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Meaningful movement: Practical solutions for physical activity

During the pandemic, Oomph! Wellness provided a virtual lifeline to care home residents with its movement and activity initiatives. In this article, Jack McKechnie, Regional Wellbeing Coordinator at Oomph!, shares session planning ideas on a variety of disciplines.

The bigger picture

With the number of people living with long-term health conditions set to rise to 18 million by 2025, it’s more important than ever that people do whatever they can to get active. That needn’t be strenuous exercise but trying to build small and meaningful activity into each day.

It has always been our mission at Oomph! to ensure older adults remain physically active. This mission is more vital now, due to the pandemic and the restrictions that have been imposed on people’s lives.

Numerous surveys and studies have shown older people, in particular care home residents, suffering increased levels of loneliness, anxiety and stress during the pandemic, especially during lockdowns. (Examples include research from Stirling University and a study by the charity Age UK). This can have consequences for a person’s health. One study has argued that it is as detrimental to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. According to Alzheimer’s Society, exercise can encourage mobility – and therefore independence – for as long as possible for people living with dementia.

When we are more physically active, we reap the benefits mentally, physically and emotionally, therefore improving our overall quality of life. This message is at the core of Oomph!’s exercise training and something that we strive to support every client with on a day-to-day basis.

Pandemic projects

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the need for a world of wellbeing resources in one easy-to-navigate platform. As a result, Oomph! On Demand was launched in October 2020. The service provides a flexible digital resource, full of activity, exercise and TV content. It provides a wide range of resources to support residents, clients, caregivers and family members to improve meaningful engagement and overall quality of life.

Oomph! On Demand content is created by a combination of expert instructors as well as trusted partners, including History Hit, Instructor Live and Arthritis Action to mention just a few. Both live and recorded video content provides a diverse range of sessions for clients to enjoy, including seated exercise, Pilates, ballet and dance which are provided up to five days a week.

Oomph! currently offers the On Demand wellbeing platform to over 600 clients including care homes, sheltered housing and domiciliary care.

Encouraging someone to exercise is not always easy, especially if they haven’t exercised regularly in the past. We believe that no matter what your ability is, you can remain physically active – it is just a matter of adapting the exercise. Within all forms of adaptation, achievement will lead to motivation! It’s important to start out small so that these can be highlighted, celebrated and praised to help build confidence.

When delivering an Oomph! session, we don’t refer to it as exercise, but we do try to create a party atmosphere by using themes and upbeat, meaningful music. We have provided some examples of our sessions below.

Session planning

Please note, all of the following exercises are cost effective and can be delivered with limited resources and space.

Low Impact Exercise – Going to the Beach

Upper move – throwing the beach ball: Bring both hands in front of your chest and imagine you are throwing a beach ball to a person in front of you. Repeat this movement four times. Why not ask what colour the beach ball is? This will stimulate the mind whilst sparking the imagination.

Lower move – kick the sea water: Extend your leg outwards in a kicking motion and imagine you are running your toes through the sea water. Ensure you alternate your movements between each leg. How does that sea water feel running between your toes? Repeat this movement four times for each leg!

Upper move – reach for the sun: Starting from the sides of your waist, use both arms to slowly reach up towards the sky. Stretch as far as you can and hold the palm of your hands upwards. Can you feel the warmth of the sun on your hands? Slowly, bring your arms back down to the sides of your waist and repeat the movement four more times.

Lower move – shake your sandy toes: Extend your leg outwards and shake the sand off your toes. Ensure you alternate between each leg and repeat the movement four times.


  • Theming sessions and tailoring them to meet specific interests will help to motivate and engage someone living with dementia in a meaningful way. You could use movements that trigger memories such as conducting an orchestra, completing a housework routine, or visiting a football match. It’s important to use music that is enjoyed and songs that can unlock memories.

Delivery considerations:

  • If delivering to a group, seat people in a circle and use the whole space to ensure inclusivity.
  • When delivering this session ensure chairs have arms to support balance.
  • Ensure a CD player or media player is on hand ready to play some meaningful music.
  • When encouraging movements, keep the patterns simple with lots of repetition. We prefer large whole body movements.
  • Factor in rest periods between movements to prevent breathlessness.

What people say: ‘It’s the best thing I have ever done coming to this class each week. I am 92 and it keeps me going,’ said participant, Joyce, Oomph!

Strength Based Exercise – Bopfit Routine

Bopfit has been designed to combat key weaknesses that affect balance and strength as we age. The Bopfit exercise routine has been inspired by boxing and uses its principles to improve people’s core strength:

Straight Bop: Start with both hands up at your chin. Lift one arm forward, while the other tucks in by your chest. Repeat this movement eight times, alternating between arms.

Cross Bop: Sit upright. Keep one arm tucked in and extend the other arm across your body slightly, rotating the body. Repeat this same movement on the other side. Repeat this movement eight times, alternating between arms.

Through Bop: Sitting upright and bracing your stomach. Bend one elbow so that your fist is in front of your chin. With the other arm, bend the elbow and pull your shoulder back. Do the same on the other side and transition between arms. Repeat this movement eight times.


  • Good core stability will help improve balance and confidence and, as a result, decrease risk of falls.

Delivery considerations:

  • If a person has low mobility, adapt the exercises to suit what they can do! For example, if a participant has a weaker limb, encourage them to use the strong limb to support movements.

Mindfulness Body Scan Activity

Body scanning is a form of meditation that helps you pay attention to all the sensations in your body:

  • The activity requires a combination of breathing and focused ‘sensing’, ‘tensing’ and ‘relaxing’. This will be implemented over a four-count inhale and four-count exhale.
  • Participants will begin by sensing their toes for two breaths. How do they feel?
  • Next, on the third breath, squeeze and tense your toes.
  • On the fourth and final breath, relax the toes.
  • Continue this exercise all the way up the body.


  • Mindfulness will help someone with increased levels of anxiety because it brings you into the present moment and makes you aware of negative thought patterns.

Delivery considerations:

  • Deliver with a clear and relaxed voice focusing on tone, speed and words.
  • Use calming, gentle music.

What people say: ‘Oomph! Mindfulness has been used with one particular resident, whose family shared how much she benefitted from guided mindfulness, with sessions about the beach a particular favourite,’ said Jayne Hill, Graysford Hall Care Home – Sanders Senior Living.

Team engagement

Oomph! Sport was the first virtual skills-based workshop we delivered during the pandemic, and it was designed to motivate people to keep moving in a fun and creative way. The concept of Boccia encourages teams to think outside the box and makes all Olympic sports accessible and achievable within a care setting.

The workshop looks at the resources teams already have and how they can be used to aid in the creation of the Olympic Games. This supports clients to come up with new and innovative ways to deliver their sport-based games, which then helps with motivation and getting participants to take part. Our clients relished the challenge and we witnessed some fantastic adaptations of sport-based games. We had participants competing in a basketball game by using bins as nets and rolled-up pieces of newspaper as balls, adapted archery using swimming pool noodles and Olympic swimming using paddling pools and water bombs!

The benefit of workshops is that they encourage wider team engagement. By looking at the whole home approach, we can transform the way people think about activities and promote the inclusion of everyone in the home. Everyone’s participation is celebrated.

Consider your options

One key learning participants have taken away from this workshop is how important it is to look at what you can do, rather than what you can’t. Oomph! has run two successful Olympic Games and it has re-enforced the idea that activity and exercise doesn’t have to be complicated.

By exploring a theme and looking at the resources you already have you can bring new, enjoyable activities to life that will excite and energise your community and support a vibrant wellbeing programme of events.  

Jack McKechnie is the Regional Wellbeing Coordinator at Oomph! Wellness. Email:  Twitter: @OomphWellness


About Jack McKechnie

Jack’s biggest career and life motivators are wanting to help people and make a difference! Jack studied Drama and Creative Writing at University and has had the opportunity to work with Blesma, which is an Armed Forces Charity that supports veterans. When working for a large award-winning care organisation, Jack delivered a variety of outstanding activities to support people’s wellbeing and now, through Oomph!, strives to deliver training that will inspire. Most recently, Jack has developed a drama workshop which focuses on improvisation and how this can be used to support people living with Dementia.

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