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"Use it or Lose it" Study Day
The healthy ageing BIAS research programme led by Prof Christina Victor hosted a study day on physical activity and older people. A series of talks were given by enthusiastic speakers on older adults, benefits of exercise and remaining active in later life. These included a talk by Prof Janice Thompson on physical activity guidelines and recommendations for older people. Defining meanings between physical activity and exercise and how these activities can and should be incorporated into everyday lives. Aside from physical health, psychological health was discussed, as being physically active can help social interaction, particularly for those who feel isolated. Prof Barbara Humberstone discussed this point further with her talk on windsurfing. People at a later stage of life are starting a sport perceived by many as “young” and trendy. This emphasized the idea that it is never too late to start a new sport or hobby. Prof Barbara Humberstone explained that sports can have great psychological as well as physical benefits. This led into the third talk, by Dr Cassandra Phoenix, on perception of old age. Younger people gave feedback on older adult body builders, provoking attitudes on the ageing process and trying to improve these perceptions which were predominately negative. Dr Emmanuelle Tulle spoke about a study based at a small university gym taking the perspective of older people and their instructors. This indicated the structural and cultural barriers of exercise in later life. Further methods are needed to encourage older people to reach their potential when engaging in physical activity as well as changing attitudes of those in that environment i.e. instructors working in the gym, to understand older peoples abilities.

The second part of the day was on large funded research intervention projects. These were the PACE-LIFE trial described by Prof Christina Victor and ProAct65+ which was a joint talk by Cate Barlow and Sheena Gawler. The PACE-LIFE trial, aims to increase older peoples’ levels of physical activity by using accelerometers and receiving consultations with a practice nurse. The project will begin within the next six months. ProAct6+ was also on exercise promotion but looking at falls too. Older people self monitored their daily physical activities with help from a mentor. These mentors would encourage and introduce simple techniques to increase an older persons’ activity, incorporating it into their daily lives, i.e. with simple stretches. The main obstacle in this project was consistency and quality of mentors administrating these consultations.

Overall this was a very interesting and motivating day. It was encouraging to see that it is never too late to be physically active. It is equally important to be aware that physical exercise should start from an early age and continue throughout one’s adult life. This event was a great opportunity to learn about current trends from colleagues, to listen to discussions and also to network with individuals with similar interests. It was attended by both academics and health professionals who had a wide range of questions regarding the speakers’ studies. In addition, it was also good to know that universities are receiving funding for this growing interest in older adults and physical activity.
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