Sit to Keep Fit sessions provide wide-ranging benefits for people affected by dementia in south-east London.
Carers’ Support (Bexley), a charity supporting local carers and the people they care for, runs several groups for people affected by dementia in south-east London.
Sit to Keep Fit sessions, supported by Alzheimer’s Society and the London Borough of Bexley, have been growing in popularity since they started almost a year ago.
Jo Flitton oversees groups provided by Carers’ Support (Bexley) and feels strongly about the importance of health and wellbeing for people affected by dementia or memory problems.
‘My passion is driven by the fact that my mum was diagnosed with dementia just before the pandemic,’ says Jo.
‘As with so many, my parents were not able to leave the house to socialise or attend support groups. It was sad to see them becoming isolated at the very time they needed help the most.
During the pandemic I think we all realised just how important exercise and socialising is for everyone’s general health.
‘I have become a carer, alongside my dad and sister, and I understand how it affects both carers and those they care for.’
Motivation to do more
Before Sit to Keep Fit started, Carers’ Support (Bexley) was already running Memory Support and Music for Memory groups.
Following the pandemic, motivated by her own experiences, Jo wanted to do more.
Initially, she set up a new weekly Memory Support Group.
Then, when Lesley Skinner, a qualified seated exercise instructor, offered to provide a monthly Sit to Keep Fit session, she didn’t need to ask twice.
‘Like Lesley, I’ve completed seated exercise training,’ Jo says.
We work together as a team – Lesley leads, and I help everyone join in.
Sessions are free and last 30 minutes. Exercises are gentle and participants join in as much, or as little, as they wish.
Movement and fun
During today’s session, the group starts off with a gentle warm-up to music, limbering up the joints from head to toe.
Strength work is carried out using rubber resistance bands and sessions finish with a cool down and breathing exercise.
There’s also seated marching, swimming strokes and even a seated Hokey Cokey.
It really didn’t matter if a left leg was in when it should have been out, or if you were clapping instead of shaking it all about.
The emphasis is on movement and having fun – which the beaming faces and laughter made clear to see!
Sevcan, 77, was attending for the first time with her husband Ozkan, 83.
She says, ‘I have enjoyed this, and we will be coming again. Ozkan doesn’t like being away from me.
Here, we both get a chance to talk to other people and exercise is a good idea. I feel good.
Julia, 85, cares for her husband David, 88, who has memory problems following a stroke.
‘Everyone says how well David looks, which he does, but behind every person being cared for is a carer doing a lot of work to keep it all going,’ she says.
‘That is why groups like this are so important.
It is a break, the exercise does us good and we can both enjoy a laugh and chat with others.
David agrees, saying, ‘It is good here – much better than sitting at home looking at each other!’
Ruth, 73, says, ‘My husband has dementia and has now gone into a home.
I’ve been coming to this exercise group since it started, and I am very grateful for it.
‘The exercises definitely help, and the company has been absolutely brilliant in keeping me connected with others.’
Lesley has now joined Carers’ Support (Bexley) and is keen to talk about the health benefits of seated exercise.
It has always been popular, and the benefits are real, especially as we get older and our bodies change.
‘Bones become more brittle, balance can be affected, and problems with hearing and vision can affect communication.
‘All of this can lead to low self-esteem and frustration.’
Health benefits from regular exercise, such as seated exercise, are wide-ranging.
They include improved strength, mobility and balance, less pain, and better self-esteem, appetite and sleep.
Find local support
Use our dementia directory to find local support services for people with dementia and their carers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.