Did you know that by 2030, the number of older Americans is expected to double from 35 million to 70 million. The percentage of the total population that is aged 65 or older is expected to grow from 12 percent in 2000 to 20 percent in 2030.

The growing number of older adults will place increasing demands on the public health system and on medical and social services.

Lack of physical activity and poor diet are the major causes of an epidemic of obesity that is affecting the elderly as well as middle-aged and younger populations. An estimated 18 percent of adults over age 65 in the United States are obese, and another 40 percent are overweight, putting them at substantially increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, back pain, knee and joint problems, along with other chronic diseases.

In 2000, the total costs of overweight and obesity combined was estimated to be $117 billion. Since 1990, the prevalence of obesity has increased more than 50 percent in the elderly, and even more in some younger age groups.

Being inactive results in loss of muscle strength and balance and increases the risk of falls. Every year, fall-related injuries amoung older people cost the nation more then $20.2 billion. By 2020, the total annual cost of these injuries is expected to reach $32.4 billion. The data imply that society may be able to reap larger benefits in terms of lower health care costs by improving physical activity levels in older adults, as compared with any other age group.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Center for Chronic Diseases Prevention and Health Promotion. Behavioral Risk Factor Survellance System. Trend Data, Nationwide. April 1, 2002.

Regular physical activity sustains the ability to live independently. Research has shown that virtually all older adults can benefit from regular physical activity. The mobility and functioning of frail and very old adults can be improved by regular physical activity. The frail health and loss of function we associate with aging, such as difficulty walking long distances, climbing stairs, or carrying groceries, is in large part due to physical inactivity.