Marcia Ory, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Active for Life program, was a featured speaker at a luncheon with the Senate Special Committee on Aging and the Congressional Fitness Caucus on Thursday, September 29, 2005. Dr. Ory, professor and program director in the Texas A&M University System Health Science Center School of Rural Public Health, provided her insight about the benefits of physical activity for older Americans. The luncheon briefing was designed to educate congressional staff of the benefits of physical activity and the implications on health care policy.
For those concerned about rising health care costs, preventing health problems is one of the few known ways to stem those costs. It is this area that Dr. Ory addressed during the briefing. Regular physical activity helps to control weight; contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints; reduces falls among the elderly; decreases symptoms of anxiety and depression; and can lessen the need for hospitalizations, physician visits and medications. For the aging population, physical activity can help people maintain independent living and enhance their overall quality of life. Dr. Ory notes, “Research has shown that even among frail and very old adults physical activity can improve mobility and functioning.”
Active for Life seeks to increase the number of Americans 50 and older who are physically active at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week. “By helping people maintain or improve their health through physical activity, we know that more older adults will be able to remain independent, have a better quality of life, and better control age-related chronic diseases,” says Dr. Ory. “This translates to less need for medication, fewer doctor visits, and fewer hospital stays.”
The Active for Life National Program Office is housed within the School of Rural Public Health. The program, funded by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in 2002, is designed to translate research-based physical activity programs into regimens applicable to large numbers of older adults. Nine sites around the United States are participating in the four-year project. More information about Active for Life may be found at www.activeforlife.info.

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