Be Active Your Way Blog
Colin Milner, founder and chief executive officer of the International Council on Active Aging® (ICAA), is one of the North America’s foremost visionaries on the health and well-being of the older adult. His passion to change the way society perceives aging is only rivaled by his desire to help inform and educate health and wellness professionals that work with adults age 50 and above. Milner is an award winning writer, public speaker, industry leaders and advisory to many leading health organizations.
What do we know about physical activity among older adults?
For starters, physical activity is a powerful means to help prevent age-related loss of function, reduce the risk of chronic disease, improve mental and physical health, and support quality of life.
Older adults who exercise can:
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends that older adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise per week. Recommended activities include strength-training, neuromotor exercise, functional training to improve balance, and flexibility excerise.
In general, strength training is important not only for fall prevention, fat metabolism, and bone health, but for the ability to perform daily activities such as lifting groceries. Cardiovascular conditioning reduces the risk of heart disease, improves endurance, and elevates mood. Improvements in flexibility aid regular activities like reaching, and ease certain conditions like arthritis. Improvements in balance help prevent falls and improve performance in sports and games.
Walking is the primary recommended activity, since it is inexpensive and simple. Only 12% of adults age 65 to 74 years old do strength training, but this is also an equally encouraged activity.
Aging is such a personal process that levels of physical fitness and function can not be recommended by chronological age. Some people in their '70s and '80s run marathons, while others are confined to wheelchairs. The prescription for physical actiivty must account for individual levels of function as well as the biological process of aging.
While the value of physical activity for older adults is well-documented,the number of older adults who exercise remains small. There is an unhealthy trend toward obesity in the older population, which is a future health problem. Other reports show that physical activity is more prevalent among white Americans than among ethnic groups or people of color.
Survey after survey finds that older adults know about the benefits of exercise, yet few take action. How do we change this?
The National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP) is clearly a positive step forward, as it is filled with solid research and recommendations. However, like older adults themselves, we need to move from recognizing that physical activity is important to actually making change happen.
Making an Impact
How do we make an impact? How do we get organizations and individuals to embrace exercise? How do we fulfill the visions of the National Physical Activity Plan?
Maybe the answer lies within an August 27, 2012 New York Times article by Jane Brody. In the article, entitled, "Changing our Tunes on Exercise," Brody interviews Michelle L. Segar, a research investigator at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at the University of Michigan. Brody writes that "based on studies of what motivates people to adopt and sustain physical activity, Dr. Segar is urging that experts stop framing moderate exercise as a medical prescription that requires 150 minutes of aerobic effort each week. Instead, public health officials must begin to address 'the emotional hooks that make it essential for people to fit it into their hectic lives.'"
"Immediate rewards are more motivating than distant ones," says Segar. "Feeling happy and less stressed is more motivating than not getting heart disease or cancer, maybe, someday in the future."
How can we benefit from this information? According to Brody, "stop thinking about future health, weight loss, and body image as motivators for exercise. Instead, experts recommend a strategy marketers use to sell products: portray physical activity as a way to enhance current well-being and happiness."
What do you think? Is this a promising strategy? And how will you use it to increase the physical activity level of your older consumer?
Tags: physical activity, older adults, NPAP, aging, exercise
National Plan | Older adults
What makes a healthy community? One answer is contained in the physical spaces and services that enable older adults to engage in healthy behaviors. Bike paths, walking trails, outdoor fitness spaces, meditation areas and labyrinths are just a few examples of infrastructure that can inspire and engage older populations. Another example can be found in upgraded senior centers providing spaces for community gardens and offering numerous educational campaigns and incentives to help lead their population towards a healthier life across the lifespan.
The second answer lies in the catchphrase of "personal responsibility." For a community to be healthy, the people living in that community need to take action. Here are 10 tips that can help you inform your older consumers about ways in which they can lead a healthier life, thus creating a healthy community. Here we go...
1. Expectations: If they have been following a healthy lifestyle up until now, simply tell them to keep going. If they need to make changes, help them to anticipate succeeding, not failing - and don't let age be a barrier. Research has shown that thinking positively about getting older can extend their life by as much as 7.5 years.
2. Enthusiasm: Few people are thrilled with every aspect of their lives, but many have at least one area - family, friends, work, avocation - that they feel good about. Identify an activity or connection that sparks their enthusiasm, and make it their lifeline; try to get them to extend that enthusiasm to other areas of their life.
3. Energy: Having the energy and motivation they need to age well are hallmarks of healthy living. If they are fatigued all the time, don't let apathy and lethargy drag them down; suggest they get a checkup to try to determine the cause and the solution.
4. Eating: Eating a balanced diet and attaining/maintaining a normal weight are keys to physical and mental health; if they need to lose weight or make changes in their diet, keep their expectations high - they can do it!
5. Exercise: Staying physically active fuels the body and mind. If they are already exercising regularly, encourage them to keep it up. It they are just getting started, help them to understand their skill level, get them to set goals and progress at their own pace, and get them to be consistent.
6. Engagement: Volunteers have higher levels of well-being and life satisfaction than those who don't volunteer; volunteering and other forms of civic and social engagement can play an important role in the maintenance of good health later in life. Get them involved in the community.
7. Emotions: Everyone feels down at times, but full-blown depression is a major cause of disability. If they are feeling out of sorts for two weeks or more, talk with their doctor or have them take an online screening test. In many instances, simply exercising and eating right can change their mood.
8. Education: Lifelong learning is important to living an independent and fulfilling life. Suggest your customers start now to learn a new area of knowledge or physical activity. It's good for the brain.
9. Effort: Changing expectations and embarking on new behaviors takes energy and effort, but the results for your customer will be well worth it.
10. Enjoyment: A healthy life generally is a joyous one. Suggest ways in which your customers can savor the process of being or becoming active, engaged, and truly alive.
How will you use this information to help build a healthier community in your town or city?
Tags: physical activity, older adults, healthy behaviors
Active Advice | Creative programming | Older adults
They say two things are guaranteed in life: death and taxes. I would like to add a third... aging.
We age from the moment we are born until the moment we draw our last breath. We all experience this natural life process; some of us just experience it for a shorter time than others. Today, our longer life spans are creating challenges and opportunities as we enter unknown territory.
Among these challenges is the aging population's continual fixation on staying young and on top of its game. This desire to discover the fountain of youth has spawned numerous million-dollar industries. Whether its Viagra, nutraceuticals, or tummy tucks, these markets are being driven by aging Boomers who want solutions and want them now. Just look at celebrity Boomers Randy Jackson of American Idol and Al Roker of NBC's Today Show; both had gastric bypass surgery. After a lot of nip and a little tuck, they are thin again. But these celebrities took a major risk when undergoing their operations, as three out of every 200 people die after weight loss surgery.
The Hunt is On
Plastic surgery has gone mainstream. So, too, have the cosmetic companies that claim to offer solutions for wrinkles, age spots and cellulite. Of course, let's not forget the so-called medical breakthrough of a few years ago: the World's First Anti-Aging Pill. The pill's dramatic press release stated that the "promising discovery has been proven to quickly reverse the aging process by repleneshing the body's own production of youth hormone to normal 25-year old levels." Hard to believe, I know, but let's try to image what such a product could mean.
If we can lose weight by having surgery and build muscle by taking a pill, why spend time sweating off those pounds and building that noteworthy physique? If we can take "elixirs of life" that promise to recapture the vitality of youth, why get out of bed to walk or run on a dark, cold morning in winter? These are good questions to ask, but the fact is that all the surgeries, pills and elixirs have a downside, whether their claims are ture or false. About 40% of Americans age 50 and older believe anti-aging products are basically "hogwash," while another 36% are "curious, but skeptical." Although more than 20% of people in this age group say these products can "work sometimes," just 3% say they like them a lot.
To Age or Not to Age
As we hear stories about increasing numbers of Boomers and older adults having their stomachs stapled or taking expensive remedies, we must recognize that most of these new industries focus on physical beauty rather than on internal health. Think about it. We can have a great exterior, but still develop heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis, diabetes and depression. But by making healthier lifestyle choices, eating properly, and exercising, we can prevent, control or retard much of the damage. Even today, physicians can prescribe pills to treat diabetes, depression and hypertension. However, we can address these health issues as well and if not better - and for much less money - through exercise, proper nutrition, and lifestyle modifications.
The reality is, we don't live in a perfect world. And the pursuit of the perfect exterior, whether young or old, while neglecting the perfect interior, could have a major impact on the health of aging Boomers. Our goal must be to help these individuals achieve their ideal self, both inside and out. By broadening the focus to include the internal, we can help our members - and our businesses - enjoy better health.
Expanding the Message
To accomplish this lofty task, take a step back and think of the market as your child. What advice would you give to your child, who you love dearly, and who you want to see grow up healthy and living a long life. Would you put them in front of a mirror and critique them, testing their body fat to see how they compare with the rest of the population? Not most parents. You are more likely to talk to them about what it means to be healthy, from the inside out, offering the support they need to grow and accomplish a healthy lifestyle.
Now think of members in your community. Do you help people you care about to be better from the inside out? Do you give them the support they need to be succesful?
What we in the field of physical activity and exercise offer the world is the ability to lead a high quality life, and there is no better time to start a physical activity program than during National Physical Fitness and Sports Month.
So, how will you help your community members shift their focus from perfection to prevention?
Tags: physical activity, older adults, active aging, prevention
Older adults | Preventing Obesity
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
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