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The importance of exercise in later life

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It is important to encourage all ages to be active It is important to encourage all ages to be active

The Olympic and Paralympic Games may well have inspired people of all ages and abilities to try some new activities, but how do we ensure that a more active nation is truly a legacy of the Games, particularly when it comes to older people?

Recent research from national charity Age UK reveals fewer than half of people over the age of 55 are doing the DH-recommended 2.5 hours of exercise per week, with one in eight not doing any exercise at all.

But our research also highlights that three in ten older people would like to take part in more exercise. This shows that ensuring people have access to information on how to be more active, both at home and in their local community, is crucial.

Exercise is good for physical and mental health, but it is especially important as we get older - it can influence health positively and lower the risk of strokes and certain cancers, as well as contribute to a greater sense of wellbeing and enabling people to stay independent, in their own homes, for longer.

We want people to recognise the importance and benefits of staying active in later life and primary care and community nurses have a key role to play in conveying that message.

Letting people know that exercise can take many forms and can be done anywhere (not just in a formal gym environment), is a simple but effective message, so please talk to older patients about the benefits of chair-based activities, housework, gardening and walking. Strength-building activities can help to prevent falls, so encourage those who are able to use a resistance band or ankle weights.

Nurses can also signpost local health and wellbeing activities for older people; branches of Age UK can provide information, as can local leisure centres and libraries.

Resources are available via theAge UK website ( including the free Staying Steady guide and the Strength and Balance exercises for Healthy Ageing book.

Emma Spragg, head of wellbeing services, Age UK

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