The mind-body benefits of exercise for older people

Personal trainer and qualified nurse Marion Foreman shares her experience of the All Together Better exercise programme empowering residents at Bramley Court

Exercise is an important part of life at Bramley Court.  Research tells us that the best way to prevent muscle loss as we get older, is to do resistance training such as lifting light weights.  Strong muscles support joints which may have become arthritic, improve posture and help to prevent falls.

We offer different levels of exercise at Bramley Court and residents are invited to a group following a fitness assessment. Working together with the Lifestyle team and the carers, the exercise classes are designed and run by the Bendie team to help keep everyone as mobile as possible.

All the groups encourage interaction and engagement.  Starting with a warm up we ensure that all major muscle groups are worked.  We use resistance bands, steps, boxing techniques, and weights – working at a pace to suit each residents ability – to encourage muscles to work.

We also use special weights called ViPRs, (Vitality, Performance and Reconditioning) designed with older people in mind, for our residents to lift.  The hollow, rubber tubes have carefully placed slots which act as handles.  They come in many weights and are widely used in gyms and exercise classes.

We use the lighter ones and start with the green (2kg) tubes.  Many of the residents tell us initially that they won’t be able to lift them and then surprise themselves by being able to! Lifting weights is empowering and can give rise to a real sense of ‘feeling good’.

Combining ViPR work with other gentle exercises has proved to be very successful.  It wasn’t long before our team started to bring in the purple (4kg) ViPR.  It quickly became a badge of honour to lift it!

The Bendie team are always on hand to ensure that no one over does it.  Not surprisingly, the residents are very capable of deciding for themselves the weight they wish to lift.  As the weeks have rolled by the residents have shown clear progression, not only in their physical abilities but also in their mood and interaction.  We have moved from a few unsure and quiet people to a room full of fun, laughter and mutual support.

The resident who asked for ‘the red one’ is a special example.  Doreen has worked really hard to improve her upper body strength and it is paying off.  She is able to push herself up to stand now which is very exciting.  She has progressed from green to purple and caught sight of the 6kg red one.   We were delighted with her request (in fact that day it wasn’t even in the room) and ran off to fetch it.  Doreen surpassed our expectations and very capably lifted it safely and with good form.  Everyone in the class watched and cheered.

A great sense of fun and adventure awaits at Bramley Court!