Improving physical function in older adults

Reducing sarcopenia in older adults and improving wellbeing through targeted chair-based resistance exercises

Improving physical function in older adults
There is a growing body of research evidence which finds that targeted resistance based exercises can significantly reduce frailty in older adults. Sarcopenia is estimated to cost the NHS £11.9 billion; these costs are represented by increased hospitalisation, nursing home admissions, and home care expenditure. In addition, there are encouraging findings on the impact of exercise on those with cognitive impairment as well.

Such benefits relate to:
  1. Improvements in strength and balance, hence reduction in falls
  2. Improvements in the ability to perform daily activities and remain independent
  3. Improvements in overall wellbeing and temperament, and
  4. Reduction in frequency of visits to A&E and GPs.
Yet, the majority of social and physical activities provided in the community are for those who are more agile and mobile - such as Zumba gold, tai chi, yoga and tea dances. Those who might be frailer following a period of illness, surgery or accident and/or those with cognitive impairment such as dementia are largely not well catered to in mainstream community activities.

The solution – new partnership

The July 2016 report by Public Health England, Health Matters: getting every adult active every day sets out the importance of more resistance based exercise for older people to address sarcopenia. Royal Voluntary Service, working in partnership with innovative experts in exercise for the over 60s - Move it or Lose it! - developed a bespoke chair-based resistance exercise programme for Royal Voluntary Service staff and volunteers to deliver. All of the exercises are focused on tasks which help people maintain their independence in the home – such as washing, dressing, or getting out of bed, each of the classes are also focused on creating a fun, interactive, and social environment – so what keeps people coming back are not only the exercises but socialising with friends and/or neighbours.

The pilot – areas and training

The pilot was launched in four areas – Banbury, Leicester, Oxford and Suffolk. The majority of sites delivered chair-based exercises involving groups of between 10 to 14 people. In Leicester we also delivered one-to-one exercise support to those on our Home from Hospital service following discharge from hospital. In total 18 - volunteers and staff - received two days of training in Move it or Lose it! chair-based resistance exercises.


The findings from this pilot suggest that targeted resistance based exercises are not only very effective for addressing sarcopenia/frailty but might be an effective intervention for also tackling loneliness/isolation and improving wellbeing.

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