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Staying active for health in old age

The evidence clearly shows that maintaining an active life keeps older people healthier.   Thus, the more we invest as a society and communities helping older people stay fit and active, the less strain it would place on our overstretched health services.

 It is just simple common sense.  Maintaining a healthy life in old age should be based on more than a cocktail of drugs.

In England, we spend around £18-20 billion annually on medicines.  With an average growth of about 5% per year, this is set to go up and up.

Spending on resources for the elderly to keep active in their communities would pay massive dividends.  

This is why we must invest in local infrastructure to help older people remain active.  This requires not just facilities at particular locations but also decent transport to enable older people to access them.

Such an approach would be supported by the evidence.  

Physically active older adults benefit from reduced risks of early death, breast and prostate cancer, fractures, recurrent falls, functional limitations, cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.

These findings come from a review of all published studies that assessed the relationship between physical activity and health in adults aged 60 years or older.

The review, which is published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, also found that physically active older adults experience healthier ageing trajectories, better quality of life, and improved cognitive functioning.

Lead author of the review, Dr Conor Cunningham of the Institute of Public health in Ireland says:

“For some time, we have known of the benefits of physical activity for our physical health; however, what is important about this research is that it highlights compelling emerging evidence of the positive effects of being physically active on our mental health—including depression, cognition, and dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”  

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