Health/Fitness

Seniors need encouragement to exercise

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

A new study by researchers at the VA Hospital in Durham shows seniors are more likely to exercise if they receive support and encouragement.

Richard Tofte walks three miles a day, five days a week, but the former Marine wasn't always so dedicated.

"I wasn't inspired, I stopped exercising," Tofte said.

His doctor at the VA Hospital recommended him for a study that offered Tofte the inspiration he needed.

"The whole goal was to put a state of the art counseling program that we could deliver where ever someone lived and have them do appropriate exercises and strengthening activity so they can maintain mobility and independence as long as they could," explained Dr. Miriam Morey, associate research director for the VA's geriatric program.

The study asked Tofte to do 15 minutes of leg stretching exercises three times a week and walk for 30 minutes at least five days a week.

"That's sort of what the evidence says is going to promote a healthier lifestyle and functional status," Dr. Morey said.

As part of the VA research program, a counselor call Tofte was periodically and helped him set goals. Those calls provided the inspiration for him to keep exercising.

"I probably pushed myself to where I was satisfied with my activities," Tofte said.

The study found that was the case with most of the participants who received counseling.

"Their physical activity increased almost two to three fold," Morey said.

Now, Tofte is spreading the exercise message by encouraging people who go to the Roxboro Senior Center.

The study indicates that kind of encouragement and support is just what seniors need to keep exercising.

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