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British Heart Foundation urges over 50s: Be active now and leapfrog into later life

                                May 2007


British Heart Foundation urges over 50s:
Be active now and leapfrog into later life

How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy



One out of five people could avoid the pain and trauma of heart disease if they just put down the remote control and put on their walking shoes to give their body the physical activity it needs.

With rapidly dropping activity levels in the 50-plus generation, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) are launching a new campaign last month urging the over 50s to make fitness their priority now or risk losing their future health and physical independence forever.

Dr Mike Knapton, Director of Prevention and Care, BHF, says: “If we are physically inactive in our 50s, we could be laying the foundations for miserable poor health in our later years - the very time when we should be enjoying our well-earned retirement!
“It’s incredibly important for the 50-plus generation to be physically active now, and to maintain that activity, if they want to protect their heart health and stand on their own two feet for longer.”

With regular, frequent exercise, people can dramatically improve their heart health as well as their mobility, balance and mental well-being, setting them up for a long and fulfilling later life. But despite this fact, up to three-quarters of adults in the UK do less than the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity on 5 or more days a week.

Furthermore, activity levels drop rapidly as both men and women get older, putting them at an even higher risk of heart and other health problems.

Broadcaster Angela Rippon gives her support to the campaign and says “It is vitally important that anyone who wants to live a healthy and fulfilling later life ensures they get plenty of exercise now. Finding your own way to enjoy being physically active is key - be it dancing, swimming, long country walks – or whatever suits you. It’s an investment in your future health, which you will never ever regret!”

The nation’s heart charity is providing a free ‘how to’ campaign booklet explaining why we should take the physical activity message to heart. It also has handy tips on fun, inexpensive and sociable ways to fit exercise in to today’s hectic lifestyle.

The campaign demands that the Government, local authorities, and employers take the health of the over 50s seriously. They will all be encouraged to implement practical strategies to help enable and encourage people in this age group to get active. Not only will this help improve heart health of the over 50s, but investing in health now will save money for the NHS in the long run.

For more information on physical activity or to order the booklet, call the heart health line on 08450 708070 or visit 

Case studies

Barbara Macdonald – age 63

  • Barbara learnt to swim at the age of 62 by taking weekly lessons. She had always had a fear of water ever since she was a child – the result of being pushed in the water (a friend having to save her during a school swimming lesson), and then a subsequent boating incident. But with the help of her fantastic swim teacher and learning that she was more confident in water wearing goggles, Barbara soon grew to love the activity and even enjoys going for a swim by herself now, as well as with her husband who is a keen swimmer.

  • Barbara has been so inspired by her new-found activity that she is looking at setting up a social swimming club for mature people who have emotional or physical reasons why they don’t swim. It will have an holistic approach where people can gain information they need to empower them to swim and which uses complimentary therapy to help patients with health problems, for example, the Alexander technique in water, ‘tapping’ and bio-energy therapy.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that there is a large market out there for people who can’t swim but who want to learn – not only so they can be more physically active, but also so they can play with their grandchildren.

Kelvin Rowbotham – age 56

  • Kelvin had a heart attack in 2002 and then a bypass in 2003. He decided he needed to get his fitness back. He embarked on an exercise program aiming to do a little often and to build up gradually.

  • He started off walking at first, just to the garden gate and then a little further, then finally around the estate. Gaining strength and just as importantly confidence his exercise regime began to take shape. At first he was unsure thinking if he did too much than he may 'keel over and die', Kelvin said: 'It sounds really dramatic, but these thoughts run through your mind, until your confidence grows... but eventually I was walking further and further and was enjoying it immensely, improving all the time.

  • After a few months Kelvin was really enjoying feeling fit and wanted to do more, so he joined a gym with his wife. Again, he started off slowly, building up his programme over the next twelve months. He went from walking to jogging and then on to a little running. He started using some of the other equipment at the gym including the rowing machine, bike, cross trainer and light weights. He is now exercising four or five times a week. After three years of training he's now running 5k in 26 minutes. Not quite Olympic material but he feels great and has plenty of energy.



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