A new report into the health of older adults during the Covid 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 physical activity levels 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 over-50s for doing less physical activity are lack of motivation (44%) and being out of the habit of being physically active or socialising in person (42%).
- Different age groups reported other 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 the 50s with tailored advice and guidance on improving health post-pandemic. The aim would be to not only return over the 50s to their pre-pandemic physical activity levels but encourage greater long-term levels of activity.
A National Post-Pandemic Resilience Programme should include
A programme 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.
- A specific focus is on increasing people’s physical activity in their 50s to prevent future frailty.
- At-home physical activity options, including digital platforms and online communities, and utilising national broadcasters.
- Clear guidance about the importance of a healthy balanced diet.
- Steps to embed behaviour 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 the health of older adults will likely have diminished as a direct consequence of the restrictions necessary to protect people from Covid.’
‘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 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 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 increase their activity levels post-pandemic safely. We want to see evidence-based behaviour change approaches and a variety of activities on offer to support older adults adopt physically active lives for the long-term.’
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