Supporting community-based exercise in long-term neurological conditions: experience from the Long-term Individual Fitness Enablement (LIFE) project.
Patients with long-term neurological conditions often have low levels of physical activity and participation in exercise. Exercise referral schemes have been introduced in the UK to encourage physical activity in sedentary and clinical populations but typically exclude patients with long-term neurological conditions. We have developed and evaluated an exercise support system for people with long-term neurological disability, called the Physical Activity Support System, to enable them to use local gym facilities safely and effectively. The intervention: We describe the Physical Activity Support System for people with long-term neurological conditions and provide data on the use of this system in a phase II randomized controlled study trial. The system has five key components: access and transport advice, the fitness instructor, the gym, health professional support and how to exercise safely.Ninety-nine patients with a range of long-term neurological conditions used six different community exercise facilities in Oxfordshire and Birmingham. Average gym attendance was one session per week for 12 weeks. Participants required an average of three 1-hour face-to-face physiotherapy contacts to achieve this. The average direct cost for the support system was £275.The scheme achieved comparable exercise participation to standard GP exercise referral schemes operating in the same centres and offers a relatively cheap, practical and feasible system for supporting people with long-term neurological conditions.