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!
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Program Information

The overarching goal of the Active for Life® program is to learn how to deliver research-based physical activity programs to large numbers of mid-life and older adults and to sustain such programs through existing community institutions including, but not limited to, community or senior centers, recreation centers, public health departments, housing authorities and religious institutions. The program is one of six Active Living programs funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to promote healthier communities and lifestyles. The Active for Life® National Program Office is located at The Texas A&M Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health.

The National Program Office oversees a grants program designed to test the effectiveness, reach and sustainability of Active Choices and Active Living Every Day. Both programs are established behavioral interventions that promote physical activity in mid-life and older adults who are at risk for health problems because of sedentary lifestyles. Grants have been awarded to:

  • Blue Shield of California
  • Church Health Center of Memphis
  • Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio
  • Greater Detroit Area Health Council
  • FirstHealth of the Carolinas
  • Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington, Inc.
  • The OASIS Institute
  • San Mateo County Health Services
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

No further grants are being awarded.

Background
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that Americans can increase their number of healthy years simply by adopting a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, almost 64% of adults age 65 and older do not meet the Surgeon General’s recommendations for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week.

Yet research shows that many of the symptoms of deterioration that come with age are a matter of mindset and environment - not genetics. “People who are physically active, eat a healthy diet, avoid tobacco products, practice other healthy behaviors, and live in activity-friendly environments reduce their risk of chronic diseases and have half the rate of disability of those who do not,” says Marcia G. Ory, Ph.D., MPH, director of the Active for Life® National Program Office. The National Program Office is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to serve as the major nexus to coordinate a grants program to adapt and translate evidence-based physical activity programs for the mid-life and older audience.

The Grant Program
Grants were awarded to nine local, state and regional organizations to implement one of two program models that will adapt and translate research-based physical activity programs into practice in community settings. Grant activity is being targeted to sedentary community-dwelling adults age 50 and older who are without serious health conditions or disabilities that would limit their ability to engage in non-medically supervised physical activity programs.

The program is looking at two evidence-based lifestyle modification interventions:

Active Choices emphasizes participating in individually selected activities that are facilitated with ongoing, brief telephone and mail follow-up delivered to the home.
  • Based on 20 years of systematic research and evaluation by public health researchers and community intervention specialists at the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention. It has been further tested via the CHAMPS project at UCSF, the California Health Department’s Active Aging Community Mini-Grant program, as well as by public health researchers internationally.
  • This six-month program teaches strategies that help individuals incorporate preferred physical activities into their daily lives, with a focus on individualizing the program for each person.
  • Informational and support activities are delivered primarily via telephone and mail. Staff or volunteers are trained to provide regular, brief telephone-based guidance and support. While the essence of this program is characterized by ongoing telephone and mail-based guidance, an initial group orientation and an individual introductory planning session are included to help participants get started and exercise safely. Participants are also invited to attend regular events that cover a variety of health topics.
  • The program is particularly relevant for mid-life and older adults who prefer the flexibility of receiving ongoing personalized advice and support delivered via telephone, in the convenience of their homes.

    Active Living Every Day uses facilitated group-based problem solving methods to integrate physical activity into everyday living.

  • Comprehensive behavior change program designed to help sedentary adults adopt and maintain physically active lifestyles developed by behavioral scientists and interventionists at the Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas.
  • An evidence-based, cost-effective intervention utilizing the book Active Living Every Day and an extensive program delivery system developed by Human Kinetics publishers.
  • Can be offered independently or in conjunction with existing community-based physical activity programs.
  • Participants meet weekly in small groups for six months to develop the behavioral skills they need to build moderate to vigorous physical activity into their daily lives. Facilitated discussions, a self-help workbook, and interactive activities provide the basis of the weekly sessions. Additional information, activities and support for participants and facilitators are provided via an optional online component.
  • Small group format enables participants to receive support and encouragement from fellow participants, thereby building a support network that can last long after the program is over.

Background on Physical Activity and Older Adults

Physical inactivity is one of the greatest modifiable threats to health and functional independence in later life. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, less than a third (31 percent) of individuals age 65 to 74 engage in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity three or more days per week, and even fewer (16 percent) engage in 30 minutes of moderate activity five or more days per week. For those age 75 and older, activity levels are even lower.

Physical activity’s benefits are significant. Just 30 minutes a day of moderate physical activity can help control weight; contribute to healthy bones, muscles, and joints; reduce falls among the elderly; decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression; and lessen the need for hospitalizations, physician visits and medications. Research shows that even among frail and very old adults physical activity can improve mobility and functioning.

Health experts recommend four types of activity in a complete fitness regime:

  • Endurance (things that get the heart rate up, such as brisk walking, bicycle riding, heavy housework, or heavy gardening);
  • Flexibility (stretching);
  • Balance; and
  • Strength.

A good resource to help people find activities that they enjoy is the National Institute of Aging Exercise Guide which can be found online at http://www.niapublications.org/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=30&cat=Healthy+Aging.

Meet Our PartnersNPO Contact Info

Address:
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: activeforlife@srph.tamhsc.edu