Hundreds of thousands of older people missing out on health benefits of exercising with others

Wednesday, 04 March 2020
The 300,000* 70+ year olds who admit they aren’t physically active because they don’t enjoy exercise, are being urged to consider group activities.

According to the research, commissioned by Royal Voluntary Service and Yakult to highlight the range of fitness and activity groups run by the charity’s volunteers, almost half (48%) of 70+ year olds surveyed self-confess they are currently not fit.

The charity, which supports older people to stay fit and active whatever their fitness and mobility level, believes regular exercise in company could be the motivating factor.

Over three quarters (76%) of older people who do attend an exercise class or group enjoy the camaraderie between group members, 69% relish the social aspect and 59% have made new friends since joining the group. Almost two thirds (59%) say that the group lifts their spirits, over half (51%) that their health has improved since joining and 39% that they are motivated by others in the group.

It seems more men are likely to be missing out on the notable mental and physical benefits of exercising with others however, as the study also identified that approximately three times as many women as men take part in an exercise class or group.

The research was released alongside a new film starring dancer and Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador, Wayne Seep OBE, who visits a line dancing class at a Royal Voluntary Service Social Centre in Stoke-on-Trent. In the film Wayne meets volunteers and witnesses first-hand how these clubs are providing older people with a chance to stay active in the company of others. The #MakeADifference campaign supported by Yakult aims to raise awareness of the wide range of roles the Royal Voluntary Service offers both in hospitals and in the community, and to encourage more people to volunteer their time to support others.


"It was clear from the dancers' smiles, noisy chatter and laughter, that the group I visited is so important, and is a welcoming place for people to get together regularly with friends and connect with others. The volunteers I met were just amazing too. Not only are they giving their time to run these brilliant dance classes for people in their community, they are staying active too."

Dancer and Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador Wayne Sleep OBE

"For more than 80 years, Royal Voluntary Service has been mobilising volunteers to meet the big needs of the day, and as our research shows, one of the most pressing is helping people age better - specifically supporting them to exercise more frequently and to experience the health and wellbeing benefits of doing so with others. We are very excited to be working with Yakult and Wayne Sleep to highlight the difference our volunteers make and hope to inspire more people to take action. Whether it’s helping to run a dance group or one of our many other activity clubs, doing some Move it or Lose it chair based exercises with an older person in their home or setting up a walking group in your area, our volunteers make a tangible difference to those they support and enable them to lead happier and healthier lives."

Rebecca Kennelly, Director of Volunteering, Royal Voluntary Service

"My wife and I have been going to the group for many years and I don’t know how we would keep fit without it. It took me a while to get the steps at first but the volunteer teachers are incredibly patient and relaxed, so I never felt pressured to get it right first time. There’s a really friendly and sociable atmosphere - it really is one of the highlights of our week."

Reg Dutton, who attends a weekly line dancing class at the Royal Voluntary Service Hanley Centre in Stoke-on-Trent

"We are proud to be partnering with the Royal Voluntary Service to help spread the word about the benefits of keeping an active lifestyle and encouraging everyone to consider giving back to their community through volunteering. For the past 85 years, our company’s philosophy has been about contributing to the health and happiness of people around the world, with healthy ageing particularly close to our hearts and Japanese culture.”There was no respect for youth when I was young, and now that I am old, there is no respect for age - I missed it coming and going."

Hiroaki Yoshimura, Managing Director of Yakult UK and Ireland
Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with thousands of volunteers supporting hundreds of people each month in hospitals and in the community. The charity is also one of the largest retailers in the NHS, with its network of cafes, shops and trolley services providing a valued haven in hospitals.

To find out about opportunities in your area visit our volunteering page here. Or to donate to support our work by visiting here.

Follow Royal Voluntary Service on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @RoyalVolService #MakeADifference

For further information

Royal Voluntary Service is one of the largest voluntary service organisations in Britain. We inspire and enable volunteers to help people in need in hospitals, at home and in the community.

Our volunteers improve patient experience in hospital, aid recovery after a stay on ward, help older people support themselves at home, stay fit and active and build meaningful social connections.

Royal Voluntary Service supports volunteers to run services in the community such as lunch and dining clubs, physical activity classes, craft, gardening and other hobby groups. We work collaboratively with other charities, social care providers and the NHS to help create a society where everyone feels valued and involved.

The charity is one of the UK’s largest hospital retailers with volunteer-run shops, cafés and trolley services providing tea and company to patients, hospital staff and visitors.

To become a local volunteer search for volunteering opportunities in your area. Or help make a difference by making a secure online donation.

If you are a member of the press and have a media enquiry please contact the Media Team. For all other enquiries, contact us.


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