Physical Activity & Older People

PDF Print

Active Ageing


Being active increases older people's connection with the world around them, improves confidence, resilience and control, reduces anxiety.... as well as reducing the symptoms of disease and improving function to help maintain independence. (UK enquiry into Mental Health and Well-being in later life 2006)

It is never to late to get active - for older adults, becoming active at any age can lead to an improvement in muscle strength and balance, and an improvement in general health with a reduced risk of high blood pressure, obesity, stroke and diabetes and improved quality of life with medical conditions.

An interesting development is our Walk Your Way to Better Strength and Balance programme that combines strength and balance exercises with advice on walking to help older adults stay active and independent.

One of PFA's current target groups is inactive men and women aged 65+. The figures below reveal low levels of physical activity as adults grow older.

What is the proportion of older adults in Scotland are meeting physical activity recommendations?

21% of men aged 65-74             13% of men aged 75+

20% of women aged 65-74         4% of women aged 75+

(information here was gathered prior to 2011 and therefore is based on the general adult recommendations from the Chief Medical Officer's report "at least 5 a week" from 2004.)

Older adults who participate in any amount of physical activity gain some health benefits including maintenance of physical and cognitive function. Some physical activity is better than none, and more physical activity provides greater health benefits. Engaging in physical activity carries very low health and safety risk for most older adults. In contrast, the risk as a result of inactivity are very high.

The British Heart Foundation National Centre (BHFNC) has a wide range of supporting information and statistics relating to physical activity and older people on their website

The information on the BHFNC site includes the new CMO "Start active Stay active"  2011 physical activity guidelines for older adults, factsheets which explain factors influencing physical activity in older adults, and information relating to categorising older adults into "actives", "in transition" and "frailer".

Paths for All is currently producing some resources that will help active and in-transition older adults to improve their strength and balance, and will reduce the risk of falls. This work has been trialled in Falkirk by Step Forth, and is based upon the work of Professor Dawn Skelton from Glasgow Caledonian University. Dawn's website Later Life Training has provided specialist, safe and effective exercise training for health and leisure professionals working older people since 2003. 

A set of strength and balance cue cards will be available from PFA later in 2012. These will be offered free to health walk schemes for us as part of the walking programme. They will be available for purchase by other professionals.

Useful links:

Age Scotland

British Heart Foundation Centre for physical activity and health (BHFNC)

Later Life Training

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh