Elderly and Activity

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Older adults are the least physically active population in the United States. Data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention confirm that roughly 35% of adults 65-75 years old and 46% of adults older than 75 years are inactive or sedentary. About 40%-45% of adults are not active enough, and only 20%-25% of older adults are moderately active (HealthyAging).

It is never too late to get active. Often time’s people are under the impression that getting active requires going to a local fitness center and working up a sweat. You don’t have to join a gym to get healthy! While this is an option that does prove to be beneficial, it is not the only way that older adults can exercise to increase their quality of life (HealthyAging).

Physical activity directly influences the risk of chronic illness, loss of function, dependence, and death. It reduces high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, injury to falls, and stroke. Additionally, inactive adults increase their likelihood of bone loss and injury from falls, as well as their risk of developing diseases associated with aging, such as heart disease and colon cancer (HealthyAging and AHA). Other than preventing health conditions, staying active is an opportunity to maintain the following (Presidents Challenge):

Sense of Well Being: improve self-esteem, reduce stress, decrease anxiety and depression

Social Life: Exercising can be a social event, a way to make friends, a new hobby

According to the American Heart Association, physical activity doesn’t have to be strenuous to bring health benefits. Regular fitness routine is what is most important. Nearly 40% of people over the age of 55 partake in no leisure time physical activity (AHA). The American College of Sports Medicine and other government agencies recommend that adults should incorporate 30-45 minutes of moderate physical activity into their day. If 30-45 minutes of activity is too long, multiple bouts as short as 10 minutes each are sufficient alternatives (AGS).

Moderate intensity activities include walking, gardening, housework, dancing, chair aerobics, and water aerobics. Participating in games, such as golf, bowling, and table tennis are also suggested for the older population (AHA). Activities that incorporate endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility exercises help older adults gain the most health benefits (NIH).

Endurance: walking, aerobics

Strength: free weights

Balance: tai chi, separate balance training (i.e. standing on one foot), tandem walk

        exercises (walking by putting one foot in front of the other)

Flexibility: stretching

An increasing number of elderly people will be living below “thresholds of physical ability”. In this condition, a minor illness could make them completely dependent on others for their daily care (AHA). Healthy People 2010 recommend that inactive people should talk to their healthcare provider before increasing their physical activity (HP2010). Being able to walk up a flight of stairs, carry groceries into the house, and get the mail, are reasons to get moving and stay moving! An active lifestyle increases the longevity of remaining independent and prolonging the quality years of life.

Getting Started[edit | edit source]

Although it may seem difficult at first to introduce physical activity into your daily life, it may prove to be easier by following these tips from the National Institute on Aging:

  1. Don't do too much, too quickly.
  2. Remember to breathe during stretching exercises.
  3. Use proper equipment and form with your respective activity.
  4. If you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated, so remember to drink plenty of water.
  5. Remember to warm-up prior to any physical activity.

The Clay County Public Health Center, which is located in Liberty, MO, offers the PEPPI exercise program to older adults interested in increasing strength and flexibility in a group setting. PEPPI is an acronym for Peer Exercise Program Promotes Independence and has proven effective in other states. Peer exercise groups primarily meet at nursing homes, but the program is open to any group of individuals wanting a fun way to exercise with their friends.

The program utilizes exercise bands for low-impact strength training. All participants are given the resistance band and a book depicting the exercises. At the initial meeting, participants are measured for flexibility, balance, and endurance. These measurements are recorded again after six months have passed to track progress and evaluate the program. Sustainability is the goal, but many participants exhibit improved range of motion and endurance. Other benefits include increased social contact and independence and reduced injury. If you live in Clay County and would like more information about this program, please contact the Clay County Public Health Center at (816) 595-4200.

For further information:

Healthy Aging: http://www.healthyaing.com

Just Move: http://www.justmove.org

Fifty-Plus Fitness Association: http://www.50plus.org

Shape Up America!: http://www.shapeup.org

Centers of Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/page.do

Prevention Research Center, University of South Carolina School of Public Health: http://prevention.sph.sc.edu

Active Aging Partnership: http://www.agingblueprint.org

International Council on Active Aging: http://www.icaa.cc

See also[edit | edit source]