Thirty-one (31) million U.S. adults ages 50 years and older are inactive and are not getting any physical activity beyond basic movement for daily life activities, says a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
CDC looked at data from the 2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and found that inactivity significantly increased as age increased. Almost 28% of adults ages 50 years plus were inactive, including 25% of adults 50-64 years, 27% of those 65-74 years, and 35% of those over 75. Inactivity decreased as education increased, while inactivity increased as a person’s weight increased. Inactivity was more common among women (29%) than among men (26%) and was more common among Hispanics (33%) and blacks (33%) than whites (26%).
These findings are concerning for those of us working in chronic disease prevention, especially when it comes to arthritis—the most common cause of disability in the United States.
About 53 million U.S. adults have arthritis. The number of adults with arthritis is estimated to increase to 78 million in 2040. Having arthritis, alone or in conjunction with other chronic conditions, may serve as a barrier to physical activity.
Being physically active can help reduce arthritis-related joint pain, improve mood and the ability to move, and decrease the risk of other chronic conditions, falls and disability. Being physically active is one of the most important things people can do if they want to be able to live independently in their own homes as they age.
CDC’s arthritis program is funding national partners and state health departments to offer physical activity programs appropriate for adults with arthritis. For example, the National Recreation and Parks Association offers CDC-recommended physical activity programs like Walk With Ease at local parks and recreation centers, and the Y-USA offers the EnhanceFitness® program in many communities. Senior centers also offer physical activity programs, often at little or no cost.
But these CDC programs are limited in availability; they can only reach so many adults and help them be physically active. More needs to be done by governments and communities to make these proven programs more available.
Additionally, the study authors noted that more work is needed to expand community support of physical activity for adults. The ways in which communities are designed and built affect physical activity. For instance, walking or bicycling may not be convenient or safe if sidewalks or bike lanes are not present. Community planners can play an important role in making the environment encouraging to active lifestyles.
Everyone—governments, decision-makers, community leaders, and the public—can play a role in helping communities offer design enhancements and proven programs to support more physical activity, helping adults ages 50+ to become and stay physically active.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!