sealPurdue News

January 16, 2003

Purdue experts team up to get older adults moving

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Americans continue to hear how out of shape they are, and now a group of Purdue University researchers are creating a coalition that could help older adults in Indiana choose healthy lifestyle options.

"The Indiana Governor's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports would like to see the work of the Purdue coalition members serve as a model for others who want to start, or are starting, fitness coalitions in Indiana," said Casey McIntire, executive director of the Governor's Council for Physical Fitness and Sports. "The lack of physical activity in this state, and most of the country, is disturbing. The collaboration from these researchers can help the Indiana population improve their quality of life."

The Purdue members of the Living Well After 50 Coalition intend to improve accessibility and utilization of the community's physical activity resources through innovations, such as peer training programs, and studies about what factors promote exercise.

People know the importance of a nutritious diet and exercise, yet many have poor nutritional habits and lack physical activity, said Roseann Lyle, professor of health and kinesiology in the School of Liberal Arts.

"We need to do a better job of overcoming barriers to make more healthy choices available to people so they can work activity into their daily lives by using resources in their communities," Lyle said.

Lyle, the chair of the Strategic Health Initiative on Aging for the American College of Sports Medicine, is one of about a dozen Purdue professors and researchers from nursing, health and kinesiology, and foods and nutrition who are collaborating on the Living Well After 50 Coalition in Tippecanoe County. In May 2001, the "National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 50 and Older" identified obstacles older adults face in seeking an active lifestyle. The information was collected and reported by a number of national physical activity groups.

Lyle and other Purdue researchers teamed with Area IV Agency on Aging and Community Action Programs Inc. to organize a local initiative based on the national report. Many Purdue members of the coalition also are faculty associates in the university's gerontology program.

"Physical activity is important for all ages and can help older adults improve their quality of life, remain active and independent, and reduce chances for disability and other expensive health complications," Lyle said. "We, as researchers, can contribute our knowledge and expertise with regard to comprehensively addressing barriers to physical activity among the 50 and older population."

Last February, Purdue researchers and the Area IV agency invited Tippecanoe County health-related organizations, such as health clubs and assisted living facilities, to an introductory coalition meeting. A follow-up meeting was held in June. The coalition has established a committee structure, approved its mission statement and now is seeking funding to implement programs.

After implementation, Purdue researchers will evaluate the coalition's impact.

An epidemic of obesity, attributed to sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition, has hit the United States, Lyle said. Indiana is among states with the highest incidence of obesity in the country.

"Quality of life is affected more than ever by lifestyle choices than by medical care, genetic or environmental issues," said Roger Seehafer, professor of health and kinesiology and a coalition member. "In this century it's not microorganisms, rather it's human organisms, that are degenerating the quality of life or adding to the morbidity and mortality levels.

"We know the causes, and we often know how to stop them, but human behavior is resistant to change. The coalition is a way to help older adults change their behaviors to lead a healthier, more productive lifestyle."

Nancy Edwards, professor of nursing and a coalition member, said creating this coalition also will benefit research because of new collaborations.

"We know exercise is helpful for the elderly, but not many long-term care or assisted living facilities provide consistent structured exercise opportunities," said Edwards, who will team with a Purdue nursing professor, health and kinesiology professor and an exercise physiologist to study factors that can promote exercise in individuals with dementia.

Cody Sipe, another coalition member and director of the A.H. Ismail Center for Health, Exercise and Nutrition at Purdue, is collaborating with the Canadian Centre on Activity and Aging on making Purdue one of the first American sites for the Seniors' Fitness Instructor's Course training program. The program teaches older adults how to lead group exercise for their peers.

The "National Blueprint: Increasing Physical Activity Among Adults Aged 50 and Older" identified a lack of professionals who are trained specifically for older people's needs, Sipe said.

"We need to see the community taking responsibility for its own health," Sipe said. "Retired senior citizens are this country's biggest source of volunteers, so we should make more of an effort to see them involved in leading the effort to increase physical activity."

Writer: Amy Patterson-Neubert, (765) 494-9723,

Sources: Roseann Lyle, (765) 494-3158,

Roger Seehafer, (765) 494-3159,

Cody Sipe, (765) 496-6449,

Nancy Edwards, 765) 494-4015,

Casey McIntire, (317) 233-7671,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;


Related Web sites:
Purdue Health and Kinesiology faculty
Purdue School of Nursing

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