Exercise must have a place in everyday life of care homes

Encouraging a full range of movement in older people provides astonishing benefits

Encouraging a full range of movement in older people provides astonishing benefits

As experienced nurses who are now health and well-being coaches, we work with staff and residents in care homes to support older people to remain mobile and independent through exercise.

Research shows us that frail older people can gain muscle strength and function into their nineties and beyond (Nash and Bergin 2018). Strong muscles support joints and make movement possible.

Our approach begins by assessing residents’ fitness, which is vital to ensure that the right exercises are recommended. With informed consent to access their medical notes, we consider people’s past medical history, relevant medication, reasons for their admission and cognitive abilities.

We meet with every resident, including those who are newly arrived, and draw up an exercise plan. Using prompt cards, we leave a short programme with residents that can be carried out with the help of carers or relatives. We also invite residents to join an exercise class appropriate to their ability: low, medium or high intensity.

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‘I never thought I would do that again’

Participants are encouraged to stand and move as much as possible and to push themselves, using free weights, resistance bands, steps and stairs, and boxing gloves and pads. We train staff too and one staff member takes part in the exercise group: they can observe residents and their progress.

Residents often say: ‘I never thought I would do that again.’ When that involves independent walking, you know that the hard work is paying off.

The differences that occur through encouraging a full range of movement are astonishing – not only to changes in physical ability but also improvement in mood, social interaction and cognitive skills. Our vision is to help older people to remain active and for all care homes to recognise that exercise has a place in everyday life.

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Nash L, Bergin N (2018) Nutritional strategies to reduce falls risk in older people. Nursing Older People. 30, 3, 20-24.

Marion Foreman and Jane Hall are health and well-being coaches, All Together Better, Cambridge

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