Many individuals do not engage in adequate levels of physical activity, despite its role in the prevention and treatment of various diseases. Physical activity would be especially beneficial for older adults in addressing age-related concerns such as disease, cognitive dysfunction, and fall risk, all of which are mitigated via increased activity. Rural counties exhibit an aging population with high rates of sedentary behavior, requiring innovative approaches to address physical inactivity in an appropriate and accessible manner.


The Aging Well Program, under Blue Cross North Carolina’s Institute for Health and Human Services, provides assessments for concerns seen in the rural western North Carolina aging populations, such as fall risk, physical inactivity, food insecurity, and cognitive health. Exercise consultations with a clinical exercise physiologist were developed to help address the concerns emerging from the findings of the assessments.


The Aging Well program has served 134 older (mean age: 74 years) rural adults. The exercise consultations are ongoing and have demonstrated several beneficial outcomes, including referrals to appropriate health professionals, the initiation or advancement of exercise programs, and the education of concepts important in exercise prescription. Although consultations have shown positive results, there is a need to address the sustainability of the program.


There is an urgent need to address physical inactivity in older, rural populations. Multiple barriers exist and vary based on location, resources, and individuals dwelling within those counties. Creating programs that are accessible, feasible, and sustainable should be a high priority in these areas.

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