Boomers Bust Exercise Myths

What do you get when you cross fitness programs for boomers designed for disease prevention, as well as socialization opportunities? It sounds a lot like “wellness participation.”
Recently published studies reporting the health and cost benefits of regular exercise for older adults are spurring the development of new programs by care providers and reimbursement for exercise activities offered by insurance companies.
“There are many trends occurring in older adult fitness; however, probably the most significant one is the repackaging of exercise as a disease solution,” says Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). Viewing exercise as medicine, as a tool to not only manage but also to prevent the health issues elders face, is becoming a commonplace way to promote regular exercise.
HCD is 100% focused on physical activity as a wellness intervention.  Recent research backs up that premise.  HealthPartners Research Foundation found that adults aged 50-plus years who started exercising just 90 minutes a week saved, on average, $2,200 per year in medical costs. This points to the need for age and condition-specific programs that have a proven success record.
In another nationwide study of more than 9,000 SilverSneakers activity program members, 41% of members with diabetes reported having improved health after one or more years of participation and 46% reported improved body weight.  Group fitness classes such as those offered through SilverSneakers are extremely popular among active older adults and, in many health clubs, they have the highest levels of participation on the overall class schedules, often attracting more participants than classes geared toward younger exercisers.
What makes a program like Silver Sneakers so successful? It starts with a solid age-specific group class delivered at destinations in close proximity to where participants live and delivered by specially trained professionals.  Participation can be easily validated and paid for by health care providers.
Baby boomers have also enthusiastically adopted technology as part of their fitness regimens. Research shows that using technology, from simple automated telephone reminders and motivational e-mails to computerized games and exercise equipment, can increase retention and participation in exercise programs.  Please take a moment to explore the Wellness Gaming portion of this blog.
Initially expected to be popular with younger generations, the Nintendo Wii has unexpectedly scored a hit with the older generations. The Wii has inspired not only exercise but also socializing opportunities. Community centers for older adults offer Wii bowling, tennis, and golf for fun and friendly competition. Grandparents can play games with their grandkids without leaving the house. For a few hundred dollars, facilities can hold regular bowling, tennis, and golf tournaments for residents in existing activity rooms without travel or weather concerns.
Boomers bust exercise myths – we need to put away “chair exercise” and let’s design the best age and condition-specific programming possible. Our healthcare economic future depends on it. None of us can design the solution in our “area of expertise” silo.  HCD can connect wellness participation specialists in a network that can deliver long-term results for diverse communities of seniors.
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