Utilizing Social Media to Increase Physical Activity in Older Adults

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Nurse Practitioners (NPs) engage patients in learning about health with a strong emphasis on health promotion and health maintenance. Using social media allows NPs to provide health promotion messages that reach a large audience. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2016) recognizes the utility of social media and provide health care providers with tools to employ social media for dissemination of health information. These tools allow NPs insight into the principles of using social media to ensure the message is worthwhile and accurately understood by the target audience (CDC, 2016). This paper focuses on a proposal using social media to promote health by increasing physical activity in older adults. The proposal addresses objectives, audience, social media platform, supporting evidence, and collaboration for the health promotion of increasing exercise in older adults. Project Proposal with Objectives People are living longer yet the threat of complications from poorly managed chronic diseases may greatly impact life expectancy and quality of life (Notthoff & Carstensen, 2014).

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Over decades the consequences of uncontrolled hypertension, diabetes, or hyperlipidemia may lead to heart disease (Hutchins, Melancon, Sneed, & Nunning, 2015). Risk levels for these chronic diseases increase with age as normal wear and tear of body systems adds stress to the cardiovascular system. An important component of managing these conditions to prevent consequences of heart disease, like myocardial infarction or stroke, is increasing physical activity (Engelen et al., 2017). NPs working with older adults can help by identifying ways to increase physical activity while emphasizing the benefits of making the effort. Social media is a platform where NPs can turn to share this message because of the vast numbers that can simultaneously receive the information. Sharing information via Facebook allows NPs to bring awareness on the importance of exercise for older adults in managing chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia.

This campaign has four objectives that will include a series of four posts on Facebook. Each posting will have a link to further information embedded in the posting. The first objective defines what increasing physical activity means while the second objective illustrates the benefits of increased physical activity. Objective number three introduces ways to promote increased activity into one’s daily routine. The fourth objective will provide resources for increased physical activity. Combined these objectives will provide clear information on the what, why, and how for older adults to learn about health benefits of increasing physical activity. Intended Audience Identifying the audience that the information is intended for is crucial because this dictates the language, information, and relevance that the social media message brings (CDC, 2016). Health information should be communicated in the written language that the intended audience is able to understand.

Avoiding medical terminology or jargon makes the content more readable. NPs require an understanding of health literacy to ensure communication occurs in living room language to allow for the audience to comprehend the information (CDC, 2016). A message that is not understood wastes resources and may unintentionally cause harm. Health literacy encompasses more than writing in appropriately understood language, it also includes access to information for individuals to review or reinforce teaching (Serper et al., 2014). NPs can accomplish this by providing resources as links to trusted information via the CDC, American Heart Association, or American Diabetes Association within social media postings. The levels and intensities of activity vary with age so it is imperative to focus the message on the intended audience. While increasing physical activity may be universal to all ages, this project focuses on the increased physical activity that is applicable to adults over the age of 65. NPs should consider how the motivation or relevance of increasing physical activity for this population differs from other age groups.

Older adults may be just as motivated by their need to remain independent or improve balance to prevent falls as they are to manage their chronic diseases (Alexander, Sartor-Glittenberg, Bordenave, & Bordenave, 2015; Alley et al., 2018). Understanding the rationale for behavior change allows NPs to frame the benefits relative to the motivation. When writing social media for older adults NPs should consider framing the message positively compared to negatively (Notthoff & Carstensen, 2014). Rather than stating the untoward effects of a sedentary lifestyle, promote the rewards from increasing activity that matter to older adults. Social Media Platform In addition to health literacy, knowledge of the internet and social media plays a role. Social media users vary in age, interests, tech skills, and health literacy which are important considerations when creating the message (Leist, 2013). Teens and young adults have an established comfort level with the internet because it has always been a part of their world.

Older adults are becoming more tech savvy having increased interest in technology despite not being as quick to adapt as younger generations (Leist, 2013). More services and informational items are shared electronically, which encourages society becomes more tech centered to gain access to the services or information. While Facebook began as a college media tool it has progressed to attract persons of all ages. This social networking website allows users to connect with others and share information. According to Alley et al. (2018), older adult participation on Facebook has increased by nearly 50% in recent years. Older adults typically use social media for entertainment and to create a support system (Leist, 2013).

Studies demonstrate that Facebook may be used to share information that can empower patients in chronic disease management while increasing health promotion. Postings encouraging healthy behaviors like increasing physical activity for older adults impart knowledge while supporting behavior change (Leist, 2013). Considerations for Facebook postings also include limiting the number of characters to below 250 as this allows the entire post to be visible (CDC, 2016). Older adults participating in walking programs with an online social component have been found to be more likely to continue these programs as compared to those without any social support (Rovinak et al., 2016). NPs can create messages that incorporate increasing activity for older adults via Facebook postings and tag trusted health information sources so users can go directly to internal or external links to learn more about the content. Health Promotion/Health Maintenance Older adults are one of the most sedentary age groups despite the various health and media messages stating increased physical activity helps to improve or maintain health (Notthoff & Carstensen, 2014).

NPs caring for this population need to include exercise in health promotion and maintenance education. Exercise has proven health benefits including improved mood, increased cognition, and better management of chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia (Notthoff & Carstensen, 2014). The recommended weekly amount of exercise for older adults is 150 minutes that can be divided into smaller time segments like 20 minutes per day (CDC, 2015). The activity should be at a moderate pace which would allow the typical person to hold a short conversation while exercising. For those individuals that have not been active start slow, then increase the time and intensity to avoid injury. Exercising in increments as small as ten minutes have been shown to provide health benefits (CDC, 2015). Walking is a great way to increase activity because it does not involve equipment or cost beyond a good pair of sneakers (Notthoff & Carstensen, 2014).

While for most individuals walking is a safe, effective way to increase physical activity, NPs should remind those with chronic disease to discuss a new exercise plan with their health care provider. Collaborative Care with Lessons Learned There is a large population of adults with hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidemia in the clinical site and at each encounter diet, exercise, and managing chronic conditions is discussed based on the individual’s current health needs. Focusing on the older adult population regarding exercise, engaging socially, either online or in person, increases the likelihood of continued compliance with walking programs (Rovinak et al., 2016).

The clinical patients with partners are encouraged to walk together, or find a friend. to support each other while getting healthier together. Patients are referred to many outlets inside and outside of the health system to assist with increasing physical activity. These may range from community gyms, to senior centers, to health system led outpatient exercise where special populations could be monitored during exercise. Local health systems promote marathons that include the community and encourage walkers in addition to runners. Most patients at this clinical site are encouraged to walk at home or in a nearby park as this is the most cost effective and convenient. One of the lessons learned from this assignment includes best practices when utilizing social media for health promotion. While social media is a great way to communicate health information to a large audience, it is important to utilize the type of social media that the intended audience uses.

NPs should not discount older adults from using social media as the numbers of those engaged continues to grow. In reviewing evidence to support increasing physical activity for the older adult, NPs need to be able to relay this information in concrete terms to patients. Providing this key information in a positive light increases likelihood of compliance for the older adult. Optimum health includes managing chronic conditions and staying physically active is an important component. For older adults the goal is defined as moderate activity most days of the week. Social media may be utilized to reach the masses to spread the message of increasing activity levels of older adults. Postings should specify the definition, rationales, and resource links for ways to increase physical activity. NPs should keep health and computer literacy in mind when creating health promotion campaigns via social media. A message that is not understood or accessed by the intended audience is a waste of resources.

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Utilizing Social Media to Increase Physical Activity in Older Adults. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved June 1, 2023 , from

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