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Whether you're an older adult, senior fitness professional, health care worker, family caregiver -- or any combination of the above -- "Round-Up" provides you with information of interest and news you can use.


September 1, 2005


Table of Contents

  • Indulge Your Wanderlust (Calling All Writers)
  • Congregate-Meal Sites and Exercise Promotion (Research)
  • Excuse Me, I Have to Go -- Right NOW! (Health News)
  • Lose Fat -- Not Bone Mass (Research)
  • Help for Painful Joints (Resource)
  • Steam Scheme (Diet Tip)
  • Surgery or Exercise? (Research)
  • Don't Worry, Be Happy (Stress Management)
  • From the SFA Archives (Classic Research)

Indulge Your Wanderlust

Check out SFA's website for a thought provoking discussion of how vacation choices tie in with the quest for older adult health and fitness. Our new article "Slowing Down to Reinvigorate" is rich in descriptive prose, humor, reflection, and fetching photos. It might even have you packing your bags for a certain out-of-the-way islet that most people have never heard of!

While you're at it, take a look at the accompanying call for contributions for possible publication by SFA. We're interested in hearing about your favorite vacation spots -- especially little known or off-the-beaten-path kinds of places -- and about how taking a break there can promote older adult wellness. Here's a chance to show off your skills as a writer and observer, perhaps as a photographer and even as a philosopher, too!

Congregate-Meal Sites and Exercise Promotion

Following is an edited abstract from "Participatory Research to Promote Physical Activity at Congregate-Meal Sites" by Paul A. Estabrooks and colleagues, Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 13(2), 121:

The purpose of this study was to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of an on-site physical activity promotion program offered with congregate meals. Study 1 surveyed meal-site users on their likelihood to participate. Study 2 used meal-site manager interviews and site visits to determine organizational feasibility. Study 3, a controlled pilot study, randomly assigned meal sites either to a 12-week group-based social-cognitive intervention (designed to promote increased physical activity) or to a standard-care control condition. Studies 1 and 2 indicated that most meal-site users would participate in the on-site program, and that meal sites had well-suited physical resources and strong organizational support for this type of program. In Study 3, the intervention participants increased their weekly physical activity over those in the control condition. These studies indicate that a program promoting physical activity offered in this venue is feasible, is effective in promoting physical activity, and could have a strong public health impact.

Excuse Me, I Have to Go -- Right NOW!

A recent report by Reuters Health, "The Bladder Does Not Shrink With Age," describes the findings of researchers who compared the total volume capacity of older women's bladders with that of younger women.

The 95 subjects tested included women ranging in age from 22 to 90 years old.

This line of inquiry is important because, in the past, it was widely thought that when older women experience an urgent need to urinate (often with little or no warning) it must be due to shrinkage of the bladder with age. However, this investigation indicated that the bladder's volume does not change with age.

Factors which do appear to change over time are:

  • A delay in older women's perception that the bladder is filling;
  • A tendency for older women's bladders to go into spasm prior to filling;
  • A decline in the strength of sphincter muscles (which prevent the seepage of urine from the bladder before women can reach a toilet).

The good news is that whereas in the past one might simply have been advised to "learn to live with" urinary urgency, the condition described above -- also known as "overactive bladder" -- is quite treatable.

The Reuters article lists several possible interventions: reduce fluid intake, urinate more often, seek appropriate medication through a physician, and/or perform physical exercises designed to re-train one's bladder.

(Note: The American Senior Fitness Association provides SFA-certified senior fitness professionals with a continuing education correspondence course on conducting such bladder-control exercises. For further information, SFA-certified instructors and trainers may call 1-386-423-6634.)

Lose Fat -- Not Bone Mass

Kerry J. Stewart and colleagues recently published new research entitled "Exercise Effects on Bone Mineral Density: Relationships to Changes in Fitness and Fatness" in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 28(5), 453. The big news is that exercise-induced reductions in body fat do not lead to bone loss.

What's interesting about this study is that it confronts the long-held belief that fat loss is inexorably accompanied by bone loss. In fact, body fat actually does protect bone density to some extent by imposing beneficial stress on bone matter.

However, this study demonstrated that when fat loss is instigated by physical exercise, concurrent bone loss need not be anticipated. Based on the results seen in this study's 55-to-75-year-old subjects, men with the greatest improvements in lean mass and strength were likely to increase their bone mineral density. And, the same was true of women with the highest increases in aerobic capacity.

Help for Painful Joints

If you have a special interest in arthritis, you can write to the Arthritis Foundation for information about its resources and services. The address is: P.O. Box 18888, Atlanta GA 30326. For online information, go to

Steam Scheme

Most of us know that steaming our vegetables preserves more of their precious nutrient content than will other forms of cooking, such as boiling. But if steaming with water is beginning to get boring, try this easy flavor-enhancing idea from Steam your vegetables by using a low-fat broth for a change.

Surgery or Exercise?

In some cases of severe back pain, there seems no reasonable alternative to surgery. Patients must fully explore all options with their physicians. However, it is becoming more and more clear that in certain instances rehabilitation is more advisable than surgery.

Jeremy Fairbanks and colleagues recently published their paper on the subject, "Randomized Controlled Trial to Compare Surgical Stabilisation of the Lumbar Spine with an Intensive Rehabiliation Programme for Patients with Chronic Low Back Pain: The MRC Spine Stabilisation Trial," British Medical Journal, 330, 1233.

This investigation examined patients who, in lieu of undergoing spinal fusion surgery, underwent intensive rehabilitation (including physical exercise, education, and cognitive behavior therapy designed to identify and overcome the fears and detrimental beliefs that patients too often develop when experiencing chronic pain). The outcome? Nearly three-fourths of patients participating in the rehabilitation program avoided surgery for two years.

The study's authors noted, "Patients with low back pain who are considered by surgeons to be candidates for spinal fusion may obtain similar benefits from an intensive rehabilitation programme as they do from surgery." Unfortunately, they added, such comprehensive forms of rehabilitation programming are not widely available to lower back pain patients.

Effective rehabilitation requires adequate financing, staff training, physical space, and the unwavering support of professional health-care team members.

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Here at SFA we have personally tested the following quick tips for beating everyday stress and have found them to be helpful:

  • Stop trying to remember everything. Use lists. Make notes to yourself. Make verbal memos on a pocket sized tape recorder.
  • Designate more time than you think you will need for driving to appointments and meetings.
  • Be prepared to wait for everything -- doctors, haircuts, restaurant service, you-name-it! Carry along a paperback, stationery, or some other small item with which to occupy your time.
  • Rid your life of unnecessary clutter. If you haven't worn it, used it, or otherwise enjoyed it for a year or so, consider giving it away.
  • Set priorities. When practical and possible, drop time-consuming, annoying activities and obligations.
  • Freely express your feelings of grief, disappointment, hope, and joy.
  • Try doing one thing at a time. On some days, the benefits of multi-tasking may be outweighed by a feeling of being overwhelmed.
  • Plan tomorrow before the end of today!

From the SFA Archives

Every now and then we like to review our records of not-so-recent research in order to revisit and share certain studies that we've found to be especially pertinent and motivational to older adults. Following are two examples from 1993 that still speak to us meaningfully today:

Activities, Adaptation & Aging Journal, 17(3): Physical exercise has a positive effect on osteoporosis. When researchers compared 158 men and women, ages 53 to 87, they found that bone density measurements of the femoral neck (thigh bone) and the spine were greater in those who walked or swam regularly than in those who performed little or no physical activity.

-- American Journal of Epidemiology, 137: Not only does regular physical exercise appear to increase longevity -- it also seems to help extend active life. A four-year follow-up study was conducted on nearly 7,000 subjects at least 65 years of age. All were described as having intact mobility, meaning the ability to navigate stairs and walk half a mile. Of the factors evaluated (including physical activity level, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and body fat-to-lean-mass ratio), those most closely associated with preserved mobility were walking, gardening, and energetic exercise performed at least three times per week.

Contemplating findings such as these can help inspire us to maintain an active lifestyle -- or to get serious about commencing a regular workout program.

Round-Up readers: Thank you for your interest and questions. Due to the high volume of contacts SFA receives, we cannot respond to all individual queries or comments. However, we do address frequently asked questions and topics of vital interest to our members.

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