A charitable foundation has called on the government to make physical activity among older people a priority, following research carried out by Qa.
The Centre for Ageing Better said it is crucial that activity is embedded in health and social care systems to help people stay healthy as they get older.
In a major report, Keep On Moving, the charity examines the motivators and barriers to physical activity for those in mid to later life.
Research carried out for the project by the University of Bristol in partnership with Qa Research revealed why people wanted to stay active – and what stopped them doing more.
Staying independent for longer was a key motivator for many of our interviewees. However, confidence was cited as significant barrier. Some participants said they did not use leisure and gym facilities due to a lack of confidence, or a feeling that they were not aimed at people of their age, body size or shape.
This showed why it was so important that the fitness and leisure sector created an inclusive and welcoming environment for people of all ages, the Centre said.
The findings were particularly timely as the Covid pandemic led to unprecedented decreases in activity levels.
Mid-life is crucial for maintaining activity levels as it’s around this age that people start to develop long-term health conditions that need managing or preventing.
Qa’s research was also used in a webinar which featured Derrick Evans, better known as Mr Motivator.
Amy McSweeney, Evidence Officer, Centre for Ageing Better said: “Increasing activity levels for those aged 50–70 is a vital part of ensuring that we can make the most of our longer lives.
“This research shows that everybody knows that being physically active is good for them but there remain real barriers to participation.
“Access to inclusive spaces are key if we are going to encourage more older adults to be physically active.”
Kay Silversides, Qa Research Manager, said: “This was a fascinating project to work on.
“We spoke to a wide range of people, including the very active, who had always been so, people who aspired to me more active but perhaps didn’t know where to start, and at the other extreme people who had never been active and couldn’t bear the thought of physical activity!
“It will be very interesting to see the messages and campaigns that develop from this research.”