What do you do when 80% of a market comes knocking at your door? You open the door as wide as you can. Such a knock is being heard around the globe, as adults ages 65-plus—at least 80% of whom have at least one chronic health condition (e.g., high cholesterol, heart disease, cancer)—attempt to prevent, delay, manage or improve ill health. In many instances, these health issues can cause fatigue or lack of energy.
“If we had a pill that contained all of the benefits of exercise, it would be the most widely prescribed drug in the world,” says Ronald M. Davis, MD, president of the American Medical Association. In the absence of this magic pill, we must rely on what we know does work: exercise and physical activity.
Condition-specific exercise programs are plentiful—from cancer to heart disease, from fibromyalgia to depression, from osteoporosis to diabetes. Whether indoors or out, a well-rounded exercise and physical activity program will help address virtually any health condition while reenergizing participants. A point to remember: Sixty-nine percent of adults 50 and older exercise to increase their energy levels, yet a significant number state that they don’t exercise because they lack the energy to do so. It is obvious there is a need for education on the benefits of exercise, including how it impacts health and energy levels.
Consider a marketing campaign created by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Don’t sit still for arthritis pain,” reads the headline of an ad, which then promotes physical activity as the “Arthritis Pain Reliever.” The issue is that arthritis is a barrier to exercise, and inactivity can lead to less energy. CDC also created a brochure entitled “What to Take for Arthritis Pain?” that mentions the physical activity solution on the cover. Inside, the brochure explains that while arthritis hurts, exercise can help. Being active will help you feel less pain, move more easily, do more activities, keep muscles and joints healthier, and be more energetic, the text explains. The brochure also recommends swimming, walking and cycling as a few exercise options.
Learning about condition-specific educational programs opens a variety of options. Research literature from various advocacy groups, such as the American Heart Association, National Osteoporosis Foundation and American Dietetic Association, to name a few. In addition to providing information, organizations such as these may offer one-on-one or classroom-style learning opportunities (e.g., cooking classes) or lectures on chronic condition-specific solutions (e.g., cooking for weight management; joint, heart and eye health; chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia).
Adults 50 and older are also looking beyond traditional exercise and information to address their specific health conditions. One area experiencing acceptance with older adults is complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as 63% of this group use CAM-related products and 66% of them do so to treat a specific condition.
A survey by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, one of the US National Institutes of Health, and CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics shows the percentage of US adults who have tried the following 10 most commonly used practices or products:
43% prayer for own health
24% prayer by others for respondent’s health
19% natural products (herbs, other botanicals, enzymes)
12% deep breathing exercises
10% participation in prayer group for own health
8% chiropractic care
4% diet-based therapies (Atkins, Pritikin, Ornish, Zone)
The bottom line is for almost every physical issue there is a solution; exercise and physical activity just may be that solution.
Colin Milner, founder and CEO of the International Council on Active Aging®, is one of North America’s foremost visionaries and original thinkers regarding the health and well-being of the older adult.