Most Effective 'Medicine' to Slow Aging? Gerontologist Promotes Movement

Ever since Ponce de Leon set out to find the mythical "Fountain of Youth" society has been absorbed with the notion that there is something to consume to stay young. One noted gerontologist, however, is promoting a far different formula for retaining health and vitality at any age.

"Movement is truly one of the best remedies we have available to us, especially as we age," said Kevin O'Neil, MD, editor of The Optimal Aging Manual and Optimum Life(R) medical director for Brookdale Senior Living. "No other single life change is capable of impacting so many areas of health and wellness as daily activity, especially for seniors."

As testimony to his beliefs, Dr. O'Neil created Movement is Medicine, a program to promote wellness in seniors. The program encourages individual activity to meet the guidelines of 30 minutes of moderate daily activity established by the American Heart Association and American College of Sports Medicine.

"The goal is to improve the health and wellness of older adults through the development of a tailored physical activity plan," said Dr. O'Neil, who is now introducing the program at Brookdale communities across the country.

Movement is Medicine was launched as part of the company's Optimum Life(R) initiative, a lifestyle which holds that balance over six dimensions of wellness -- purposeful, intellectual, social, physical, intellectual and spiritual -- fosters optimal wellness regardless of one's physical condition, limitations or age.

"Although everyone cannot be equally healthy at any age we can all be optimally healthy by doing the most with what we have, and it all begins with movement," said Dr. O'Neil.

Ballroom dancing is one of the best activities for staving off age-related disease

For example, Dr. O'Neil cites ballroom dancing as one of the best activities for moving and staving off age-related disease because it requires one to be active, to think intellectually about the next steps, to move in harmony with a partner and to be emotionally engaged, all at the same time. Alternate forms of positive movement for seniors include gardening, yoga, water aerobics and tai chi. In addition, according to Dr. O'Neil, Nintendo(R)'s Wii(TM) also promotes positive movement via an engaging combination of recreation and exercise.

Movement is Medicine is intended to enrich the lives of seniors, according to Dr. O'Neil, and it is particularly applicable in senior living and retirement communities, where group interaction encourages attendance and participation.

"We are educating senior residents that unwanted, age-related changes can indeed be slowed or reversed simply through movement," said Dr. O'Neil. "While the mythical fountain of youth may never be found, regular physical activity -- movement -- is the next best thing. That's the key."