It offered free six-week community based courses to older people from hard-to-reach groups. Participants could choose from either Nordic walking, aquacise, body balance, chair based exercise, singing, cycling, or dancing offering a range of vigorous or gentle activity, catering for all ages, abilities and preferences. Weight management workshops ran alongside the activities to help motivate, inform and support the participants, monitoring their progress and rewarding their success.
From April 2010-April 2016, over 100 Fit as a Fiddle courses were provided to 1,400 participants and the results for 2016-17 add a further 18 courses and 270 participants to this tally.
In 2016-17 65% of participants were in their 60s and 70s; 19% in their 50s; and 14% in their 80s and 90s.
The participants’ journey to fitness and weight loss were evaluated on entry and exit and at three and six-month follow up. Highlights of the results from 2016-17 were: before the course, 44% did not take enough exercise; after the course, this had dropped to 18.2%. Before the course 56% said they ‘took exercise three to five days a week’, rising to 82% after the course. Before the course 43% scored their knowledge of healthy eating as under seven on a scale of one to ten, dropping to 17% after the course. After the course participants ate more fish and low fat foods, more fruit and vegetables and did not skip so many meals.
Improvements in participants’ sense of wellbeing has always been a significant success factor for Fit as a Fiddle. Results from 2016-17 showed that before the course, 46.8% of participants had a high level of satisfaction with life rising to 72.6% after the course. Overall, participants achieved an average reduction in weight of 1.2kg, a waist reduction of 1.53cm, and a body mass index reduction of 0.42.
At three-month follow up, 53% were taking more exercise, 29% continued to lose weight and 69% ate a healthier diet. At six-month follow up 59% were taking more exercise;14% continued to lose weight; and 62% ate a healthier diet.
The courses were reviewed at the end of each series, and participants were invited to comment. Some examples from the hundreds of comments received are given below.
‘It has been great, I have lost 9lb and am walking better. I have M.S. and my physical well-being is much improved.’
‘It has been incredibly helpful and very motivating – I have looked forward to it every week, and have discovered a type of exercise that I love.’
‘I felt slightly apprehensive about going the first time and meeting people, but everyone attending was lovely and G. and D. were great. They certainly knew their subjects and were really keen to help everyone that attended the class. I could feel that they both really cared about us and in turn that helped my confidence grow.’
The courses evolved over the years Staywell delivered them, working in partnership to tackle more public health targets, e.g. improved mental wellbeing and improved quality of life (measured by use of the Warwick Edinburgh mental wellbeing scale), as well as weight loss and improved understanding of healthy eating. Fit as a Fiddle supported the wider health agenda and addressed local objectives relating to hard-to-reach groups and individuals, and social isolation. It provided increased opportunities to identify across the borough the health needs of the older population, as well as health inequalities.
Fit as a Fiddle was funded via a three-year contract with Kingston Public Health, from 2013-16, This was extended for a further year until March 2017, but we were informed that from 2017 there would be no further funding for the programme from Public Health. This was subsequently extended to the end of June 2017 whilst we awaited the results of a funding application. We were not successful in our attempts to secure alternative sources of funding, therefore the final series of the programme took place from April-June 2017
This programme was evaluated by leading European research and consultancy company Ecorys, using the methodology of Social Return on Investment (SROI). The researchers found that Fit as a Fiddle generates a social return of approximately £3.50 for every £1 invested. To read the report, click the ‘useful docs’ link on the right.
A study published in May 2014 showed that lack of exercise was a more significant factor in heart disease for women over 30 than either smoking or obesity. Read more.
A randomised trial published in August 2014 compared a community group exercise programme and peer-supported home-based exercise with usual care for people aged 65 years and over. It found that significantly more of those participants in the community exercise classes than in the other groups reached the target for physical activity at a 12-month follow-up and had significantly fewer falls.
If you are a professional and would like to find out more about Fit as a Fiddle and how the programme could be adapted and delivered in your area, please contact us.