A new set of strength and balance graphics that can be used in any health and social care setting has been created by national walking charity Paths for All.
The simple illustrations, which can be used as indoor wall stickers or outdoors as display panels, show how to perform eight gentle exercises that can improve muscle strength, balance and coordination.
The dementia-friendly design means the graphics can be used by health and social care staff to promote supported and self-led strength and balance activity in a range of settings such as care homes, hospital wards, day centres or communal areas. The graphics are already on display in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) post-surgery ward.
Paths for All have developed the new resource in response to the new prominent position strength and balance has within physical activity guidelines.
Professor Nanette Mutrie, Director of Physical Activity for Health Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh said: “Around the world, the guidelines about how to build strength or maintain balance have been forgotten while there has been an emphasis instead on gaining at least 150 minutes each week of moderately intense activity, such as walking. The most recent physical activity guidance from the UK’s Chief Medical Officers has brought strength and balance to an equal level of importance to the 150-minute message for health. This is particularly important from middle age onwards because we lose strength as muscles age. To counteract this ageing process and to help maintain everyday function, such as being able to stand up from a chair without using arms to push or lifting bags from the floor to the counter, we need to build strength in the major muscle groups of the body – the legs, the arms and the torso. We also need to practice our balance such as standing on one leg for 30 seconds as the kettle boils. Paths for All are leading the way in adding strength and balance exercises to their well-established Health Walks so that both the 150 minutes per week advice and the twice-weekly strength and balance advice can both be done. They also have excellent resources that can be used to raise awareness to the way to do strength and balance exercise. Strength becomes even more important to gain after we have been ill or in hospital because bed rest – with no major muscles being used – means that strength can be lost quickly.”
The graphics set has been used for the first time as part of what has been dubbed Exercise Alley in the RAH in Paisley.
Stimulating wall stickers add to a 60m signposted walking circuit already on the ward and are helping patients get on the move.
The focus on physical activity is to help patients recover faster, return home sooner and enjoy the physical, mental and social benefits of being active in their community.
Professor Susan Moug, consultant surgeon at the RAH said: “Patients and hospital professionals are now seeing physical activity as an essential part of the surgical pathway. We engage early with our patients at diagnosis, through treatment and into the community, to support them to get more active.
“We continue to work together to ensure what may be a daunting experience is seamless for the patients. In addition to empowering patients to guide their own care – which they like – we believe that increasing activity levels is essential to improve pre-operative, post-operative and long-term outcomes.”
Ian Findlay CBE, Chief Officer at Paths for All said: “Doing strength and balance exercises, alongside regular walking, can help you to meet the UK Chief Medical Officers’ Physical Activity Guidelines.
“Awareness of the benefits of regular physical activity is increasing, however there is less knowledge and understanding about the importance of activities that improve muscle strength and balance throughout our adult lives.
“Displaying our illustrations is an effective and easy way to motivate people to perform the exercises and use them more in their everyday lives and it’s great to see them in the RAH. We hope many more health and social care facilities will follow this great example.”
For more information about strength and balance or order any of the strength and balance resources, visit www.pathsforall.org.uk/strength