Some tips for getting older people and people with chronic health conditions more active

The World Health Organisation launched its Global Action Plan on Physical Activity in mid-2018. The Plan was developed in response to much of the world’s population becoming less active despite there being strong evidence that regular physical activity helps prevent and treat many health conditions. In some countries, inactivity levels can be as high as 70%. The Plan aims to reduce physical inactivity by 15% by 2030.

Physical activity levels are lower for some sectors of the population, including people with chronic health conditions and older people. In Australia, for example, only 25% of people aged 65 and older accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days of the week. As few as 12% regularly undertake strengthening activities (such as lifting weights) and 6% do balance activities (such as lunges or single-leg standing).

Physiotherapists can play an important role in getting older people more active. A recent article in The Conversation provides suggestions on how to encourage older people to meet physical activity guidelines. These include starting small and building up the amount and intensity of activity; using an electronic gadget to help track activity; and, seeking out coaching services, health professionals, organisations or groups for support.

Moving Medicine is a useful resource for clinicians working with people with chronic health conditions. Produced by the Faculty of Sport & Exercise Medicine in partnership with Public Health England and Sport England, the web-site includes toolkits to help clinicians have a conversation about physical activity with patients for 10 health conditions (e.g., heart disease).

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