Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Healthy ageing health centre

It's never too late to get active

The benefits of healthy ageing
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Do you want to know the secret of a healthier and happier life? It's not winning the lottery or a new wonder drug - it's plain old exercise!

Staying active as you age can help prevent illness and disease, ward off depression and helps you stay independent.

The UK is getting older, 1 in 6 is currently over 65 but by 2050 it's estimated that 1 in 4 people in the UK will be over 65. The fastest growing population group is the over 85s.

The longer we stay active, the better for ourselves and for society.

It helps us live longer and can help prevent some major diseases

It's scientifically proven that being physically active can actually help to prevent heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

The NHS estimates that people who are active have up to a 35% lower risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, up to a 50% lower risk of type 2 diabetes and up to a 50% lower risk of cancer of the colon.

"There is a really strong body of research that demonstrates the importance of exercise in later life," says Emma Spragg, Head of Innovation and Programmes at Age UK.

"We're never too old to make a difference to our health and even relatively small amounts of physical activity as we grow older can lower the risk of serious conditions such as strokes, heart disease and certain cancers."

Better brain health

There are a number of studies which suggest that exercise can have cognitive benefits.

One published in 2012 in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that physically active older adults were 21% less likely than their sedentary peers to be diagnosed with dementia.

"There's definitive evidence that physical activity can protect against dementia," says Bob Laventure, a consultant on physical activity and older people at the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity and Health. He also says exercise helps the heart and your brain.

It can also improve mental and psychological wellbeing. Many studies have made the link between exercise and improved mental health. One in Finland found that those who exercised two or three times a week had reduced depression, anxiety and anger as well as a generally improved mood.

In fact many GPs prescribe exercise as a treatment for a range of conditions, including depression.

Helps you stay independent

Physical activity helps protect independence.

"The most important benefit it gives is independence in later life. You can go out and do your shopping, go to the post office, play with the grandchildren," says Bob.

Emma from Age UK agrees: "It can add years to our lives, but most significantly, it keeps us happy and helps us maintain our independence."

Being physically fit also helps us recover from operations. A Newcastle University study found that fit older people had a lower risk of death, recovered better after surgery and had a shorter stay in hospital than younger people who weren't so fit.

Stay informed

Sign up for BootsWebMD's free newsletters.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
fifth disease
Illnesses every parent should know
spoonfull of sugar
Surprising things that harm your liver
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
What your nails say about your health