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Go4Life: the NIA health education campaign

Chhanda Dutta
Chhanda DUTTA,
Chief, Clinical Gerontology Branch,
Division of Geriatrics and Clinical Gerontology (DGCG)

Did you know that the National Institute on Aging has a national health education campaign? Launched in 2011, Go4Life® encourages older adults to reap health benefits by making physical activity part of their daily lives.

If you do research with older adults or on senior wellness and health education programs, you might be especially interested in the details of our campaign. Check out the Go4Life website.

Scientific evidence drives Go4Life.

A screenshot of the Go4Life website at The header bar reads, "Go4Life from the National Institute on Aging at NIH." Tabs read, "Home, Get Started, Stay Active, Resources, Stay in Touch, Media Room, About Go4Life, and My Go4Life." There is a large photo of a woman in a garden with the caption, "Be active every day with Go4Life! Find a physical activity you enjoy." On the right side, tabs read, "Get Started Today, Info for Family & Friends, Info for Organizations, Info for Health Professionals."Go4Life is based on studies that demonstrate the beneficial effects of exercise and physical activity for older people, including those with chronic health conditions. You’re probably already familiar with the research showing that fit older people have a lower risk of diabetes, hypertension, coronary heart disease, obesity, depression, and some cancers than their less fit peers. Physical activity also has been shown to reduce pain and improves function in people with osteoarthritis.

Does the research stay buried in the journals, or do we try to make it available to help people?

To develop Go4Life, NIA brought together some of the nation’s leading experts on aging, exercise, and motivation. Over two years, the task force reviewed the research, made recommendations, and helped develop materials based on the strongest available scientific evidence today.

Of course, more research is needed to better prescribe physical activity and exercise for older adults. Importantly, we also need to identify behavioral strategies to help the older population lead physically active lives. You might think about further research that could inform:

  • prescription of exercise for older adults with chronic diseases, considering:
    • exercise-specific effects in older adults, including dose-response data
    • exercises effects on multiple chronic conditions  (for example, different dyads or triads, benefits and potential harmful effects)
  • behavioral strategies to encourage sedentary older adults  to exercise,  identifying  options to help people stay motivated and maintain their exercise routines
  • recommendations about physical activity for different populations
    • rural compared to urban settings
    • exercise preferences of different minority populations
    • and so on

And, these are just a few ideas!

The latest evidence—have you seen the recent results of the LIFE study?

The NIA-supported Lifestyle Interventions and Independence for Elders (LIFE) study recently added to this body of research. After 2.6 years, the risk of major mobility disability was reduced by 18 percent, demonstrating that it’s never too late for exercise to have a positive effect, even for frail older people.

Though a great deal is known, there’s still more research to be conducted on exercise and physical activity so that more older adults can reap the health benefits of an active lifestyle.

Go4Life resources

The evidence-based and consumer-friendly resources of Go4Life include:

  • an interactive website that provides information for individuals, families and friends, organizations, and health care professionals
  • sample exercises
  • success stories
  • motivational tips
  • tracking tools
  • nutrition information
  • free materials to help older people start exercising and keep going
  • online virtual coaches to help motivate Go4Life participants

Why does the NIA think Go4Life is so important?

When Congress and the President established the NIA, our mandate included disseminating health information based on the results of research. With the drumbeat of results showing the advantages of exercise at all ages and the demand by segments of the public for information on how to exercise with age the Go4Life campaign was born. It is an important part of our dissemination efforts.

This is a critically important endeavor. Despite proven health benefits, exercise and physical activity rates among older people are particularly low. Only about 30 percent of people aged 45–64 say they engage in regular leisure-time physical activity, and participation drops precipitously with older groups. While people age 85 and older can benefit from exercise, only 11 percent say they are active. The Go4Life materials are meant to provide practical tips and options for older adults (and adults of any age!) to design their own exercise routines and to help them lead a more active life.

Join the Go4Life campaign.

We have some 90 partners in the public and private sec tors involved in this effort, from federal agencies to local senior centers. Maybe your institution would like to join us as we reach out to increase physical activity among older adults. Here’s the current list of participating partners. Read more about what kinds of partnership are available, and please consider joining us.

Do you have other questions about Go4Life and how it might be useful to you in your research? Or, are you already partnering with Go4Life? Comment below and let us know what’s on your mind.

Go4Life® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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