Majority of older people in Ireland not getting enough exercise
- Northern Ireland
- Republic of Ireland
Older people are missing out on the potential physical and cognitive benefits associated with exercise.
New research finds the majority of older people across the island of Ireland are not meeting recommended levels of exercise.
The study, funded by CARDI, led by Dr Elaine Murtagh, Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick, examined the relationship between health and physical activity among older people using official datasets. The resulting report underlines the importance of remaining active as we age. It also highlights the need to develop innovative programmes to encourage those who are most inactive including older women to take up some physical activity.
The cross-border study finds that just 37% of people aged 60-64 in the Republic of Ireland and 22% in Northern Ireland are engaged in the recommended weekly minimum of 150 minutes of activity. The numbers decline further for older age groups with only 7% of over 75’s in Northern Ireland and 18% in the Republic engaging in high levels of physical activity. In addition women are on average 75% less likely to be sufficiently active than men.
Moderate to high levels of physical activity are associated with health and cognitive benefits with some research suggesting that just 15 minutes of outdoor walking four times a week can reduce mortality by up to 50% (Fortes et al, 2013).
Dr Murtagh, commented, ‘The findings of our research suggest a significant decline in physical activity as we age. This is particularly true of women and those in the oldest age groups. Given the links between physical and mental well-being and physical activity it is important that older people are encouraged to continue physical exercise as they age. Sports are just one domain where older people can be active and can be a valuable social outlet but simple things like brisk regular walking can also bring great benefits to the lives of older people.’
- A weekly level of 150 minutes of moderate to high intensity physical activity is recommended for older adults*.
- Only 37% of 60-64 year olds in the Republic of Ireland and 22% in Northern Ireland get enough physical activity.
- Physical activity declines with age: adults aged 75+ years are on average 2.5 times more likely than 60-64 year olds to be insufficiently active.
- Women are on average 75% less likely to be sufficiently active than men
*National Guidelines on Physical Activity (Department of Health and Children/Health Service Executive, 2009)
The study found that older people with poor perceptions of their health and ability to be active were less likely to meet guidelines for activity while those meeting guidelines had significantly lower BMI and were less likely to be obese.
Read the research brief here: Physical activity, ageing and health.pdf
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