Tag: exercise

Sit or stand? SCOPE research examines sedentary behaviors of older adults at Oak Crest

Marianne Sackett, a resident of Oak Crest, participates in the SCOPE test under the direction of NIU graduate student Josh Pak.

Marianne Sackett, a resident of Oak Crest, participates in the SCOPE test under the direction of NIU graduate student Josh Pak.

Excessive sitting, some say, is the new smoking – in other words, something that insidiously contributes to shortening a lifespan.

Indeed, says Emerson Sebastião, a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, at least one decade of research into physical activity behavior shows that “sitting too much is going to be detrimental to your health.”

But what does that mean for elderly people who live in nursing homes or retirement communities, where very little time is spent standing or moving?

Little scholarship on this matter exists on that population, Sebastião says, who are different from their counterparts still living at home in their communities.

“Physical activity is reduced drastically, and the amount of time spent sitting is higher,” Sebastião says. “Someone is going to cook for you. Someone is going to clean for you. Someone is going to do your laundry.”

Residents of DeKalb’s Oak Crest Retirement Center are participating in Sebastião’s current research project to help him understand how sitting impacts their lives and what “interventions” he can develop or suggest to get residents to sit less and move more.

Called “SCOPE” (Sedentary Behavior, COgnition and Physical Function in OldEr Adults Living in a Retirement Community), his work examines how sitting affects not only the physical fitness of the Oak Crest residents but their mental fitness as well.

Tests for physical fitness gauge upper- and lower-body strength, record how many steps they can take in two minutes, county how many times they can stand up from a chair in 30 seconds, assess their gait while walking a straight line for a certain distance and pivoting for a return and how far measure they can lean ahead without losing their balance.

Emerson Sebastião

Emerson Sebastião

Speed is a critical factor, Sebastião says: People who walk quicker live longer.

Cognition, on the other hand, is evaluated through verbal and visual memory skills. Sebastião recites 16 words to the test subjects and asks to hear them repeated back to him in any order.

Declining memory is something Sebastião understands personally through interactions with his late grandmother. “I would say to her, ‘Grandma, you need to buy your groceries. Grandma, you need to pay your bills. Grandma, you need to clean room.’ ”

When he completes his study – he’s hoping to examine 100 people, and is about three-quarters of the way there – he will have valuable data for the next step.

“I’m trying to establish a connection between scores on these tests and the amount of time residents spend sitting,” he says. “We don’t have any recommendations on how long people should spending sitting to protect them from adverse health outcomes. We don’t have such a thing for older adults.”

Possible “interventions” to help those in need include wearing Fitbits or similar devices that track footsteps, standing or walking around the living room during TV commercials, engaging in exercise that improves cardiorespiratory or muscle fitness or seeking counseling to help them understand the importance of moving more and sitting less.

scope-2Unfortunately, he says, much of physical activity behavior or the lack of it is most likely predetermined by personal habits earlier in life.

Human beings who are physically active and fit in their younger years “are building up a savings account. Their rate of slowing down as they grow older is slower,” Sebastião says. “Those who are active at a young age are more likely to be active in older age.”

Sebastião, who studies elderly and clinical populations by exploring factors that influence physical activity as well as creative ways to promote physical activity among older adults, received a six-month Dean’s Research Grant to conduct his work at Oak Crest.

Two graduate students and one undergraduate student are assisting him.

All will write their own papers; they also will combine to pen a group paper, with Sebastião as lead author, for submission to journals on gerontology and geriatrics. The undergraduate student, meanwhile, will present at the College of Education’s Third Annual Student Research Symposium, scheduled for Friday, April 20.

scope-3“My students are learning important elements within the research process – how to design a study, how to select instruments for data collection, how to collect data,” he says. “They’re also learning how to talk with our participants throughout the testing to provide motivation.”

Josh Pak, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, is enjoying his chance to work with the senior citizens.

He believes that his collaboration with Sebastião will equip him well in his eventual career, in which he plans to work with elderly adults on cardiac rehabilitation.

“Some have no idea of how to go about fitness. A lot of them just go around their apartments,” says Pak, who is from Arlington Heights, “but a lot of them surprise me with how much they can do. A lot of them love to be active.”



Fitness programs merge, improve access to wellness

Student Recreation Center

Student Recreation Center

Staying healthy is getting easier – and more affordable – at NIU.

After more than three decades of providing independent programs and services in separate and shared facilities, the College of Education’s FIT Program and University Recreation and Wellness (formerly Campus Recreation) have merged to become FitWell.

Memberships are available now.

The move capitalizes on synergies and expertise from both departments by combining resources, boosting efficiency, streamlining membership processes and reducing confusion caused by two programs.

It also creates engaged learning experiences for students in the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, thanks to the University Recreation and Wellness (RecWell) staff who are eager to serve as mentors.

“We hope that we empower and inspire people to pursue a healthy lifestyle,” RecWell Director Sandi Carlisle said. “Our primary reason for merging is to create a unified message to the campus and local community that active participation in health and wellness activities should be a life priority.”

Faculty, staff and community members who join FitWell will enjoy accessible, convenient and versatile offerings and amenities that help create and maintain healthy and happy lifestyles.

Workout facilities include the Student Recreation Center, the Chick Evans Field House, the Outdoor Rec Sports Complex, Anderson Hall Fitness Room and Pool, the Gabel Hall Fitness Room, the New Residence Hall Fitness Room and the Gilbert Hall Fitness Room.

Sandi Carlisle

Sandi Carlisle

They also will benefit from a highly economical membership fee – with a payroll deduction option – that is less expensive than those charged by other universities or private fitness clubs.

“Although our primary focus is on students, we also serve faculty, staff and community members,” Carlisle said. “We really have not concentrated on these members’ needs enough.”

Chad McEvoy, chair of the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education, calls Carlisle’s partnership proposal “a great opportunity for a cross-campus collaboration.”

“Many of our faculty and staff are dealing with challenging financial situations, so we set FitWell prices at a very competitive and affordable level,” McEvoy said. “FitWell represents a way for faculty, staff and community members to improve their fitness and wellness, and to gain the advantage of the programming and facilities have offered separately for one low price.”

The FIT program long has provided outstanding and convenient exercise opportunities along with scientifically based health and fitness education.

FIT also serves the Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education through educational experiences for undergraduate and graduate students; that mission will remain intact and expand, McEvoy said. Director Vicky Books will continue to teach in the department while she stays involved with the operation and logistics of FitWell.

NIU students should not experience a negative impact from faculty, staff and community thanks to FitWell’s expanded number of sites and hours of operations, Carlisle said.

Anderson Hall pool

Anderson Hall pool

“During morning and afternoons, it is not that busy, and we have space for all members to use our facilities. We will monitor use of programs and services, and will respond to any issues that may arise,” she said.

“We typically are not incurring any additional costs by offering these memberships to faculty, staff and the community. As we generate additional revenue through memberships, our hope is to reduce user fees that students pay when they participate in a variety of RecWell programs.”

Campus Recreation members will enjoy the same benefits as before, including a free equipment orientation, a free personal training orientation, a free nutrition consultation and access to group fitness classes.

Meanwhile, the merger provides all members (including students) with access to locker and towel service, as available, without an additional fee.