Be Active Your Way Blog
Jim Kauffman is the National Director for Health and Well-being for YMCA of the USA, the national service organization to 2600 YMCAs across the country. Jim has been with the YMCA organization for 28 years, and is currently responsible for developing tools, resources and best practices for YMCA staff to use to impact the health and well-being of 25 million YMCA participants by 2012. Jim pursues a healthy lifestyle with interests in skiing, volunteering, reading, cooking and foreign travel.
Subscribe via email to Mr. Kauffman's YMCA blog posts.
Successful marketing or programming for older adults begins with understanding “where they are coming from” so that we can best engage them in on-going physical activity. For most in this age group, healthy living, maintaining their independence, playing with grandchildren, and having a basic level of functional fitness is their overall goal (while only a small percentage regularly compete in sports or running races).
Older adults are not all the same, but there are common roles that many of them take on in their everyday lives: caregiver, empty nester, grandparent, breadwinner, retiree, widow/widower, etc. How does your P.A. programming take into account all of these possible roles? Empty nesters may be re-engaging in P.A. after years of doing “not much,” and are looking to join others who look and move “just like them”. Widow/widowers may be looking for clubs and events that not only meet their physical activity goals, but help them build a network or community of peers. Grandparents may be attracted to activities and programs that they can actively do with their grandkids.
Older adults don’t want to buy more “stuff,” but they will spend money on “experiences”. The “bucket list” even if it isn’t written down, isn’t about stuff, it’s about trying new things, visiting more places, meeting interesting people. Does your your marketing or programming emphasis “stuff” like treadmills or balance balls, or “experiences” like working out with new friends and spending quality time with family? Creating significant physical and emotional experiences via physical activity can solidify a commitment to lifelong healthy lifestyles. Older Adult Camps, fossil hunting trips, foreign travel, ethnic cooking classes, financial well-being and living workshops, “Meet the Author” book sessions, can all create these significant experiences.
The way older adults keep score of their physical activity changes over time. An exercise session might not be judged on how many reps, how much weight, or how long the session lasted. A jog in the park might be more about seeing birds, flowers, and having a casual conversation with your jogging buddy, instead of how far or how fast they ran. Have you created any new ways to help Older Adults keep score of their physical activity?
Many have already had a significant health issue (cancer, heart attack, pre-diabetes, etc.) in their life. Some are committed to prevention; some need extra motivation, education, variety and support to get regular physical activity. Some readily admit these health issues directly; others may be embarrassed to let others know. How have you (or your staff) prepared to respond appropriately when a potential member or client reveals they are a cancer survivor, have had a hip replaced, or have limited vision?
The older adult population needs physical activity as much as any group, and the more we can respond to their unique needs, interests, and motivators, the more likely we’ll engage them in meeting the P.A. guidelines. What have you learned about working with older adults that you would like to share?
Tags: Older adults
Marketing Physical Activity
Do you think it’s easy for adults to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans? Even though we’re in a profession dedicated to promoting health and well-being, do you often struggle to personally meet the Guidelines? I know I do. As professionals dedicated to helping others increase their physical activity, I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the challenges we might face ourselves and share those things that have worked for us in hopes of inspiring others to meet the Guidelines.
Here are some of the things that have worked for me: There are hand weights and elastic bands next to my desk at work. There’s a pair of walking shoes ready to go by the door. I have a few exercise posters just inside my top desk drawer. These few changes to my environment have helped me come closer to meeting the Guidelines. I often pick up the weights or bands and do a series of exercises while on conference calls, in between checking emails, or before starting an administrative task. The walking shoes often come on when I see that I have 10 to 15 minutes before my next appointment. A quick walk or a few flights of stairs gets my heart pumping, and also allows me to focus on the next meeting. I do all these things in my street clothes, no need for changing or showering.
My office does some interesting health promotions, all with the intent of getting staff more active. By taking part, I’ve done a lot of things I wouldn’t have normally tried such as: taking a yoga class, assisting in a volunteer project helping an elderly neighbor (shoveling snow off a roof), participating in a corporate triathlon relay, and recording my monthly steps. This variety of activities really helps me meet the Guidelines. The variety is actually kind of fun. My company’s not trying to get all of us into yoga, or running, or counting our steps…they’re just trying to get us active in something, this week and next week, and the week after.
Supportive friends and relationships also help me meet the Guidelines. Instead of getting grief or mockery from co-workers who may see me doing arm curls, or see some perspiration (sometime even sweat) on my face, I get compliments about doing something healthy. When I ask for others to join me on the quick walk around the block, I actually get a few who say “yes.” When I ask for help in meeting one of the company’s health activities, my co-workers understand the importance, and lend support.
I believe changes to your environment, choosing a variety of activities, and getting support from friends and colleagues is integral in helping most of us and our clients meet the Guidelines. So even though I sometimes struggle meeting the Guidelines, I’m finding ways to help me be active.
What environmental changes have you recommended to others to help them reach greater levels of physical activity?
What variety of activities have you incorporated to promote more activity?
How have you created or cultivated supportive friends and relationships for your clients?
Tags: barriers, social support, environmental changes
Environmental Interventions | Barriers
A long time ago, I made a conscious decision to be more active and eat healthier over the holidays. I understand that this is something that many people have trouble doing, but by making increased physical activity part of a holiday tradition, it can actually become something that the whole family looks forward to.
As Professionals in physical activity, we should look at a variety of ways to assist people in becoming more active, and the holidays actually offer all kinds of creative and fun outlets to family physical activity. My wife and I ski every Thanksgiving Day, no matter what. And after the Thanksgiving meal, we ALWAYS take a two mile walk (regardless of the time, weather, or what is on TV). We also used to participate in some neat Y programs too (Huff and Puff while you Stuff was one of our favorites), and we gently persuaded any visiting family to join in these additional activities. If shopping is part of the upcoming holiday season, try what we do; park the car “a short hike” from the mall entrance to get some extra minutes of activity towards the recommended guidelines of 150 minutes per week of moderate activity. It’s almost become a game we play to see how many different things we can do (at a moderate intensity level) that last at least 10 minutes that count towards the 150 minute guideline.
Family traditions play a crucial role in the healthy or unhealthy choices a family makes about eating and physical activity, and with the holidays just around the corner, why not choose to start some healthy traditions this year. The YMCA has a great, free resource called Healthy Family Home, available at www.ymca.net/healthyfamilyhome. Healthy Family Home outlines all kinds of simple yet effect ways families can eat healthier, be more physically active and spend more time together. No matter what your role is in encouraging or leading physical activity, you’ll find all kinds of uses for YMCA Healthy Family Home.
The tips in YMCA Healthy Family Home work year round, but trying them out around the holidays may help jumpstart some new family traditions. Other suggestions include playing a vigorous game of touch football rather than watching TV Football Half-time reports. All of the tips in Healthy Family Home focus on small, simple things, that when combined, can have a positive effect on your family’s health and well-being. Check out YMCA Healthy Family Home. What are you doing to help create healthy family traditions?
Also visit our website at www.ymca.net
Family Traditions | Active Advice
This page last updated on: 11/04/2009
Content for this site is maintained by the
Office of Disease Prevention & Health Promotion, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.