Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Keeping active pays off even in your 70s and 80s


Older people who undertake at least 25 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise everyday need fewer prescriptions and are less likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency, new research has revealed.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reinforce the need for exercise programmes to help older people stay active. It could also reduce reliance on NHS services and potentially lead to cost savings.

In the first study of its kind looking at this age group, researchers from the University of Bristol looked at data from 213 people whose average age was 78.

Those who carried out less than 25 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day – such as walking quickly, cycling or swimming - received 50 per cent more prescriptions over the following four to five years than those who were more active.

Such physical activity leads to a higher metabolism and better circulation, reducing the risk of conditions and diseases common in older age such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and strokes.

The study also found that being physically active reduced the risk of unplanned hospital admissions. Those who were in the most active third of the sample were on average achieving 39 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity and were at half the risk of emergency hospital admissions than those in the low active group.

These results remained significant even when other factors affecting health were taken into account, such as socio-economic status, education, weight, existing disease and level of physical function.

Researchers measured physical activity using accelerometers - small gadgets that monitor all movement throughout the day - alongside elements of physical function including balance, leg strength and walking gait.

Medical records were then examined to investigate health service usage over the next four years. This captured visits to primary care, referral for secondary services, unplanned admissions to hospital and the number of prescriptions needed.

Being active was not associated with the frequency of visits to the doctor, or referral for other hospital services.

The research was co-authored by Dr Bethany Simmonds and Professor Ken Fox, from Bristol University's Centre for Exercise, Nutrition and Health Sciences.

Dr Simmonds, now based in the School of Clinical Sciences, said: "We know that leading a physically active life has health benefits for all ages, but this study suggests there may also be economic benefits by reducing reliance on medication and preventing costly emergency hospital admissions. Our findings further support the need for greater availability of community-based programs to increase physical activity and prevent loss of lower limb function."

The results support the recent recommendations from NICE that all GPs should encourage physical activity in their older patients.

Exercise should be targeted and tailored to those in their 70s and 80s, aiming to increase muscle strength, balance, coordination and aerobic fitness to maintain mobility and prevent falls and further disease.

Professor Ken Fox added: "Until now, very little has been known about the value of physical activity in later life, particularly when people are in their 70s and 80s. This research underlines that keeping older people active brings a whole range of health benefits, as well as reducing reliance on the NHS and potentially leading to major cost savings."


The study was part of the OPAL-PLUS project, supported by The Dunhill Medical Trust [grant number: R200/0511] with additional support from the Avon Primary Care Research Collaborative and the South West General Practitioners Trust. Researchers at the University of Bristol worked with colleagues at the University of Bath and UWE Bristol.


'Objectively assessed physical activity and subsequent health service use of UK adults aged 70 and over: A four to five year follow up study' by Bethany Simmonds, Kenneth Fox, Mark Davis, Po-Wen Ku, Selena Gray, Melvyn Hillsdon, Debbie Sharp, Afroditi Stathi, Janice Thompson, Joanna Coulson and Tanya Trayers in PLOS ONE.

About The Dunhill Medical Trust

The Dunhill Medical Trust is a grant-making charitable company limited by guarantee (company no. 7472301; charity no. 1140372). DMT welcomes high quality grant applications which fall within its charitable objects, particularly those within the following areas: care of older people, including rehabilitation and palliative care; and research into the causes and treatments of disease, disability and frailty related to ageing.

The Dunhill Medical Trust is a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) and a recognised charity partner of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

For further information: E-mail:

Philippa Walker | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht ARTORG and Inselspital develop artificial pancreas
26.11.2015 | Universitätsspital Bern

nachricht Laboratory study: Scientists from Cologne explore a new approach to prevent newborn epilepsies
24.11.2015 | Deutsches Zentrum für Neurodegenerative Erkrankungen e.V. (DZNE)

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

Im Focus: Laser process simulation available as app for first time

In laser material processing, the simulation of processes has made great strides over the past few years. Today, the software can predict relatively well what will happen on the workpiece. Unfortunately, it is also highly complex and requires a lot of computing time. Thanks to clever simplification, experts from Fraunhofer ILT are now able to offer the first-ever simulation software that calculates processes in real time and also runs on tablet computers and smartphones. The fast software enables users to do without expensive experiments and to find optimum process parameters even more effectively.

Before now, the reliable simulation of laser processes was a job for experts. Armed with sophisticated software packages and after many hours on computer...

Im Focus: Quantum Simulation: A Better Understanding of Magnetism

Heidelberg physicists use ultracold atoms to imitate the behaviour of electrons in a solid

Researchers at Heidelberg University have devised a new way to study the phenomenon of magnetism. Using ultracold atoms at near absolute zero, they prepared a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Gluten oder nicht Gluten? Überempfindlichkeit auf Weizen kann unterschiedliche Ursachen haben

17.11.2015 | Event News

Art Collection Deutsche Börse zeigt Ausstellung „Traces of Disorder“

21.10.2015 | Event News

Latest News

Using sphere packing models to explain the structure of forests

26.11.2015 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Dimensionality transition in a newly created material

26.11.2015 | Materials Sciences

Revealing glacier flow with animated satellite images

26.11.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>