Aging Isn't About Slowing Down, Experts Say

WEDNESDAY Nov. 21, 2007 -- Many older adults may mistakenly believe that becoming less active is just a normal part of aging, but a new pilot program suggests it's easy to dispel such notions.

The program led to a 24 percent increase (about 2.5 miles more) in the amount of walking participants did each week, according to the leaders of a University of California, Los Angeles, study.

"We can teach older adults to get rid of those old beliefs that becoming sedentary is just a normal part of growing older. We can teach them that they can and should remain physically active at all ages," lead author Dr. Catherine Sarkisian, an assistant professor of geriatrics at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, said in a prepared statement.

The study included 46 sedentary adults, 65 and older, who attended four weekly, hour-long group sessions led by a health educator who used a technique called "attribution retraining" to teach the participants to reject the idea that getting older means becoming sedentary and to believe that they can continue being physically active well into old age.

Each attribution retraining session was followed by a one-hour exercise class that included strength, endurance and flexibility training.

During the study, the number of steps (as measured by electronic pedometers) taken by the participants per week increased from about 24,749 to 30,707 (a 24 percent increase) and their scores on an "age-expectation survey" rose by 30 percent. Their mental health-related quality of life improved, they reported fewer difficulties with daily activities, experienced less pain, had higher energy levels, and got improved sleep.

"The exciting part is that, to our knowledge, this attribution retraining component hasn't been tested in a physical activity intervention," Sarkisian said. "It's been very successful in educational interventions."

The study was published online by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

More information

The American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Health in Aging has more about physical activity.

Posted: November 2007


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