Getting the recommended amount of physical activity is a challenge and an important goal for everyone, especially seniors. When Joan Wages, family and consumer sciences agent in Patrick County, learned about a curriculum to help seniors find time for physical activity, she jumped at the opportunity to bring the program to her community.
“Active Living Every Day for Seniors is a behavioral change program with 14 weeks of informal classes,” Wages says. “In each of the weekly classes, participants gain skills related to maintaining a physically active lifestyle. Although they do not exercise in the class, participants learn about setting appropriate goals, monitoring progress toward those goals, and breaking down barriers to physical activity.”
In a typical lesson, Wages might encourage participants to park farther from a store or, once they are inside, to walk around the store before picking up the items they need. Health-care providers typically recommend adults get 30 minutes of moderately intense physical activity on most days. However, according to one study, as many as one-third to one-half of Americans age 50 and older do not include any physical activity in their leisure time. This can cause health problems and reduce their overall quality of life.
“Graduates of the program have had measurable improvements in mood, strength, flexibility, and functional ability,” Wages says. “But I am especially excited that 100 percent of graduates reported an improvement in their overall energy level after taking the class.”
Virginia Cooperative Extension first offered Active Living Every Day for Seniors in 2006 with funding from the Active for Life Center of the National Capital Region. Other partners are the Tri-Area Health Clinic and Patrick Henry Community College.