LIFE Fitness Program Promotes Health, Connects Generations

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Iowa State University Extension in Cass County is partnering with the Anita Health and Wellness Center and CAM High School students to bring LIFE to Cass County! The Living (well through) Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise (LIFE) Program introduces older adults to “exergaming”, video games that integrate game play with physical activity. Younger adults (age 16-25) serve as LIFE trainers for the older adult participants. The program is part of a project developed by Iowa State University researchers, and funded by the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
 
The LIFE program will be coming to the Anita Health and Wellness Center, beginning on Wednesday, February 19th. Cass County Extension Staff are also looking for local volunteers aged 16-25 to start the program at a site in Atlantic. Any interested local adults aged 60+ are encouraged to participate in this 8 week program, which already has proven beneficial to previous participants.
 
“In 2011 we piloted the LIFE program at seven sites, for adults age 60 and older,” said Sarah Francis, an assistant professor and ISU Extension and Outreach state nutrition specialist. “During the pilot phase, the LIFE program showed that older adults age 60+ could improve their flexibility and hand grip strength in just six months with appropriate aerobic exercise and resistance activity. Research has shown that exergaming is effective in improving quality of life and reducing symptoms of depression in older adults. However, what really makes the LIFE program special is the interaction between the younger and older adults.”
 
Participants in the LIFE program will meet twice a week, from 8:45 to 9:45 AM on Mondays and Wednesdays, for 8 weeks- working with CAM High School students to get active through “exergaming” and other group activities. Interested participants will also be asked to fill out a survey before the first class, and after the last class, to meet the research requirements of the project. All participant data will remain completely confidential and anonymous to research conductors.
 
The local students serving as volunteer trainers for the LIFE program have completed training on using the Kinect® gaming system, leading interactive games, and offering assistance and applying safety precautions when working with older adults as they engage in physical activity.
 
“The trainers and older adult participants will meet twice a week for eight weeks to play Kinect® Sports for up to an hour per session, combining aerobic and resistance activity,” Francis explained. “The older adults will not need to learn how to run the gaming equipment unless they want to; the student leaders will demonstrate the activities while the participants follow along, doing activities at their comfort level.”
 
 
“We’re excited that Cass County will be part of the LIFE program,” said Kate Olson, Cass County Extension Program Coordinator. “The program has a great track record in other local communities over the past few years, and we are very excited to be working with a fantastic group of CAM High School students to offer this program in Anita. I would encourage anyone who is interested in the program to contact myself or Angie at the Wellness Center for more information, or to just show up on the 19th and find out for yourself what it’s all about!”
 
“Particpants can play boxing, bowling or compete in track events- working out in place while the Kinect® game is shown on the television screen in front of them,” Olson said. “The trainers will lead the activity, and provide encouragement and assistance as the participants exercise. This is very low impact activity, and can even be done while the participant is seated or leaning on a chair for support, which makes it an easily accessible activity for people of all fitness levels”
 
After the eight week program, participants are encouraged to continue the program on their own if they are interested in doing so. For 16 weeks they also will receive eight bi-weekly newsletters targeting physical activity, nutrition and wellness.
 
Francis believes the LIFE program has the potential to be a low-cost, community-based approach that promotes older adult health while connecting generations within society. The program is an example of community engagement and service learning. It meets a community need — helping older adults become more active — while offering students the opportunity to become more engaged as citizens as they serve in Iowa communities.
 
“Iowa State began this project because physical inactivity among older adults is a growing public health issue,” Francis said. “If we don’t address this issue, as the Baby Boomers age we’re going to see more chronic disease and disability in older Iowans — which translates into lower quality of life and increased health care costs.”
 
Cass County Extension is also looking for local volunteers, aged approximately 16-25, who are interested in leading the program at a site in Atlantic. If this may be you, or you know of someone who would be a good fit for the program, please call Kate Olson at the Cass County Extension Office (243-1132) or email keolson@iastate.edu. More information on the LIFE program can be found online at www.extension.iastate.edu/life
 
Informational Flier for Anita LIFE Location

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