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Alarming amount of over 50s in Ireland are not exercising enough despite very high awareness and knowing they should be doing more!


Irish adults over 50 spend seven hours a day sitting – physical inactivity responsible for substantial economic burden


Olympic heroes the O’Donovan Brothers are popular choice as walking companions for over 50s


Kathryn Thomas is the person over 50s would most like to help with cleaning the house!



Wednesday 7th September 2016


Too much sitting: A new national study coinciding with World Physiotherapy Day which is on Thursday 8th September by the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP) on the exercising habits and physical activity of over 50s in Ireland shows that on an average day Irish adults aged over 50 years of age are spending a total of seven hours sitting down during the day with almost four hours of that in the evening from 4pm onwards. By region, those living in Dublin are more likely to spend a longer period of time sitting (7.5 hours a day) with Rest of Leinster and Connacht/Ulster the least at 6.6 hours per day. This study finding is worrying because sedentary behaviour, too much sitting, has been shown to increase risk of chronic disease, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular disease and needs to be interrupted regularly by even simply standing and exercising or physical activity. In fact a recent conservative global analysis, outlined in The Lancet publication by an international team of researchers on the pandemic of physical inactivity which is associated with a range of chronic diseases and early deaths said that a sedentary lifestyle cost the world a whopping $67.5bn in 2013.


Frequency of exercising: The study was carried out by Empathy Research on 500 people over two weeks up to Monday 5th September and showed an alarming 59% of the over 50s group are not getting the recommended amount of exercise per week which is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five days a week with almost 1 in 5 (18%) only exercising once a month or less. People in Munster had the best record with 44% studied hitting the recommended targets and 30% exercising every day and people in Connacht/Ulster with the worst record with only 37% hitting the recommended target. Overall countrywide men fared fractionally better than women in reaching the recommended amount of weekly exercise 41% vs 40%.


The most cited reason for not exercising more than once a week is a general dislike towards exercising (40%) whilst the next most cited reason for over 50s not getting regular exercise were due to  injuries or health issues (29%) which in itself when divided up showed arthritis (44%) and problems with the back (44%), poor mobility (32%), blood pressure and knees (both 24%) being the main issues to not exercising but all very treatable by a chartered physiotherapist.


Frustratingly, awareness levels of the recommended amount of exercise of 5 times of moderate physical activity or more per week was very high at 70% but this doesn’t compare well at all in general with the amount of exercise actually being taken as admitted by the people surveyed indicating that Irish people are not exercising enough for various reasons despite knowing they should be doing far more!

President of the ISCP, which represents over 3,000 chartered physios nationwide, Jill Long said “We’re really keen to show the Irish Public that as well as exercise that people incorporate more physical activity whether it be gardening, hoovering, cleaning and general movement and especially more standing over sitting into their daily lives. It’s all about more quality of life because we are living longer and as people head into their 50s and 60s they could be reducing hospital stays, doctor visits and living high quality independent lives if only they would move a bit more. Chartered physiotherapists are best placed to advise on this as they are THE experts on safe movement and physical activity for the body and contribute an average cost saving on standard patient costs of 7% and a decrease of an average of just over three days for Intensive Care Unit and hospital stays.”



Frequency of going for a walk in an average week

Again an alarming 57% of people surveyed are not getting the recommended amount of brisk walking of just 30 minutes five days a week with 14% admitting to going for a walk less than once a week if at all. Again people in Munster had the best record with 50% hitting the recommended weekly target and Connacht/Ulster again with the worst record of 63% not getting enough walks in every week. Those aged 50-64 are more likely (46%) to get the correct amount of brisk walks in per week than those aged 65+ (40%).


Reasons for not going for a walk at least weekly

The most cited reasons for not going for walks more than once a week is a general dislike of walking (21%) followed by health related issues such as knee (20%) and back (15%) problems and arthritis (17%).


Attitude towards exercise and physical activity

When asked a series of true or false questions about the benefits of exercise and physical activity for a range of ailments such as back pain, arthritis, cancer, depression a massive 86% got all the answers correct which showed that awareness of the benefits was impressive for this age cohort but just over 1 in 4 (27%) adults don’t believe being overweight is the biggest risk for osteoarthritis which is still too many people that need to be educated on this fact and 1 in 4 (25%) didn’t realise that simply increasing physical activity like hoovering, cleaning or gardening was as good for your health as exercise! 1 in 5 (20%) believed that increasing the amount of time one stands each day makes no difference to one’s health which is false as people need to get up from the seated position more often and get moving more.


Incidence of falling while on your own

Almost 2 in 5 (39%) of over 50s have had a fall whilst on their own with females in this age group more likely to have fallen previously than males (44% vs 34%). Those who walk less than once a week (49%) are also more likely to have fallen while by themselves previously compared to 35% who walk every day.

A quarter (25%) of those over 50 indicated they are afraid of falling whilst on their own. Females are more likely to be fearful of a fall (32% vs 19%) than males. Those who are less inclined to frequently go for walks (33%) are also more likely to be fearful of falling whilst on their own.


Over 70s

1 in 2 (50%) Irish adults aged over 50 know someone over 70 years of age who is currently not exercising at least once a week. This is for no apparent reason according to almost a third (31%) of those who indicated they knew an inactive 70+ year old. Other more medical reasons include being obese/overweight (14%), having fallen a few times recently (14%), suffering from dementia (13%) or other medical reasons not listed (25%).


Celebrity would most like to go for a walk with

When given a choice of who they’d like as a walking companion when out and about the most popular choice were the heroic Olympic silver medal rowing O’Donovan brothers Paul and Gary (25%) particularly amongst females with popular TV personalities Kathryn Thomas (22%) strongly supported by males and Miriam O’Callaghan (12%) coming in second and third respectively ahead of George Hook, weather girl Jean Byrne and Gay Byrne. Least popular walking companions were Pat Kenny, young cooking celebrity Donal Skehan and Anne Doyle.


Celebrity would most like to help with household cleaning

The study group was also asked who they’d most like to come around to their house and help them with their housework for a day and Kathryn Thomas (23%) out way ahead in popularity especially amongst the older males with Miriam O’Callaghan (16%) coming in next just ahead of the O’Donovan brothers (15%) and Jean Byrne. Gay Byrne, Pat Kenny, Daniel O’Donnell and Daithi O’Shea proved to be the least desirable helpers in the household.


Almost 6 in 10 (57%) of those who indicated they do not exercise more regularly due to injuries or health issues have never considered going to a Chartered Physiotherapist to get advice on how to treat their medical conditions.


The Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists (ISCP representing over 3,000 physios nationally) is celebrating World Physiotherapy Day on Thursday Sept 8th 2016 with the theme “Adding Life to Years” advocating better quality of life for people over 50 years of age.


Key simple guide points from the Irish Society of Chartered Physiotherapists:

·         Sedentary behaviour –too much sitting, has been shown to increase risk of chronic disease, particularly diabetes and cardiovascular disease

·         The suggested target for older adults (>65):30 minutes of moderate physical activity at least five times per week in bouts of 10 minutes or more.

·         30minutes of brisk walking or the equivalent five days a week is often recommended.

·         In addition physical activity to improve strength should be done at least two days a week.

·         Some people can find this it difficult to reach this level of activity but by making modest increases in your time standing and spending less time sitting can have a positive effective.

Observational data have confirmed associations between increased physical activity and reduction in musculoskeletal conditions such as osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and better cognitive acuity and mental health