How to Celebrate Grampa on Father’s Day

[HINT: go for a walk!]

By: Joanie Sims-Gould

My grandfather (grampa) was one of the most important individuals in my life. He was also the guy who didn’t need or want anything material, so this begs the question– how do you honour your most special grandfather, papa, grandpa, gramps, grampa on Father’s Day?

There is something that is so precious, important and free that you can do for Father’s Day — …drumroll…going for a walk together. Yup, going for a walk. Sounds simple, yes — but we know that the vast majority of older people do not get enough exercise. The reported rates of physical inactivity, one of the leading risk factors for global mortality, continue to rise (WHO, 2010). However, the evidence that regular physical activity offers health benefits and supports healthy aging is irrefutable. We know that older adults’ active participation in physical activity prevents disease and retains physical function. However, despite these many benefits, fewer than one-third of older adults in Canada meet recommended physical activity guidelines (Ashe, Miller, Eng & Noreau, 2009).

What do we know specifically about older men and physical activity? We know that older men are largely underrepresented in physical activity intervention studies and interventions designed specifically for older men are rare (Mackey et al., 2018). We know that older men acquire more leisure time physical activity than older women, but these findings are less clear when looking at total physical activity (Sun et al., 2013). Women appear to acquire more activity that pertains to the performance of household tasks (Notthoff et al., 2017; Sun et al., 2013). That being said, there is limited evidence regarding the physical activity preferences and experiences of older men. That’s where the Active Aging Research Team [supported by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research grant called “Shape the Path: Targeting the Health and Mobility needs of Older Men”] helps to fill a void in our understanding of older men’s physical activity.

In a series of published papers, our team contributes to our understanding of older men and physical activity in several ways. First, through a novel intervention study called Men on the Move, we found that men who participated in the intervention (which was designed specifically to meet the needs and interests of older men read more here) were over three times more likely to meet their physical activity requirements (Mackey et al., 2018). More specifically, we found that for older men belonging to a group with other older men with similar interests helps to maintain a sense of connection and motivation for physical activity (Thandi et al., 2018). We also learned that older men enjoy spending time in beautiful natural environments (Sims-Gould et al., 2018). An older man in our study described his nightly walk to the beach to watch the sunset as being “…kind of therapeutic for me. It’s beautiful, and the colors — it’s a beautiful moment”.

Is there a place close by with water, trees, or gardens where you can take your Grampa for a scenic stroll? The evidence is in, a walk in nature with your Grampa might just be the best Father’s Day gift ever.

REFERENCES

Ashe, M. C., Miller, W. C., Eng, J. J., & Noreau, L. (2009). Older adults, chronic disease and leisure-time physical activity. Gerontology, 55(1), 64–72. https://doi.org/10.1159/000141518

Mackey, D.C., Perkins, A.D., Tai, K.H., Sims-Gould, J., McKay, H.A. (2018). Men on the Move: A Randomized Controlled Feasibility Trial of a Scalable, Choice-Based, Physical Activity and Active Transportation Intervention for Older Men. (Ahead of Print), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1123/japa.2018-0137

Notthoff, N., Reisch, P., & Gerstorf, D. (2017). Individual characteristics and physical activity in older adults: A systematic review. Gerontology, 63(5), 443–459. https://doi.org/10.1159/000475558

Sims-Gould, J., Rei, A., Li, N., Ottoni, C., Mackey, D., & McKay, HA. (2018). “The social side is as important as the physical side”: Older men’s experiences of physical activity”. American Journal of Men’s Health. 12(6): 2173–2182. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1557988318802691

Sun, F., Norman, I. J., & While, A. E. (2013). Physical activity in older people: A systematic review. BMC Public Health, 13(1), 449. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-13-449

Thandi, M., Phinney, A., Oliffe, J., Wong, S., McKay, H., Sims-Gould, J., & Sahota, S. (2018). Engaging Older Men in Physical Activity: Implications for Health Promotion Practice. American Journal of Men’s Health. 12(6): 2064–2075. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0144686X18000181

World Health Organization (WHO). (2010). Global recommendations on physical activity for health. Geneva, Switzerland: WHO. Retrieved from http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/44399/9789241599979_eng.pdf;sequence=1