Older people want to do more exercise but less than half are doing the recommended amount

Charity Age UK claims that less than half of over 55s are doing the recommended 2.5 hours of exercise per week with one in eight not doing any exercise at all.
But findings from the same research highlights that three in ten would like to take part in more exercise.
The findings have been published as part of Age UK’s Gym Open Day designed to encourage older adults who want to start an exercise regime to pay their local gyms an introductory visit.
Whilst the new research shows many older people are keen walkers (82%) and often undertake activities around the home such as gardening (75%), only 8% currently go to the gym regularly and 8% do aerobic exercise.
However, older people are keen to take part in more exercise and try something new. Over a quarter (27%) said they wanted to try swimming, with 15% mentioning they would be interested in going to the gym, 14% keen to go along to classes such as yoga or Pilates and 12% interested in aerobic exercise. More than one in five (22%) also mentioned that they prefer to exercise in a group where they may or may not know people


13 responses to “Older people want to do more exercise but less than half are doing the recommended amount

  1. I am a Personal Trainer and Cardiac Rehab exercise specialist. In rehab and PT activity, I find the over 50s to be keen to exercise, and dedicated to it when they start. But they are certainly not generally keen on gyms. The predominance of young gym instructors, loud music etc puts many off. Classes for the over 50s are often run by a 20-something, with little understanding of what my generation needs from an exercise viewpoint.

    I set up originally (as an over 50 myself) to train the over 50s and it is this similar age/similar life experience that has made my activities a success. Not all over 50s want to be with their own age group – but the majority probably do….

    Come on gyms – get a few older instructors, make the gym a little more friendly, and stop playing Ibiza music….

    Fitter Over 50

  2. Hannah

    I am (an older myself) qualified Extend and Zumba Gold teacher & I get constantly frustrated because Age UK, Central Govt. Local Govts all of them bang on about elder exercise but GIVE NO PRACTICAL HELP to deliver it. It is a fact sad but true that people over a certain age will not pay out for exercise classes. Many expect it completely free if they get a pension or on the basis they are saving NHS funds by keeping healthy! That is an argument I hear every week. If the Govt & these organisations want older people to exercise they must help by providing free venues, funding projects, paying the teachers directly etc. The fact is that Elder Exercise Specialists like myself struggle to make it work on a self-employed basis because our target age group cant or wont pay us so these organisations need to work out a way of meeting teachers costs. Age UK is a prime culprit – it pays consultants £1000’s to commission a another survey that tells us what we all already know yet all they really need to do is pay me, or someone similar the going rate for weekly classes in their branches – which they sadly say they cannot manage out of local funds.


      I agree. As a qualified extend teacher who held a class for over 60s for 2 years where 20 people attended most weeks I decided that teaching 1 hour a week was impossible with insurances rents etc. so many who benefited so much greatly miss the class. however i felt undervalued and annoyed at how my professional body expected to charge heavily for membership @ cpd days which were tedious. AS A FIT 66 year old who has a lot to give i refuse to be undervalued because of my age. A twinge of conscience sometimes-yes- i let people down but until things change i will not return. The majority of young gymn instructors do not have training to look after the over fifties or those with health problems.

      • I completely get what you are saying about the cost of being instructor Ann, It has made me reconsider my position so many times, especially as a self employed teacher. I do however think it is really important that people pay their way. This gives them a personal commitment to their physical fitness and boosts their psychological wellbeing too, and this apples to any age or demographic. I work in an area that is not affluent and I do have to charge accordingly. I have come to terms with the fact that I will not get rich in this business! I do realise the issues and have also been in the position in the past when I have had to give up a class because it was costing me to do it. I think the Fitness Industry is making enough profit ( I have worked and managed in both private and public sector facilities) to offer heavily subsidised rental at times when the studios are usually empty. This could also break down the barriers that are still preventing many older adults from venturing into a club or centre and has the potential of attracting new members. Pay it forward Fitness Industry!

  3. Its a shame that we almost accept that older people have to fade away. I have two clients in their late fifties that are in great shape. I agree with the “Ibiza” point as well 🙂

  4. Camden Active Health Team runs a community exercise programme with many activities for 50+ participants. Tai Chi, Yoga, Aqua, Badminton, Healthy Hearts and Healthy Bones. dance and Seated Exercise. Many of the classes are taught by older instructors. There are free organised walks on Hampstead Heath and Regents Pk. Although not completely free, the classes are reasonably priced at £1.50 for Camden residents and £3.00 for out of borough participants.

  5. I teach Yoga to over 50s and Parkinsons patients who like to exercise without feeling pressured and intimidated by young, fit gym instructors and members. I am over 50, have worked in this industry for many years and have seen little evidence of the government or Age UK putting their money where their mouth is!! There is a wealth of older, experienced instructors out there. When the BMJ is telling us that over fifities need more cardio exercise, stretching and mobilising then surely it should get picked up as a necessary health benefit which will tackle obesity, diabetes and falls. Exercise addresses the physical body and the mental state of older people giving them a chance to feel good and feel part of their local community. The Olympic year should be a wake-up call to all ages not just the young.

    • Hannah

      I so agree with you Denise. I really want to deliver to the over 55’s (which is me too) but to do this without support from other agencies is incredible difficult. The vast majority of our client group simply wont pay £5 or £6 for an hours exercise so becomes nearly impossible to deliver elder exercise on a self-employed basis. Age UK (ed al) seem to continually issue reports from central office that they encourage exercise yet my work in 3 local branches was stopped because they have not got funds to pay me. What does Age UK do with its central funds? They are certainly not paying exercise teachers in either of the two counties I operate in despite the fact that not only the clients, but local managers too want to deliver.

  6. have a look on the SkillsActive Website – there’s a training manual called Training the Over 50’s by Sue Griffin. It’s only £18.99 follow the url – http://shop.skillsactive.com/index.php?dispatch=products.view&product_id=1729

  7. I am an Exercise Referral Instructor at Pitsea Leisure Centre in Basildon and also teach Nordic Walking, Pilates and Cardiac Rehab. 90% of my participants are over 55 or approaching it fast! I do not find they have any resentment in having to pay their way. I too believe a combination of ‘Ibiza’ music and instructor attitude deters many older adults from becoming more active and that generally (with a few exceptions) the Fitness Industry Clubs and Leisure Centres are not age friendly and customer care focused. A social and welcoming group is key to the success of keeping older adults active and many initially need a little hand holding and one to one attention to build confidence. I am not talking about frail older adults either; those who are not participating in activity are afraid of looking stupid, of not being able to keep up or perhaps that they will hurt themselves or aggravate a medical condition. We must also be careful not to patronise older adults, like all of us we are forever young in our hearts and mind.

  8. Monique

    I am 61 and teach Pilates mostly to ladies of a certain age and a few gents in their 50s and 60s. They enjoy it and find that Pilates helps keep them mobile and improves their balance as well as improving posture and muscle tone. It also helps them in their other activities such as golf, bowls, tennis etc.

  9. Hannah

    REPS CAN YOU HELP? Can you petition Age UK – Central Govt – and make the point that self-employed teachers working with over 55’s in community settings NEED SUPPORT TO KEEP GOING!! Providing free venues & marketing help would be mostly all it takes.

  10. marcusbridger

    I would agree that many of the large private gym chains do not cater that well to this age group and it can feel a pretty intimidating place in many of these clubs. But more importantly I feel that many of these gyms don’t have instructors who are geared up towards this demographic either. However, I believe that many of the council run gyms do actually have a much higher proportion of over 55s in their membership and often seek out older instructors too.

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