Indiana University       Research & Creative Activity      September 2001 • Volume XXIV, Number 2

Health, Sweat,&Cheers

Participants in the IU Bloomington Adult Fitness Program understand sweat equity.

They’re investing a lot of it in improving their well-being as they age.

Twice a week, dozens of adults from the university and local community come to the IU School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation to exercise. What they are there for—what they are stretching, walking, cycling, swimming, and lifting toward—is a wholistic sense of health. The AFP provides that, as well as the supportive environment of other older adults and HPER exercise and physiology students.

“Aging well . . . I am so working on that,” says Chris Stanley, a 47-year-old AFP participant. Stanley lost 20 pounds in her first six months in the program and reports that she gained energy, stamina, and a renewed enthusiasm for fitness. “Before the AFP, I was just doing the first part—aging. And I’m not so sure I was doing it well,” she says.

Janet Wallace is the director of the Indiana University Adult Fitness Program at IU's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation in Bloomington. Photo © 2001 Tyagan Miller

Directed by Janet P. Wallace, associate professor in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation, the AFP promotes health and serves as a practical training ground for IU exercise physiology students. And the AFP is the perfect living laboratory for Wallace and her HPER colleagues to study the effects of exercise on things such as diabetes, hypertension, blood pressure, postmenopausal hot flashes, and aging.

Wallace has also worked on a study of the relative adherence to a fitness program of adults who joined with a spouse versus those who joined without a spouse. Leah and Chuck Moffat, both 60, have been exercising together since the AFP’s inception in 1987. They motivate each other to exercise, and they say that has strengthened their marriage. “We’re too tired to argue,” Chuck jokes.

Clients of the program range in age from 27 to 80 years old. The average age is 51, and there are roughly an equal number of men and women. Many join because they simply want to feel better or lose weight. Others have chronic diseases or conditions like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or pulmonary or heart disease. About 70 adults participate in the program each year; they come to use HPER’s exercise facilities every Monday and Wednesday and are encouraged to exercise on their own during the other days of the week. On Tuesdays, program associate director and HPER clinical lecturer Michele Miller helps students run clients through a variety of tests ranging from an electrocardiogram to tests for lung function. On Thursdays, clients enrolled in the Healthy Options Practiced Every Day (HOPE) program gather to talk about nutrition and eating habits.

“Physical activity makes participants feel better,” says Wallace. “It also helps treat major diseases associated with aging and inactivity. The average person may not know how to exercise right or safely, and we help with prevention and rehabilitation. We haven’t formally measured life satisfaction, but I bet we would see a big change for many clients.”

Robert Epps, 69, is a retired clergyman whose right leg is marked by a long and jagged scar, a reminder of his five surgeries for intermittent claudication. After participating in the AFP program, he’s ready to take a camping and rafting trip to Costa Rica this fall.

Denise McAlhaney, 38, who could barely complete a lap around the HPER track when she began the program, walked a mile after three months. She lost 40 pounds, and her goal is to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress by December. “I’m gonna make it,” she says, beaming.

As Wallace watches these and other AFP participants walking around the track, lifting weights, and swimming lap after lap, she smiles, too. “This program makes work fun,” she says. “It puts it all together: teaching, research, and service. What I love most about it is my interaction with students and helping people make changes that make their lives better.” —E. K.

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