Inactivity among the over 55s is responsible for as many deaths as smoking – which is why we're investing £10 million of National Lottery funding into projects that will help inactive people to become active.
Research shows that as you get older, you’re far more likely to do less than 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week.
Chief Medical Officer Professor Dame Sally Davies says: "We know that inactivity harms your health. If physical activity was a medicine, we would talk about it as the miracle cure."
Thirty-six per cent of people aged 55 and over are inactive compared to 26 per cent of the population as a whole. Those who are least active stand to benefit the most in terms of their health and happiness, even if it’s just small changes like walking slightly faster or further than you normally do or planning ten minutes of yoga with friends or work colleagues every morning.
Our new Active Ageing funding programme is designed to help inactive older people become active.
The programme is open to a wide range of organisations, including community and voluntary groups, charities, councils, public organisations and sports bodies – with funding amounts typically between £50,000 and £500,000 to be awarded in June 2017.
Moving into sport and activity
There’s a wide a range of reasons why people are less active as they get older that aren't necessarily directly connected to age and physical ability. It can be work, greater family and caring commitments and even social attitudes and preconceived ideas about the ‘right time’ to start getting active.
Take Marie Dalton. Marie is a 65-year-old grandmother from Durham, who got involved in the Move into Sport initiative run by County Durham Sport in 2014.
Marie was fed up with standing on the sidelines watching her grandchildren play sport, so she took up cricket to improve her own health and fitness and get involved.
If physical activity was a medicine, we would talk about it as the miracle cure
Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer
Marie says: “I've done very little exercise other than walking since I left school. With work and a family, there just never seemed the time.
"But now I'm reaching the age where I'm starting to stiffen up and have to get more active so I don’t lose my flexibility.
“Since my son started playing, I've loved cricket but never once thought I would end up playing myself. These sessions are a lot of fun and anyone can come along and have a go. Cricket really is a sport for all ages.”
Tripling investment in inactivity
Our new Active Ageing fund will look to build on the work we've already been doing to tackle inactivity through our Get Healthy, Get Active programme.
These projects are often run by less typical sporting partners like the mental health charity Mind, and 33 pilots have so far been delivered. The latest research shows that over half of people who started attending sessions were still active three months later.
£250m investment over next four years
Sports minister Tracey Crouch says: "It is vital that we encourage older people to get active and these Lottery-funded projects will do fantastic work to achieve this. Whether you're young or old, sport and physical activity has the power to change lives and brings with it so many benefits including combatting isolation.
"Our sports strategy is all about how sport and physical activity can have a positive impact and makes for a healthier and happier population. I look forward to seeing these projects help even more older people get involved in sport and physical activity across the country."