Much is made about children being obese in modern day Britain, but the problem extends to the other end of the spectrum too. According to experts, elderly people are not getting enough exercise and a national activity service is what’s needed.
The UK Active organisation has said that professionals who interact with the over-65s could be trained to help them move more. This could include those who deliver Meals on Wheels, pharmacists and care home staff.
In a report that coincides with the call, UK Active highlights the issues associated with an increasingly inactive elderly population. The decline in physical and mental health, as well as increased isolation can all be exacerbated by being obese.
The authors of the report described exercise as a ‘miracle cure’ that not only lengthens the lives of individuals, but also makes them feel younger for longer. This enables them to think positively and tackle more of the challenges of old age that come their way.
Steven Ward, chief executive of UK Active, said: “We need to make physical activity the natural choice from cradle to grave and that means putting exercise – the miracle cure – at the heart of our health and social care systems, especially for older adults.
“This will enable husbands, wives, parents and grandparents to live later life in full colour, spending longer with their loved ones, while also largely negating the need for expensive health treatments associated with long-term conditions and subsequent social care.”
In reality, the population is ageing rapidly and by 2025, one in five Brits will be 65 or over. This will put additional strain on social care and measures need to be taken now to help shoulder the burden. According to UK Active, promoting regular physical activity is just one step towards a better future.
With health workers, care professionals and volunteers visiting more than 1.1 million elderly people in Britain regularly, there is an untapped resource to hand. The organisation says they could spend just a few minutes advocating exercise to improve pensioners’ health without huge financial outlay.
The NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, but a large proportion of elderly people are not getting this amount. Some 46 per cent of those aged over 65 and 68 per cent of 75s and over are falling short, thus adding to the obesity crisis.
Meeting the guidelines, according to the report, could save the NHS £12 billion in treatment over the next ten years. It would also cut 600,000 instances of conditions, including dementia, heart disease, cancer and type two diabetes, over the same time frame.
It’s not just those pensioners who still live independently that need to be encouraged to do more exercise, as care homes must do their bit too. Data published by UK Active and obtained through a Freedom of Information request found that just 21 per cent of councils have physical activity strategies for care homes in place.
Professor Sir Muir Gray CBE, chief knowledge officer to the NHS, said: “There’s an answer to ageing and it’s called physical activity. By maintaining good fitness levels throughout our later years, we can protect ourselves against many of the diseases commonly associated with old age to live ably and independently at home.”