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Exercise-friendly neighborhood for healthy aging

More than half of the Dutch vulnerable elderly has hardly any exercise. This is shown by research from Erasmus MC's department of Public Health.

proefschrift Astrid Schop-EtmanFactors
In 2050, a quarter of the Dutch population will be aged 65 or over. About 10 percent of these elderly people will be physically frail. Because they have low levels of activity, their fitness, walking speed and strength decrease.

"In order for elderly people to live
independently for as long as possible and to avoid early care costs, it is important to know which factors can have a positive effect on the health of these elderly people", says PhD student Astrid Schop-Etman. She will receive her PhD based on this subject on 22 February.

Older people who live in a green and maintained neighborhood with facilities round the corner, exercise more than those who do not live in such a neighborhood. More than half of the frail elderly in the Netherlands barely participate in any physical activity.

Studies by the department of Public Health on the role of the immediate living environment of the elderly has shown that a green, well-kept neighborhood can have a positive effect on their health. Local facilities such as shops, a post box and a bus stop also ensure that the elderly people exercise more.

Older people who live in these exercise-friendly neighborhoods exercise almost 15 minutes more than the elderly who live in a less green and exercise-friendly environment", according to Schop-Etman. "This is a significant difference considering that more than half of the vulnerable elderly in the Netherlands participate in low-intensity physical activity, for example walking or gardening, less than three times per month.

Various programs have been developed to get people to participate in physical activity. Almost one in ten people reached will actually participate. And of these participants, 80% will continue participating. Schop-Etman: "People who start an exercise program are likely to keep it up. This can be important information for municipalities to have before they start such programs", concludes Schop-Etman.

Read Erasmus MC's press release.

Date published: 21 February 2017.

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