Improving patients’ quality of life through targeted exercise programmes

Physical exercise and public health

The challenge

Promoting quality of life (QoL) for patients is a key priority for healthcare professionals. It is generally well known that exercise is beneficial for healthy individuals, and there is now an increasing body of evidence that shows exercise is also beneficial for people with a wide range of health conditions, including stroke, cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The solution

However, for patients with these conditions, and for the doctors treating them, there is a need for evidence-informed exercise advice. Patients want to be able to undertake exercise that is both safe and beneficial for them, and which takes into account their specific conditions.

A team of researchers in Sports and Exercise Sciences at Leeds have been investigating exercise regimes for people with a range of conditions, including cardiac and stroke patients, older care home residents, post-menopausal women/middle aged women/type II diabetes patients, breast and rectal cancer patients, palliative care patients (with the Sue Ryder charity), childhood cancer survivors, and deprived children and older adults. The type of exercise regimes investigated range from dance, cycling and seated exercises, through to Tai chi and interval exercise.

The impact

For each of the conditions, work is being carried out to investigate the most appropriate and effective exercise, taking into account the needs of the patients and the settings in which the exercise programme will take place. In palliative care settings, Dr. Shaunna Burke has worked with professional staff and patients at Sue Ryder hospices in the UK to develop targeted exercise programmes and resources. Her research has led to the development and testing of an innovative ‘Move to Improve’ toolkit to promote and embed physical activity (PA) in rehabilitative palliative cancer care.

This has improved patients’ functional mobility and understanding of PA and has increased healthcare providers’ knowledge and delivery of PA in routine care. The research has also guided organizational PA strategies/policies and staff training. ‘Move to Improve’ has been successfully tested in clinical practice and used in hospices in the UK and hospitals in Southeast Asia.