fitness and the over 50s

Friday 30 September 2011


Londoners aged over 50 are most likely to do little or no exercise, five times as many older people in the North East of England use exercise to improve their later-years sex life compared to neighbouring Yorkshire and Humberside, and people from Scotland are amongst the most likely to follow the ideal exercise regime.

Those are just some of the findings of an independently-conducted study of 10,500 older people commissioned by over-50s group Saga in the run up to Older People’s Day, October 1, 2011, which has the theme of getting active and staying active.

The survey also found that older people from Northern Ireland were least likely to turn to exercise for stress relief (16%), while people from the North West of England were most likely (24%) to feel the need to wind down by getting the pulse racing.

Around 38% of Londoners say they do no exercise, or less than an hour a week, with a figure of 37% in the North East of England and a low 31% in Scotland.

44% of older people in Scotland and Yorkshire and Humberside do what is considered by experts to be the best balance of between two and five hours exercise a week, while in Northern Ireland 22% work up a sweat for between six and ten hours a week. But the Welsh are three times as enthusiastic as older people from London, East Anglia and Northern Ireland about putting in more than 16 hours a week.

Nearly half (49%) or older people in the West Midlands and North East say they do too little exercise.

Regional league table – over-50s doing none, or less than an hour of exercise per week:

 London                                       38%
 North East  37%
 East Midlands  36%
 West Midlands  35%
 Northern Ireland  34%
 South East  33%
 South West  33%
 North West  33%
 East Anglia  33%
 Wales  32%
 Yorkshire & Humberside  31%
 Scotland  31%

Regional league table – over-50s doing two to five hours of exercise per week:

 Yorkshire & Humberside              44%
 Scotland  44%
 Wales  43%
 South East  43%
 North West  42%
 East Anglia  42%
 Northern Ireland  41%
 South West  41%
 London  41%
 East Midlands  41%
 North East  36%

The national picture overall:

The research showed that a fast-growing club of over-50s “exercise enthusiasts” are chasing improved fitness levels in later life with the vast majority of older people citing health improvement or active-life extension as the main reason for pavement pounding and WiiFit workouts – and WiiFit has overtaken bowls as a way of staying in shape.

Across the UK, around 38% of 50 somethings flex their muscles for between two and five hours a week – a level fitness experts say is likely to be life-enhancing – but more people put in the hours the older they get: 44% of 65 to 69-year-olds exercise for up to five hours,  And 62% doing between two and 10 hours exercise per week.

“That’s great news for the older people who do try to maintain or improve fitness: there’s a lot of  newly converted ‘exercise enthusiasts’ coming through who are realising they’ve a great deal more to give and get once they hit their 60s – the bonus years -and are putting in the effort to exploit it. ” said Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga.

But fitness for older people is not all about tea dances and bowls: one in 25 over-50s use WiiFit while one in 50 panellists aged 75 and over also use WiiFit as a way of keeping fit. More older people admit to using WiiFit as a means of exercise than bowls, and is equivalent to those who jog.

Just a third of Saga panellists believe that they do the right level of exercise, with 45% admitting to doing too little. Just over 40% of 50 to 54-year-olds did no exercise or “less than an hour” a week compared to 30% of 60 to 69-year-olds.

80% of Saga panellists say they are more conscious of the need to exercise and live a healthy lifestyle now than they were in their 30s. A quarter of women say they exercise more now than in their 30s.

Meanwhile, nationally, five times as many over-50s men compared to women say they’ve embarked on their exercise regime to improve their sex life.

Over 50s  believe maintaining their mental fitness is important - 99% agree that it is ‘very important’ or ‘important’ - and crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and TV quiz games were the most popular forms of mental exercises (60%, 40% and 36% respectively doing each). One-in-ten use electronic brain-training games.


Notes to Editors

Populus interviewed 10,483 Saga customers, all aged 50+, online between 12 September and 15 September 2011. Populus is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules; for more information see Full survey stats are available on request.

For further information, please call the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.


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