September 15, 2006               

Table of Contents

And the Winner Is . . . Dogs!
(Pets and physical activity)
Exercise Adds Up
(Fitness research)
Can't Hurt, Might Help
(Nutrition news)
Go for It
(Exercise and mild hypertension)
Don't Tread on Us
(Employment loss and senior health)
The Sound of Music
(Medical update)
Workout Savvy
(Try these push-up variations)


And the Winner Is . . . Dogs!

The authors of a new study
hypothesized that dog owners would perform more physical activity, including more non-exercise-related walking, than persons without pets and pet owners whose households didn't include a dog. So the authors surveyed more than 2,000 subjects, who were already participating in a long-running research project, to determine their pet ownership status and physical activity habits.

All of the subjects had been 70-79 years old when they entered the original project three years earlier. Just slightly more than half were men. Out of the 2,533 participants, there were 594 pet owners. Most had dogs; then came cats; then dog and cat combinations; and -- finally -- fish, birds or some assortment of all of the above.

Data analysis supported the authors' hypothesis. Dog owners were the most active and the most likely to undertake non-exercise-related walking. Unfortunately, cats didn't fare so well when it came to being associated with physically active lifestyles. Most of the non-dog pet owners had cats. The dog owners' walks were longer and more frequent than those of the no-pet participants and the non-dog pet owners. Also, non-dog pet owners were more likely to have fallen during the previous year.

The authors of this study advocate further research to explore how pet ownership -- including the type of pet -- relates to physical activity and, thus, potentially to better health in senior populations. (Editor's note: Of course, physical activity promotion is not the only way pets might foster health and well-being. For example, pets of various types may mitigate loneliness, enhance relaxation, relieve stress, and contribute to blood pressure management.)


Reference: "Physical Activity and Pet Ownership in Year 3 of the Health ABC Study" by R.J. Thorpe, Jr., R.A. Kreisle, L.T. Glickman, E.M. Simonsick, A.B. Newman, and S. Kritchevsky, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 14(2), 154.

Exercise Adds Up

A new study published online by Preventive Medicine and described by the Pulse wire report holds some good news for people who find it hard to set aside half an hour, all at one time, for exercise. Shorter, more frequent exercise bouts also appear to produce desirable physiological results.

The subjects of this study were 50 previously sedentary adults who committed to performing mild to moderate exercise activity on their own at home. Some participants exercised continuously for 30 minutes, three to four days per week. The others exercised for only six minutes at a time, but did so five times per day on four to five days per week.

This went on for two months and, at the end, participants had accumulated about the same amount of exercise time. Researchers found that both protocols yielded improved physical fitness measurements. In the subjects who exercised for half an hour at a time, aerobic capacity improved by approximately seven percent. In those who amassed their exercise time in shorter bouts, aerobic capacity improved by approximately five percent.

Can't Hurt, Might Help

The journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology recently published research indicating that a supplement containing an antioxidant and a chemical which are found, respectively, in onions and curry may help to prevent the development of precancerous colon polyps in persons at elevated risk for colon cancer.

Persons at high risk for the cancer should discuss supplementation with their personal physicians, as they would be unlikely to obtain sufficient amounts of the right substances by following a normal diet. Others, however, may wish to take note that previous research has suggested that consuming large quantities of curry may help to reduce one's risk for colon cancer.     

Go for It

Everyone knows that regular, long-term exercise can help to prevent and/or control high blood pressure. But it is also well known that blood pressure rises temporarily with exercise. For this reason, persons with high blood pressure may be reluctant to work out.

To exercise, or not to exercise? That is the question.

In answer, researchers who recently published their findings in the scientific journal Heart have arrived at a happy medium. They studied how physical exercise affects the amount of blood filling the heart with every beat, as well as the amount of blood pumped out by the heart. Their conclusions: Whereas long-term hypertension can harmfully enlarge the heart and harden the heart's tissues, the short-term increase in blood pressure caused by regular exercise does not.

In practical-application terms, this means that moderate exercise isn't dangerous -- but, rather, is helpful -- for older adults who have mild hypertension but are in good health otherwise and have medical clearance to exercise.

Don't Tread on Us

A recent study published by the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine shows that older workers who are fired or "let go" may experience serious health complications. Compared to youthful employees who lost their jobs, persons ages 50+ ran more than twice the risk of having a stroke or heart attack.

The Sound of Music

A Cochrane Library comprehensive analysis of medical research has ascertained that surgical patients who listen to music after their operations report less discomfort than those who recuperate sans melody. Not only do music-loving patients perceive less pain; they also require less morphine or similar pain-relieving medications.

Workout Savvy

Push-ups are traditionally performed
with one's body prone on the floor, but the following tips also can be applied to the wall push-up, which is a less strenuous version of the exercise favored by many senior fitness participants. (Wall push-ups are done in a standing position, facing a wall, with one's hands on the wall. Both arms push the body's weight away from the wall until full -- but not strainfully locked -- elbow extension is achieved. Then the exerciser bends both elbows, allowing the upper body to ease back toward the wall.)

For a good basic floor push-up, position the hands directly below the shoulders (or directly in front of the shoulders for wall push-ups). If you wish to concentrate on certain muscles, adjust the position of your hands. To especially engage the triceps (back of upper arm), place your hands closer together. To focus on the chest muscles, work with your hands farther apart. For an excellent all-around push-up regimen, incorporate all three hand positions into your exercise routine. 

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