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Top Motivators to Exercise for Seniors

VANCOUVER, B.C. — The recall of painkillers and the growing awareness of the obesity epidemic will drive more senior citizens to exercise in 2005. That's according to an International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) poll of 210 experts in government, senior housing, social services and wellness centers.

“Older adults are not willing to sit down and accept situations that aren't working,” commented Colin Milner, CEO of ICAA. “They will take action to keep attention focused on their key issues. The good news is that physical activity and exercise can be part of the solution in each of these areas. Physical activity is a low-cost medicine and available to just about everyone.”

The biggest motivator to action this year will be the recall of Vioxx and the safety concerns about Celebrex and Bextra, according to 43 percent of those polled. To cope with pain management and the rising cost of drugs, the experts suggested that seniors would investigate nonpharmaceutical ways to reduce discomfort and pain, including flexibility exercises, general physical activity, nutritional supplements, alternative medicine and stress management techniques.

Twenty-eight percent of those polled thought that the prevalence of obesity — and the associated economic and physical costs — would motivate action. In response, those polled thought that older adults would receive more education from the government, the medical system, HMOs and private companies about how to change ingrained eating habits. They also said that children and young adults would be targeted with messages about healthy weight to prevent the consequences of being overweight as they age. In addition, Medicare's coverage of weight loss treatments would encourage more health insurance providers to offer reward and incentive programs for weight loss and physical activity, those polled said.

Another motivator will be research demonstrating that physical activity is a necessary component of successful aging, according to 21 percent of the experts. Of particular interest was research on the benefits of physical activity to maintain or improve mental health and cognitive skills and the accessibility of facilities that were able to meet older adults' needs.

As research continues to demonstrate the benefits of physical activity, more locations will offer programs and facilities that are geared to the older adult, and more activity and exercise opportunities will be provided in assisted living or long-term care facilities, the experts said. The benefits of physical activity to improve depression and Alzheimer's would drive this movement, they said. The need for older adults to have the fitness to function will bring new meaning to the term “functional fitness.” Yoga, Pilates, resistance training, core conditioning and balance training will increase among older adults.

Fourteen percent of the experts also cited fad diets — particularly low-carbohydrate diets — as a motivator to action. Many respondents referred to the “low-carb diet craze” and suggested older adults are confused about the role of carbohydrates in the diet.

“Older adults will be more physically and politically active in 2005 because that is how they will create the quality of life that they seek as they get older,” explains Milner.

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