Quarter of Over 50s Less Active Than Pre-Pandemic

New Report Calls For National Programme To Boost Older Adult Health ~

A new report into the health of older adults during the COVID-19 pandemic has been launched by The Physiological Society and Centre for Ageing Better.

The report features the results from a YouGov survey that highlights significant reductions in levels of physical activity among older adults and recommends a ‘National Post-Pandemic Resilience Plan’ to respond to this.

Findings from our YouGov survey include:

  • 26% of over-50s are doing less exercise than before the pandemic. This is particularly acute in the over 75s.
  • The top reasons given by over-50s for doing less physical activity are lack of motivation (44%), and that they are out of the habit of being physically active or socializing in person (42%).
  • Different age groups reported different preferred actions to help them increase their physical activity levels:
    • 50-59-year-olds preferred activity monitors (such as FitBits)
    • 60-74-year-olds preferred social activity groups
    • Those aged 75+ preferred tailored advice from a healthcare professional

The report calls for public health agencies across the UK to launch a National Post-Pandemic Resilience Programme. This would be a joined-up system of support to provide over 50s with tailored advice and guidance on how to improve health post-pandemic. The aim would be to not only return over 50s to their pre-pandemic physical activity levels but encourage greater long-term levels of activity.

A National Post-Pandemic Resilience Programme should include:

  1. A program of physical activity to increase physical resilience, focusing on older people with high-risk  factors such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and sarcopenia.
  2. A specific focus on increasing physical activity of people in their 50s to prevent future frailty.
  3. “At home” physical activity options, including digital platforms and online communities, as well as utilizing national broadcasters.
  4. Clear guidance about the importance of a healthy balanced diet.
  5. Steps to embed behavior change to build new habits.

Speaking at the launch, report co-chair Professor Paul Greenhaff (The Physiological Society and the University of Nottingham, UK), said:

“Our survey shows that over a quarter of over-50s are less physically active than pre-pandemic. Given the role of physical activity in maintaining health, this is a cause for real concern and it is likely that the health of older adults will have diminished as a direct consequence of the restrictions necessary to protect people from COVID-19.

“For some older adults, a reduction in physical activity is likely to accelerate frailty development, perhaps tilting the balance between just being able to do something, such as rising from a chair, and not. This has significant consequences for independent living and healthcare provision.”

Fellow co-chair Dr Alison Giles (formerly of Centre for Ageing Better) added:

“It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on the physical activity levels of older people which is worrying given that a high proportion of older adults were already inactive before the pandemic. COVID-19 has demonstrated the need for public health interventions to build a more resilient, healthier nation.  

“Our proposed National Post-Pandemic Resilience Programme would be a joined-up system of support to provide older people with tailored advice and guidance on how to safely increase their activity levels post-pandemic. We want to see evidence-based behavior change approaches and a variety of activities on offer to support older adults adopt physically active lives for the long-term.”

Leave a Reply