WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Aug. 20, the Fifty-Plus Fitness Association (FPFA) assembled representatives from more than 20 organizations and agencies to meet with the surgeon general of the United States and urge him to make promotion of physical activity for older adults the central focus of his administration.

Meeting at the headquarters of AARP in D.C., the attendees asked Dr. Richard Carmona to issue a “Surgeon General's report on physical activity for older Americans” and pledged their assistance in creating the report.

Dr. Carmona, who was sworn in earlier last month as surgeon general of the United States, informed the group that he is committed to his own regular workout program. He also pointed out that HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and President George W. Bush place a strong emphasis on exercise for themselves and their staffs.

Dr. Carmona stated that he is committed to making physical activity a priority during his term and invited the group to provide guidance and assistance to his office as he determines policies and programs.

The conference was convened by Walter M. Bortz, II, MD, who is chairman of the board of directors of the Fifty-Plus Fitness Association and professor of medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.

“With millions of ‘baby boomers’ passing the age of 50, our increased numbers of mature Americans can be either a liability or an asset, depending on their levels of physical activity,” says Dr. Bortz. “If they suffer the frailty that results from inactivity, we are in for rough times. However, if they are mobilized into added decades of vigorous, productive life, America will have gained an incredibly valuable resource.”

Dr. Bortz referred to the extensive body of clinical research showing that physical activity can slow and even reverse many aspects of the aging process. At a time when the cost of medications threatens the financial security of millions of Americans — as well as the survival of the Medicare system — physical activity can prevent the need for expensive medical and surgical therapies.

Although Sen. John Glenn was unable to attend the meeting, he sent a strong statement of support. Sen. Glenn said, “The vitality of our older citizenry is one of the most important issues that our nation faces. Whether our older citizenry remains vital and independent depends not on technological advances or medical competence, but rests on daily decisions made by millions of older Americans to sit, watch and wait or to move, act and participate.”

In other conference highlights, the Fifty-Plus Fitness Association presented its new “Fitness Ambassador” program. This initiative offers cost-effective local programs to encourage physical activity in older adults. The program is designed for easy implementation in the context of senior centers and other community centers, as well as workplaces, fitness clubs, recreation centers and doctor' offices. A grant from an anonymous donor has allowed FPFA to provide “Fitness Ambassador Start-Up Kits” nationwide at no charge to local groups.