Study to help UK pensioners improve health and wellbeing

A major study involving researchers from the University of Birmingham is aiming to help older people stay fitter and live independently for longer.


Project REACT (REtirement in ACTion) engages people aged 65 years old and over who are starting to find everyday activities such as walking, climbing stairs and getting up from a chair difficult to take part in a specially designed 12-month physical activity and social programme.


REACT tests whether a decline in mobility and physical function can be slowed, stopped or even reversed.


Participants are randomly allocated to one of two groups on the study; group one is the physical activity programme and group two is a social and educational programme.


REACT is based on LIFE, a US programme which successfully proved that physical activity prevents loss of mobility in older adults.


The study as a whole is recruiting almost 800 people over the age of 65 from urban, suburban and rural communities, and is already running in North and South Birmingham and Oldbury.


Judith Cooke, 74, recently participated in the study in Birmingham. Judith said: “I have found the programme to be a very enjoyable and positive experience.


“We have been encouraged to be more active and engage in many suitable exercises. I used to suffer with arthritis in my knees but due to the exercises with weights on my legs this seems to have disappeared.


“I would recommend this programme to anyone and hope that it will continue so that others can have the benefits that I and other members of the group have experienced.”


Recent research shows that the most active older people need fewer prescriptions and are less likely to be admitted to hospital in an emergency. A fit and active older person has a 36% lower risk of developing disabilities and a 38% lower risk of hip fracture.


There is also strong evidence that greater physical activity can help protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some cancers as well as reducing the risk of depression, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, people over 65 years are the least active in society.

Professor Janice L. Thompson, REACT Principal Investigator at the University of Birmingham said, “We have established collaborative relationships with our community partners, who work with diverse older adults every day and are the key to our successful delivery and evaluation of REACT in community settings.”


11 September 2017.