Why Data Matters: Evidence-Based Active Aging Exercise Programs for Seniors
What is an evidence-based exercise program?
Evidence Based Programs are founded on solid research that points to repeatable positive outcomes for that specific program. In other words, they are programs that have already demonstrated a reliably consistent desired result in those who’ve used them. One of the key factors of evidence-based programs is that they are tightly controlled in ways that ensure the likelihood of reliable and consistent positive change.
For example, the Self-Managed Resource Center from Stanford uses evidence-based programs to help patients deal with chronic diseases. The programs can be implemented by trained leaders in community settings such as senior centers, churches, libraries, and hospitals with a reasonable expectation of consistently positive results.
Using principles of Progressive Resistance Training, the Sunbeam research study also offers an evidence-based approach to fall prevention based on resistance and balance training. The study produced a 55% reduction in falls, greater than any previous intervention in a residential care setting.
Evidence Based Programs have particularly positive implications for seniors interested in ‘active aging’.
"We have to transform what it means to be old. As things stand, the aged are overweight, over-medicated and physically and mentally inactive.” – Charles Eugster
Over the past few decades, the number of older adults in the world has increased more and more each year, a trend practically guaranteed to continue. In fact, by the year 2020, the number of people aged over 60 is projected to pass one billion for the first time. That’s one in every 7 people.
Along with the rise in the population’s older adults, the number of chronic diseases and falls has also increased to become leading causes of death and disability in older Americans. Fortunately, many chronic disease and falls are also highly preventable. Preventable, that is, if the majority of people embrace the idea of ‘active aging’ as not only desirable, but expected. This transition is largely dependent on the implementation of Evidence Based Exercise Programs that have been proven to improve health, function, and overall well-being.
Just telling people to exercise is rarely effective. We know this. To impart real behavioral change, interventions must address capabilities, motivations, and opportunities to be more active. If we are to create effective programs that support active aging, we must first understand why people are not active in the first place.
We must use research to not only understand what motivates people to be more active, but also understand what cultural and motivational factors prevent or encourage increased activity. Changing environmental influences and offering more effective options might be just as important as trying to improve motivation – if not more so.
According to the World Health Organization, active aging is “the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people age.”
Historically, the Health Industry has been primarily concerned with appealing to younger adults. The industry sometimes manages to skirt the edges of middle adulthood, but rarely attempts to show interest in anyone over the age of 45. The emphasis is on self-service gyms stocked with a variety of machines and high-intensity exercises motivated more by appearance than health.
In other words, the health industry - gyms and equipment manufactures in particular - have not been concerned with meeting the needs of older adults. While beginning to change, the concept of active aging has simply not been a part of their vernacular.
Through middle age, reasons for inactivity might include busyness and a perceived lack of time left over at the end of each day that can be devoted to exercise. The danger is that inactivity in our younger years can lead to the development of chronic disease and disabilities as we age, further contributing to inactivity and working against a desire to actively age.
While this might sound discouraging, there is reason to be more hopeful than ever before.
An increasing number of older adults expect to remain active and independent into their 80’s and 90’s – even if they haven’t been terribly active in the past.
The very idea of what it means to reach ‘old age’ is emphatically different for today’s older adults than it was for their parents and grandparents. Gone is the idea of being “over the hill” and passively rolling down the other side into inevitable mental decline and physical frailty. Today’s seniors want programs and resources that will reliably help them ‘actively age’.
Evidence Based Programs Are the Key to Active Aging
Because Evidence Based Programs are based on research, they are more likely to produce consistently positive results, and the benefits to seniors are tremendous: Improved quality of life, increased independence and autonomy, newly adapted positive health behaviors, reduced injury, disability and pain, and improved mental health.
The benefits to Senior Living Communities and Rehabilitation Centers are also tremendous: a more effective use of healthcare and staff resources.
Research is important and data matters.
At HUR, we understand this at our core. In fact, research and data is the entire reason we exist. HUR was developed as the result of a research project at the University of Technology, Helsinki in 1989, and research continues to direct all product and software development.
HUR machines are evidence-based. But, perhaps more importantly, they offer a way for care professionals to drastically increase training effectiveness through data. HUR SmartTouch technology provides an easy way to implement custom strength training programs, systematically adjusts as needed, and provides real-time access to individual and group data.
The technology also tracks outcomes across time, peer groups, and centers, giving you the data you need to improve training for every individual.
Together we can create a new age of strength and balance for the seniors in our communities.