Remarkable results from dementia friendly gymnastics programme

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A report published today shows the British Gymnastics Foundation’s chair-based gymnastics exercise programme has significant benefits for those living with dementia.

The research, conducted by Age UK on behalf of the British Gymnastics Foundation, found the programme to have demonstrable benefits in the physical, emotional and cognitive aspects of older people, with older people having mild to advanced forms of dementia appearing to benefit the most.

The Love to Move programme, created by the British Gymnastics Foundation, is aimed at getting older people moving and functioning better, with a view to improving the lives of those living with dementia. It is made unique by incorporating specially designed ‘bilaterally asymmetrical exercises’ where the individual draws different patterns with the left-hand side of their body to the right-hand side.

Based on a very successful programme developed by the Korean and Japanese Gymnastics Federations for people living with dementia, the British Gymnastics Foundation have taken the core principles of this programme and adapted it for Great Britain.

To date, more than 150 people have taken part in the Love to Move programme in the UK, with positive changes to posture, movement and memory as well as the social engagement of those taking part. Early and promising findings from a period of recent data collection on a smaller sample₁ of participants, indicates that the vast majority had positive outcomes. Recent assessments made by care home staff found:

  • 71% (10 out of 14 participants) are reported to have had noticeable physical improvements
  • 86% (12 out of 14 participants) are reported to be socialising with other residents and staff better
  • 93% (13 out of 14 participants) of participants are reported to be happier and more settled
  • 100% (14 out of 14 participants) of participants are reported as easier to connect with

Vinal K Karania, Research Manager (Evaluation and Impact) at Age UK said: “For many of the older people participating, their external environment changed little and one can therefore be confident that much of the improvements observed will have been because of this programme.”

The improvements have included some of the participants being able to use their hands again to feed themselves, do crafts and play bingo as well as socialising with friends and family. One participant who began taking part in the sessions twice a week had previously shown few signs of improvement, but has now regained her independence, enabling her to move back in to her own home.

Other benefits highlighted in the research has shown that participants are being taken off medication for hypertension, depression and sleeping difficulty.

British Gymnastics Foundation Manager, Patrick Bonner, said: “This age and dementia friendly programme is astonishing people with its life-changing benefits. So many people involved are seeing their lives improving as a result of the programme and it is remarkable that people are regaining functions which were thought to be lost because of the Love to Move gymnastics based exercises.”

The results in Korea and Japan are so positive, the programme has now been completely state funded and runs in every care home across the two countries. The next steps for the British Gymnastics Foundation is to train more people to deliver the programme and make it more widely available. The charity is currently working hard to secure funding from several sources in order to expand the training and roll-out, including a crowdfunding campaign which you can now donate to. A booklet containing some of the key exercises is available for people to downloaded and try for themselves.

Programme ambassador, gymnast and two-time Olympian, Kristian Thomas, said: “It’s amazing to see what the Love to Move programme has achieved. Dementia affects so many people and to know that gymnastics, is making their lives easier, and improving their quality of life; it’s something I’m extremely happy to be a part of."

Visit www.britishgymnasticsfoundation.org/lovetomove for more information and to access the full report and Love to Move booklet.

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