National physical activity recommendations for older Australians: Discussion Document

4.10 Respiratory disease

The National Ageing Research Institute was commissioned by The Department of Health and Ageing to review the evidence and develop physical activity recommendations for older people.

Page last updated: 01 February 2011

]The current National Health Survey data confirms that whilst respiratory conditions are common amongst older Australians (30%), other conditions are more prevalent in this age group (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006). The prevalence of diseases of the respiratory system was 415,000 in the 65-74 year age group and 320,400 in those 75 years and over (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2006). Although older people can be asthmatic, with a prevalence of around 10%, the asthma literature tends to take an early intervention approach and to focus on children, where the prevalence is greatest.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) (such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis), is an important cause of mortality and is common in older people. It is characterised by chronic airflow obstruction. The symptoms of dyspnoea, peripheral muscle weakness and fatigue create exercise intolerance. This leads to a vicious circle of ill health, with low levels of physical activity contributing to poor mental health and wellbeing and social isolation (Spruit 2004). The prevention literature has been focused upon smoking cessation, but some examples of the use of physical activity in the management of COPD are provided in Chapter 9.

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