Productive healthy ageing

Raising awareness of the key role that a healthy diet and active lifestyle can play in mid-life is an important strategy for maintaining a healthy and productive workforce.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) the number of people aged 60 and over is expected to double in the next few decades. It is estimated that by 2050 more than 1 in 5 people will be 60 years or older. Older adults are an important resource as they have skills, knowledge and experience to contribute to the workforce and society. Retirement age is also increasing so people have to remain productive for longer. Public Health England (PHE) have published guidance for promoting productive healthy ageing in order to support a healthy productive later life.

Productive healthy ageing and Musculoskeletal (MSK) health

MSK problems of the bones, joints, muscles and spine were given as the second most common cause of working days lost after coughs and colds.

Ageing involves loss of muscle mass and physical strength and from the age of 40 years onwards muscle mass is estimated to decrease by approximately 8% per decade. This age-related loss of muscle mass and increasing frailty, known as sarcopenia, can result in a decline in functional ability and loss of independence and workforce productivity.

Role of nutrition and exercise to strengthen muscles

An adequate intake of protein (in combination with exercise) is a key nutritional factor which helps maintain muscle mass. In fact recent research has confirmed that a higher protein intake from middle age (40 years) onwards is effective in offsetting the decline in muscle mass associated with sarcopenia.

What is the optimum protein intake for health throughout the life course?

The Protein for Life project advises that ‘a little bit of physical activity along with a little bit of protein is good for healthy ageing’. Current UK guidelines recommend a protein intake of 0.75 g/kg/day regardless of age, whereas more recent international recommendations specifically for older adults advise a higher intake of 1.2 to 1.5 g/kg/day. The Protein for Life project reports that one in three over-40 year olds do not meet the lower UK target, and over 80% fail to meet the international recommendations for healthy ageing.

For further information on optimising protein intake and distribution throughout the day and after exercise visit Friesland Campina Institute’s online infographic on Sport and Nutrition.

Investing in bone health

Current figures estimate that one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 years will experience a fracture as a result of low bone strength. Many factors contribute to low bone mineral density and skeletal problems such as osteoporosis and fragility fractures. These include gender, physical inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption and loss of estrogen. An adequate calcium and vitamin D intake along with regular physical activity is important for reaching optimal peak bone mass when younger and slowing down age related loss of bone mass which in turn helps older people to stay mobile.

The UK recommended calcium intake is 700 mg/day for adults aged 19 to 64 years however the WHO advise 1000 mg/day.

For further information on bone health and staying mobile throughout life visit Friesland Campina Institute’s diagram online at ‘Bone Health, Staying Mobile Throughout Life’.

The benefits of workplace interventions to promote healthy ageing and MSK health are to maximise the potential for an independent, active ageing workforce who are able to do the things they value for as long as possible.

Work Ready’s new workshop: ‘Eat well keep well’

Work Ready’s team of expert dietitians can help empower and educate staff to eat well and keep well in the workplace through our new workshop. To request more information about this service or to have a chat with the team contact us at


Productive Healthy ageing and Musculoskeletal (MSK) Health. Guidance. PHE. (2017)

Protein for Life: A framework for Action (2019).

World Health Organisation (WHO). Ageing and Life Course

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