Health and Fitness Information for Mature Adults 

April 02, 2008              

Table of Contents

  • SFA Members Make a Difference Nationwide (Introduction to special issue)
  • San Francisco (The revolutionary Always ActiveSM program)
  • Kansas (An important cognitive fitness study)
  • Oregon (Senior fitness innovator discusses diet)
  • Florida (New professional resource coming soon)
  • San Diego (International educator addresses choosing a health club)
  • All Aboard! (Major spring savings on educational programs)

SFA Members Make a Difference Nationwide

All across the country,
American Senior Fitness Association (SFA) members are improving the health, fitness level, and quality of life in the older adult population. Below are just a few representative examples of the meaningful work occurring at this time.

San Francisco

SFA-certified instructor Betsy Best-Martini, MS, has successfully guided 30 students to American Senior Fitness Association professional certification through a University of San Francisco program in conjunction with the 30th Street Senior Center's Always Active
SM fitness program.

During the March 12, 2008, graduation ceremony, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom awarded the graduation certificates to the 30 newly SFA-certified instructors. Dr. Walter Bortz, the author of "Dare to Be 100," gave a talk on activity and longevity. Also attending was Anne Hinton, Director of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. The celebration ended with the graduates leading the audience in a short exercise session.

The afternoon of inspiration, recognition, and fun was held at the 30th Street Senior Center, a member of the On Lok family of senior services and an Always Active
SM program partner with San Francisco Senior Centers, Inc., and the University of San Francisco's Exercise and Sport Science Department which is headed by fall prevention expert Dr. Christian Thompson.  

The 30th Street Senior Center began its Always Active
SM program in July, 2007. With a grant of $200,000 from the Department of Aging and Adult Services, Always ActiveSM has been expanded throughout the city with programs launched at nine senior centers.

"It is exciting to have 30 new fitness instructors from the community senior centers to help us realize our goal of providing activities specifically designed for seniors," said Valorie Villela, Director of the 30th Street Center. "The program includes cardiovascular exercise, strength training, flexibility and balance activities that participants can do on their own as well as in class. We have found this program so effective at our center, we're really pleased to see this expansion that benefits many more seniors."

"The American Senior Fitness Association is delighted to work with this outstanding, forward-looking program," said SFA president Janie Clark. "Always Active
SM is changing many, many lives for the better!"

Wellness programs like Always Active
SM are proven to be effective in reducing the risk of disease, disability, and injury in seniors. Always ActiveSM empowers seniors to take more control over their own health through the lifestyle change of embracing a wellness plan that can help increase energy, strength, and balance.

Classes are held in English, Spanish, and Cantonese at the different San Francisco centers. Seniors must submit health clearance from their doctor before enrolling. While some centers ask for a donation, no one is turned away. For more information, please call (415) 550-2210.


SFA author Jan Montague,
Vice President of Community Life at Lakeview Village in Lenexa, Kansas, is teaming with other experts to conduct a study comparing different approaches linking physical and cognitive fitness.

Working with Jan Montague, MGS, are Arthur Kramer, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Evelyn Shantil, PhD, of the international company CogniFit. Additional corporate participants include NuStep, PCE Health and Fitness, New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, and CIO, Inc.

"While the link between physical and cognitive fitness in people over 50 is a 'hot topic' in our field," observed Jan, "many of the studies are correlational, or compare only one training program with a control group. This prospective, randomized study will compare two recognized approaches, fitness training and cognitive training, and one innovative multimodal approach, in terms of potential benefits for cognitive function and quality of life of elder citizens."

The subjects of the study will be volunteer Lakeview Village residents. The initial study, including pre- and post-testing, will require five months. The researchers expect to complete the study and have results analyzed early in 2009.


SFA-certified senior personal trainer Andy Baxter has 19 years' experience owning and operating health-fitness facilities in New York, California, and Oregon. Baxter Fitness Systems, based in Medford, Oregon, assists hospitals and community fitness providers to conduct conditioning programs for post-rehabilitation and general population seniors. To learn more about those services, click on Below, Andy Baxter gets right to the point in a frank discussion about diet:

On January 12, 2005, the federal government released its then-new dietary guidelines: Eat less, exercise more. Well, duh. That simple truth should be enough to confirm that there are no magic pills, no reinvented wonder wheels, and no ab-fantastic barca-lounger thingy-ma-jigs to succeed otherwise (even if there are only three easy payments of $19.95 plus shipping and handling). 

We've all been around the block; we should know better. Just like the government experts say, it all boils down to intake versus output. If you put out more than you take in, you create a caloric deficit, thus losing weight. If you take in more than you put out, you create a caloric surplus, thus gaining weight. The question is: How much of either is too much and how little is too little? The answer, predictably, can be somewhat complicated and confusing. This complicated confusion is what makes the ab-fantastic barco-lounger thingy-ma-jig folks rich. The seller capitalizes on the ignorance of the consumer.

Let's cut through the caloric and metabolic red tape and dispel some longstanding myths that abound in the field of health and fitness.

Spot reduction. We lose fat on our bodies at the same rate from head to toe. Therefore, we cannot target a specific area on the body for fat loss. Without a balanced weight-loss program, all of the "stomach crunches" in the world will not make much of a dent in your midsection. At best, they will strengthen, or tighten, the abdominal musculature. Done improperly, they can cause injury.

Diet, the four letter word. Extreme caloric reduction will result in weight loss, but the problem lies in the type of weight you are losing. While you may be losing some fat weight, you are also losing muscle weight and water weight. Less muscle weight means less calorically active tissue, which means a lower resting metabolism. Now you have begun a vicious cycle in which your body fat percentage -- by virtue of the fact that you have less muscle and a slower metabolism -- has gone up!

Absolute weight loss vs fat loss/muscle gain. If a client came to me with a goal of losing 25 pounds in a month, I would propose this: How about losing 15 pounds in about four months and keeping it off while dropping two pants sizes at the same time? For the sake of this example, let's say that a moderate, conversational-paced aerobic activity, coupled with a strengthening program, produces a caloric output of 150 calories. With such daily exercise, you will be burning fat but preserving valuable lean muscle mass, which is thermogenically active tissue. This results in an increase in your resting metabolic rate, so you will burn more calories even while you sleep!    

From there, reducing your daily caloric intake by 350 calories would produce a net caloric deficit of 500 calories per day. That is 3,500 calories per week, equal to one pound per week, or four pounds per month. Four months later, you are stronger and leaner and have the energy to go shopping for new pants!


SFA president Janie Clark, MA,
is presently writing a new continuing education program that we think you will be very enthusiastic to see when unveiled. This course of study deals with an up-and-coming fitness service area that can expand the breadth, influence, and value of the senior exercise profession. The program is planned to include two training manuals and a 100-minute educational DVD. It is scheduled for release no later than this summer. More details will be announced about this new professional resource after its initial peer reviews have been completed.   

San Diego

SFA author Jim Evans
is a 40-year veteran of the health-fitness industry and an internationally recognized consultant on senior fitness. Jim has a highly esteemed history of educating professionals and laypersons alike. Below, he provides helpful answers to a questioner who needs to know how to choose the right health club.

Dear Jim: I've been thinking about joining a local health club to get more exercise, but I'm not sure where to begin. I'm 74 and used to get all my exercise on the farm when I was a kid, so this would be a whole new experience for me. I have some health issues, too. Can you give me some tips on what I should look for? Confused in Cincinnati

Dear Confused: 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 setting 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 hard enough for most people to motivate themselves to exercise without adding the excuse of "it's too far."

Check the grounds. 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 on the inside.

Front desk. The person behind the front desk will probably be young enough to be your granddaughter, but most important is how you are greeted. Is it 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.

Is it crowded? Busy is one thing, crowded is something else. You don't want to have to circle the parking lot looking for a parking spot, and you don't want to have to wait in line for equipment. Busy is good --- crowded means the club may be oversold.

Cleanliness. You would think that any facility using the adjective "health" in front of it would be concerned with cleanliness. Unfortunately, this is not always true. Take time to thoroughly inspect all of the facilities that you are considering in your selection process. Is the exercise equipment clean and well maintained? Are there cleaning materials readily available for members to clean up after using the equipment? Is there mold in the grouting of the showers, the steam room, or sauna? Is there a ring around the whirlpool or swimming pool? Does the club provide free towels to members? Does it smell "like a gym" or does it smell clean?

The members. Visit the club at the time of day you anticipate using the facilities. Are there any members your age? If not, the club may be oriented toward a younger clientele, and you might not feel comfortable. If there are members your age, introduce yourself and inquire about their level of satisfaction with the club.

The sales pitch. Most reputable clubs will not use the hard-sell 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 sometimes 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 basis to start.

Read the contract. Ask if you can take a copy of the membership agreement home to read at your leisure, and be sure to ask questions if there is something you don't understand. Every membership agreement has a three-day right of rescission, so if you discover something disagreeable within three days after you join, you can still cancel your membership.

What kind of membership to consider. 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 reasonable one-time enrollment fee or initiation fee because it can have the positive effect of reconfirming your commitment to fitness.

Fitness is an investment in yourself -- indeed, 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.

All Aboard!

It's time for SFA's annual "Spring Savings Event."
Whether you're looking to add a senior-specific fitness credential to your resume, to earn continuing education credits accepted by most fitness organizations or both, until Tuesday, April 15, 2008, major savings are available on all of SFA's training programs. And yes, these savings are in addition to your regular member discount.

Plus, here's some extra good news for you early birds! If you order your program by Monday, April 7, SFA will even pay the shipping.

So don't delay. Simply click on the link below and take advantage of this special opportunity to get the education and professional credentials you need to excel in the growing older adult fitness market.

Experience! readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to individual queries or comments. However, the newsletter does address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

Free SFA basic membership: If you aren't already a member of the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA), just sign up online at There are no fees or membership dues. And, we don't give out our members' personal information to others! When you join SFA, you'll receive our e-newsletter "Experience!" which will bring you older adult fitness news, research, and wellness tips.

Fitness and health professionals: You may distribute copies of Experience! to your exercise clients and patients as a free newsletter service. Copies of Experience! or excerpts therefrom must always ascribe credit to the American Senior Fitness Association (SFA). To fulfill that requirement, include the complete banner (title information at the top of each newsletter) as well as all post-newsletter notes, messages, copyright information, and the SFA logo.
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