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).
Philippa Walker | Eurek Alert!
Real-time imaging of lung lesions during surgery helps localize tumors and improve precision
30.07.2015 | American Association for Thoracic Surgery
Experimental MERS vaccine shows promise in animal studies
29.07.2015 | NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Using ultracold atoms trapped in light crystals, scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the Weizmann Institute observe a novel state of matter that never thermalizes.
What happens if one mixes cold and hot water? After some initial dynamics, one is left with lukewarm water—the system has thermalized to a new thermal...
Physicists from Regensburg and Marburg, Germany have succeeded in taking a slow-motion movie of speeding electrons in a solid driven by a strong light wave. In the process, they have unraveled a novel quantum phenomenon, which will be reported in the forthcoming edition of Nature.
The advent of ever faster electronics featuring clock rates up to the multiple-gigahertz range has revolutionized our day-to-day life. Researchers and...
Researchers have developed an ultrafast light-emitting device that can flip on and off 90 billion times a second and could form the basis of optical computing.
Joint BioEnergy Institute study identifies bacterial protein that is key to protecting rice against bacterial blight
A bacterial signal that when recognized by rice plants enables the plants to resist a devastating blight disease has been identified by a multi-national team...
Researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin are one step closer to delivering smart windows with a new level of energy efficiency, engineering materials that allow windows to reveal light without transferring heat and, conversely, to block light while allowing heat transmission, as described in two new research papers.
By allowing indoor occupants to more precisely control the energy and sunlight passing through a window, the new materials could significantly reduce costs for...
23.07.2015 | Event News
10.07.2015 | Event News
25.06.2015 | Event News
31.07.2015 | Trade Fair News
31.07.2015 | Transportation and Logistics
31.07.2015 | Physics and Astronomy