Go for Exercise and Healthy Aging – Go4Life

Exercise and physical activity are important for many reasons, but they play an especially vital role in maintaining good health and independence as we get older. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), only a fraction of older adults engage in sufficient levels of exercise. NIH, together with the National Institute on Aging (NIA), is seeking to change this alarming trend with Go4Life, the new federal health campaign that offers older adults tips, strategies and tools on how to effectively and safely incorporate daily exercise in their lives.

Launched on October 19 at a briefing on Capitol Hill that included U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, M.D.; Senator Herb Kohl, D-Wis., Chair of the Senate Special Committee on Aging; Senator Mark Udall, D-Colo., Senate Special Committee on Aging; and Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the NIA, Go4Life cites a large body of evidence that demonstrates the role that exercise and physical activity play in helping individuals manage costly and pervasive chronic conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoarthritis and obesity. Some of those outcomes included:

  • A study that revealed a 50 percent reduced risk in type 2 diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease and obesity with greater levels of exercise, with highly active people receiving additional health benefits of 10-15 percent lower risk
  • A clinical trial that demonstrated a decrease in pain and increase in function among a group of people age 60 and older with knee osteoarthritis who engaged in aerobic exercise or resistance exercise
  • The results of the NIH-sponsored Diabetes Prevention Program, which showed that people over age 60 at high risk for diabetes reduce their risk by 71 percent with moderate exercise and improved diet

“You’re never too old to increase your level of physical activity and exercise,” says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the NIA, in the campaign’s press release. “Go4Life is based on studies demonstrating the benefits of exercise and physical activity for older people, including those with chronic health conditions. This new campaign reaches out to older people who traditionally have not embraced exercise and shows them ways that even those with physical limitations may be able to exercise safely as well.”

In the briefing, Surgeon General Benjamin raised the point that exercise for older people can be as simple and accessible as doing bicep curls with soup cans or taking a 60 second break to dance or tap your toes to your favorite song. As Senator Udall stated, “The challenge is, ‘How do you get started?’ [But if you] make fitness a priority, it becomes easier.” The most important thing is to keep moving, because the evidence all points to tremendous benefit in overall health and independence.

The program is supported by a number of federal agencies, and private and nonprofit organizations, including AIM member Alliance for Aging Research.