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K-State kinesiology professor says physical activity trend could benefit aging adults

By Sara Shellenberger

 

An increased trend in physical activity in this nation could lead to better health for members of the aging baby boomer generation, according to Melissa Bopp, assistant professor of kinesiology at Kansas State University.

"I see an encouraging change in the perception of physical activity between the current generation of older adults and the upcoming baby boomer population," said Bopp, whose research interests include aging, health disparities, physical activity and faith-based health promotion. "As baby boomers age, they are demonstrating a greater familiarity with exercise. If this activity continues in the future, I hope it will translate into increased health benefits for that population."

Bopp attributed the varying attitudes regarding exercise to the differences in social environment between the generations.

"I think part of the difference is sociocultural," she said. "The generation that is 65 and older today grew up in a world where they didn't have to try to be physically active -- it was just a part of life. Walking was more common as a means of transportation and many worked at a physically demanding job. Suddenly, as an older adult, they are told they need to be physically active and they just don't know how."

Though exercise at any age is beneficial to one's health, Bopp stressed the importance of physical activity as an older adult.

"As we get older, it becomes so much more important to exercise," she said. "Being physically active can help combat the loss of functional capacity and possibly decrease rates of hypertension, diabetes and even cancer."

Bopp offered several dos and don'ts for exercising as an aging adult:

* DON'T get intimidated. "Some think the idea of exercise seems imposing -- like you need a lot of knowledge or fancy gym equipment -- but this is not the case," Bopp said. "Actually, it can really be as simple as a walk around the block."

* DO consider lifestyle activities. "The public health recommendation for physical activity is 30 minutes of moderate intensity on most days for all adults," she said. "This can be fulfilled through an exercise class, but it can also include lifestyle activities like gardening, yard work and housework."

* DON'T think it's too late. "Older adults sometimes think it's too late to start exercising, but you still get wonderful benefits from being active no matter when you start," Bopp said.

* DO exercise safely. "Start with low intensity routines and use a slow progression to prevent health complications," she said. "Notify your health care provider before starting a new exercise routine to protect yourself."

 

Fall/Winter 2006