74% of people aged 65 and over do not get enough physical activity
GPs across the country have an important role to play in helping older people get more physical activity, according to health experts at a seminar in Dublin today.
The seminar organised by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) presented research examining how older people can increase their levels of physical activity.
Just 26% of older people in Ireland report taking part in healthy levels of weekly physical activity. Guidelines recommend that those aged 65 and over should aim to get 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity weekly to achieve benefits for every aspect of health.
Dr Andrew Boyd, activity champion from the Royal College of General Practitioners, told those gathered that Ireland must focus on getting older people active as our population ages. Some of Dr Boyd’s key points included;
- GPs have an important role to play in supporting all patients to optimise their physical activity.
- GPs and healthcare professionals in England are there are being trained and equipped to give patients the advice and information they need to get more physically active.
- This included training, emphasis on the benefits to GP practices of keeping their patients healthier so they need to be seen less, a new "motivate to move" online toolkit, and getting medical students to carry out localised studies related to physical activity in GP practices.
- A range of improvements to health can be achieved through increased physical activity such as a 36-68% reduction in hip fractures, 20-35% reduction in coronary heart disease and stroke, and 30-50% reduction in colon cancer. The biggest benefits come to those currently doing nothing, for whom even small improvements in activity levels, can be hugely beneficial.
- Urged doctors and other healthcare professionals to become leaders and activists in their communities – by creating networks, asking gyms to offer deals to patients, and modelling healthy behaviours such as cycling to work and using standing desks. He also highlighted helpful initiatives such as fostering partnerships between GP practices and parkrun and using patient participation groups in local surgeries to map local facilities, exercise classes and parks to help people get active.
Dr Boyd added: “GPs are key to older people getting more physical activity. Older people have a strong connection and professional relationship with their GP. GPs, with the support of other health professionals, have an important role to play in providing information to older people and signposting them to physical activity opportunities in their local community.”
Over 977,000 people are currently aged 65 or over across the island. This will increase to over 2 million people by 2051.
Prof Roger O’Sullivan, Interim CEO at IPH, said, “It’s important that we keep as active as possible as we grow older. We know from research that as we age, physical activity decreases. However, the benefits of physical activity for older people are significant – both physically and mentally. Simple steps such as walking to the shops rather than driving, meeting a friend for a walk rather than sitting down for a chat, and simply sitting less, can have enormous benefits for us all as we age.”
The seminar also heard presentations from PhD students Andrew O’Regan, Seamus Nugent and Michael McCorry on various studies being undertaken around Ireland to promote physical activity in older people, including promising interventions to promote peer mentoring and to modify sedentary behaviour.