Exercises for older peopleMillions (1) of the country’s exercise conscious elders are giving younger people a run for their money by hitting the gym, striking yoga poses and playing sports at 70+.

According to Royal Voluntary Service research, 79 per cent of over 70s regularly exercise with walking, playing a sport, exercise classes and the gym all proving popular choices. The charity, whose volunteers run a broad range of activities to help older people stay fit and active whatever their fitness and mobility level, strongly believes regular exercise is vital to ageing well.

The study, which assessed the fitness levels of older people, found the average three hours of physical activity they do on a weekly basis – whether it be an exercise class, housework or gardening – is standing them in good stead. More than half of over 70s (57 per cent) say they can touch their toes, 78 per cent can stand on one leg for 10 seconds and 74 per cent have no problem walking a mile or more.

Many also recognise the value of staying physically active with 78 per cent saying they believe it’s important to look after yourself as you age and two thirds 69 per cent agreeing they are responsible for their own wellbeing.

The research found regular exercisers aged 70+ saw notable benefits from keeping fit, both physical and mental. Forty per cent feel more flexible, 32 per cent have more energy and 27 per cent feel stronger. Half also say they feel happier (50 per cent) and more positive (52 per cent) as a result and nearly one fifth (18 per cent) per cent find exercise helpful for dealing with conditions like depression and anxiety. One in ten said regular exercise helped them cope better with loneliness.

Not all over 70s are able to exercise regularly. Half (50 per cent) of non-exercising seniors surveyed have long-term health conditions preventing them from doing regular physical activity. However, a quarter of these non-exercisers (25 per cent) admit there is no reason for them not to exercise.

Royal Voluntary Service wants to encourage and inspire more older people to stay physically active. The charity’s volunteers run a range of activities to help older people improve their fitness from Move it or Lose it chair based exercise, to dance clubs, walking groups, yoga and tai chi. Supported by funds raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, there are clubs and social activities to suit all interests and levels of fitness.

According to a recent study published in The British Medical Journal, middle-aged and older people can increase their fitness level to that of an average person a decade younger by regular exercise. The article also highlighted a growing body of evidence that fitness improves cognitive ability and the risk of dementia, referencing the benefits of gyms, walking groups, gardening, cooking clubs, and volunteering in improving the health and wellbeing of people at all ages with long term conditions.

"The science is compelling. The process of ageing is not fixed, you can change your trajectory and even if you start to gently exercise in your later years you will reap health dividends. Exercise in later life doesn’t have to mean joining the gym or playing sport, although many older people enjoy this kind of exercise well beyond their 70s. What’s important is to find activities that you enjoy, that are social and that you are happy to do regularly, like joining a dance, tai chi or yoga class, getting a group of friends together for a weekly walk or even volunteering in your local community. There are good reasons to don your trainers and give it a try."

Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive of Royal Voluntary Service

Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador Elaine Paige, 70, has not let getting older slow her down and still enjoys a busy social lives and professional career.

"Life doesn’t have to slow down as we get older. In fact, our health, wellbeing and quality of life can be greatly enhanced by keeping busy, active and social. I love meeting up with friends, I enjoy playing tennis and taking long walks and of course I’m still performing and working. There are so many options available to older people it’s just about finding something you love that you will enjoy doing."

Royal Voluntary Service Ambassador Elaine Paige

"There’s no age limit on being fit and active and any of us can make a decision to get fitter. There are many different ways to be active and players of People’s Postcode Lottery make it possible for Royal Voluntary Service volunteers to run hundreds of social and other activities for older people across the country."

Clara Govier, Head of Charities/Deputy Managing Director at People’s Postcode Lottery

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,257 respondents aged over 70 years old between 16 February 2018 – 27 February 2018. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

* The British Medical Journal, October 2017 bmj.com/company/newsroom/keeping-active-can-help-older-people-reduce-the-need-for-costly-social-care

(1) Calculated based on 79% of respondents aged 70+ exercise on a regular basis. From 2013 Population estimates there are 7,448,500 Britons over 70, which equates to nearly 6 million.

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