by Emma Overson MCSP

There are now nearly 14.5 million people in the UK aged 60 and over. Two-thirds of older people live with one or multiple long-term conditions, and about a third of all people aged over 65 fall each year (3 million people).

Only 19% of English adults aged between 65-74 meet the government’s recommended minimum level of exercise (30 minutes a day, 5 times a week).

As people get older it becomes more, not less important, to exercise and keep active.

  • The combined cost of hospitalisation and social care for hip fractures is £2 billion a year (£6 million a day)
  • Each hip fracture avoided would save £10170 (based on 2009/10 figures)
  • Falls are a frequent occurrence and a serious event for people aged 65 and over
  • There are 60,000 hip fractures annually (2012 figures) and account for 4 million hospital bed days in England.
  • One-third of people who suffer a hip fracture die within a year.
  • The fear of falls can lead to loss of confidence, restricts activity, reduces quality of life, and lead to a loss of independence.
  • An inactive person spends 37% more days in hospital and visits the doctor 5.5% more often.

Physical inactivity could be costing the economy up to £10 billion a year in healthcare, premature deaths and sickness absence.

Being physically active significantly reduces the risk of several major health conditions by 20-60%, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, colon and breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

There is increasing evidence that physical activity can assist in the treatment and management of various health conditions.

Physiotherapy could prevent 200,000 falls each year (2014) and save the NHS £275 million.

The benefits of exercise

  • Beneficial to general health, e.g blood pressure, improved sleep patterns, ease stress and anxiety.
  • Maintain and improve balance, mobility, muscle strength, energy levels, fitness, flexibility, confidence and mood.
  • Exercise can help with other health conditions such as Parkinson’s, stroke, MS.
  • Exercise can become habitual and enjoyable (recommended target is 50 hours – 3 times a week for 15-52 weeks)
  • Social and motivational benefits of attending a group session
  • Established exercise programmes have reported a reduction in falls of between 35-54%, a reduction in hospital admissions, and a reduction in injurious falls by 75%.

Timescales for achieving exercise-related outcomes:

  • Improving strength, power, static balance and gait – 8-12 weeks
  • Improving mood, depression, anxiety and self-esteem – 12+ weeks
  • Improving dynamic balance and endurance – 12-24 weeks
  • Improving bone strength (hip, spine and wrist) – 36+ weeks
  • Reducing number of falls – 15-52 weeks


The Royal College of Physicians, 2012 “Older People’s Experiences of Therapeutic Exercise as Part of a Falls Prevention Service”.

Walking for Health: Walking Works Report 2014.

CSP Frontline article on Physiotherapy Works.

Otago Exercise Programme to Prevent Falls in Older People, 2007.