“If we want to become a healthy and fit nation, we need to increase the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life,” said U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, M.D., M.B.A.
And that means you, readers who are 50 and older. You’re the target of a new campaign, Go4Life, that has been created by the National Institute on Aging, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. The campaign was developed because of low exercise and physical activity rates among older people. The National Institute on Aging reported that about 30 percent of people who are between the ages of 45-64 said they engaged in regular leisure-time physical activity while only a quarter of people age 65-74 and 11% of people who are 85 years old and above do. However, some older adults wanted to get more guidance on exercises.
“You’re never too old to increase your level of physical activity and exercise,” says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the NIA. “Go4Life is based on studies demonstrating the benefits of exercise and physical activity for older people, including those with chronic health conditions. This new campaign reaches out to older people who traditionally have not embraced exercise and shows them ways that even those with physical limitations may be able to exercise safely as well.”
This effort “is designed to help you fit exercise and physical activity into your daily life. Motivating older adults to become physically active for the first time, return to exercise after a break in their routines, or build more exercise and physical activity into weekly routines are the essential elements of Go4Life,” according to the Go4Liefe website. The website offers exercise ideas and resources, as well as tracking sheets you can log your daily exercise.
There are many benefits offered by exercising. For instance, one study found that women and men who exercised had a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, obesity and some cancers than people who don’t exercise. Furthermore, people who were extremely fit lowered their risk by as much as 15%.
Go4Life includes a public-private partnership that involves the NIH, other agencies in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and national organizations, corporations, insurers, health care providers and nonprofit organizations.
And if you need additional incentive to exercise, a recent New York Times article entitled “Aging Well Through Exercise” will do it. Writer Gretchen Reynolds reported on new research that seems to upend the previous findings that after the age of 40, everyone loses muscle mass every decade and that loss accelerates when we hit the age of 70.
Reynolds described one study out of the University of Pittsburg that looked at 40 competitive athletes, ages 40-81. The researchers found that there was little deterioration in these athletes’ musculature. “The athletes in their 70s and 90s had almost as much thigh muscle mass as the athletes in their 40s, with minor if any fat infiltration,” Reynolds wrote. Furthermore, the athletes who were in their 70s and 80s were almost as strong as athletes in their 60s.
Another study from the Canadian Centre for Activity and Aging analyzed muscle tissue from older competitive runners. Researchers found that the runners continued to have as many motor units (which control the muscle) as active people in their mid-20s.
Reynolds noted that while researchers believe that exercising does make a difference for aging muscles, further research is needed to determine the type, intensity and amount of exercise necessary to attain these types of physical results.
It’s good to learn about this new research and I hope to see more studies that provide additional insight. And when combined with Go4Life, people over the age of 50 now have both the incentive and the resources to make exercise a part of their lives.
Published On: November 11, 2011