been awarded a major grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Aging that is expected to total $5.2 million over five years. The award, in renewed support of the UF Pepper Older Americans Independence Center, will fund studies to better understand the biological and behavioral processes that lead to physical disability in older adults, and to develop and test disability prevention and rehabilitation therapies.

The new award comes on the heels of $3.9 million in NIH funding that established Florida’s first Pepper Center at UF in 2007.

“We are honored by this strong, continued support as we use scientific tools to tackle the issue of aging,” said principal investigator Marco Pahor, M.D., director of the UF Institute on Aging and chairman of the department of aging and geriatric research in the UF College of Medicine. “Each grant and each resulting research finding brings us one step closer to providing older adults with the means to maintain their health, independence and dignity as they age.”

UF is one of just 15 institutions in the nation to receive the award, which is named for the late Claude D. Pepper, a U.S. senator-turned-representative from Florida. Pepper advocated for the rights of the elderly and championed laws aimed at improving the health and well-being of older Americans.

“The UF Pepper Center has long been interested in maintaining and improving function of older adults in the community,” said Basil Eldadah, M.D., Ph.D., acting chief of the geriatrics branch of the National Institute on Aging. “It has made several significant contributions to our understanding of aging processes, particularly in the areas of prevention and rehabilitation of disability in older people.”

Aging takes its toll in varied ways, affecting many different organs. It can show up as acute effects such as hip fracture or stroke, or as chronic health conditions such as heart disease, osteoarthritis or mental decline. But although aging reveals itself in so many ways, mounting research points to one main process — muscle loss — as having a hand in all those changes.

The work of the UF Pepper Center focuses on understanding age-related muscle loss from different perspectives, and the potential role of skeletal muscle as a key target for therapies to counteract age-related damage to the body. The center’s researchers work in a wide range of scientific disciplines, including molecular biology, gerontology, epidemiology and behavioral sciences.

“The UF Institute on Aging has demonstrated its commitment to easing the burden of age-related illnesses, and has taken a lead role in finding research-based ways to help older adults maintain the best possible quality of life,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs and president of the UF&Shands Health System. “The Pepper award is a recognition of the world-class, patient-centered research being carried out at UF.”

Since 2007, the center’s researchers have conducted several basic science and clinical studies and published more than 450 scientific papers in noted journals such as Nature, The Journals of Gerontology and the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

The researchers have discovered that higher levels of physical activity are associated with longevity, better mood and improved strength among older adults; that low levels of an enzyme found in white blood cells are linked to better survival in frail older adults, and that a cancer drug can extend the lives of older mice, among other findings. Pepper-funded preliminary studies have formed the basis of 36 pending grant proposals totaling $38 million, for larger studies.

In addition to conducting basic, clinical and translational studies of age-related changes in the body, another central part of the center’s mission is to train the next generation of researchers and help them develop skills in both aging research and leadership. Junior faculty selected for the Pepper scholars career development program hail from various disciplines, including medicine, dentistry and public health, as well as from affiliated institutions such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“This invaluable research training complements national efforts to increase the number of physicians and other clinical professionals who are specially trained in the area of geriatrics,” said UF College of Medicine Dean Michael L. Good. “These physicians and scientists will develop tomorrow’s medical tools and therapies that their clinical colleagues will use to care for patients in community practices and health care organizations.”

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Gardening and Arthritis

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

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

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


    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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    Activity Level and Alzheimer’s Disease

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

    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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    Joy in the Garden

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

    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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    May is Older Americans’ Month

    Friday, April 20th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Since 1963, May has been designated as Older Americans’ Month and it’s a great time to generate some positive attention for your senior fitness program.

    • To learn more about Older Americans’ Month visit the Administration on Aging’s website. You’ll find plenty of suggestions for events to honor seniors in your area. There’s even an "Activity Toolkit" to help you plan your events.
    • Of special interest to fitness leaders, May 30, 2012 will mark the 19th annual celebration of National Senior Health & Fitness Day. This year it’s estimated that 100,000 seniors will participate at over 1000 locations. National Senior Health & Fitness Day has been organized as a public-private partnership by the Mature Market Resource Center with this goal: to help keep older Americans healthy and fit. This year the theme is "Get Moving…Start Improving!"
    • If your organization would like to take part in National Senior Health & Fitness Day, there’s still time to organize your 2012 event and ASFA members that sign-up by Wednesday, May 30, receive a free event registration
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    Mental Distress Tied to Physical Disability

    Friday, April 20th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Older adults experiencing depression or anxiety are more vulnerable to physical disabilities, according to an Australian study published recently in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.However, researchers found that performing regular physical activity can help to guard against such outcomes.

    The scientists analyzed data on approximately 100,000 Australian men and women ages 65-plus. Psychological distress was detected in 8.4 percent of the subjects. The risk for physical disability was more than four times higher in those with any degree of psychological distress, compared to those with none. It was almost seven times higher in those with moderate levels of psychological distress.

    The good news: Investigators found that the older adult subjects who were more physically active were less prone to physical disabilities. In a news release, lead author Gregory Kolt of the University of Western Sydney wrote, "Our findings can influence the emphasis that we place on older adults to remain active. With greater levels of physical activity, more positive health gains can be achieved, and with greater physical function (through physical activity), greater independence can be achieved."

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    Fitness Beyond 50

    Friday, April 20th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The American Senior Fitness Association recently received a practical and easy-to-read soft-cover book (copyright 2012) from the Langdon Street Press.Its publisher has this to say about the new release Fitness Beyond 50: Turn Back the Clock:

    "As resolve in our well-intentioned habit changes starts to fade, we might take a day off from the gym, have that late night slice of pizza, or return to relying on our cup of morning joe to get the day started. But author Harry Gaines reminds us that getting in shape, and staying that way, is not just a New Year’s resolution, it’s a booster shot to our quality of life, especially for those of us over 50.

    "Fitness Beyond 50: Turn Back the Clock is the definitive baby boomer’s guide to fitness covering strength training, aerobics, and healthy eating, as well as the power of support groups, and the impact that exercise has on the brain. Written in a conversational style, Gaines combines easy-to-follow fitness plans and current research with over 125 real-life motivational anecdotes aimed at the quickly expanding ‘young seniors’ market.

    "Here’s what the experts are saying about Fitness Beyond 50:

    At last, a really helpful, easy-to-use guide to a healthy lifestyle for those if us past the ‘middle years.’ It provides motivation, education and behaviors to enhance lifestyle changes in a fun and very engaging format. I couldn’t put it down! — Caroline Nielsen, PhD, Former Chair and Emeritus Professor, Graduate Program in Allied Health, University of Connecticut

    "’This book is not just a how-to,’ says Gaines, ‘it is first and foremost a why-to, and that’s what makes it different. Older adults need the powerful combination of structure, science, motivation, and support in order to meet their fitness goals. Many of the broader exercise books out there are not designed with them in mind. The idea with Fitness Beyond 50 is that it’s focused on health and overall fitness that is attainable at any age.’

    "Fitness Beyond 50: Turn Back the Clock is distributed by Itasca Books and is available through Ingram and Baker & Taylor. For more information, click here.

    "Harry Gaines writes for fitness website dotFIT and the Commons Club Fitness Center Newsletter in Bonita Springs, FL. When he’s not writing, he’s logging one of his 5,000 plus miles cycling in SW Florida or Bucks County, PA."

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    Ladies, Don’t Skip Colon Cancer Screening

    Friday, April 20th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    A troubling trend has been revealed by a new study headed by Nisa Maruther of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and published online in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. It concerns obese white women. Researchers found that they are less likely to undergo potentially life-saving colon cancer screenings, compared to normal-weight white women or to black persons of any weight or gender. In a news release, Dr. Maruther wrote, "Being concerned about your weight usually is good, but here it appears to be keeping people from a test we know saves lives. Obese white women may avoid screening because they feel stigmatized and embarrassed to disrobe for the tests." Health-fitness professionals should encourage all clients ages 50 to 75 to seek colon cancer screening, which includes periodic colonoscopy tests.

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    Choosing a Health Club

    Friday, April 20th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Even with springtime upon us, many have yet to make good on their New Year’s resolution to exercise.Today, in a timely reprint that’s well worth repeating, SFA author Jim Evans outlines some of the main features to look for in a health club. Jim is a 44-year veteran of the health and fitness industry and an internationally recognized senior fitness consultant.

    DEAR JIM: I’ve been thinking about joining a health club, but I don’t know where to start. Is there anything in particular I should know? At 66, I’m just a beginner at this stuff, but I think I need the right environment to motivate me to reach my goals. Any suggestions? BEGINNER IN BETHANY

    DEAR BEGINNER: There are more than 30,000 health clubs in the United States, in addition to countless YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, municipal recreation centers, and other fitness venues, so the choices of where to exercise are many. Whichever venue you choose, there are a few simple guidelines to help you in your decision:

  • Convenience. One of the most important factors in your decision should be convenience. Why? Because the most difficult part of exercising at a health club is getting there in the first place. Once you’ve made it to the front door, it’s a no-brainer, so the closer and more convenient the club is to where you live, the more likely you are to take advantage of it. It is difficult enough for most people to motivate themselves to exercise without adding the excuse of "it’s too far."
  • Exterior. Is the parking lot free of litter? Is the landscaping well groomed and free of weeds? These are deeper signs of a troubled business that may not be apparent in the inside.
  • Front Desk. How are you greeted when you first enter the club? Is the greeting courteous and professional? The manner in which you are acknowledged will tell you a lot about whether ownership views you as a person or just another number. Watch to see if the front desk attendant is paying attention to members when they sign in or is distracted by personal phone calls, texting or socializing with other employees.
  • Activity Level. Busy is one thing, crowded is something else. It’s all right if you have to circle the parking lot looking for a parking spot. After all, you are going there to work out, right? However, you shouldn’t have to wait in line for equipment once you’ve made it past the front door. Busy is good — crowded means the club may be oversold. Expect every facility to be busier than usual on Monday night — everybody typically has a guilty conscience after the weekend. Accept it.
  • Equipment. Does the equipment appear to be clean and well maintained or are there a lot of out-of-order signs? Is the equipment well spaced so that members are not stumbling over each other trying to get from one exercise to the next?
  • Safety. Is the staff trained in first aid and CPR? Does the club have a defibrillator?
  • Staff. Are the employees neat and well groomed? Are they circulating throughout the club helping members or standing behind the front desk chitchatting with each other? Are the trainers certified? Do they have references?
  • Cleanliness. Thoroughly inspect the facility. Is the exercise equipment clean? Check for mold in the grouting of showers, the steam room, and the sauna. Check for rings around the whirlpool and swimming pool. Does the facility smell clean? Are cleaning materials readily available for members to clean up after using equipment? Does the club provide free towels?
  • Members. Visit the club at the time of day you anticipate using the facilities. Are there any members your age or does the club seem to cater to a different age group? If there are members your age, introduce yourself and ask their opinion. Most members will be frank, one way or the other.
  • Sales Pitch. Most reputable clubs will not use the hard-sell sales pitch of a generation ago, but it still exists in some clubs, so guard against being pressured to make a hasty decision. Still, there may be some legitimate discount opportunities that are worth the investment, so trust your instincts.
  • Trial Period. No health club is obligated to let you use their facilities for a trial period, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can try things out for a week or even a month before you make a decision. If no trial period is available, ask if you can join on a short-term membership to start.
  • Before You Sign. Ask if you can take a copy of the membership agreement to read in the privacy of your home, and be sure to ask questions if there is something you don’t understand. Every membership agreement has a three-day right of rescission by federal law (five days in California), so if you discover something you’re not comfortable with after you join, you can still cancel your membership. If you’re still not sure, take it to your attorney.
  • Membership Options. Except for a short-term "starter" membership, avoid term memberships and expensive prepayments. Look for a month-to-month membership that allows you the right to cancel at any time with just 30 days’ written notice. Some clubs will even offer you a 30-day money back guarantee. Don’t object to a one-time enrollment fee or initiation fee — it can have the positive effect of reconfirming your commitment to fitness.
  • Better Business Bureau. The BBB has no enforcement ability, but it can give you a report on the number of complaints registered against a club and how those complaints were handled. Even the best clubs will have complaints in proportion to the number of members, and the manner in which the club handles those complaints will tell you a lot.
  • Fitness is an investment in yourself and the best investment you will ever make, and a health club can be an important vehicle to help you reach your goals if you follow these guidelines.

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