Studies show that people are living longer and the population in much of the world is growing older. Other research shows physical activity reduces the risk of heart disease, type two diabetes and some cancers. It also delays the onset of Alzheimer's. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on efforts by one university to help older adults reap the benefits of exercise.

Celsi Cowan is no stranger to the gym. "It's pretty much a regular routine."

The University of Missouri has developed an exercise program for both young and older adults so they can get in shape. Exersize helps prevent obesity and diseases associated with sedentary lifestyles and excess weight.

Fitness specialist Steve Ball says it's called the MyActivity Pyramid.  "Being physically active on a regular basis is a difficult thing, but the MyActivity Pryamid offers adults a variety of ways that they can reach these recommendations for health and improving the quality of life," he said.

Ball says adults should start off with exercises at the base of the pyramid, like walking or climbing stairs. Then they  add aerobic exercises that get the heart and lungs to work harder and promote circulation.

Ball says adults need at lease 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week. "You don't have to do all of your exercise in one setting.  You could break a 30 minute per day recommendation into three 10 minute bouts of exercise," he said.

Exercise helps older adults maintain mobility and independence and helps prevent falls. Falls are a leading cause of death for older adults and also a major reason they enter a nursing home.

A university program also uses weight training for older adults.

University specialists lead the work out sessions in community centers throughout (the state of) Missouri.  

Susan Mills-Gray specializes in preventing chronic diseases. "This program is designed to improve strength, balance and flexibility so that every day living tasks become easier," she said.

Ellen Brown says the exercises help relieve her pain and stiffness from  arthritis. "I don't look very flexible now, but I am a lot more flexible than I was," she said.

Bill Crow sees weight training as a type of insurance.  "It's kind of a protection for us older people not to fall, and we've got to keep our balance well and all those things," he said.

Weight and exercise programs can have a financial benefit in addition to better health.  "The main goal is to help people stay living independently longer which reduce healthcare costs," said Mills-Gray.

Studies show that people are living longer and the population in much of the world is growing older.