Groups urge activity among those over 50

Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A coalition of health and policy groups is calling for broad efforts to encourage an active lifestyle among people ages 50 and over.

''We need fresh ideas and community innovations to help make physical activity a vital part of our lives,'' Dr. J. Michael McGinnis of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation said Monday.

The benefits of physical activity are well known, he said, but if people don't have sidewalks to walk on, positive reinforcement from health care providers or time in their busy days, they will not commit to an active lifestyle.

Regular physical activity can help lower cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps maintain and improve balance, reduces the risk of dying prematurely, developing diabetes, developing high blood pressure and developing colon cancer, the report said.

In addition, it reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, helps control weight, helps maintain healthy bones and muscles and promotes psychological well-being.

Older Americans are among the fastest growing portion of society. By the year 2030, one in five Americans is expected to be 65 or older, according to the report.

''The aging of our country will touch on all aspects of life. Employers will be faced with both early retirements of workers and veteran workers who choose to remain in the work force throughout their 60s, 70s and into their later years. Some older workers will leave retirement to re-enter the work force,'' the study said.

The study said community services will need to ''change to adapt to the needs of older people with more senior centers, more accessible public transportation and expanded programs to meet the diverse needs and interests of a growing heterogeneous population.''

The goal of the new report, ''National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 50 and Older,'' is to encourage social service organizations and agencies to focus on this area.

Among the recommendations were to:

--Provide incentives to states and communities to increase physical activity among older residents.

--Require health care professionals to go through more training on physical activity in older persons.

--Establish employer tax incentives based on the opportunities for physical activity they offer their workers.

--Design a health-impact assessment to help communities determine how well they serve the needs of their residents.

--Identify and promote the impact the country's most activity-friendly communities have on the quality of life of older people.

Besides the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, groups contributing to the report included AARP, American College of Sports Medicine, American Geriatrics Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute on Aging.


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