My Name’s Anneka and I am a Physical Activity Consultant for Nuneaton & Bedworth Leisure Trust, which is part of the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Sport initiative. I have had numerous individuals come through the exercise referral scheme at various stages of mental ill-health, ranging from learning difficulties, anxiety, depression, to mild forms of dementia.

When dealing with vulnerable individuals, I will arrange an appointment to see them in an area where they don’t feel intimidated and they feel safe and secure.  Individuals I have dealt with have expressed how they feel ‘a nuisance and out of place’ if they have to wonder around trying to find equipment in the gym. So, I set individual’s a circuit of 6 exercises for them to complete and introduce 2 new exercises at their 6 week and 12 week appointments so as not to bombard them with too much information from the start.

Some people choose to come along to our client classes to meet new friends and to have that added security of an instructor present.  This scheme has really benefitted individuals by helping break down barriers often associated with exercise, and to encourage them to take hold of their lives for the better. Most individuals have seen an improvement in their mood, they feel that they can accomplish more and don’t have to pre-plan every day.

Benefits of physical activity for people with dementia 

Leading a physically active lifestyle can have a significant impact on well-being. Exercise is beneficial for physical and mental health and can improve the quality of life for people in all stages of dementia.

The benefits include:

  • improving general cardiovascular health (relating to the heart and blood vessels) – it can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease;
  • reducing the risk of some types of cancer (in particular breast and colon cancer), stroke and type 2 diabetes;
  • improving physical function – maintaining muscle strength and joint flexibility can be a way of helping people maintain independence for longer;
  • helping to keep bones strong and reducing the risk of osteoporosis (a disease that affects the bones, making them weak and more likely to break);
  • improved cognition – recent studies have shown that exercise may improve memory and slow down mental decline;
  • improving sleep;
  • opportunities for social interaction and reducing the feeling of isolation;
  • reducing the risk of falls – physical activity can improve strength and balance, and help to counteract the fear of falling; and
  • enhanced confidence about the body and its capabilities – through improved body image and a sense of achievement.

Client Feedback

Mr M is a young adult who suffers from a mental health issue. He was referred through the exercise referral scheme to take part in exercise at the Pingles Gym.

Mr M was set a structure programme that he and his carer completed in the gym twice a week. He has since completed his 12 week scheme and has lost 4 kg of weight and reduced his BMI by 2.2%

Mr M stated ‘I am really keen to continue with exercise and I now have a positive outlook. I have really enjoyed the experience’

Mr M’s carer stated ‘I have seen a big change in his mood and would encourage others to take up this opportunity as it is so beneficial.’

For more information about the exercise on referral scheme visit the Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire Sport Site: http://www.cswsport.org.uk/exercisereferral

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