Tracey in the gym

How Tracey is helping to make sports clubs and leisure centres more inclusive

Tracey, who has dementia, has seen an improvement in her health and wellbeing since going to the gym. Through her vital work on the new dementia-friendly sport and physical activity guide, Tracey hopes other people with dementia will benefit from physical activities.

Tracey was diagnosed with early-onset dementia and posterior cortical atrophy (PCA) when she was in her mid-forties. She has asthma and is recovering from a stroke that has left some weakness down her left side. But that doesn’t stop Tracey from being active and inspiring others.

Tracey's fitness journey

Tracey started going to the gym after she was referred for a 12-week physiotherapy health programme. She now goes three times per week and gets additional support from a personal trainer.

‘Going to the gym gives me the energy to do more, and I’ve lost weight.’

Tracey generally goes to the gym alone and she follows a specific programme for a routine. Her programme includes: weights, squats, balance work, treadmill, cross trainer and stretches. She likes to vary her programme because she sometimes loses concentration as a result of dementia. 

Since she has started going to the gym, Tracey is making great progress – she has gone from walking with two sticks to walking with only one, which is having a huge effect on her wellbeing.

Educating while exercising

The personal trainer at Tracey's gym supports and believes in her. Tracey shares her experiences and teaches her trainer about dementia and how it affects her.

Here, Tracey explains some of the work that went behind a new dementia-friendly sport and physical activity guide:

'I had an interview with the manager of a sports centre and spoke of some of the difficulties I have. We walked around the gym, and I explained some pitfalls that some people might have problems with, like shiny floors, too much noise, etc. I adapt very well, but some people find it hard to.'

Tracey said, 'Hopefully this work will encourage others to get involved in physical activities. And help organisations understand the difficulties that people may have.'

5 ways Tracey suggests a leisure centre can improve experiences for people with dementia

  1. Ensure that staff understand what dementia is and the ways that they can support people – for example to use technology or to identify their locker.
  2. Support people to use equipment that can require lots of co-ordination or balance – for example people with dementia might need further explanation and more time to learn to use machines like a cross trainer.
  3. A person with dementia may not be able to learn to use new equipment or retain information about it for the next session.
  4. Allow people time to start slow and build up their confidence to achieve more. 
  5. A gym can be a loud and overwhelming environment, so having quiet times or quiet areas can help people with dementia to enjoy themselves.

Get a copy of the new guide

Find out how the sport and physical activity sector can be more dementia-friendly from our free guide.

Download the guide
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5 comments

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I always read your piece on facebook, you are an inspiration!

Well done, you’re such a lovely person & an inspiration to all xx lots love xx

Well done & keep up the good work xx

I've had experience taking my Ma who suffers from Alzheimers' in her late 60's to our local gym through an NHS initiative scheme. She was always used to exercising in the past as she regularly attended my fitness classes. So I thought the gym would be good for her to keep up her fitness. At the beginning it was all going well. She particularly loved the treadmill and we had such fun using the large fitness balls. After a few months things started to change and she no longer wanted to get on the treadmill. She seemed too scared to step up onto it. I then worked out why, all gym equipment is nearly always black. For anyone suffering dementia they perceive black as being a hole to fall down through so would feel very in-secure to step anywhere near or onto it. Had there been a bright fluorescent coloured strip down the edges of the treadmill, I may have got her back onto it, but since it didn't that was sadly the end of our gym visits. I did feedback this info to the Gym, and pointed out that if they wanted to be more dementia friendly the equipment would need to reflect that. To date as far as I know this hasn't happened.

I have memory problems and lose concentration when I do physio. I need to refer to pictures so i can do my exercise programme but can't follow the pictures now that the staff have drawn on a piece for me...they become a muddle. How could i try to get on this programme please. I need to strengthen my muscles before hip/knee surgery. I also have stenosis. Desperate!

Dear Chris,
I am sorry to learn that you are living with memory problems. I hope that I will be able to provide you with some information to help you manage your exercise programme.
When living with memory problems it is useful to use visual cues or reminders to help manage day to day life.
If you have a smart phone or a computer, it may be a good idea to ask someone to record the exercises for you so that you could watch or listen to them.
If your memory problems are progressing you may find that you now need additional help and support to manage your exercises. You could ask a family member or friend to support you with this or if you feel that you have other care needs arising from your condition, you may ask for a care needs assessment from your Local Authority - find out more here: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/legal-financial/assessment-ca…
Your local Alzheimer’s Society or another charitable organisation in your area, may have a befriending service which may provide the help and support that you need.
You may search for what’s available in your area by using the following link: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/find-support-near-you
I have also attached a copy of our memory handbook which I hope that you will find useful: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-support/publications-and-factsheets/m…
I do hope that this has been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to contact our Helpline on 0300 222 1122 if you require any further information, advice or support.
Additionally, you may also find it helpful to visit our online forum 'Talking Point', as other people may have discussed similar issues. You don't have to sign up to search through the forum, so you could just read other peoples' posts and find out about their experiences. The forum can be found at https://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/
Kind regards
Helpline Adviser

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