Public Health England News and Media

04 Jul 2018

Major health benefits seen from strengthening and balancing activity throughout life

  • New evidence review supports current UK Chief Medical Officers’ guidance of 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity as well as strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles
  • Only one in three men and one in four women are currently achieving the strengthening and aerobic guidelines for physical activity
  • Musculoskeletal health conditions are the second most common cause of sickness absence in the UK, accounting for 30.8 million days lost in work
  • Muscle and bone strengthening and balance activity can improve physical and wellbeing at any age and reduce the risk of an early death
  • It can also help to prevent falls which are responsible for around 95% of all hip fractures, costing the NHS over £1 billion per year

A Public Health England and the Centre for Ageing Better commissioned evidence review has found that muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities continue to have great health benefits for all adults, including older adults aged 65 years and over.

In older adults, poor muscle strength increases the risk of a fall by 76% and those who have already had a fall are three times more likely to fall again. Strengthening and balance activities not only help to prevent this, but also help improve your mood, sleeping patterns, increase your energy levels, and reduce the risk of an early death.

Activities found to have the most benefit for muscle and bone strengthening include:

  • ball games
  • racket sports
  • dance
  • nordic walking
  • resistance training (usually training with weights, but including body weight exercises which can be performed anywhere)

The review underlines the importance of the UK CMOs’ guidance that all adults need to undertake strengthening and balance activities suitable for them at least twice per week in order to maintain and improve health.

Strength and balance activities can also help improve health during difficult or life-changing times like pregnancy, menopause, onset of or diagnosis of disease, retirement and recovery from hospitalisation.

For those at risk of falls or fracture, supervised structured exercise is also recommended at a pace that suits the individual to help maintain independence and support healthy ageing.

 Dr Alison Tedstone, head of diet, obesity and physical activity at PHE, said:

“Alongside aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, all adults should be aiming to do strengthening and balancing activities twice per week. On average we’re all living longer and this mixture of physical activities will help us stay well in our youth and remain independent as we age.”

 Dr Zoe Williams, physical activity champion for PHE, said:

“Being active isn’t just about getting your heart pumping – although this is a good way to begin. Strength and balance activities work in conjunction with cardio activities like brisk walking, and come with a range of health benefits throughout your life - it’s never too late to start.”

Jess Kuehne, Senior Engagement Manager, Centre for Ageing Better added: 

“It’s clear that we need to give equal weighting to activities that boost muscle and bone strength and improve balance rather than simply focusing on aerobic exercise.

“There is significant potential to make savings to health and social care services if we do more to promote muscle strengthening and balance activities and recognise their role in helping to keep people healthy and independent for longer, particularly as they age.”

Current statistics show that falls are responsible for around 95% of all hip fractures, costing the NHS over £1 billion per year.

For employers and the economy, musculoskeletal health conditions are the second most common cause of sickness absence in the UK, accounting for 30.8 million days lost in work.

By building on aerobic activities like brisk walking, strengthening and balance activities such as dancing or tennis can help adults to prevent these health problems and enjoy ageing well.

 ENDS

Contact Information

Anushka Naidoo
Communications Officer - National Infections Service
PHE
0208 327 7080
07920 757 852
anushka.naidoo@phe.gov.uk

Notes to editors

  • For more information, please contact anushka.naidoo@phe.gov.uk  020 832 77080
  • To reach the Centre for Ageing Better’s media team: Emma Twyning 020 7420 5243 / 07795 620 698, Matt Dolman 020 3862 9185, or email media@ageing-better.org.uk
  • The evidence review was produced by a working group of UK academics overseen by the UK Chief Medical Officer’s (CMO) Expert Group, which was commissioned by Public Health England and the Centre for Ageing Better.
  • Muscle function, bone health and balance clinical definitions:

Term

Definition

Muscle function

Muscle function is necessary to permit movement and maintain posture. Sensory receptors in the muscles monitor the tension and length of the muscles and provide the nervous system with crucial information about the position of the body parts.

Bone Health

Bone health includes bone quality that refers to the capacity of bones to withstand a wide range of loading without breaking. Bone health also includes bone mineral content, structure, geometry and strength.

Balance

A performance-related component of physical fitness that involves the maintenance of the body balance while stationary or moving.

 

  • The current UK Chief Medical Officers’ (CMOs) physical activity guidelines for adults and older adults comprise of four elements: cardiovascular activity; strengthening activities; activities to improve balance and coordination; and reducing prolonged sedentary (sitting) time.
  • The individual academic evidence reviews from which the report draws were published in a special edition and the most recent edition of the peer-reviewed Journal of Falls, Frailty and Sacropenia at http://www.jfsf.eu/Issue.php?issue=v03i2

About PHE

PHE exists to protect and improve the nation’s health and wellbeing and reduce health inequalities. It does this through advocacy, partnerships, world-class science, knowledge and intelligence, and the delivery of specialist public health services. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health. www.gov.uk/phe.  Follow us on Twitter @PHE_uk .

About the Centre for Ageing Better:

The Centre for Ageing Better is an independent charitable foundation, bringing about change for people in later life today and for future generations. We draw on practical solutions, research about what works best, and people’s own to help make this change. Ageing Better shares this information and supports others to act on it, as well as trying out new approaches to improving later lives. It received £50 million of National Lottery funding from the Big Lottery Fund in January 2015 in the form of an endowment to enable it to identify what works in the ageing sector by bridging the gap between research, evidence and practice. For more information, visit our website ageing-better.org.uk or follow us on Twitter @Ageing_Better.