It’s all in the mind

New research shows that personal and social fears may prevent older people from being more active.  They are more likely to be deterred by health worries and psychological barriers than by unsafe physical environments.

The most common obstacles are related to poor health and a lack of interest, rather than concerns over safety and access.

The study asked 584 people aged 65 to identify which of 16 potential barriers made it more difficult for them to engage in regular physical activity. Their activity levels were then measured over the following week using an accelerometer.

Results showed that respondents who were worried about their health, or who were not interested in exercising, were least likely to be physically active.

Concerns about the risk of injury from unsafe environments, or a lack of access to suitable spaces in which to exercise were less did not explain reduced levels of physical activity.

Adam Gordon, Honorary Secretary of the British Geriatrics Society, said:

“”This is an important insight into why older people choose not to do exercise.

We know that there is no such thing as being “too old” or “too ill” to exercise and people will benefit from physical activity regardless of their age or medical condition.

It is, however, important that people who have health problems, or who are more frail, modify their exercise plans to take account of this. People uncertain about how they can safely exercise can consult with their GP.

The British Geriatrics Society has also previously published a good practice guide on physical activity in older age, which can be found on our website.”