Long-term involvement in fitness enablement (LIFE) study.

Lead researcher: Dr Helen Dawes, Oxford Brookes University
Start date: Mid 2006. End date mid 2009
Email: [email protected]


Regular exercise can provide health benefits in terms of physical fitness, mental health, disease prevention and social inclusion. People with neurological disorders such as Muscular Dystrophy, Multiple Sclerosis and Cerebral Palsy; have been shown to benefit from physical activities that are prescribed specially for them.  However, this is usually only available through rehabilitation programmes in hospitals, delivered by physiotherapists using a medical model, and which do not empower people to become involved in community-based activities.
Physical activities such as walking on a treadmill, muscle strengthening and functional circuit-type exercises have been shown to improve mobility and also provide health benefits. They can encourage people to get out in the community and can be adapted in their format and delivery to suit individual preferences. Although there is no specific evidence how many people with neurological conditions take part in physical exercise, subjective evidence such as articles written by service users suggests that this may be limited. Indeed, user groups approached the research team to explore exercise provision in the community because of perceived uncertainty about its value and low levels of participation. We will work with service users to investigate participation in physical activities in people with neurological disease living in the community of Oxfordshire.


1) To establish how people would like exercise programmes supported
2) To provide information on current ‘community mobility’
3) To determine whether exercise sessions provided in a leisure centre, with a physical activity provision support system (PASS), is effective in improving activity levels

What we will do and how we will do it

We will use focus groups, surveys and interviews to explore activity levels, participation in leisure time exercise and preferences in individuals with neurological diseases. We will then develop and evaluate a personalised PASS using this evidence in consultation with exercise professionals. A steering group, led by people with neurological conditions, will guide us throughout.

Results of the Research

The information obtained from this study will be used to inform a bigger national study planned to enable involvement in physical activities in this group of individuals.

Progress reports

Winter 2007 Update

We have completed early focus group work and pilot feasibility studies to develop the client centred PASS and a fitness-professional support system for use within Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) centres. [The IFI is a programme that supports the fitness industry to become more inclusive, catering for the needs of disabled and non-disabled people. For more information go to: http://www.inclusivefitness.org/gettingpeopleactive/.]
A randomised controlled trial examining participation and adherence at IFI centres when supported with the developed PASS is now underway. Studies examining the extent to which people with LTNCs participate in opportunities to exercise in community settings (rather than hospitals) are ongoing.

Summer 2008 update

The second phase of the study is now underway and interim findings from the pilot work are being analysed.  Focus groups have involved people with Muscular Dystrophy, Parkinson’s Disease, Motor Neurone Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Some of the participants are living in residential care homes.  It is proving difficult to recruit people with Cerebral Palsy, although various routes are still being tried until recruitment closes in October 2008. It is also becoming apparent from individuals’ feedback that transport difficulties are a major barrier to participation in the project. The shortage of Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) Centres in Oxford and Birmingham is also a factor.  Work is underway towards publishing the results from the initial pilot study, the community mobility data and other selected findings.

Further information

Download a PowerPoint presentation LIFE study Oct 08 summarising our work to date.

Summer 2009 Update

Ninety-nine patients were recruited and consented to participate in the LIFE randomised controlled trial; thirty-nine with Parkinson’s Disease, twenty-four with Multiple Sclerosis, nineteen with Muscular Dystrophy, seven with Motor Neuron Disease and ten with other Long Term Neurological Conditions.

Patients were assessed on a range of baseline measures including strength, activity and quality of life and subsequently randomised into the immediate or delayed exercise intervention groups. The number of attendances at the fitness facility and the number of sessions a specialist advisor (physiotherapist) attended with the participant or called the participant were also recorded.

Trial information/study flow will be reported later.

Provisional findings (n=95)

Average gym attendance was 12 sessions (s 8.6, range 1-39) over the three-month period. The specialist advisor average for face-to-face attendance was 3 sessions and telephone. Text or email contact was 3 sessions. Average face-to-face contact was approximately 55 mins and telephone/text/email time was 22 mins. Further details will be analysed at study close.

Winter 2009 Update

The final report for this study will be available shortly. A PowerPoint presentation to the Advisory Group in November 2009 is available to download in PDF format.

Summer 2010

The study is now complete.

The Final Report and a Summary are available for download. For further information about the PASS information booklet please click on:





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