Older people need support to get more active

By June Shannon Heart News   |   4th Dec 2018

Almost half of older adults not getting enough exercise- TILDA Study

Almost half of older people in Ireland do not get the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity every week, a new study has found.

The latest findings from TILDA (the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing) by researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, which were published recently, found that almost half, or 48 per cent of older adults (aged 50 or older) who participated in the study, did not walk for at least 150 minutes a week.

The TILDA study has been following a randomly selected group of nearly 10,000 Irish people over the age of 50 for the last eight years to determine how their lifestyles affect their health.

According to the study, “there is comprehensive evidence that moderate levels of physical activity can help prevent disease, improve quality of life and promote physical and mental health. Physical inactivity is recognised by the World Health Organisation as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. The National Guidelines on Physical Activity for Ireland recommend that all adults take part in at least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week. Walking is the most common and accessible activity for older adults and brisk walking for 150 minutes per week is also sufficient to meet the physical activity guidelines.”

In the study the researchers expressed “concern” at the increased proportion of adults aged 50 and over who walked for less than the recommended 150 minutes per week at Wave 4 (48%) compared to Wave 1 (38%).

"Almost half, or 48 per cent of older adults (aged 50 or older) who participated in the study, did not walk for at least 150 minutes a week,"

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“Despite multiple policy initiatives to support increased physical activity, a low proportion of the oldest group aged 75 and over walked at least 150 minutes per week (37% at Wave 4). An increased focus on this specific group is needed to support them in achieving adequate activity levels,” the study found.

Commenting on the findings Professor Joe Harbison, former National Clinical Lead for Stroke in Ireland, Associate Professor, Professor of Gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, Consultant in Medicine for the Elderly and Stroke Medicine at St James’s Hospital in Dublin and board member of the Irish Heart Foundation, said, one of the “more worrying” findings from the TILDA study was that less than half of the cohort (48%) spent 150 minutes or more walking briskly.

Prof Harbison explained that walking between 20 and 30 minutes per day or 10 minutes to the shop and back was associated with a reduction in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, a 30 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease and a 15 per cent reduction in risk of premature death.

“It can also help your mood and reduce depression and weight bearing exercise added to getting a bit of sunlight during the summer will boost your vitamin D and help protect your bones,” he said.

"Walking between 20 and 30 minutes per day or 10 minutes to the shop and back is associated a 30 per cent reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease,"

Professor Joe Harbison, Consultant in Medicine for the Elderly and Stroke Medicine , St James’s Hospital, Dublin

The study also found that the most prevalent conditions among adults aged 50 years and over in Ireland were hypertension (38%), arthritis (39%) and pain (35%), each being equivalent to almost half a million adults.

“Awareness of the proportion of adults with conditions such as hypertension is important, given its association with multiple cardiovascular conditions such as ischaemic heart disease and stroke,” the researchers noted.

The TILDA report contains chapters on health, quality of life, social engagement, living conditions, and health utilisation are included

This is the first report from TILDA with a focus on the ‘Change in life circumstances’ of participants since their first interview seven years ago.  It highlights a number of important issues that are having a significant impact on the physical health, mental health and well-being of adults over 50 in Ireland and which also have a substantial impact on the current and future health system.

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activity cardiovascular disease heart disease inactivity old age older adults physical activity research stroke TILDA Study

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