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Fit at fifty

Posted in: Research Last updated: 03 Jun 2011

A surprising number of over fifties feel fitter and healthier than when they were in their early adulthood.

In a study of 1,500 over fifties, 17 per cent stated that when it comes to health and fitness, they feel better than they did in their twenties.

Over 70 per cent of ‘fit over fifties’ claim they now do more exercise and pay more attention to their diet.

And more than half of them feel they look younger than their age.

Nearly a third said that working long hours or running round after children interfered with their health and fitness when younger.  But with more time on their hands and less responsibility for a growing family, they now exercise more frequently than in their younger years.

At the same time, their average intake of foods such as ready meals or takeaways has reduced by half.

For 67 per cent, their new found motivation to increase levels of fitness they put down to a raised awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Louise Withy, from Engage Mutual, which conducted the research, said:

“It’s great that so many people feel so fit in their fifties and above.

“It challenges many of the preconceptions around ageing and is good news when we consider that in light of increased life expectancy, many more of us will be spending a larger proportion of our life ‘over 50’.

“Current predictions for life expectancy state that men age 65 could expect to live another 17 years and women at 65 could expect to live another 20 years.1

“These kind of predictions make taking action on health and fitness in our later years just as important as when we are younger.”

The research indicates that the ‘fit over fifties’ eat far more fruit and veg now than they did in their early years. Only a fifth of them would have made sure they were having their recommended five portions of fruit and veg a day 30 years ago – compared to an impressive 75 per cent today.

And of the people who feel fitter than in their twenties, the average exercise levels approach four times a week and include walking, swimming, cycling or attending a fitness classes.

Eight in 10 also claim to pay more attention to what they are buying in the supermarket, thinking about the ingredients, and how good items are for them.

When questioned about why they do more exercise now, 29 per cent claimed they want to be fit and energetic for the sake of the grandchildren; 37 per cent are looking forward to an active and enjoyable retirement; and 23 per cent say exercise now makes up an important part of their social life.

For more than half, it was gaining weight that prompted their lifestyle change, while 17 per cent suffered a worrying health scare.

Louise Withy continues:

 “The fifties can be a time when many people reflect on their health and consider their longevity.

“Children moving away from home, and winding down at work can provide the space to address their own needs and where required, adjust lifestyles and introduce a healthier routine.

“For some, turning 50 can be a new beginning.”