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Middle-aged people encouraged to stay physically active for a better retirement

PUBLISHED: 10:42 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 13:36 13 August 2019

Participants at Gorleston parkrun. Picture: Richard Knibb

Participants at Gorleston parkrun. Picture: Richard Knibb

Richard Knibb

Middle-aged people need to stay physically active if they are to enjoy a fit and healthy retirement, according to a new report from the University of East Anglia.

A new study, carried out by the university and Active Norfolk and funded by Sport England, revealed that over-55s should be doing more to keep fit as they approach retirement age in order to boost physical and mental health and reduce social isolation.

It found health problems, not having enough time or energy because of work, and a lack of motivation were leaving many people approaching retirement in poor shape.

More than 1,000 over-55s from Norfolk took part in the online Physical Activity and Retirement Transitions survey about their physical activity levels, and expectations and experiences of retirement.

The research team also held focus groups and interviews with people at retirement age across Norfolk about staying physically active.

Lead researcher Dr Charlotte Salter, from UEA's Norwich Medical School, said: "In England, participation in physical activity tends to decrease around the age of 55.

"Frailty and pre-frailty - the decline in health, resilience and mobility often associated with ageing - are conditions previously expected to be found in people at retirement age and over. But now these conditions affect a third of British adults aged 50-65.

"Adults are spending more years of their life working than ever before. Retiring is a life-changing event which provides all sorts of opportunities - but it coincides with declining physical activity, health and wellbeing.

"From the age of around 55, people begin thinking about retirement and making plans for their future.

"In order to enjoy a fit and healthy retirement, a really key thing is that people need to maintain their physical fitness through their fifties and beyond.

"But we found that there are many barriers to this - from poor health, lack of motivation, and the cost and availability of sports, activities and fitness classes, to not having enough time - due to work or in many cases because of caring responsibilities."

Dr Salter said there was no one-size fits all approach but said combining activity with socialising or other purposeful actions including dog walking, gardening, housework, childcare or volunteering, were good ways for over-55s to remain active.

The report recommended that employers and healthcare providers could do more to promote physical fitness to people over 55.

It also found that sports centres and community fitness projects could encourage healthy ageing.

Project lead Rachel Cooke, from

Active Norfolk, said: "The results of the research highlight the potential role of physical activity providers, workplaces, and support services, such as health professionals and age-related charities, for reaching those who are working full-time, part-time, and those who are already retired." Other recommendations for employers include having a health and wellbeing policy that promotes physical activity, providing opportunities to be active at work.

Are you aged over 55 and struggling to stay fit, have you recently got into fitness later in life or are you a business promoting physical health for middle-aged employees? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk or call 01603 772320.

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