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Vol. LXIII, No. 24
November 25, 2011
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NIH, Surgeon General Launch Go4Life Campaign

Sen. Mark Udall (from l) Colin Milner, International Association for Active Aging; Jim Whitehead, American College of Sports Medicine; Surgeon General Regina Benjamin; Dr. Chhanda Dutta, NIA Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology; Dr. Richard Hodes, NIA director; Robert Hornyak, Administration on Aging.
Sen. Mark Udall (l) describes the importance of exercise for older people at the Go4Life launch. At right, speakers at the event included (from l) Colin Milner, International Association for Active Aging; Jim Whitehead, American College of Sports Medicine; Surgeon General Regina Benjamin; Dr. Chhanda Dutta, NIA Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology; Dr. Richard Hodes, NIA director; Robert Hornyak, Administration on Aging.

Exercise and physical activity can help promote health and maintain independence, and this is as true for older people as it is for any age group. To encourage baby boomers—and their parents—to get active, NIH on Oct. 19 launched Go4Life, a national exercise and physical activity campaign for people age 50 and older. The effort is led by the National Institute on Aging, in concert with partners from across NIH, HHS and the private sector.

Go4Life was introduced during a Capitol Hill briefing that featured a presentation by NIA director Dr. Richard Hodes on aging research and the health benefits of exercise. The presentations ended with a lively exercise activity, demonstrated by seniors attending the session.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), chair of the Senate special committee on aging, and Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) hosted the briefing.

With regular activity, “the challenge is how to get started,” said Udall, a lifelong exerciser who includes daily workouts and mountain climbing in his regimen. “I look forward to being a partner in bringing fitness to older Americans,” he said.

Participants in the briefing expressed dismay at the low rates of physical activity and exercise in the U.S. population, including older people. Despite proven health benefits, only 30 percent of people ages 45-64 say they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity. This falls to 25 percent for those ages 65-74 and to 11 percent among people 85 and older.

U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin focused on the need to integrate health and wellness, not just the treatment of disease, into the U.S. health care model. A big part of that is physical activity and exercise. “This administration’s National Prevention Strategy centers on a broad agenda to help Americans practice active living,” she said. “Go4Life is a new tool to help make being healthy easy and fun for older people.”

Hodes cited specific benefits of exercise for aging and reducing the risk of a number of chronic diseases. Findings from the Diabetes Prevention Program, for example, demonstrate that exercise, for the oldest group of participants, actually proved more effective than medication in preventing development of type 2 diabetes among people at risk. His message: “You’re never too old to increase your level of physical activity. We want to reach out to older people who traditionally have not embraced exercise and show them how, even some with physical limitations, they may be able to exercise safely.”

To do that, Go4Life brings together evidence-based resources on health and aging with a variety of agencies and organizations working with older adults in communities. It creates a national Go4Life Team to encourage older Americans to make exercise and physical activity part of their everyday lives.

 

Trainer Sandy McGrath (l) leads older volunteers and event attendees in exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere.
Trainer Sandy McGrath (l) leads older volunteers and event attendees in exercises that can be done anytime, anywhere.

NIA convened some of the nation’s leading experts on aging, exercise and motivation to develop Go4Life. For more than 2 years, an NIA task force on exercise and physical activity was involved in all aspects of the project, beginning with development of Exercise & Physical Activity: Your Everyday Guide from the National Institute on Aging, the core resource for the campaign.

The center of Go4Life is an interactive web site (www.nia.nih.gov/Go4Life) with information for individuals, families and friends, organizations and health care professionals. It features specific exercises, success stories and free materials to motivate the growing numbers of older people to start exercising and keep going to improve their health and achieve a better quality of life.

So far, 11 federal agencies, including six ICs—NCCAM, NHLBI, NIAMS, NIDDK, NIMH and NINDS—are initial Go4Life Team members, along with 29 private and nonprofit organizations. The full list of current Go4Life Team members can be found at the Go4Life web site. NIHRecord Icon


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