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Translating research into action: Go4Life Month promotes exercise

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

Go4Life® is NIA’s national exercise and physical activity campaign for people 50+ which seeks to empower older adults to become more physically active. In September 2015, we celebrate our first-ever Go4Life Month, in collaboration with the White House Conference on Aging, working with our Go4Life partners across the country to conduct events and attract further attention to the campaign. Go4Life features a variety of evidence-based materials to make it easier for older adults to be active and exercise safely.

People have taken notice. Currently, we have more than 250 public and private partner organizations, many of whom are hosting Go4Life Month activities. More than 41,000 people subscribe to our Go4Life e-mail updates, and we have more than 9,000 readers of our Twitter feed—which is great, considering that we’re reaching out to an older audience not typically engaged in social media.

It would be easy to say that being featured at the White House Conference on Aging and building a national presence would be a time to stop and congratulate ourselves on our accomplishments.

Terrific job! Great going, Go4Life!

But, Go4Life has much yet to do—and we need your help. Did you know that only 16 percent of people 65+ do enough aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises to meet the HHS Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans? What about the 84 percent of older adults who no longer follow, have never embraced, or are unable to adopt an active lifestyle due to their health? Clearly there’s much work ahead of us and we need the research community and our Go4Life partners to help us find better, more effective ways to address these questions.

What can we do?

The fact is that 50 percent of older adults have three or more chronic diseases and we need to learn more about how physical activity and exercise can help in the clinical management of older adults living with co-existing conditions, as well as prevent or delay the emergence of new ones. For example, pilot projects testing modifications of the Go4Life materials in subpopulations of older adults with specific health needs would be an important step, helping to make Go4Life content more relevant to a broader range of older people.

We also need new approaches to bring physical activity and exercise to those not currently reached by traditional exercise programs. How can people with different combinations of chronic conditions adapt their exercise routine to be most beneficial for their overall health and well-being? What types of exercises are best for the management of different co-existing conditions? What are some behavioral interventions to stimulate and maintain their participation in physical activity and exercise?

Two recent NIA FOAs offer opportunities to explore these issues:

PAR-15-190 – T1 Translational Research: Novel Interventions for Prevention and Treatment of Age-related Conditions seeks to apply basic and clinical biomedical findings toward the development of new strategies for prevention and treatment of age-related pathologies. This could represent a chance to translate Go4Life into a program for people with disabilities and functional limitations or for people with multiple chronic conditions. For example, how can we help someone with both heart disease and arthritis work through the pain so that they can be more active and reap the benefits of exercise?

The goal of PAR-15-191 – T2 Translational Research: Research Leading to New Health Care Practices, Community Programs and Policies Affecting Older Persons is to develop or evaluate methods of translating results from clinical studies into everyday clinical practice and health decision making, such as adapting a successful intervention for application in clinical practice and evaluating its effectiveness in different clinical settings. This is a good opportunity for researchers to collaborate with Go4Life partner organizations in the translation of physical activity or exercise intervention studies into new senior community wellness programs for different segments of the older population.

The answers to these and many more research questions like them will help Go4Life make a difference in the lives of a medically diverse population of older people. Will you accept our challenge?

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