Improving access to exercise for people with neurological conditions

Monday, 16 November 2015

Access to exercise

Pioneering research by Professor Helen Dawes and the Movement Science Group at Oxford Brookes has led to significant improvements in exercise for people with neurological conditions, improving their quality of life.

Oxford Brookes' research into neurological conditions, such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), was already highlighted this week with the news of a new study, funded by the MS Society, to assess whether chocolate can help to reduce symptoms of MS.

This other research, by the Movement Science Group (MSG) based at the Centre for Rehabilitation at Oxford Brookes, has looked into suitable exercises for people with neurological conditions and their benefits, the barriers to exercise and appropriate systems for safe community delivery.

Professor Helen Dawes said: “There is overwhelming evidence for the beneficial effects of exercise, and increasing activity levels is now an important part of government health policy today. However many people with these conditions experience isolation from this and face barriers to exercising in the local community. 

“Through our research we found that a lack of training of fitness professionals, a lack of knowledge on suitable exercises and a lack of appropriate facilities were all affecting the ability of people with long-term neurological conditions to participate in safe physical exercise.” 

Through our research we found that a lack of training of fitness professionals, a lack of knowledge on suitable exercises and a lack of appropriate facilities were all affecting the ability of people with long-term neurological conditions to participate in safe physical exercise.

Professor Helen Dawes, Oxford Brookes University

The research took the form of experimental studies and clinical trials; with exercise content and suitability one of the key themes. Specifically, Professor Dawes investigated treadmill walking exercise for people with MS.  In the past concerns over fatigue and worsening the symptoms of MS, meant exercise was discouraged.  However Professor Dawes found that aerobic treadmill training is possible for those with MS and well tolerated.

The MSG’s research was the first to provide evidence of a need for specific training of fitness professionals for people with long-term neurological conditions.

Professor Dawes wrote a National Occupational Standard (NOS) and this was endorsed by Skills Active, the Sector Skills Council for active leisure, learning and well-being. The MSG’s research was also presented to the Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs) who worked with them to develop the ‘Exercise Prescription for Long-Term Neurological Conditions' course. 

This is the only level four accredited course in the UK for healthcare and fitness professionals who deliver exercise to people with a range of long-term neurological conditions.

Read the full Impact Case Study and others on our dedicated REF 2014 webpages.

In last year’s REF 2014 Oxford Brookes' substantial research activity was demonstrated with 94 percent of research found to be internationally recognised.