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, according to UK research.
The Bristol University study involved 213 people with an average age of 78. The researchers said it was the first study of its kind looking at this age group. Their findings are published in the online journal PLOS ONE.
“This research underlines that keeping older people active brings a whole range of health benefits”
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.
The study also found that being physically active reduced the risk of unplanned hospital admissions. Those 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, said the researchers.
Study co-author Professor Ken Fox said: “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. It was funded by the Dunhill Medical Trust with additional support from the Avon Primary Care Research Collaborative and the South West General Practice Trust