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Older people don’t get the right advice about physical activity

Many of the older frail patients admitted to hospital in Amanda Buttery’s study were ill informed about the benefits of exercising to strengthen bones and lower blood pressure, Congress heard.

Amanda Buttery, National Institute for Health Research biomedical research centre training fellow from the biomedical research centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust and King’s College, London, was researching the knowledge, attitudes and intentions to participate in physical activity of older post-acute hospital inpatients who were expecting to return home.

She found that 15 of the 44 participants who completed the study (mean age 81) thought regular physical activity could weaken bones, while 14 thought it could result in high blood pressure. And most of them wrongly thought their level of physical activity was adequate.

The main reason for not being more active was because of injury or disability, but around half said it was because they needed to rest and relax in their spare time. Very few reported having been advised by a doctor or nurse to take more exercise, but nearly half said they would if advised.

Amanda Buttery said: ‘These results highlight the possible lack of any memorable advice received about physical activity and the missed opportunity for physiotherapists to deliver health promotion messages to frail older people.’

The challenge was to use this information to design interventions to increase frail older people’s confidence and willingness to take up therapeutic and habitual physical activity, she concluded.

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