Please check out the just released Walking Clubs Toolkit from Go4Life which provides tips and techniques to help start and sustain a walking club for adults 50+. Walking is a wonderful way for older adults to be physically active! It’s easy, it’s free, it’s relatively risk-free, and it doesn’t require costly equipment, a gym membership, or training. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people than ever are walking for physical activity. Walking is the most popular aerobic activity.
Walking is great exercise and when done briskly over time, it can build endurance—helping older adults walk farther, faster, or uphill. It also may make everyday activities such as gardening, shopping, or playing a sport easier. The goal is to achieve at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity endurance activity on most, if not all, days of the week.
Benefits of Walking Clubs
By starting a walking club, you are offering numerous benefits to older adults.
- Health Benefits! When done regularly, walking at a brisk pace may offer these benefits:
- lower the risk of high blood pressure
- strengthen bones and muscles
- burn more calories
- lift moods
- Accountability! Membership in a walking club may motivate older adults to stick with this form of exercise because they know others are counting on their participation.
- Social connections! The social connections made in walking clubs can also offer older people a sense of wellbeing, emotional mental health, and a way to avoid a decline in overall health that can come with loneliness and depression (PDF, 2.6MB).
- Safety in numbers! A walking club may also provide a way to be active for older adults who are reluctant to walk alone.
This Go4Life Walking Clubs Toolkit provides tips for those interested in starting and sustaining a walking club for older adults. The recommendations presented here were obtained from a variety of trusted sources at the National Institutes of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US Surgeon General, and our national and local Go4Life partners with expertise in developing and conducting walking clubs. A list of these resources may be found under the “Helpful Resources” section of this toolkit.
The toolkit incorporates the ideas and suggestions of partners who volunteered for the Go4Life Walking Clubs mini-project last fall, and it’s a wonderful example of partner collaboration and input!
The following Go4Life partners provided input into the development of this toolkit.
Please consider using the toolkit as a guide to start a walking club in your community. In fact, starting a club might be a great way to mark Go4Life Month in September.
Are you a caregiver providing support for a spouse, friend, or relative? As we say in the Family Caregiver ESSENTIALS™ course, taking care of yourself is one of the most important things you can do as a caregiver. Even though it can be a challenge, take sure you are making time for yourself, eating healthy foods, and being active. Finding some time for regular exercise can be very important to your overall physical and mental well-being.
Physical activity can help reduce feelings of depression and stress and help you improve your health and prevent chronic diseases. Making a plan and getting exercise onto the schedule with all the other activities can help make it happen.
Here are some ways for caregivers to be physically active:
- Take exercise breaks throughout the day. Try three 10-minute “mini-workouts” instead of 30 minutes all at once, especially to get the reminder of its importance.
- Make an appointment with yourself to exercise. Set aside specific times and days of the week for physical activity.
- Exercise with a friend and get the added benefit of emotional support.
- Ask for help at home so you can exercise. Getting the respite for yourself is invaluable.
- If possible, find ways to be active with the person you’re caring for. Both of you can benefit from physical activity!
Time to move in the right direction this spring season! Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Now that spring is here, it’s a great time to get outside. Try these fun activities from Go4Life to get moving that won’t cost you a dime.
- Spring is a great time to get outdoors! Find new, safe, fun activities fromGo4Life.
Every May, the Administration for Community Living leads the nation’s observance of Older Americans Month (OAM). The 2019 theme, Connect, Create, Contribute, encourages older adults and their communities to:
- Connect with friends, family, and services that support participation.
- Create by engaging in activities that promote learning, health, and personal enrichment.
- Contribute time, talent, and life experience to benefit others.
When Older Americans Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans had reached their 65th birthday. About a third of older Americans lived in poverty and there were few programs to meet their needs. Interest in older Americans and their concerns was growing. A meeting in April 1963 between President John F. Kennedy and members of the National Council of Senior Citizens led to designating May as “Senior Citizens Month,” the prelude to “Older Americans Month.”
Historically, Older Americans Month has been a time to acknowledge the contributions of past and current older persons to our country, in particular those who defended our country. Every President since Kennedy has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May asking that the entire nation pay tribute in some way to older persons in their communities. Older Americans Month is celebrated across the country through ceremonies, events, fairs, and other such activities.
Communities that encourage the contributions of older adults are stronger! By engaging and supporting all community members, we recognize that older adults play a key role in the vitality of our neighborhoods, networks, and lives.
Throughout the month of May 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Community Living (ACL) website https://acl.gov/oam/2019/older-americans-month-2019 will promote #OAM19 with materials to help you #ConnectCreateContribute.
Age Safe® America is proud to recognize the important contributions this specialized healthcare modality provides; and all the Occupational Therapists we have had the pleasure to of worked with over the years. Occupational Therapy Month began in 1980 to correspond with the annual conference and expo for The American Occupational Therapy Association.
According to the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), occupational therapy is the only profession that helps people across the lifespan to do the things they want and need to do through the therapeutic use of daily activities (occupations). Occupational Therapy practitioners enable people of all ages to live life to its fullest by helping them promote health and prevent, or live better with, injury, illness, or disability. The AOTA defines occupational therapy as the therapeutic use of everyday life activities (occupations) with individuals or groups for the purpose of participation in roles and situations in home, school, workplace, community, and other settings. Occupational therapy addresses the physical, cognitive, psychosocial, sensory, and other aspects of performance in a variety of contexts to support engagement in everyday life activities that affect health, well-being, and quality of life.
When injury strikes or long term wear of joints and muscles require rehabilitation, an Occupational Therapist provides the necessary exercises to get us back into our daily routines. Simply getting out of bed may be a challenge or moving from one position to another becomes a problem we need to overcome. Occupational Therapists have studied the movements required to make these transitions happen safely and to retrain our newly repaired body part to do the job. They know the therapies to help improve weakened muscles and alternatives when others fail us. For every age and ability, Occupational Therapists provide care to improve the quality of life to each patient.
Common Occupational Therapy interventions include helping children with disabilities to participate fully in school and social situations, helping people recovering from injury to regain skills, and providing support for older adults experiencing physical and cognitive changes.
We join in dedicating the month of April to thanking all Occupational Therapy practitioners who are committed to bettering the lives of their patients and especially those dedicated to our aging population. The important work that they do helps older Americans to remain safe and independent, and pursue the activities that are important to them, which would be difficult to accomplish otherwise.
Find more info on www.aota.org
Aging safely – Prevent falls and help maintain independence
Falls are unpredictable for nearly everyone, but more so for people age 65 and older. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than one-third of people in this age category fall each year. In addition, those who fall once are two to three times more likely to fall again. Injuries from falls are responsible for significant disability, loss of independence and reduced quality of life.
If you are an older adult (or provide care for a family member who is), fall intervention studies* show that preventive steps like home modification and exercise-based activities can help prevent falls and maintain independence.
Preventing falls is especially important as autumn turns into winter — the most notorious season for accidental falls due to ice and snow in some areas of the country and greater inactivity. Follow these safety tips for making your home, property and yourself safer:
- Safeguard your home by removing throw rugs, electrical cords and paper piles that could trip you up.
- Keep your driveway and sidewalks clear of leaves and other debris that could cause you to trip during the fall months. Repair cracks, lips or dips.
- Once winter arrives, consider hiring a snow removal service or a neighbor to shovel your sidewalk, steps and driveway if it snows where you live. Spread rock salt, grit or sand to help prevent slips and falls.
- Use shoe traction devices when walking outside in ice and snow.
- Have your pharmacist review all your medications several times a year to check for potential interactions that could trigger dizziness.
- Get your eyes checked. Impaired vision contributes to falls.
Staying as active as possible is another way to prevent falls. Seniors who are less active during the fall and winter seasons experience higher levels of instability. Activity helps you to maintain balance and build muscle strength. Here are some tips:
- Move your walking regimen indoors to continue it year-round. Fitness clubs and shopping malls are great places to keep moving.
- Build core muscle strength and strengthen your thigh muscles by exercising or attending fitness classes. Weakness from underuse of the quads and lack of physical strength are major contributors to falls.
- Learn about safe ways to fall (read “Avoid injuries from a fall”). Being aware of safer ways to fall may lessen the impact should a fall occur. Start by consulting a physical therapist or martial arts instructor who studies the effects of falls for their advice on safe falling techniques.
You can find more fall prevention and safety tips on the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov.
* Source: A CDC Compendium of Effective Fall Interventions, 2nd Edition, 2010.
Avoid injuries from a fall
- When falling forward, turn your head to one side to avoid a direct hit to your face or nose. Open your palms to the floor to protect your wrists.
- When falling sideways, tuck your chin to your chest and keep your elbows close to your body.
- Be prepared to fall in a crouched, accordion-like position by bending at your knees and the waist. Your lower legs will hit first, protecting your hips.
February is American Heart Month and this year’s theme is “Our hearts are healthier together.” Research has shown that having social support and personal networks makes getting regular physical activity, eating healthy, losing weight, and quitting smoking easier. During American Heart Month, assemble your friends and family and use #OurHearts to share how you’re working together to be heart healthy.
Heart Disease Risk Factors
High blood cholesterol is a condition in which your blood has too much cholesterol—a waxy, fat-like substance. The higher your blood cholesterol level, the greater your risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and heart attack.
Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins. Two major kinds of lipoproteins carry cholesterol throughout your body:
- Low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL cholesterol sometimes is called “bad” cholesterol. This is because it carries cholesterol to tissues, including your heart arteries. A high LDL cholesterol level raises your risk of CHD.
- High-density lipoproteins (HDL). HDL cholesterol sometimes is called “good” cholesterol. This is because it helps remove cholesterol from your arteries. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk of CHD.
Many factors affect your cholesterol levels. For example, after menopause, women’s LDL cholesterol levels tend to rise, and their HDL cholesterol levels tend to fall. Other factors—such as age, gender, diet, and physical activity—also affect your cholesterol levels.
Healthy levels of both LDL and HDL cholesterol will prevent plaque from building up in your arteries. Routine blood tests can show whether your blood cholesterol levels are healthy. Talk with your doctor about having your cholesterol tested and what the results mean.
Children also can have unhealthy cholesterol levels, especially if they’re overweight or their parents have high blood cholesterol. Talk with your child’s doctor about testing your child’ cholesterol levels.
To learn more about high blood cholesterol and how to manage the condition, go to the Health Topics High Blood Cholesterol article.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood. Some studies suggest that a high level of triglycerides in the blood may raise the risk of CHD, especially in women.
High Blood Pressure
“Blood pressure” is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage your heart and lead to plaque buildup. All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk of CHD. This risk grows as blood pressure levels rise. Only one of the two blood pressure numbers has to be above normal to put you at greater risk of CHD and heart attack.
Most adults should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. If you have high blood pressure, you’ll likely need to be checked more often. Talk with your doctor about how often you should have your blood pressure checked.
Children also can develop high blood pressure, especially if they’re overweight. Your child’s doctor should check your child’s blood pressure at each routine checkup.
Both children and adults are more likely to develop high blood pressure if they’re overweight or have diabetes.
For more information about high blood pressure and how to manage the condition, go to the Health Topics High Blood Pressure article.
Diabetes and Prediabetes
Diabetes is a disease in which the body’s blood sugar level is too high. The two types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.
In type 1 diabetes, the body’s blood sugar level is high because the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps move blood sugar into cells, where it’s used for energy. In type 2 diabetes, the body’s blood sugar level is high mainly because the body doesn’t use its insulin properly.
Over time, a high blood sugar level can lead to increased plaque buildup in your arteries. Having diabetes doubles your risk of CHD.
Prediabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, but not as high as it is in diabetes. If you have prediabetes and don’t take steps to manage it, you’ll likely develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. You’re also at higher risk of CHD.
Being overweight or obese raises your risk of type 2 diabetes. With modest weight loss and moderate physical activity, people who have prediabetes may be able to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes. They also may be able to lower their risk of CHD and heart attack. Weight loss and physical activity also can help control diabetes.
Even children can develop type 2 diabetes. Most children who have type 2 diabetes are overweight.
Type 2 diabetes develops over time and sometimes has no symptoms. Go to your doctor or local clinic to have your blood sugar levels tested regularly to check for diabetes and prediabetes.
For more information about diabetes and heart disease, go to the Health Topics Diabetic Heart Disease article. For more information about diabetes and prediabetes, go to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases’ (NIDDK’s) Introduction to Diabetes.
Overweight and Obesity
The terms “overweight” and “obesity” refer to body weight that’s greater than what is considered healthy for a certain height. More than two-thirds of American adults are overweight, and almost one-third of these adults are obese.
The most useful measure of overweight and obesity is body mass index (BMI). You can use the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s (NHLBI’s) online BMI calculator to figure out your BMI, or your doctor can help you.
Overweight is defined differently for children and teens than it is for adults. Children are still growing, and boys and girls mature at different rates. Thus, BMIs for children and teens compare their heights and weights against growth charts that take age and gender into account. This is called BMI-for-age percentile.
Being overweight or obese can raise your risk of CHD and heart attack. This is mainly because overweight and obesity are linked to other CHD risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, and diabetes.
For more information, go to the Health Topics Overweight and Obesity article.
Smoking tobacco or long-term exposure to secondhand smoke raises your risk of CHD and heart attack.
Smoking triggers a buildup of plaque in your arteries. Smoking also increases the risk of blood clots forming in your arteries. Blood clots can block plaque-narrowed arteries and cause a heart attack. Some research shows that smoking raises your risk of CHD in part by lowering HDL cholesterol levels.
The more you smoke, the greater your risk of heart attack. The benefits of quitting smoking occur no matter how long or how much you’ve smoked. Heart disease risk associated with smoking begins to decrease soon after you quit, and for many people it continues to decrease over time.
Most people who smoke start when they’re teens. Parents can help prevent their children from smoking by not smoking themselves. Talk with your child about the health dangers of smoking and ways to overcome peer pressure to smoke.
For more information, including tips on how to quit smoking, go to the Health Topics Smoking and Your Heart article and the NHLBI’s “Your Guide to a Healthy Heart.”
For more information about children and smoking, go to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) Kids and Smoking external link Web page and the CDC’s Smoking and Tobacco Use external link Web page.
Lack of Physical Activity
Inactive people are nearly twice as likely to develop CHD as those who are active. A lack of physical activity can worsen other CHD risk factors, such as high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, diabetes and prediabetes, and overweight and obesity.
It’s important for children and adults to make physical activity part of their daily routines. One reason many Americans aren’t active enough is because of hours spent in front of TVs and computers doing work, schoolwork, and leisure activities.
Some experts advise that children and teens should reduce screen time because it limits time for physical activity. They recommend that children aged 2 and older should spend no more than 2 hours a day watching TV or using a computer (except for school work).
Being physically active is one of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy. The good news is that even modest amounts of physical activity are good for your health. The more active you are, the more you will benefit.
For more information, go to HHS’ “2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” external link the Health Topics Physical Activity and Your Heart article, and the NHLBI’s “Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart.”
An unhealthy diet can raise your risk of CHD. For example, foods that are high in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol raise LDL cholesterol. Thus, you should try to limit these foods.
It’s also important to limit foods that are high in sodium (salt) and added sugars. A high-salt diet can raise your risk of high blood pressure.
Added sugars will give you extra calories without nutrients like vitamins and minerals. This can cause you to gain weight, which raises your risk of CHD. Added sugars are found in many desserts, canned fruits packed in syrup, fruit drinks, and nondiet sodas.
Stress and anxiety may play a role in causing CHD. Stress and anxiety also can trigger your arteries to tighten. This can raise your blood pressure and your risk of heart attack.
The most commonly reported trigger for a heart attack is an emotionally upsetting event, especially one involving anger. Stress also may indirectly raise your risk of CHD if it makes you more likely to smoke or overeat foods high in fat and sugar.
In men, the risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) increases starting around age 45. In women, the risk for CHD increases starting around age 55. Most people have some plaque buildup in their heart arteries by the time they’re in their 70s. However, only about 25 percent of those people have chest pain, heart attacks, or other signs of CHD.
Some risk factors may affect CHD risk differently in women than in men. For example, estrogen provides women some protection against CHD, whereas diabetes raises the risk of CHD more in women than in men.
Also, some risk factors for heart disease only affect women, such as preeclampsia, a condition that can develop during pregnancy. Preeclampsia is linked to an increased lifetime risk of heart disease, including CHD, heart attack, heart failure, and high blood pressure. (Likewise, having heart disease risk factors, such as diabetes or obesity, increases a woman’s risk of preeclampsia.)
A family history of early CHD is a risk factor for developing CHD, specifically if a father or brother is diagnosed before age 55, or a mother or sister is diagnosed before age 65.