Functional Fitness MOT reaches hundreds of fitness professionals

04 August 2014

A lack of awareness of the UK Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines for older adults has resulted in a Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) fitness tool being used by hundreds of exercise and fitness professionals.

Since 2011, GCU, the BHF National Centre for Physical Activity and Health (BHFNC) at Loughborough University and Later Life Training (LLT) have been collaborating to promote the use of the Functional Fitness MOT.

The Functional Fitness MOT training programme has to date reached over 350 physical activity, health, exercise and fitness and active ageing professionals across the UK in its first year.

A follow-up evaluation survey amongst 135 professionals indicates that 27% have since organised an MOT event with the public (with a reach of over 600 older people), and 32% are planning to hold an MOT event in the next six months. Most MOT events attract up to 20 people, but some local agencies have been successful in holding events with as many as 90 participants in one day.

The Functional Fitness MOT is one of 20 new ideas from UK universities that will change the world, according to the Times Higher Education Supplement.

Professionals are using the training to deliver Functional Fitness assessments in a variety of settings, including sheltered and supported accommodation, GP practices, hospitals, universities and community and leisure centres.

 It has become clear how few professionals fully understand the concepts of strength, balance and minimising sedentary behaviour or indeed which activities actually make a difference to the different components of fitness (or which do not). Many of those who attend Functional Fitness MOT training events rarely indulge in strength or balance activities themselves as evidenced by their own poor strength and balance abilities when they were assessed using the MOT.

Led by Professor in Ageing and Health Dawn Skelton, this tool was designed at GCU in 2011 to highlight the different components of fitness necessary for older people to maintain independent living. It was also created to help highlight the importance of physical and mental health and raises awareness of the 2011 CMO physical activity guidelines for older adults (65+ years).

The Functional Fitness MOT training programme was initiated in June 2011 at the Glasgow Science Festival, run in Govan Shopping Centre and the ARC Leisure Centre with GCU physiotherapy students and lecturers. It ran again at the Science Festival in June 2011 and then was fully launched in August 2012 at the 8th World Congress on Active Ageing, jointly hosted in Glasgow by GCU and the BHFNC.

The BHFNC has identified the MOTs as priority training aligned with its role of disseminating the key components of the UK 2011 CMO guidelines on physical activity for older adults (65+ years) to the active ageing professional audience.

Some local programmes are using their local Functional Fitness MOT events and activities to attract additional funding to initiate both research activities and new physical activity programmes. Contrary to guidance offered to participants, the assessments are being used to measure improvement in functional fitness. This indicates the need for professionals to be trained to use validated tools to measure functional fitness programmes and interventions.