Writing in the British Medical Journal, doctors and ageing charities called for a shift in the ‘prevailing attitude’ which views exercise as an activity only for the young.
They called on elderly people to ‘understand their role’ in reducing demand for social care by staying physically fit.
Figures show that one quarter of British women and 20 per cent of men do no activity at all during the week, let alone the recommended 150 minutes, while some studies have estimated that just two per cent of older adults meet weekly exercise requirements.
Lead author Scarlett O’Mally, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon, atEastbourne District General Hospital, said research had shown that exercise can restore physical ability to that enjoyed a decade earlier.
“We need to challenge the idea that old people should rest,” she said. “People need to keep active however old they are.
“They need to increase activity. Every adult should do a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity every week and twice weekly strength and balance training.”
The total cost of social care is around £100 billion annually, yet exercise has been proven to reverse physical decline and frailty, and keep elderly people out of care homes.
The authors also point out that there is growing evidence that fitnessimproves mental ability and reduces the risk of dementia, which costs the health service around £26 billion each year.
“The prevailing attitude that exercise is for young people while older people should be encouraged to relax needs to be challenged,” they conclude.
“Gyms, walking groups, gardening, cooking clubs, and volunteering have all been shown to improve the health and wellbeing of people at all ages with long term conditions.
“We need individuals to understand their role in reducing demand for social care by being active.”
“Physical activity is also critical to helping people live independently as they get older. Health professionals need to do more to support older adults to be physically active, including inpatients and those with long term conditions.”
The editorial also calls for changes to hospitals so that patients are not confined to beds.
Older patients admitted to hospital spend over 80 per cent of their time in a bed, which equates to a 60 per cent reduction in their mobility and can cause ‘deconditioning syndrome’ where people become unfit simply from being in hospital.
“Not only should hospitals be re-designed to allow more activity, personnel need to encourage activity, but also initiatives such as ambulatory care to keep people out of hospital should be encouraged,” added Dr McNally.