OLDER people who are physically active are at lower risk of developing breast and prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
The findings are contained in a review carried out by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland in collaboration with Ulster University and the University of Southern Denmark.
The review, published today in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, also found that physically active older adults experience healthier ageing, better quality of life, and improved cognitive function.
While an ageing population represents one of the greatest public health successes, staying healthier for longer and delaying the onset of illness and disability is a major challenge for policymakers and older people.
Dr Conor Cunningham, from the Institute of Public Health says the evidence provides an important basis to help inform public health policy in relation to older people.
He added: “For some time we have known of the benefits of physical activity for our physical health. However, this research highlights compelling new evidence of the benefits of being physically active on our mental health, depression and notably dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Now more than ever it is crucial that we support older people to stay healthier for longer. It is imperative that evidence from this review is used to support all of us to be more physically active as we age.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people aged 65 and over should do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as a brisk walk, five times a week.
But research shows that 1 in 2 people aged 65 and over in Ireland do not get enough physical activity.
Prof Mark Tully, of Ulster University, says the review highlights that regular physical activity concurrently reduces the risk of developing multiple physical and mental health outcomes in older adults.
“This stage of life represents an important period to promote physical activity to improve functions of daily living and slow progression of disease and disability,” he added.
Top tips for older people to build physical activity into their daily routine;
- If you are concerned about increasing your levels of activity, visit your GP to make sure there are no reasons to prevent you being physically active.
- 30 minutes of physical activity a day might be too challenging, so try shorter bouts of activity. Remember – any activity is better than none.
- Try to sit less, move more and more often.
- Break up long periods of sitting with light activity, such as walking around the house or light gardening.
- Meet a friend for a walk rather than sitting down for a chat.
- Get off the bus earlier, or park the car further away, then walk to your destination.
- Take the stairs instead of the lift.
- Find an activity that you like and have fun.