According to the findings of a study from the University of Dundee, published in the journal Age and Ageing, the most powerful 'deterrent' among the over-65s is a lack of interest, and disbelief that exercise can enhance and/or lengthen life. Yet one study on 90-year-old women in a nursing home found that 12 weeks of strength training took the equivalent of 20 years off their thigh muscle age, resulting in improved walking and mobility.
The message about physical activity isn’t working.
“Regular physical activity is vital for healthy aging. It can help delay, prevent, or manage many costly chronic diseases faced by adults 50 years or older. Physical activity can also reduce the risk of premature death”
People know the message and don't believe it or don't think it applies to them.
Sports England are providing a £10 million pot of funding to help older adults (55+) to get active
"Opened the first phase of our Inactivity Fund, which will focus on projects that help older adults (55+) to get active. We will be making up to £10 million of National Lottery funding available. We’re targeting older adults first because our insight tells us this age group is much more likely to be inactive: 42 per cent of people aged 55+ are inactive compared to 29 per cent of the population as a whole."
They are encouraging innovative ideas, anything ANYTHING to get people moving more.
I have to confess innovative isn't really my area of expertise, I see myself as a sort of middle of the road plodder rather than out of the box thinker but it started me wondering what could get the older demographic moving.
Firstly it's hard to picture yourself doing something if you don't see any representation of yourself out there doing that thing. Most physical activity advertising shows very happy, polished people who are never, ever sweating or actually looking like the are exerting themselves. Every hair in place and lovely clothing. (see images on this very blog!) There might be a few genetically blessed people who do look like that, but it's not the majority. This is me post exercise.
And Womens Health haven't to my knowledge (but would LOVE to be corrected) ever shown a 80 year old lady using a resistance band whilst seated on the front cover...
And it's not just being represented it's also about knowing what is available. Leisure centres are very good at publicising months free membership and the fashionable activities they offer (hot yoga anyone?) but how about the activities they offer for those people with health conditions or impairments? Instead of saying 50+ classes how about calling them beginner, or gentle or slow. Emphasise it will be inclusive to all. 50+ doesn't mean anything, I know 50 yrs olds who can run marathons and 21 yr olds who get out of breath walking up stairs but a lot of non-exercises lack the confidence to start, let them know the class will be tailored for them so taking away the fear.
Giving grants to companies to install showers and changing facilities at work in exchange for them allowing employees time to exercise in the day. (healthy employees means less sick days before anyone starts getting disgruntled by this.)
How about making all changing cubicles actually big enough for a person to change in. Providing shower stalls that have hand rails for those who need assistance (and whilst they are there putting a towel hook in a space which means the towel won't get wet!!)
Physical activity needs to be accessible. I know the argument that you can pull on a pair of shoes and go for a walk or a run by just stepping outside your door but some people don't like running or walking and if they don't like doing something (or don't like doing something alone) they are probably not going to make it a long term habit.
Of course it's not feasible to build leisure centres in every village in the UK (but I do believe we should ensure every leisure centre built in the UK now has a pool) but how about providing transport for those in the rural areas? Or provide grants to village halls to get fitness classes started up for beginners?
More (free) respite care available so adults who are also carers can have the time to do some physical activity knowing that the person they look after is being looked after safely. Free or heavily subsidised creches available for parents who want to exercise but have small children.
I think we need to concentrate our resources on the people who want to exercise. Make it easy for them. If someone doesn’t want to exercise there is little we can do about it. However maybe we can do something about people who do want to but can’t for a reason we can provide a solution to.
Hopefully some one out there is having truly innovative ideas that will get people who don't want to exercise moving but until then how about we start with some basics for the ones who do?
What stops you from moving more? What would you like to see improve?