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Reply by Author Newman to Young regarding Obesity in Older Adults

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April 3, 2012

Reply by author to Cynthia Young to the articleObesity in Older Adults by Ann Mabe Newman (January 31, 2009).

Dear Cynthia:

Thank you for your Letter to the Editor in response to my article on obesity in older adults. As a politically active nurse (I ran for the North Carolina House in November), I agree with your premise that nurses can use political involvement as a tool to reduce obesity in older adults.

As you noted, Section 8 of H.R. 369 refers to the purchase or use of equipment used in a program of physical exercise to participate, or receive instruction in a program of physical exercise, and for membership dues in a fitness club the primary purpose of which is to provide access to equipment and facilities for physical exercise.

Although exercise equipment and fitness may benefit some older adults who are obese, a recent research study, considering what kind of exercise is best for the older person who is obese, reported that walking may be the best exercise for this population (Rejeski et al., 2011). These researchers noted that the group that ‘coupled walking exercise and weight–loss’ showed a statistically significant improvement in mobility compared to the ‘no activity but education on successful aging’ group and a ‘walking exercise only’ group.

Falls and injuries, getting on and off exercise equipment, and proper supervision while on the equipment are concerns for older people who are obese. If Section 8 of HB 369 is passed, I believe there should be language about who would qualify to provide these services. If older adults who are obese are not carefully monitored by certified geriatric trainers, more harm than good could come from this legislation. Money might better be spent creating walking paths, appropriate lighting, and security in neighborhoods.  The need for cost-effective community–based interventions is critical.

Although legislation is needed to support the efforts of nurses in helping to reduce obesity in older adults, we need to make sure that our efforts are directed by our professional organization, the American Nurses Association (ANA) and that we all speak with one voice. The most effective way nurses can influence policy at the national level is to align themselves with ANA’s Political Action Committee (PAC).

The best kind of exercise for older adults who are obese begins with what nature intended our bodies to do: walk!

Ann Mabe Newman, DSN, APRN, CNE
Associate Professor of Nursing
University of North Carolina  at Charlotte

Reference

Rejeski, W.J., Brubaker, P.H., Goff, D.C., Bearon, L.B, McClelland, J.W., Perri, M.G., & Ambrosius, W.T. (2011). Translating weight loss and physical activity programs Into the Community to Preserve Mobility in Older, Obese Adults in Poor Cardiovasculare Health. Archives of Internal Medicine, Jan 2011 DOI: 10.1001/archinternmed.2010.522

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