Clare Farrance: Tackling the burden of physical inactivity in the elderly

Physical inactivity is the ‘fourth’ leading risk factor for mortality globally, accounting for 3.2 million deaths annually. It contributes to obesity, is a major cause for about a quarter of breast and colon cancers, 27% of diabetes and 30% of ischaemic heart disease (WHO 2010) Physical inactivity is a global phenomenon but more prevalent in the most developed countries (Dummitt et al 2011). The benefits of regular physical activity are well recognised but half the population do not achieve the recommended 2.5 hours per week of moderate intensity activity. As people age the trend is to become less physically active.

Currently strategies to tackle physical inactivity primarily target engagement in exercise and do not integrate healthy eating. National strategies that have focused on exercise have not been successful as there has been a lack of uptake and adherence to the current GP prescribed schemes (NICE 2012). There remains a gap in our understanding and knowledge of how to successfully engage older people in sustained physical activity and to integrate this with health eating.

The first aim of this study is to explore how and why a group of older people in a personalised community-based program have engaged in sustained physical activity. The second aim is to explore how healthy eating may be integrated into the program. The study will use the value framework proposed by Todres et al (2009) to explore engagement in sustained physical activity in a group of older people in the community.

Supervisors: Dr Carol Clark, Dr Fotini Tsofliou, Dr Jane Murphy.