Older people are now as likely as millennials to turn to exercise in order to improve their mental health - with the social aspect of public leisure facilities proving to be as important as the impact on physical fitness - according to a recent study commissioned by leisure provider, Better.

The study compared the exercise habits of 2,000 people across all age groups and the various factors that affect their levels of activity.

While the majority of respondents cite improving and maintaining physical health and fitness as a major benefit of taking regular exercise, it is suggested that people place increasing importance on this as they get older, with 75% of all respondents aged 55 and over giving this as a reason to get out and train, compared to 64% of respondents aged 18-24.

The study also suggests that older people now place as much importance on exercising to boost mental wellbeing, as younger age groups – with 53.3% of over 55s citing improving their mental health as a benefit of regular physical activity. This compares with 52.25% of participants aged 18-54.

The research has shown that leisure facilities can be key to tackling loneliness among older people, as older people enjoy using their local centres as a social hub. In addition to the physical benefits of sport and leisure facilities, many are also using their visits to meet new people and enjoy the company of their peers.

Older people cited the social benefits of taking part in regular exercise, with 22.5% of over 65s claiming that regular exercise is a great way to socialise. When asked about the barriers to taking more exercise, just 2.5% of the same age range said that they would be put off regular exercise by having nobody to go with – compared to 12% of respondents aged 18-24.

Claire Ruocco, Regional Community Sports Manager at Better said: “Anecdotally, we’ve always believed there are social and mental benefits to maintaining active lifestyles into older age.

“Now our research shows that older people are as likely to go to a leisure centre to make friends as to keep fit.

“This is great news as we aim for our 270 leisure centres to provide visitors with a great social hub – as well as facilities to improve physical health.

”With more awareness on tackling the causes of social isolation and boosting mental health, our active older people may be about to enter a golden age.”

Better has embraced initiatives to promote active ageing. A link-up with Alzheimer’s Society created thousands of Dementia Friends among Better leisure centre staff. Better’s annual Club Games is one of the largest events of its kind – a ‘Mini-Olympics’ that brings together 700 over 55s in a cross-borough tournament featuring badminton, table tennis, swimming and bowls.

More information on senior memberships activities at Better leisure centres across the UK, can be found here.