Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Joint Participation in Improving your Health and Relationships

Below is another great post from Richard Wright. Its focus is on senior citizens and their caregivers using mindfulness meditation and yoga to improve their mental and physical health while participating in an activity they are both involved in. 

I have practiced mindfulness meditation for several years now. Every day, after my morning exercises and stretches, I will meditate. I’ll often meditate again in the early afternoon. Stretching, along with daily exercise is beneficial for all of us living with Kennedy’s Disease (SBMA). 

Many senior centers and YMCAs offer programs in stretching, yoga, and mindfulness meditation. For the self-starters, Richard has included links to sources on the internet that offer podcasts on these topics. 

Let me reemphasize the important side benefit of “participating together.” Living with any debilitating disorder is difficult for the individual as well as the caregiver. It can also be a rewarding experience, especially when activities are done together. Thank you, Richard.

This Is How Yoga and Meditation Can Transform the Lives of Seniors (And Their Caregivers)

Without proper stimulation and health-boosting activities, the lives of seniors and their caregivers can quickly become monotonous. There’s nothing wrong with having a routine, but it should include activities to get your blood flowing, improve strength, expand your mind, and relieve stress. You might be wondering how you’ll have time to achieve all those goals, but the good news is that yoga and meditation provide all of those things and more. In addition, they are activities the two of you can enjoy together or alone, which can help foster a healthy bond.

Yoga Offers Senior-Specific Benefits

When done safely and properly, yoga provides many wonderful benefits for seniors and caregivers alike. For starters, it can help strengthen bones to minimize, prevent, or slow the progression of osteoporosis, as well as keep your weight in check to prevent it from interfering with your mobility and desire for a more active lifestyle. Yoga is a low-impact exercise with a focus on slow, fluid movements, which can help seniors build strength and balance.

There are benefits for the mind, as well. Most styles of yoga include focused breathing and meditation, which can help seniors and caregivers keep their mind clear and sharp. Additionally, this practice can spike the brain's production of GABA, the chemical that keeps you calm and relaxed. Yoga requires instruction and guidance to keep you safe, so classes at your local yoga studio are the best place to start. However, if you’re looking to get a group of seniors together with a shared interest in yoga, try a senior meetup group.

Meditation Can Stave Off Loneliness

Just like wrinkles and gray hair come with age, loneliness is common in seniors. Perhaps loved ones have passed away or children, family members, and friends no longer live close by. Loneliness has other impacts too. According to Psych Central, “loneliness is known to activate inflammatory genes which, in turn, are known to promote a variety of diseases” However, the study found that mindfulness meditation reduced feelings of loneliness in seniors via regular class attendance, and even reduced the genes that are markers for heart disease and inflammation. Meditation is an integral part of yoga, but it can be practiced on its own as well. There are several beginner podcasts online that will walk you through a meditation session.

Commit to the Practice

Yoga and meditation require dedication and consistent practice. There will be some days when getting to a class isn’t possible, or perhaps you’d just like to be able to practice at home once you learn the proper technique. To achieve this, you’ll need to clear out a room to give you enough space to safely and comfortably practice. It is best to create a dedicatedspace, as you’ll likely grow tired of having to move around furniture and items every time you want to practice. If need be, move some of your belongings into storage to free up space. Incorporate soothing sounds, scents, colors, and lighting for a truly zen experience.

Safety Comes First

Whether you are practicing yoga, meditation, or both, safety should always be your top priority. Yoga is appropriate for all ages, but seniors will benefit from gentle classes such as Iyengar, Viniyoga, and Kripalu. Most yoga studios offer gentle/beginner classes and can help you adapt the poses using chairs and props. As the caregiver, it is your job to communicate with the instructor about the needs and abilities of your senior loved one. This includes disclosing physical and mental ailments, as well as their mood for the day.

Life can be difficult at times for both seniors and caregivers. For this very reason, self-care is crucial. Yoga and meditation combine physical and mental health benefits for a relaxing activity the two of you can explore together.
Photo Credits:

Saturday, May 25, 2019

It's more than picnics and parades and a day off from work

The picnics and parades are fun and a paid holiday never hurts. As time marches on, it becomes easier to forget about the true meaning of Memorial Day.

It was originally called Decoration Day.

On May 5, 1868, General John A. Logan, leader of an organization for Northern Civil War veterans, called for a nationwide day of remembrance later that month. “The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land,” he proclaimed.

Memorial Day, as Decoration Day gradually came to be known, originally honored only those lost while fighting in the Civil War. But during World War I the United States found itself embroiled in another major conflict, and the holiday evolved to commemorate American military personnel who died in all wars.

Take a moment or two this weekend to remember and honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Study of High-intensity Training for SBMA Patients

SMA News Today published the following report on a recent "small" study. The number of participants and the duration of the study concerns me. I hope they follow up with more participants of various stages of progression, and for a longer period of time (six months or more).

High-intensity Training Improves Fitness While Being Safe for Patients with Kennedy’s Disease, Small Study Suggests

High-intensity training can improve fitness and may be performed safely by patients with spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy (SBMA), a small pilot study suggests.

According to patients, high-intensity training (HIT) did not increase their muscle fatigue and was preferred to other workouts. Although more studies are needed to understand the long-term benefits and compliance of patients to HIT, researchers recommend that the exercise be considered as part of rehabilitation therapy for SBMA.

The study, “High-intensity training in patients with spinal and bulbar muscular atrophy,” was published in the Journal of Neurology.

Exercise of low or moderate intensity does not seem to benefit patients with SBMA — a rare adult-onset form of spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) also known as Kennedy’s disease — which is characterized by muscle wasting and weakness in the arms and legs. In fact, low- and moderate-level exercise can produce muscular fatigue in these patients.

HIT is a form of cardiovascular exercise that alternates short periods of intense anaerobic exercise with less intense recovery periods. This type of workout has been shown to be time-saving and efficient for healthy individuals. HIT may also benefit SBMA patients because motor neurons — the nerve cells that control muscle activity and are damaged in SBMA — are only active for a small period of time.

To test this possibility, researchers at the University of Copenhagenand Aarhus University Hospital, in Denmark, conducted a small study to investigate if HIT is feasible and safe, and if it can improve the fitness in SBMA patients.

Patients were randomized to a supervised eight-week training, followed by optional self-training for another eight weeks, or they received no training (usual care) followed by an unsupervised, at-home eight-week training.

Training included eight minutes of warm-up followed by two five-minute cycles on a stationary bike, with three minutes of recovery in between. Each cycle was based on the 30–20–10 s concept, which consisted of low-, moderate-, and high-speed cycling for 30, 20, and 10 seconds, respectively, in five minutes.

Before training, the patients received a class and an audio file with a recorded training guide to use at home. During training, they wore a pulse-watch to record heart rate, intensity of training, and patient compliance.

Of the 10 male SBMA patients who participated, eight completed the study — half in the supervised and the other half in the unsupervised group.

Both maximal oxygen consumption (a measure of exercise capacity) and maximal workload were tested before and after the training program during an incremental exercise test — a test where participants have to perform exercise that increases in intensity over time.

Taken together, training improved both fitness and workload performance in all patients after eight weeks. This was evidenced by an 8% increase in maximal oxygen consumption and a 16% greater maximal workload, compared with the start of the study.

The training was safe, as judged by stable creatine kinase levels, a blood marker of muscle damage. Patient-rated muscle fatigue, muscle pain, and activity levels also remained the same over the training period.

Moreover, all patients preferred the high-intensity training compared with other workouts. In fact, three of the four patients who completed supervised training wished to continue the program for eight more weeks without supervision.

At the end of their entire training period (16 weeks), the participants maintained their improvements in maximal oxygen consumption and workload.

However, the training program did not change the patients’ walking capacity (as assessed by the 6-min walk test) and tended to reduce their walking distance slightly from a daily average of 3.1 to 2.4 km.

“In conclusion, HIT is well-tolerated and safe for patients with SBMA. It increases fitness and training does not decrease patient’s daily activity level, and should be considered as a rehabilitation strategy for patients affected by SBMA,” the researchers wrote.

Compared with other low- and moderate-level training modalities, HIT seems to work better to improve patients’ fitness and is favored by patients, they said.

“A likely explanation for the efficacy of HIT and inefficacy of lower intensity training in SBMA could relate to the longer period of restitution between training bouts, and the shorter period that the large motor units in SBMA need to be active vs. longer duration low-to-moderate-intensity training,” the researchers said.

Future studies should evaluate the long-term effects and compliance of high-intensity training for this patient population, they added..