After our What’s Your Fitness Age series, it was brought to our attention that our series’ scoring arbitrarily ended at age 65. But obviously health and fitness doesn’t end there. That’s why we went to McMaster University to learn more about their senior fitness program.
Here’s a transcription of our interview with Professor of Kinesiology, Dr. Stuart Phillps.
Q: What is the MacSeniors Program?
“The MacSenior Program is a community access program run from the Department of Kinesiology here at McMaster University. It caters to people over the age of 55 years and all the way up to our oldest participant, who is 101. It’s basically a community access facility that provides exercise guidance and management for people with usually one or two chronic health conditions and tries to keep them in tip-top shape as they age as successfully as they can.”
Q: Why is health and fitness important to seniors?
“I think we can all agree with an aging population there’s probably only about one or two lifestyle habits that we can adopt that can make as big of an impact as exercise in terms of preserving people’s physical function as they get older. So, exercise is probably one, diet is maybe the other. If you’re smoking maybe you can give up smoking — probably outside of that there’s nothing you can do from a lifestyle perspective that’s better for you.”
READ MORE: What’s Your Fitness Age?: Strength
Q: What is the goal of the program for your participants?
“The goal of the program really is to try and keep people as physically mobile and to keep their risk factor for just about every known chronic disease as low as possible as they get a bit older. There’s ample evidence to show that exercise does just that. If people follow the 150 minutes a week and two days a week of resistance exercise to keep themselves stronger, then they’re certainly going to live as good a life as they can as they age.”
Q: What would you tell people at home that think they’re beyond improving their health metrics?
“I think people who are told or who believe that they’re beyond help at some age have been sold a bill of goods. It’s never too late to start — I know it’s a trite phrase, but it’s spot on. In fact, people into their 10th decade – so in their 90s – can make health and fitness gains that are important for their activities of daily living and maybe even reduce some of the burden of the symptoms they might have due to chronic disease. So it’s never, ever too late to start.”
Q: What is the importance of the social aspect of the MacSeniors Program?
“I think the social aspect — I like to call it the secret sauce — it’s not something we program but it just happens organically. We’re blessed with a lot of volunteers, young people who come in and give their time. I don’t know how it works but it just seems to grow. I think you can age successfully if you have physical fitness, mental health and part of the mental health is the social network that you have, and I mean that in the traditional sense of the word — in actually talking to people.
When you add all those three things together, you’ve got a pretty good chance of aging as successfully as you can.”