The School of Rural Public Health at the Texas A&M Health Science Center                                                        Funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
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Active for Life - Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults Age 50 and Older!
About the Program


Physical inactivity is one of the greatest modifiable threats to health and functional independence in later life.

General OverviewToo many Americans are not getting enough physical activity, and this is especially true for almost a third of older adults who report no leisure time physical activity at all. "The irony is that we know regular physical activity can help either prevent or control chronic diseases including heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and some types of cancer and improve overall quality and length of life," notes Marcia G. Ory, Ph.D., director of the Active for Life National Program Office (NPO) established at The Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health (SRPH) in College Station, Texas. Funding comes from a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) grant.

More than twenty years of research shows that healthy lifestyles are more influential than genetic factors in helping older people avoid the deterioration traditionally associated with aging. People who are physically active eat a healthy diet, do not use tobacco and practice other healthy behaviors reduce their risk for chronic diseases and have half the rate of disability of those who do not. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends moderate physical activity for 30 minutes a day on most days.

Active for Life grantee, the Church Health Center of Memphis, TN, was the recipient of the Robert Wood Johnson’s five billionth grant dollar. “We’re pleased that our five billionth grant dollar is going to one of our Active for Life grantees,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, MD, MBA, president & CEO of RWJF. “We all know that being physically active is the best preventive medicine, yet most Americans - particularly those over age 50 - are still sedentary.

Through the Church Health Center’s efforts and those of our other Active for Life grantees, we’ll learn how to encourage sedentary older adults to get physically active and stick with it. We hope that our successes can then be replicated in more communities.”

“In an effort to learn more about conducting effective behavioral programs related to physical activity, Active for Life is taking research-based programs, introducing them into community settings, providing structured social marketing support and conducting independent evaluation to measure effectiveness. A major element of the program is to look at practical htmlects of program delivery in a variety of community-based settings such as faith-based groups, health departments, hospitals and community centers,” comments Robin Mockenhaupt, Ph.D., deputy group director of the RWJF Health Group. She adds, “The project's findings could set a standard for delivery and marketing of physical activity programming for older adults.”

Diane M. Dowdy, Ph.D., Active for Life deputy director, explains that the National Program Office provides technical assistance and direction to an $8.7 million grants program designed to test the effectiveness, reach and sustainability of Active Choices and Active Living Every Day, two previously established behavioral interventions to promote physical activity in mid-life and older persons at health risk because of their sedentary lifestyles.

The grants program consists of two phases.

Phase 1 Goals:

1) learn in what ways the research-based interventions need to be adapted to be acceptable and feasible for larger-scale dissemination

2) understand factors affecting the program adoption in different settings and populations and

3) formalize and strengthen working relationships with multiple partners.

Phase 2 Goals:

1) learn more about the impact of this intervention

2) broaden the reach of the intervention and

3) understand what is required by community organizations in order to sustain the program and maintain delivery of the program to a significant number of mid-life and older adults.

Active for Life community grants were awarded in January 2003 to:

Blue Shield of California - Woodland Hills, CA
Church Health Center of Memphis - Memphis, TN
Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio - Cincinnati, OH
Greater Detroit Area Health Council - Detroit, MI
FirstHealth of the Carolinas - Pinehurst, NC
Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, Inc. - Rockville, MD
The OASIS Institute - St. Louis, MO
San Mateo County Health Services - San Mateo, CA
YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago - Chicago, IL

Additionally, within the Texas A&M University System, Active for Life is a cornerstone of The School of Rural Public Health's new Health Promotion and Aging Program emphasis. Directed by Dr. Ory, in collaboration with other faculty, this program examines several interrelated areas with attention to the role of aging processes and the older population, including:

1) the identification of social and behavioral risk factors for health and illness

2) the understanding of factors associated with self-management and coping with chronic illnesses and disabilities and

3) the design and evaluation of interventions to promote health, prevent disease and postpone disability.

Meet Our PartnersNPO Contact Info

SRPH Building
1266 TAMU
College Station, TX 77843

Phone: 979-458-4202
Fax: 979-458-4264

Active for Life National Program Office | SRPH Building | 1266 TAMU | College Station, TX 77843-1266
Phone: 979-458-4202 | Fax: 979-458-4264 | Email: