AARP announces new fitness programs

AARP announces new fitness programs Fun and fitness are the thrust of two online programs offered by AARP.

"Step Up to Better Health" is a Web-based program designed to help people fit more walking into their routine by gradually adding more steps each week. "Get Fit on Route 66" is a virtual journey where minutes spent on physical activity are converted into mileage, allowing participants to chart their progress along the legendary Route 66.

AARP is also offering a free "Physical Activities Workbook" that shows people how to add physical activity into a daily routine based on different needs and lifestyles.

Margaret Hawkins, who directs AARP's Health Promotion, said the programs and workbook are especially important to people 50+ because regular physical activity can greatly enhance the quality of life as a person ages by extending their years of active, independent life and reducing functional limitations.

"Plus, the rate of adult obesity is increasing," Hawkins said, "so we must pay attention to the role of physical activity in impacting this epidemic � how we can help people increase the calories burned and reduce the calories taken in."

Additionally, regular physical activity contributes to healthy bones, muscles and joints; reduces falls among the elderly; helps relieve the pain of arthritis; reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression; improves perceived well � being and happiness; reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke; and is associated with fewer hospitalizations, physician visits and medications.

Unfortunately, government statistics show that only 3 in 10 adults, age 18-65, are physically active on a regular basis. For those aged 65-75, only 16 percent report 30 minutes of moderate activity five or more days a week, and even fewer (12 percent) of those aged 75 and older report this same amount of activity. Thirty minutes of moderate activity, such as a brisk walk on most days of the week, is sufficient to obtain significant health benefits. However, those who are having difficulty maintaining or losing weight, but who are meeting the 30-minutes-a-day recommendation, should increase their amount of exercise above this.

By encouraging people to participate in one of the programs, AARP hopes to show people 50+ just how simple and fun physical activity can be.

Participants to "Step Up to Better Health" will track their walking online during a 10-week period. "Most people take 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day," Hawkins said. "By wearing a step counter and tracking their progress, people find the motivation to exceed the average. We find participants often double their steps in a few short weeks."

As participants log their daily steps they can watch their progress along four famous American trails � Lewis and Clark, Alaska Highway, Highway 50 or the Appalachian Trail.

Prospective participants can register at http://aarp .stepuptobetterhealth.com/. The program does require that participants have a step counter.

The goal of "Get Fit on Route 66" is to travel the 2,448 miles of Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica in 10 weeks. The program converts exercise minutes to miles, allowing participants to chart their progress along the famous highway. The joy of this program is that it lets people include minutes spent on any moderate activity such as swimming, cycling, gardening, dancing, etc.

Participants find the programs fun as well as motivational. "It was an encouragement for me to keep walking to see how far I could get," said one participant in "Get Fit on Route 66." A participant in "Step Up to Better Health" said she felt better physically, was less tired and had more energy.

Registration is at http://aarp.getfitonroute66.com/.

"Both programs are a fun way to engage in physical activity," Hawkins said. "And because they track their activity, we find people are more likely to stick with it."

People not online and wishing to start a physical activity program are encouraged to order the "Physical Activities Workbook." The free workbook is divided into easy-to-navigate sections. It teaches how to start safely, set goals, develop a support network, find motivation and overcome barriers. Resources and tips are also provided for continued success.

Of the people who have used the workbook 82 percent said it encouraged them to be more active and 72 percent said it helped them set fitness goals.

The first copy is free. It is available by calling 1-888-OUR-AARP (1-888-687-2277). Additional copies are $1 each. Checks payable to AARP may be mailed to: AARP, P.O. Box 93119, Long Beach CA 90809-3119. Orders should include the title, "Physical Activities Workbook," stock number, D561, and quantity.

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