Pioneering circuit training for OAPs leads the way in tackling dementia woes

Circuit training might not be the first thing you would normally think of in relation to the older generation, let alone those living with Alzheimer's or dementia. But not so for one forward- thinking Physiotherapist in Edinburgh.

Spotting a gap in the support that was available to older people with mental health and memory problems, she devised a ground breaking programme, based on circuit training techniques, in an attempt to help meet both the physical and emotional needs of those living with dementia in the community.

Mental health Physiotherapist Jackie Hodge set up the "Fit for Life" exercise programme 5 years ago in an attempt not only to improve the fitness of those taking part and thus reduce the risk of falls, but also as a means of to tackling the depression and anxiety that so often accompanies the physical symptoms of dementia.

The classes have proved an enormous success. Each session comprises a circuit of exercises designed to build strength and balance, using hand weights and resistance bands.

Participants enjoy the opportunity for social participation, and consistently report not only better balance and mobility, but also improved self-confidence.

The programme has won an award from the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland, and has been accredited with transforming lives. 

“People who have cognitive impairment and dementia are eight times more likely to have a fall compared to people without dementia.

For this group of patients, keeping active is really important. Inactivity leads to deterioration in a person’s physical condition, so an older person may become more unsteady on their feet if they are not up and about very often.

Their confidence takes a knock and they become scared of falling, so they don’t want to go out. Then they become socially isolated which has a detrimental impact on their mental health. It’s a vicious circle.

Many older people with mental health problems are too anxious to attend groups in the community or have such low confidence that they are worried they will not be able to take part.

Often the first hurdle is getting people in the door on day one. About 50 per cent of participants will have dementia so often I’ll phone them up to remind them to come along. The other half will have anxiety or depression so a quick chat on the phone can also help those who are really anxious about starting something new too.

It’s really amazing to see the progress, bearing in mind some participants can be in their 90s. I believe exercise can help everyone, no matter what their age.​

Jackie Hodge 
Physiotherpist & founder of Fit for Life exercise classses

Source: Edinburgh Evening News 13/08/15

Spread The Word!
  • 22 August 2015