Promoting Exercise for Aging Patients Needs to Start with Us

Roberta Heale, Associate Editor EBN, @robertaheale @EBNursingBMJ

Aging is not for the faint of heart, but getting older and being old are not the same thing.  We want to maintain vitality throughout our lives and the key to this is so very simple. We all know the answer:  exercise. Of course genetics, diet and lifestyle choices such as smoking, play a big part in how well we age and if we make it to older age.  However, moving our bodies is essential to maintaining strength, flexibility, balance, to stave off frailty and slow cognitive decline.

Another quote related to aging says “The time to begin most things is ten years ago.” Although it’s true that starting and maintaining exercise in our youth is preferable, there are some impressive health benefits to introducing exercise at older ages.  Simply starting a walking regimen is associated with lower mortality in older adults1,2  Exercise doesn’t have to be elaborate for there to be benefits.  Even something as simple as introducing an elastic band exercise program with older adults showed positive results.3,4

Even though promoting the benefits of exercise is an important nursing role, many nurses, like the general public, don’t participate in exercise themselves.  We need to find ways to encourage nurses to integrate exercise into their daily lives.  There are numerous strategies.  Some organizations provide discounts for gym memberships, but this could go further with such things as incentives in benefit packages for those who exercise. No matter what the strategy, it’s important to start early in nurses’ careers. One idea to instill the value of life long exercise in nursing is through establishing exercise as a core component of nursing curriculum. 5,6

As nurses, we need to promote exercise with our patients so that they are able to achieve optimum health at every stage of their lives.  What better way to do this than to demonstrate the value of exercise in our daily lives by doing it ourselves?

1.Patel AV, Hildebrand JS, Leach CR, et al.Walking in Relation to Mortality in a Large Prospective Cohort of Older U.S. Adults. Am J Prev Med2018;54,10-19.

2.Marmeleira J.Evid Based Nurs. Engaging in even a small amount of walking is associated with lower mortality in older adults2018 Apr;21(2):51. doi: 10.1136/eb-2018-102870. Epub 2018 Feb 20.

3.Yang HJ, Chen KM, Chen MD, et al. Applying the transtheoretical model to promote functional fitness of community older adults participating in elastic band exercises. J Adv Nurs2015;71:2338–49.

4. Wessener, B. An elastic band exercise programme improves functional fitness in older adults.Evid Based Nurs. 2016 Apr;19(2):64. doi: 10.1136/eb-2015-102193. Epub 2015 Dec 18.

5.Blake H, Stanulewicz N, Mcgill F. Predictors of physical activity and barriers to exercise in nursing and medical students. J Adv Nurs2016 Oct 12. doi: 10.1111/jan.13181.

6.Dwyer, T. Physical activity as a core component of the nursing curriculum. March 2017 Evidence-Based Nursing 20(2):ebnurs-2016-10259 DOI:10.1136/eb-2016-102594



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