Getting over-65s active could save NHS £12bn says new report

Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi

Failure to get older adults active could prove “catastrophic” for the health service and society, according to a new report to be released today (Wednesday 1 November).

The Moving More, Ageing Well report will be unveiled at the ukactive National Summit in Westminster, where 700 leaders from government and the health and physical activity industries will discuss the role of exercise in tackling society’s biggest challenges.

The report, by ukactive and fitness equipment provider Life Fitness, shows that supporting over-65s to meet recommended exercise guidelines could save the NHS more than £12bn in treatment costs and prevent up to 600,000 major diseases such as heart disease, dementia, type-II diabetes and cancers over the next decade, as well as creating substantial social care savings.

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It proposes a nationally guided, locally owned ‘National Activity Therapy Service’ (NATS) that would see signposting to physical activity opportunities and practical advice on how to be more active feature in every contact between care professionals and patients. The service would also see specially trained exercise professionals embedded into GP centres.

The latest statistics show that one in five of the UK population will be aged 65 and over by 2025, with the report’s authors warning of the dangers if the country does not act now.

“We need to make physical activity the natural choice from cradle to grave and that means putting exercise – the miracle cure – at the heart of our health and social care systems,” said ukactive CEO Steven Ward.

During the research, Freedom of Information requests were sent to every local authority in England to paint a picture of the approaches to promote physical activity in publicly owned residential care homes. Of the 50 local authorities that responded, it was found that:

• Just one in five (21 per cent) confirmed their care homes have a dedicated strategy to support residents reach CMO guidelines for physical activity.

• Only 38 per cent said their care homes have a broader strategy to promote health and wellbeing, which includes specific provisions for physical activity.

• One in four (25 per cent) stated their care homes specifically measure how much physical activity residents take part in.

• Just one in three (33 per cent) confirmed care home staff are trained on the benefits of physical activity.

Speaking on the findings, Professor Sir Muir Gray CBE, chief knowledge officer to the NHS, said: “What threatens to be one of the biggest crises of the 21st century can certainly be avoided if we prioritise simple interventions and ensure that every care setting has a joined-up strategy to provide physical activity at every opportunity.”

Danny Oliver, UK country manager for Life Fitness, added: “We’re frequently reminded of the significant impact that diminishing physical activity levels can – and are – having on society, and this is something as an industry that we can’t ignore.”

“The active ageing population has become an increasing area of focus for us and our customers and our work with ukactive continues to enrich our insights and solution offering, as fitness equipment and technology is adapted and developed to better suit this now-core demographic.”

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