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Fitness Trends

Basic mobility challenges: Among people age 75 years or older, 30 percent report difficulty with stairs, 40 percent cannot walk one-half mile, and 7 percent need assistance to walk. (Source: Mayo Clinic Geriatric Medicine)

Getting around: According to the 1995 National Personal Transportation Survey 71.7 percent of suburban, 68.1 percent of rural, and 54.9 percent of urban elders drive as their main mode of transportation. Notes the San Francisco Bay Area Older Adults Transportation Study prepared by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, “The majority of seniors see driving as crucial to being able to lead an independent and fulfilling life. Older drivers facing the prospect of reducing or terminating their driving expect substantially reduced mobility with undesirable consequences. These include loss of personal independence, social isolation, and a reduction or lack of access to essential services.” Currently walking/bicycling are not widespread transportation means for a majority of older adults. The survey showed that only 13.3 percent of urban and 4.6 percent of suburban and rural elders walk or bicycle as their means of transportation.

Treadmills are hot: According to the Sporting Goods Manufacturer’s report Treadmill Participation 2003 for Americans over the age of six, treadmill usage has climbed to a peak of 43.4 million and a penetration rate of 16.9 percent. This represents an epic increase of 888 percent over the 1987 benchmark measurement of 4.4 million, and confers upon treadmills the title of most popular cardio exercise in the U.S.

Pilates fast growing fitness trend: With the advent of kinder, gentler fitness trends, Pilates has become the fastest-growing fitness trend since 1998 in what can be loosely termed the "mind-body" genre. In 2002, there were a projected 4.7 million Americans aged six and over who engaged in Pilates one or more times, an increase of 169 percent over 2000 - by far the highest growth rate monitored for any fitness activity.

Sidewalks enhance walking: Between 1999 and 2000, more than 1,800 men and women took part in the U.S. Physical Activity Study. Participants were categorized as:

1. Regular walkers who met the Surgeon General's recommendation by walking at least 30 minutes daily, five or more times per week (34 percent of the population);

2. Occasional walkers who walked at least 10 minutes at a time, but did not meet the recommendation (46 percent of the population);

3. Never walkers who did not walk at least 10 minutes at a time while at work, for recreation, or for exercise (21 percent of the population).

More than 60 percent of occasional and regular walkers used neighborhood streets for regular physical activity. Never walkers were 1.5 times more likely than regular walkers to report a lack of sidewalks, no enjoyable scenery, lack of trails, and not seeing others exercising in the community.

10% of healthcare spending on prevention: Just 10 percent of America's current spending on healthcare goes toward prevention, says Dr. Cristina Beato, assistant secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. But the federal government aims to change that. In 2003, President Bush, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona all promoted prevention as the desired model for healthcare and self-responsibility as the desired public attitude towards health.

Caring for elders: A 1997 National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP survey revealed that 22.4 million American households were involved in caring for adults ages 50 and above. That number could rise to 39 million by 2007. The economic value of services provided by family caregivers has been estimated at $257 billion annually. This figure is more than double the $115 billion spent on nursing home and home care combined. The increasing longevity of Americans means more adults in their 50s, 60s or 70s care for parents or other family members, while studies have shown that caregivers often become ill due to stress and lack of time to care for their health.

One more reason for men to stay active: For years, health promoters have been racking their brains trying to come up with persuasive reasons for Americans to be more physically active. Well here's a new one that's sure to get some attention: Men who exercise are less likely to experience sexual dysfunction as they get older. Analyzing data from surveys of nearly 32,000 men age 53 to 90, researchers concluded that men who were the most physically active were least likely to become impotent. According to Eric B. Rimm, an associate professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, men who ran at least three hours per week appeared to have the sexual functioning of men two to five years younger. But even moderate activity proved beneficial: Men who briskly walked for 30 minutes, most days of the week, had a 15 to 20 percent reduction in the risk of erectile dysfunction. (Source: Annals of Internal Medicine, 2003; 129, 161-168)

Weight loss and activity: Women trying to lose weight can benefit as much from a moderate physical activity as from an intense workout, according to a new study supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Prior studies had focused on short-term weight loss. Data were lacking about the optimal degree and amount of physical activity for long-term weight loss. The study, entitled "Effect of Exercise Dose and Intensity on Weight Loss in Overweight, Sedentary Women: A Randomized Trial," appears in the September 10, 2003, issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Physical activity and breast cancer: The study related to physical activity and breast cancer, based on data from the Women's Health Initiative's Observational Study, found that increased physical activity was associated with a reduced risk for breast cancer in postmenopausal women. Longer duration physical activity gave the most benefit but the physical activity did not need to be strenuous to reduce breast cancer risk. (Source: The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), September 10, 2003.)

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