On the 5th of September, 2022, Bulgarian sports development association completed the four-month free physical activity program of adults, coordinated by the local partner of the project – the Health in the northwest association. The pilot program was implemented by proven sports professionals from the town – Tatiana Elenkova and Plamena Chuburova and after its completion, the benefits of such programs are going to be analysed, and according to the feedback from the participants, there is an urgent need for similar activities aimed at adults. The program was implemented within the framework of the HEPA (Health Enhancing Physical Activity) project, co-funded under the Erasmus+ programme of the European union, which aims to encourage participation in recreational physical activity for seniors (persons age 65+) by developing new recreational sport programmes suited for 3 types of most common health conditions – back pain, cardiovascular diseases and osteoporosis. The initiative is running simultaneously in five European countries – Bulgaria, Croatia, Portugal, Slovenia and Serbia. The Bulgarian partner of the initiative is the Bulgarian sports development association.

“The social programs which aim to increase the physical activity of adults are extremely necessary in the communities and we are glad to have the opportunity to implement the HEPA-S program in Berkovitsa. We hope that it will inspire local administrations to provide such services, which in addition to disease prevention and ensuring a quality life for the elderly, are also a great opportunity to maintain their socialization and activity in our societies. The investment in such programs is an investment in health and quality of life, as compared to other municipal investments in citizens, it has a relatively small financial value, but leads to a huge result" – Joanna Dochevska said, Chairperson of the Bulgarian sports development association.

The health benefits of physical activity (PA) for older adults have been well established in the scientific literature. Numerous outcomes have been studied to document associations with PA, including reduced prevalence of common chronic conditions (eg, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension), improved mental health (eg, depression, stress), quality of life, increased physical function, decreased cognitive decline (eg, dementia, Alzheimer's disease) and reduced mortality rates. Physical activity is at the core of health and well-being. The social benefits of physical activity participation are often particularly important to older people. However, health promotion messages often target children and young people, with less focus on the importance of physical activity for people aged 65 years and over. The project is going to pay special attention to the people accommodated in "Homes for the elderly", associations of the elderly, etc. Surveys show that in Europe 25% of people over the age of 60 are physically inactive, which shows that Europe needs innovative exercises for this target group to take into account their physical condition, the limitations of their health and the physical capabilities they possess. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that adults engage in at least 150 min of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity each week. On EU level, the report, unveiled by Commissioner Navracsics (European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport at the European Commission) in Sofia during the annual EU Sport Forum shows that levels of participation have not changed substantially since the previous Eurobarometer survey.

HEPA project is co-funded by the Erasmus+ program of the European union.