View Full Version : The reasons why older people don't exercise

12-09-2004, 09:30 PM
I do know that TCA is gentle and this special population is still not inclined to participate in the intervention. It does need a lot of social skills from the instructor, psychological work like not too much correcting, make the exercise fun and gentle, let the students give their share, give them acknowledgments that they do their job well.

The reason why i started the thread is that i would like to know what the members think of why the older people don't participate in the intervention

12-09-2004, 09:32 PM
What can be done to motivate the elderly to participate more, the sickly and the healthy alike. Please don't say TCA because i would like to hear more psychological affirmations

12-09-2004, 10:14 PM
There is a cultural aspect in that whenever people see me walking they ask if I need a ride or is my car kaput. I walk for health. In North America, if you walk you do not have a car or cannot afford one. Certain class of people do not walk etc....

Personal motivation is a main key and it is dificult to instill in those looking for it in a bottle or a pill. WHile working in a nursing home environment leading therapeutic recreation sessions, it was always the more motivated who would show up, and for the others (some) just the act of social interaction (gooday, how are you feeling? etc) may be enough to initiate some social key to allow other factors to take place. It is difficult at times.

When people exercise, TCA is usually last on the list. Preferences are grounded in external manifestations of coolness, hip, etc (pilates, yogilates, etc). I have had a few people tell me they saw tai chi when they were younger, but they ignored it because there is nothing to show off with?!

What has helped is the mainstream reporting of tai chi and marketing concepts (Celebrex, arthritis and tai chi-have yu seen the commercial?) TIME and NEWSWEEK articles on alternative/complementary medicine that have made more people aware. The most recent PARADE article on tai chi is another.
Old habits are hard to break so if you did little exercise when young then when you are older, you may accept your state of health, or find meaning enough to get up and start moving.

12-10-2004, 02:21 AM
excellent answer Stanton. I remember I was in Las Vegas, I wanted to walk from Hotel Mirage into the City. At least 5 cars stopped and offered me a ride.........

12-10-2004, 09:36 AM
My parents are into their 70s. My mother in particular is always syaing she should do more exercise, but doesn't have a full range of movement.

I showed her the TCA videos, and printed off some pages from our site hoping it would be genteel enough for her lady like ways. She said it was too modern, meaning it was too fashionable.

In the end she deiceded she didn't realy want to do exercise, she had never done it before and wasn't about to start now just because some silly young doctor said she needed to keep active.

I think it is the mid set of some people of a certain age. If you offer them something too vigerous they can't do it for fear of injury, off something gentle like TCA and it is too gentle to do any good. There is no oin between ground for them.

When I approached my family doctor for advice about exercise he told me to loose weight first, and even told me NOT to do any form of Tai Chi. I still do the Tai chi as I feel it helps, but I wonder how many others feel they can't win.:mad:

12-10-2004, 05:48 PM
yeah it's interesting that the ads featuring people doing t'ai chi are usually pushing some kind of drug.
soraya,honey chile,you should be a fly on the wall at some of the residential communities i've taught
in Naples Florida;these gals range from 60's to 70's,they do water aerobics before attending my t'ai chi classes then strap on a game of tennis after which they're out on the golf course for 18 holes!
tan and lean,they put ME to shame with their level of fitness

Dr. Paul Lam
12-10-2004, 08:46 PM

surprise re your doctor's advice. studies have shown that overweight people gain great health benefits from exercise... in fact that is a stronger factor for health (of course on how much overweight compare to how much exercise). As a doctor my advice is: overweight people need to exercise and will benefit greatly from exercise whether they loose weight or not. Chances are exercise will help to loose weight.

might be your doctor is asking you to do both.

12-11-2004, 09:01 AM
Hi, thanks for your input Dr. Lam

My doctor is very over worked, so unless I am realy ill or worried about something tend not to go very often. Many other people in a similar position to me have asked for advice on exercise to go with their diets and have all been told the same thing. He was quite clear, loose wirght before attempting exercise.

I am not entirely on my own as my firms docotor has given me some support. His advice was to syick with the tai chi till I'd lost a bit more wieght, then consider another form of exerise as well as the tai chi.

12-12-2004, 05:09 PM
Thanks very much for your input. I knew that many people had great experience and ideas. My idea with this thread is some brain storming, to get as many ideas as possible.

I have a few colleagues who are afraid of exercise themselves and tend to project this on their patients. Ust to tell you about a colleague who is a great gynacologist and psychotherapist but doesn't exercise. He refers to another a sports physician however.

So my advice as a doctor is: do exercise, if possible something more vigorous than Tai Chi like nordic walking, watch your diet, see a GOOD dietitian who works with you individually. Again find the reasons as to WHY you eat............???? My colleagues bikes hard past food, I rollerblade or skateboard past the goodies in Sydney.

12-12-2004, 05:20 PM

I think I did visit some of my friends in the senior communities(over 55) in Florida. Yes, I have been hiking with them and they have been exercising for their whole life.

I was talking about unfortunately the majority of the elderly who are sedentary and not about a minority of fit and active. This applies for the whole world according to WHO findings. As I was in Germany and also the posh suburbs in Sydney I did find the same type of older top fit semesters, very often ex elite athlete.

A gentleman of 75 who did 20 km hike on a regular basis, had a swim and soccer before coming to my class. A 70-year-old lady(i talked about her before) with Morbus meniere, who is a tennis champion training 4 hours daily, very strong body and mind who wishes to train her balance with her will and Tai Chi. Most elderly in Wiesbaden Germany, a very posh city with a high influx of older population have an extremely high level of fitness. These are the people who can proceed quicker with their forms than the average student Dr. Lam was talking about

03-13-2005, 11:39 AM
HI everyone,

sorry for the late post - I've spent the last 3 months doing a teacher certificate which is mandatory to teach tai chi for certain educational authorities in the UK.

I teach people who tend to be over 50 and who do no other form of activity at all. In fact most of them have not exercised for years when they start.

When I look back over the information that the learners were given before they joined I notice that the word exercise is not there!.

I use phrases like "stress reduction" "improved flexibility" and "gentle flowing moves" I also use the words "routines" and "patterns" a lot.

To be honest I'm not that keen on the word exercise myself - I associate it with circuits, steps and sweat. ....

Perhaps it all depends on what people think they are being offered and what it will do for them?

Just a thought

03-13-2005, 03:38 PM
nice to hear from you (as usual) R;All your insightful "buzzwords" are great but at it's most basic level taichi is simply a gentle morning excercise that takes the place of a cigarette and a cup of coffee for many chinese;as it would tea for the british used as an afternoon "pick me up".

03-14-2005, 02:05 AM
Shark, Thank you - glad to be back.

I think that we may be saying the same thing - maybe.

If I am following the post correctly the original post was about why older people in the West don't / won't exercise.

My offering was that maybe the problem stemmed from the use of the word exercise and whatever meanings that seniors brought to that.

From that point of view I was suggesting that "disguising" the exercise emphasis and emphasising the social and benefits side was a way of bringing people into the fold.

And you seemed to agree (ish?) by saying that for the Chinese tai chi is culture bound - an obvious and expected activity.

Now I'm taking that to mean that Western people of previous generations do not have an exercise culture (which I suspect is true - the health and beauty movement was directed at ladies).

So surely that means that to entice older people to TCA you have to make it match social and cultural expectations - hence the buzzwords and slip all the "real Stuff" in as you go along?

Meanwhile by hook or by crook my ladies (all carers / caregivers) love it and have experienced improvements in their daily lives both in terms of mobility and flexibility and also in terms of being able to stand back, to reflect and to relax.

I'm sure that there are some members who have some pounds to shed - we all know that it is good for us .... but......we still don't do it.

Being told that something is good for us is never motivation enough (for most people).

Time to take a leaf out of the advertisers book - find out what this group of people want ... to be able to climb the stairs more easily, to improve their balance , for enjoyment and we might find that more people try it , like it and stay.

As I say food for thought

03-14-2005, 06:08 PM
I think Rose made excellent points about words and advertising. For instance we had been looking for voluntary bush carers, so we tend to emphasize the pleasant sides like:exercise(for the fitness and health-minded), fresh air, relaxation, morning tea, make new friends. WE don't put stress on ticks and poisonous spiders.

For Tai Chi I would think the same way: Fresh air(when it's an outdoor setting), beautiful views, fresh air, relaxation, good music, morning tea(the social side) and making new friends along with some exercise for your health. So in this case we don't emphasize that the doctor thinks it is good for them...they have heard it so often

Giving more encouragement than criticism because too much correcting is bad anyway.

03-14-2005, 08:54 PM
Hi Soraya:

I feel that one of the reasons older people don't use TC for exercise is that it isn't advertised and supported strongly enough.
I don't know what it's like in other countries, but here in the USA it
definitely is not. Even with our Arthritis Associations it's on the back burner for the most part. They have a tendency to support other activities, such as aquatics, which is well supported and advertised. They have aquatics at so many different facilities, but when you ask them about TC they know very little about it, if at all. The regional and local chapters, for the most part, just aren't getting on board with TC programs. I think that's sad, but it's only so much one person can do. I get very frustrated trying to cut through the red tape that these organizations have, since I know we have a GREAT exercise which may help many, many people. I don't know what it takes to change their minds, perhaps someone here would like to give me their suggestions. Sorry to sound negative about this, but unfortunately that's the way it is here at this time. Continued good luck with your fine thread. Take care and best wishes. -- Bob

03-14-2005, 09:41 PM
Damn right.Pilates and yoga have just damn well TAKEN OVER in this country and i wish someone would take the initiative to get behind some sort of all out media marketing and promotional blitz that these practices have become privy to so that the practice we dedicate our time to and that we know eclipses the former two in terms of health and other benefit could also have a chance to wind up on the cover of time and newsweek;(we're so behind at this point that it may be too late;it would take some doing because yoga and pilates have been absorbed so completely into the zietgiest that t'ai chi has all but become effaced and outmoded; i believe the reason this happened is that the other practices saw us as a threat to their practice and decided to move first,thereby using sun tzu's very strategy against us;if gravel ends up being shoveled over our practice in this country, we have no one to blame but ourselves for standing by and doing nothing;which is incidentally a very taoist
thing to do.)

"what the hell's he talking about?"

"don't have a clue dude."

"i don't think he does either."

03-14-2005, 10:31 PM
One of the health clubs with whom I work very well suggested a live-size poster of a prominent person like David Carradine, Michelle Yeoh(can be presented as a James Bond girl) or Jet Li. Michelle Yeoh is the prettiest and I plan to find such a poster. Also Paul Lam may be helpful with a poster of his. I also found out that even the elderly frail like fit looking teachers. The fitness centre I was working for presented my picture and they became quite interested.

Pilates is so successful because it is simple to learn and yoga or power yoga has been presented by the likes of Madonna.

The principles of correct lifting and working posture for Australian sheep shearers are exactly the same as Tai Chi:

Strong balance and feet apart
Bend your knees
Tighten stomach muscles to relieve back muscles
Back straight
Use the power of your legs instead of the back

These are exactly the essential principles of Tai Chi and consistent with the requirements in the workplace and health clubs

03-16-2005, 06:13 PM
Yeoh yeoh yeoh yeoh (sting)
how about zhang ziyi? (MUCH prettier;be still my throbbing......heart)
i think the answer to boosting t'ai chi's popularity at this stage may lie in it's harmonious capacity to cross train with other sports,increasing their effectiveness

03-18-2005, 07:36 PM
If the purpose is to get the elderly interested, would a poster of someone in their fifties or sixties but look in their 30s or 40s be more enticing ? :)

03-18-2005, 09:20 PM
i don't see how a poster could qualify as any kind of realistic solution;the elderly's interest can be piqued with the right pitch for the most part;(except some WW2 old men who think it's communist);your average student demographic for t'ai chi turns out to be groups of women approaching and beyond 60,(nothin'wrong w/that)
it's getting the younger business/yuppie crowd w/their cell phones surgically attached to their ears walking around with cups of yoghurt
that's the real challenge;that's the market we need to appeal to,and soon;the others will follow