Senior Exercise Program Reduces Pain, Fatigue

Brett Smith for – Your Universe Online
Asian-American seniors living in New York City are feeling the benefits of a new exercise program that has helped decrease physical pain, boost mobility and improve the overall health of many participants, according to a new study by the Hospital for Special Surgery.
The study, which was presented at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting on Tuesday in Boston, focused on a specific older Asian population in New York City that grew by 64 percent from 2000 to 2010. One in four of these seniors lived in poverty in 2010, according to study researchers.
“This population is at risk for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis,” said Laura Robbins, senior vice president of Education and Academic Affairs at HSS. “They are more than twice as likely to have no health insurance coverage compared to other major race and ethnic groups. Cultural and linguistic barriers limit access to healthcare services.”
To address the health of this population, HSS developed the Asian Community Bone Health Initiative, a series of bilingual education and exercise classes. Six eight-week sessions of the Arthritis Foundation Exercise Program (AFEP) and three eight-week yoga classes were held by bilingual instructors at four senior centers in Chinatown and Flushing, Queens. The program also advocated self-management of arthritis and other conditions through exercise.
“Getting seniors to be active in any way will generally improve their quality of life and help them function better in their everyday activities,” said Dr. Linda Russell, a rheumatologist at HSS, in a statement. “People believe that if you have arthritis you shouldn’t exercise, but appropriate exercises actually help decrease pain.”
The AFEP sessions consisted mainly of low-impact, chair-based exercises. The yoga classes featured simple, beginner-level yoga moves.
Almost 200 participants enrolled in the initiative between November 2011 and September 2013. A questionnaire was administered before and after the exercise classes to assess pain, function and other health indicators. Nearly 120 participants responded to the surveys.
The respondents, who were mostly females older than 65, typically reported their pain intensity fell and interfered less with their daily life. After completing the program, 48 percent fewer participants said they felt physical pain on a daily basis, 69 percent more participants could ascend several flights of stairs and 83 percent more participants said they could now bend, kneel, or stoop. A significant number of respondents said the exercise initiative reduced their daily fatigue or stiffness.
“The study results indicate that the hospital’s Bone Health Initiative has a positive impact on the musculoskeletal health of the Asian senior population,” said Huijuan Huang, a program coordinator. “While further research is needed, HSS will continue to offer culturally-sensitive programs to this community to help seniors stay active, decrease pain and improve their overall health.”
Another exercise program for seniors in the Spokane, Washington area is specifically working to reduce potentially dangerous falls.
Starting in early October, a local retirement community has been offering a program called Stay Active & Independent for Life (SAIL) that was developed as a result of a fall-prevention study conducted in Washington’s Spokane and Pierce counties.

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