Topic: Wellness

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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    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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    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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    Whole-Person Wellness

    Monday, March 19th, 2012 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    Mark your calendar for May 22-24, 2012! On those dates, the "Advancing Whole-Person Wellness" workshop will be conducted at California State University, Fullerton. The multi-day workshop will focus on whole-person wellness strategies for community-based and senior living organizations. Featured speakers will include Jan Montague, Debra Rose and Wiley Piazza. The American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) will award 10 hours (1.0 units) continuing education credit to SFA members who attend. For more information, click here. To view a PDF copy of the brochure, click the image below

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    Research and Practical Health Care

    Friday, May 6th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    The great universities of the world produce important research findings and provide practical medical care as well. Below are three current news releases from the University of Florida that demonstrate such centers’ value — and that will be of great interest to those involved in older adult health and fitness.

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    Exercise Cuts Older Adult Health Costs

    Friday, May 6th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    While most senior health-fitness professionals already advocate insurance coverage of structured physical exercise programming for older adults, the following news release strongly reinforces that position:

    Structured exercise and physical activity programs should be covered by insurance as a way to promote health and reduce health care costs, especially among high health-risk populations such as those who have diabetes.

    So says Marco Pahor, M.D., director of the University of Florida Institute on Aging, in an editorial Wednesday, May 4, in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Pahor’s paper accompanies an analysis of multiple clinical trials that examined the effect of exercise and physical activity on the control of blood glucose levels.

    “Cumulative work over the past few decades provides solid evidence for public policymakers to consider structured physical activity and exercise programs as worthy of insurance reimbursement,” Pahor said.

    A host of studies have linked exercise programs with improved health measures related to blood pressure, lipid levels — including cholesterol and triglycerides — cardiovascular events, cognition, physical performance, premature death and quality of life. People who take part in programs that contain both aerobic and resistance training are likely to get the greatest benefit, compared with people who do only resistance exercises.

    The study that Pahor’s editorial accompanied, conducted by Daniel Umpierre, M.Sc., of the Hospital de Clinicas de Porto Alegre, Brazil, and colleagues, compared the association between physical activity advice and structured exercise programs, respectively, and markers of diabetes.

    Analyses of interventions to promote physical exercise in adults have found that compared with no intervention, exercise programs are cost-effective and have the potential to improve survival rates and health-related quality of life.

    Some insurance providers already include a fitness benefit for members, such as monthly membership at certain fitness centers or access to personal trainers or exercise classes at reduced cost. Use of such health plan-sponsored club benefits by older adults has been linked to slower increases in total health care costs.

    In one study, older adults who visited a health club two or more times a week over two years incurred $1,252 less in health care costs in the second year than those who visited a health club less than once a week. Programs among people with lower incomes can also pay off, because people in that group are otherwise more likely to forego health-promoting physical activity because of economic constraints or safety concerns.

    “People are willing to invest in improved health, but if you have a fixed amount of resources then you want to choose where you get the most health for the dollar,” said Erik Groessl, an assistant professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego, and director of the UCSD Health Services Research Center. Groessl was not involved in the current analysis.

    Group training or walking programs, for example, can be cost-effective, sustainable forms of physical activity that don’t require expensive health care professionals or equipment. But more costly interventions that yield dramatic results might also be worth the expense.

    With respect to type 2 diabetes, Medicare reimburses for approved self-management education and medical nutrition therapy programs. But no specific reimbursement is given for any physical activity or exercise program, despite evidence that such programs can help improve health and cut costs.

    Questions remain as to what format reimbursable exercise and physical activity programs should take, what population group should be targeted, and at what stage of life or health status would a lifestyle intervention be most cost-effective to implement.

    Various studies, including the UF Institute on Aging Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders, or LIFE study, are aimed at answering those questions through randomized controlled trials that can provide data about the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of structured activity programs with respect to a range of health outcomes. Funded by the National Institute on Aging, the LIFE study is the largest of its kind to examine physical activity and health education as a way to prevent mobility disability among older adults, and accounts for the largest federal award to the University of Florida.

    The institute will break ground on May 26 for a 40,000-square-foot complex within UF’s new $45 million, 120,000-square-foot Clinical and Translational Research Building, which will serve as headquarters for this research and others aimed at speeding scientific discoveries to patients.

    “There is a lot of evidence that physical activity works, and I think it’s time to start putting it into practice more widely,” Groessl said.

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    Looking Back — And Forward — With Smiles

    Thursday, March 24th, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    During the first quarter of 2011, SFA has begun a number of exciting initiatives including the preparatory stages of two new professional education courses. As these events unfold, look for detailed announcements in Experience! Below are just a few highlights from 2010:

  • SFA president Janie Clark continued to champion older adult quality of life in her role as an effective advocate for optimal senior fitness programming. She served on the National AFib Support Team, which was sponsored by the pharmaceutical corporation sanofi-aventis to promote a better understanding of atrial fibrillation among laypersons, medical personnel, and health-fitness professionals. She appeared on Retirement Living Television and wrote for EP Lab Digest, the news and clinical update publication for electrophysiology professionals. She also gave interviews for articles in Club Industry magazine, the Chicago Tribune, American Fitness magazine (published by AFAA, the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America), and numerous other media outlets.
  • SFA launched a popular newsletter and website series "Who’s Who in Senior Fitness" which profiles individuals who’ve made key contributions to the field. Upcoming issues of Experience! will feature Kay Van Norman, Jim Evans, and more.
  • The Association signed on to exciting new corporate partnership and distributorship agreements.
  • SFA members achieved numerous worthwhile accomplishments, many of which were documented in Experience! You can access past issues by visiting SFA’s website.
  • SFA’s latest professional education program, Brain Fitness for Older Adults, continued to earn stellar expert reviews, such as the following statement by neuroscientist Dr. Ryan McKim, PsyD: "Drawing on recent neuroscientific research, SFA has designed a thoughtful and progressive training program for senior fitness professionals interested in integrating cognitive fitness into their existing physical activity programs. Recent advances in neuroscience are drawing long overdue attention to the importance of cognitive health. SFA has designed an impressive and well-researched training program for senior fitness professionals."
  • Educational participants gained vital knowledge and expertise from their SFA courses. Below are some commentaries from students who completed their work during the past few months.
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    The Healthy Hips Handbook

    Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 by American Senior Fitness Association   View This Issue of Experience!

    SFA president Janie Clark has this to say about Karl Knopf as an older adult fitness author: "I have always loved Karl’s style because it is so clear, so practical, and so to-the-point. This is very true of his newest contribution, the Healthy Hips Handbook, which I am delighted to recommend for both senior fitness professionals and mature adult laypersons alike."

    The book, released in 2010 by Ulysses Press, is a reader-friendly manual that outlines causes and solutions for common hip problems. The publisher notes that millions of people suffer from debilitating hip conditions each year and that Knopf’s book offers easy-to-follow exercises to:

    Build strength,

    Improve flexibility,

    Hasten recovery, and

    Avoid future injury.

    It also features specially designed programs to help prevent common hip issues and to condition the body for successful participation in everyday activities, as well as in popular sports activities.

    The Healthy Hips Handbook begins with an overview and an illustrated discussion of the anatomy and functions of the hip joint. It moves on to describe the symptoms, usual causes, and treatment options regarding a number of prevalent hip-related concerns, including:

  • Groin strain,
  • Bursitis,
  • Snapping hip,
  • Iliotibial band fascitis,
  • Sciatic pain,
  • Hip dislocation,
  • Hip pointers,
  • Osteitis pubis,
  • Degenerative joint disease, and
  • Pelvic girdle fractures.
  • One useful and interesting provision in the manual is its section on self-massage. The author explains that massage can relax a muscle or, in some cases, invigorate it. Often massage will increase blood flow to the area and can release tension, prepare a joint for motion, or provide relief following an exercise/therapy session.

    The physical exercises presented by the handbook are divided into six categories, as follows:

  • Stretches
  • Standing activities,
  • Seated activities,
  • Floor activities,
  • Ball activities, and
  • Sports-ready activities.
  • There are more than 300 excellent step-by-step photographs of the exercises, all of which are accompanied by clear and concise written instructions. The physical exercise recommendations are augmented by helpful discussions of pertinent subjects, such as:

  • Hip replacement,
  • Micro versus macro trauma injuries,
  • Healthy hips lifestyle tips,
  • Healthy hips training tips, and a
  • Proper posture checklist.
  • Dr. Knopf is singularly qualified to provide exercise guidance to older adults and disabled persons. SFA president Janie Clark says, "In addition to his impressive academic credentials and professional achievements, Karl also has life experience that enhances and distinguishes his work." Once a college
    wrestler and triathlete, Dr. Knopf subsequently injured his back while lifting a patient out of a wheelchair. At that point, he adjusted his exercise routine to revolve around swimming and the use of a recumbent bicycle.

    "I learned from this experience what it is like to live with daily pain," he has said, adding with a touch of humor: "I think this makes me a better teacher because I feel worse than most of my students. I also know that if I don’t exercise I’ll feel even worse!" Indeed, he hasn’t let the injury slow him down very much, but has always remained active in every sense of the word.

    Regarding his work with older adult fitness participants, Dr. Knopf told SFA many years ago: "My philosophy is that I like for people to set themselves up to win." This approach shines through in the following short excerpt from the Healthy Hips Handbook. In the author’s own words:

    "It helps to know the areas of the body that are vulnerable to injury. Besides the hips, the knees, neck, low back, shoulders, and ankles are high-risk. Pay special attention when performing exercises that involve these areas, and follow these rules:

  • "Don’t allow your legs to spread too wide or too far forward or back.
  • "Always perform exercises with proper execution.
  • "Don’t neglect the small supporting actors of your hip joint (most of us focus on the ‘show’ muscles and forget the importance of these smaller muscles).
  • "Pay attention to how your head, upper back, and legs are positioned during activities of daily living and in the workplace."
  • The Healthy Hips Handbook contains 135 pages and retails for $14.95. Retail orders are shipped free of charge. California residents must include sales tax. For further information or to order the book, here’s how to contact the publisher:

  • Call 800-377-2542 or 510-601-8301,
  • Fax 510-601-8307,
  • Email ulysses@ulyssespress.com, or
  • Write to Ulysses Press, P.O. Box 3440, Berkeley CA 94703.
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