Older Adults Sought for Study on Link Between Physical and Mental Fitness

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Can socializing and staying active keep you young? A new study at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York hopes to show that, for older adults, the key to health and well-being lies in the interaction between physical activity and social connection.

Adults age 65 years and older are now being recruited for the 12-week study, which takes place in the convenience of one’s own home, according to Daniel E. Jimenez, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Miller School and the study’s principal investigator at the University of Miami site. The study, “A Personalized Health Behavior System to Promote Well-Being in Older Adults,” is being led by Sara Czaja, Ph.D., who spent nearly 30 years at the Miller School before being named director of the Center on Aging and Behavioral Research at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York last year.

Daniel Jimenez
Daniel E. Jimenez, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the
University of Miami Miller School of Medicine

Research has shown that older adults often become sedentary, leading to both physical and mental isolation. Increased physical activity effectively reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety, limits the progression of disabling conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and physical decline, and increases life expectancy.

Participants will receive a tablet and wearable fitness tracker that are theirs to keep following the study, Dr. Jimenez said. Half will receive access to a pre-downloaded app on the tablet that provides them with exercise instructions and connects them to other participants in the study; the other half will receive information on fitness, nutrition, and social activities. The exercises provided were designed by Joseph Signorile, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the Miller School who specializes in exercise in older adults.

Dr. Jimenez believes that, as older adults have become more comfortable using mobile devices and the capabilities of these devices continue to grow, the potential of technology-based health interventions is expanding.

“This demographic is particularly vulnerable to social isolation, poor diet, and decreased levels of physical activity — each of which influences their health, well-being, and quality of life,” Dr. Jimenez said. “Technology-based interventions, such as those delivered over smartphones and tablets, have the potential to improve health behaviors and, ultimately, health outcomes in older adults.”

Participants will be paid a total of $90, according to Dr. Jimenez — $30 for completing each of three assessments as part of the study. For more information or to participate, please contact Sindy Jaramillo, project coordinator, at 305-355-9062 or sjaramillo@med.miami.edu.

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