Older People, Mental Health and Exercise – the Fit for Life Programme

The Fit for Life programme was designed to help bridge the gap between NHS mental health services and main-stream community exercise groups with the aim of: increasing physical activity levels, reducing risk of falls and maintaining/improving mental health and well-being for older people with mental health conditions. The programme has evolved in the last four years to encompass the principles of recovery orientated practice whereby individuals are able to actively build a meaningful life while continuing to experience mental health problems or following a period of poor mental health.

The programme forms part of the Older People’s Community Mental Health Service in Edinburgh and is led by a mental health physiotherapist. It consists of a 12 week community-based group, run three times a year. The format includes strengthening/balance exercises and Tai Chi. Volunteers from the Edinburgh Volunteer Service assist in the group and Ageing Well visit the group towards the end of the programme, to promote their own exercise groups for older people. Upon completion of the programme, post-outcome measures are taken using a personal outcomes approach whereby people using the service and their carers are invited to give feedback on their experiences and what changes they may have noticed. The person is then offered support in finding and attending alternative exercise groups in the local community.

What happened – as of June 2014:

  • 90 people have attended the proramme with a completion rate of 83% compared to the national average of 50%
  • 68% of people show an improvement in balance
  • 54% felt more confident in their balance
  • 89% were referred on to mainstream community exercise groups.

Feedback from people using the service and carers has included comments such as: improved walking; being more confident; less shaky in their legs; increased motivation to try something newl improved confidence in meeting people; starting gardening again; joining a cylce group; and feeling happier/more positive.


For further information download a briefing on the programme which includes case studies highlighting the difference this programme has made to older people in Edinburgh or please contact:

Jackie Hodge, Physiotherapist, Community Mental Health Team, Royal Edinburgh Hospital

Tel: (0131) 537 6606 / Email: Jackie.hodge@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk


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