fastingA chair-based resistance exercise programme has been found to deliver significant benefits for frail older people, according to a recent study.

Evaluation of an eight-month pilot run by older people’s charity Royal Voluntary Service and specialist in exercise for the over 60s Move It or Lose It showed positive impacts on physical function and wellbeing.

The seated resistance-based exercise programme was piloted in Banbury, Leicester, Oxford and Suffolk and involved 60 older people. The pilot was funded by a grant from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Classes were delivered by volunteers and staff who received two days of intensive training in resistance based exercise. The classes were delivered either in a community centre or as part of the charity’s Home from Hospital service in Leicester, following discharge from hospital.

There is a real need for these types of exercise programmes in later life to reduce sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass and strength)1 which can be an underlying cause of falls. It is estimated that one in three people over the age of 65, and one in two of those over 80, will fall each year.

In the study, functional improvement was achieved in 61% of the sample, and on average, participants improved by 2.4 points out of 12 - using the Short Physical Performance Battery. The pilot primarily helped to shift people from low to moderate functioning.

The programme also had fairly dramatic effects on wellbeing:
• Using the UCLA Loneliness scale, the pilot halved the numbers reporting they were lonely.
• Using the ONS wellbeing measures, over one in four (26%) participants improved on happiness scores and over 10% fewer people reported being ‘extremely’ or ‘very anxious’.

University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust is the first NHS trust to commission Royal Voluntary Service to deliver the Move It or Lose It programme to older patients across five wards in its three main hospital sites. The charity is keen for others to follow its example and for Move it or Lose it classes to be accessible in every community.

Dr Allison Smith, Head of Strategy and Development for Royal Voluntary Service said: “Resistance-based exercise is critical for older people because of rapid loss of muscle mass and strength - particularly following a period of illness, surgery or an accident. The physical benefits of the Move It or Lose It programme in this pilot were clear, with the positive impacts on loneliness and isolation an added benefit. Improved mobility helps older people live more independent lives and we would like to be able to offer Move It or Lose It programmes across the country working closely with both Hospital and primary care to reduce frailty and support older adults to be more active and happier”.

Julie Robinson from Move it or Lose it said: “Frail older people and those with cognitive impairment are not always well catered for in mainstream community activities, particularly when it comes to exercise. The Move It or Lose It programme helps older people to regain strength, balance and flexibility which helps prevent age related decline.“