News & Insights 8 September 2020

The importance of physical activity in middle age

A recent article published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine highlights the importance of promoting physical activity in middle aged populations. Despite the numerous health benefits of physical activity being well-established, it is estimated that one in four adults still fail to achieve the recommended amount of activity each week, at a huge cost to both their own long-term health and to our NHS.

Middle age, encompassing those between 45 and 64 years old, is often associated with a decline in physical activity, likely as a result of increased employment, health and household or caregiving responsibilities. However, the importance of physical activity promotion during this period should not be understated. The World Health Organisation’s Global Strategy on Ageing and Health highlights the critical role that physical activity plays in the prevention of chronic disease, whilst concurrently slowing the physiological changes of ageing and enhancing overall health-related quality of life.

It’s important to emphasise that any increase in physical activity is beneficial to your health profile – with muscle-strengthening and aerobic activities reducing mortality rates, whilst enhancing muscular function and balance can also help to prevent falls. Longitudinal studies have concluded that increasing your physical activity during this middle-aged period can delay future disability by up to 15 years, and also increase the likelihood of experiencing good perceived health in older age by 1.5 times.

The good news is that your previous activity history does not have to exclusively define your future health profile – it’s what you do now that counts! Researchers from the National Cancer Institute found that, whilst continued activity from adolescence through to middle age had a significant reduction in mortality rate, similar health benefits can be seen amongst adults who were previously inactive but increased their physical activity later in life. Their analysis concluded that this latter cohort had a reduced mortality risk of 35%, as well as citing a 43% reduction in the risk of heart-related death and a 16% lower risk of cancer-related death than adults who remained inactive throughout middle age. It’s never too late to get moving!

However, as these evident benefits are presently being overlooked by a large portion of the adult population, the importance of physical activity promotion within this demographic has come to light. A multidisciplinary panel of experts, ranging from senior clinicians and academics in public health to physiotherapists, epidemiologists and psychiatrists, determined that both education and access are two fundamental priorities for augmenting activity uptake; the necessity for providing physical activity promotion within settings that are already accessible to middle-aged individuals with time constraints, work demands and carer responsibilities is clear.

Here at KiActiv®, we aim to empower you to make these positive changes to your physical activity profile within the context of your own day-to-day life. Our personalised mentoring programme aims to educate you on the value of your everyday movement, optimising your activity levels to maximise these long-term health benefits. Increasing your physical activity doesn’t have to revolve around structured exercise like going to the gym or for a run, but instead enhancing your awareness of everyday tasks, such as cleaning, gardening or even simply making a cup of tea, can have a profound impact on your current and future health profiles. The value of physical activity is evident and promoting an active lifestyle in adulthood is crucial to reap these benefits.

The KiActiv® Team