It turns out that the frequency of physical activity amongst Europeans tends to decrease with age. The 2014 Eurobarometer survey on Sport and Physical Activity indicated that a majority of 15-24 year olds (64%) exercise or play sport at least once a week. However, this number drops to a disturbing 30% for the 55+ age group.
While this disparity may seem to make sense – as we do tend to associate physical activity with younger people – this is in fact a major problem. By 2020, a quarter of Europeans will be over 60 years of age. This will have a significant impact on our health and health care systems as well as on our economy and communities. That is why it is so important to support active and healthy ageing.
Physical activity is extremely important for older adults. In addition to the many benefits we’ve already discussed, it:
- Improves immune function, stamina, muscle strength and balance;
- Reduces falls and injuries, helps maintain the ability to live independently;
- Helps reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes and other illnesses; and
- Helps control joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
According to the WHO – older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity throughout the week. That’s not much, and the benefits are well worth the effort. It’s never too late to start, but be sure to check with your doctor before venturing into a new activity.
Remember, active time can be social time – so track down a physical activity program in your community – one that offers aerobic, strengthening and flexibility components, or form a walking group with your friends. Get into gardening, or take up swimming or Tai Chi.
The options are endless – be creative, #BeActive.