An Exercise Plan For Older People That’s Proving Promising
So much of the time we hear about exciting research… valuable scientific finds… and then nothing more. Does anyone take what is learned in the lab and try and apply it to the real world to get results for real people?
Researchers at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, collaborating with those at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health (HSC) have done just that. The teams have recently completed evaluating data from the Active for Life® program — finding that exercise plans for older people that have been tested in the labs can actually be implemented by organizations in the community.
Active for Life® is involved with taking promising research based techniques and bringing them into community settings.
This program, funded by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and based at the Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health is intended to encourage physical activity among mature adults — particularly middle aged and older people among us who lead a rather sedentary lifestyle.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tells us that Americans can increase their number of healthy years just by living a healthy lifestyle — including eating right, not smoking and being more active.
Sadly, almost 64% of adults age 65 and older don’t get the 30 minutes of exercise per day recommended to keep aging bodies in top form. The need to get more people up and moving is serious, which is why the team feels so strongly about delivering lab tested programs to people who can truly benefit.
The program involved studying data on participants in two Active for Life® programs, Active Choices or Active Living Every Day.
Active Choices uses telephone coaching that follows a face to face meeting to create an activity plan, supply exercise logs and a pedometer and set goals for getting active in everyday life. The client receives regular mail and telephone “pep talks” for six months to help build habits and reinforce changes. The focus of this approach is an individualized program with lasting support, but the participant is also invited to regular health events
Active Living Every Day, the other program studied, involves a six month intervention that uses facilitated group sessions to help participants find ways to get regular activity into their daily routine. The goal is to learn how to find the time for 30 minutes of moderately intense activity on most days. The encouragement of the group, kept small by design, forms a wonderful support system that lasts long after the program ends.
The team of researchers, among them Dr. Sara Wilcox of the University of South Carolina, looked at data on just about 6,000 subjects from 12 different sites, who were part of these programs from 2003 to 2007.
The team found that the programs produced significant increases in the total amount of physical activity, and improvements in intensity, moderate to vigorous intensity in particular. Those in the Active Living Every Day also reported a lower level of stress and depression (probably due to the social support structure created around the study).
Participants in both programs showed more satisfaction with their body appearance and function, and small drops in weight as well.
“This initiative was different because it showed that community-based organizations could put these two programs in place, reach a large number of older adults, and produce meaningful changes.” says Wilcox.
Meaningful changes like:
- help controlling weight.
- contributing to healthy bones, muscles and joints.
- reducing falls among the elderly.
- lessening anxiety and depression.
- reducing the need for hospitalizations, doctor visits and medicines.
Even those who are frail or old could see an improvement in their condition by getting started with an exercise plan. Slowly and sensibly of course. The findings from the Active for Life® program are published in the October issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.