There are some 78 million Baby Boomers who have redefined aging and are more educated, wealthy and tech savvy than their parents or any other generation before them.
Despite these advantages, though, studies have indicated that many of the Baby Boomers are overweight or obese, which would place them at higher risk for chronic health conditions like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.
That's why there's a campaign to educate people 50 years and older about the importance of exercising, staying fit and how physical therapists fit into living a healthy life.
Lucy Templer, physical therapist at Trinity Health, kneeling, helps Gail Reiten with her balance on a balance ball. Strengthening balance is important, especially for people who are elderly, in preventing falls.
The campaign, Fit After 50 Move Forward, is a community service educational outreach program from the American Physical Therapy Association. It's a call to action to promote fitness and health and get the word out that it's really important, said Mike Rexin, physical therapy coordinator for Trinity Health.
Fit After 50 Move Forward starts Oct. 1 and goes through Nov. 19, a 50-day journey. People interested in learning more about the campaign or wanting to get involved can visit (www.moveforwardpt.com/FitAfter50).
Lucy Templer, physical therapist at Trinity Health, said every October is National Physical Therapy Month and they highlight different topics, so this year the emphasis is on the Fit After 50 Move Forward campaign. The campaign has mainly been promoted on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. It encourages people to take charge of their health, Templer said.
Fifty percent of Templer's patients are elderly, she said. "With Medicare cutting outpatient services through Obamacare, it's important to teach them what they can do on their own," Templer said. Patients only get 15 visits to a physical therapist per year now, she added.
It's important that people take the initiative and develop a fitness plan for themselves, Templer said.
The main goal of the Fit After 50 Move Forward campaign, noted Templer, is to try to teach ways to prevent injury or worsening an existing injury so that people don't come back to physical therapy. "Our goal is to give them everything they need (to exercise) at home with no equipment," she said.
As people age, they tend to lose flexibility, strength and balance, which makes staying fit after age 50 challenging, according to the Fit After 50 Move Forward website. Working with a physical therapist can help people address the challenges, maintain fitness and avoid injury. Physical therapists take an individual approach while helping people achieve their fitness goals, the website said, and consider any pre-existing conditions or diseases that someone may have in order to tailor a plan that is specific to an individual's needs.
"Nothing should ever be cookie-cutter in exercise. The exercise program should fit each person," Templer noted.
The most common physical activity for adults age 45 and older, according to AARP, is walking. However, Templer said the types of physical activities are always on an individual basis because everyone is different. "Low-impact exercise is always the best and weight training is important because it builds bone density," she said. "Our biggest quote is 'If it hurts, don't do it.' That's our mantra in physical therapy. Push yourself, but don't push through pain."
Yoga is a great activity for people over 50, Templer also said, because it can be modified for each person's ability. "It's low-impact and combines flexibility and balance," Templer said, and strengthening balance is important in preventing falls for elderly people. The balance part is frequently overlooked, but that's changing. Another component that Templer said she stresses is posture and teaches postural exercises. Posture is important, she added.
A challenge for people who are participating in Fit After 50 Move Forward will be finding what they enjoy doing, said Templer.
"Don't start out with an exercise program that's over your head," she said. "You have to work at a level you can work at and build a foundation."
Other challenges Templer thought people might find difficult were making individual adjustments to their own ability, not getting discouraged, and getting into a routine.
"Physical therapists are a resource to everyone," Templer remarked. "We're the go-to people."