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Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:
Special Communications: Best Practices Statement

Physical Activity Programs and Behavior Counseling in Older Adult Populations

Cress, M Elaine Ph.D., Chair; Buchner, David M. M.D.; Prohaska, Thomas Ph.D.; Rimmer, James Ph.D.; Brown, Marybeth Ph.D.; Macera, Carol Ph.D.; DePietro, Loretta Ph.D.; Chodzko-Zajko, Wojtek Ph.D.

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Abstract

Physical activity offers one of the greatest opportunities for people to extend years of active independent life and reduce functional limitations. The purpose of this paper is to identify key practices for promoting physical activity in older adults, with a focus on older adults with chronic disease or low fitness and those with low levels of physical activity. Key practices identified in promotion activity in older adults include: 1) A multidimensional activity program that includes endurance, strength, balance, and flexibility training is optimal for health and functional benefits; 2) Principles of behavior change, including: social support, self-efficacy, active choices, health contracts, assurances of safety, and positive reinforcement enhance adherence; 3) Management of risk by beginning at low intensity but gradually increasing to moderate physical activity, which has a better risk-to-benefit ratio and should be the goal for older adults; 4) An emergency procedure plan is prudent for community based programs; and 5) Monitoring aerobic intensity is important for progression and for motivation. Selected content review of physical activity programming from major organizations and institutions are provided. Regular participation in physical activity is one of the most effective ways for older adults, including those with disabilities, to help prevent chronic disease, promote independence, and increase quality of life in old age.

©2004The American College of Sports Medicine

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