elderly exercise activity

The British Geriatrics Society has warned that lockdown and social distancing measures are leading to dangerously low levels of physical activity which will likely result in loss of independence and increased need for medical treatment in the future.

The warning comes following weekly research into people’s activity levels since the outbreak of coronavirus and corresponding lockdown measures by Sport England.

The self-isolation measures are designed to protect vulnerable older people from COVID-19, however, the British Geriatrics Society has stated that if the low level of activity is not addressed as a matter of urgency, there will be detrimental effects to older people’s physical and mental health.

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Boasting over 4000 members, the society is the professional association of doctors practising geriatric medicine, nurses, therapists, researchers, GPs, old age psychiatrists and others engaged in the specialist care of older people and in promoting better health in old age.

It comes as older people, and those with long-term conditions, have been advised by the government to ‘shield’ themselves during the pandemic.

While these measures have been beneficial in protecting older people from the virus, research has revealed that many have found it difficult to keep active.

“While younger people are happy to turn to apps, YouTube or other online sources to motivate them to keep fit, older people, who may not have access to digital technology or be comfortable using it, have largely been forgotten,” claimed the British Geriatrics Society.

According to the British Geriatrics Society, this is a growing problem, both for those who are recovering from COVID-19 and those who are shielding at home.

Dr Celia Gregson of the British Geriatrics Society commented: “As a geriatrician and an epidemiologist, I am increasingly concerned about our older population, isolated in their homes, becoming increasingly ‘deconditioned’ from inactivity.

“Deconditioning is more than just becoming ‘out of shape’, it puts people at risk of serious accidents and illnesses and is often associated with a deterioration in mental health. At this time of massive behaviour change, now is the time to help older people ‘stay home and keep active’ to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.”

According to the society, studies have shown that lower levels of physical activity in the older population can lead to a number of health complications including an increased risk of falls and fractures, a faster resting heart rate, a loss of muscle mass and a tendency to develop blood clots.

Developing serious health problems has a negative impact on all areas of an older person’s life including mental health and day-to-day functioning, as well as limiting freedom and quality of life.

In addition, the society emphasised that the increase in their health and care needs will put further pressure on already-stretched public services.

In response, the association has called on the government to recognise the importance of the issue and encourage everyone to keep active, particularly those vulnerable groups whose circumstances make it harder for them to take exercise.

In particular, the British Geriatrics Society has recommended that a nation-wide regular exercise programme is broadcast on terrestrial daytime television and on the radio.

“It is vital that older people are encouraged to exercise safely in their homes and enjoy the benefits this brings to their health and well-being,” the organisation concluded.

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