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The middle-aged are fittest

Middle-aged people are fitter and exercise more than younger people.

Middle-aged people are more likely to exercise and perform sports than younger people, a study of 60,000 people has found. The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, also shows that the most likely people to exercise are white and well off.

The researchers raise the concern about a widening gap between rich and poor in the ability to access exercise advice and facilities.

Over 33,000 men and 27,000 women were polled as part of the Health Survey for England from 1997 to 2006. This showed a drop in the numbers of young men taking part in cycling and running, while overall men are 10%, and women 20%, more likely to play sports regularly than in 1997. The numbers taking regular gym or fitness classes also rose 2-3%.
Unequal changes across ages and incomes

Researchers found that the increases in sports participation were not equal across all groups. People in good health and with good incomes, with cars and in higher social classes tended to exercise more. This was particularly evident in white men.
However, younger men aged 16-29 years were less likely to have participated in sports.

The lead researcher, Dr Emmanual Stamatakis, of University College London, suggested that older people might have been influenced by the exercise boom in the 1990s and kept it up since. He felt it was hard to explain “why younger people are falling back to doing less sport” and why it was more pronounced the younger the person was.

Olympics opportunity

Dr Stamatakis suggested that the London Olympics in 2012 was a great opportunity to encourage participation in sport across a wide range of social groups. But he felt there had to be a “co-ordinated strategy to target those groups most in need” if the results were going to be long-lasting.


Stamatakis E, Chaudhury M. (In Press 2008) Temporal trends in adults’ sports participation patterns in England between 1997 and 2006: The Health Survey for England. British Journal of Sports Medicine.

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