LIGHT physical activity, such as a walk in the park, gardening or a little housework can help older people to live healthier for longer.
That’s the message from the Institute of Public Health in Ireland as Positive Ageing Week takes place across the country. Today (October 1st) also marks UN International Day for Older Persons.
The weeklong initiative aims to highlight the positive aspects of ageing and celebrates the fact that we are living longer, and that growing older is an opportunity.
Over 530,000 people aged 65 and over currently live in the Republic of Ireland - by 2046, this will rise to 1.4 million people.
In Northern Ireland, the number of people aged 65 and over will rise from 297,000 to 491,000.
But research shows 1 in 2 people aged 65 and over in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland do not get enough physical activity.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people aged 65 and over should do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity, such as a brisk walk, five times a week.
However, new research by the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences involving more than 36,000 people found that light physical activity contributed to a lower risk of dying prematurely.
Prof Roger O’Sullivan, from the Institute of Public Health (IPH), said that it’s never too late for older people to build physical activity into their lives.
He said: “The latest evidence shows there are real health benefits of light physical activity, and this message is particularly important for those who are currently inactive. People who are physically active are at lower risk of having chronic conditions, some cancers, diabetes, and fewer mobility issues.
“And it’s never too late to start and reap the benefits of physical activity. Even if somebody hasn’t been physically active throughout their life, if they start with some light activity they can improve their health and wellbeing in later years.
“We are growing older, both as individuals and as a society. The gain in life expectancy is one of the biggest achievements in public health, and brings a lot of opportunities. But modern lifestyles mean that we are spending the majority of the day sitting. We need to sit less, move more, and more often,” Prof O’Sullivan added.