Let's talk about strength
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy received funding from Sport England and the Centre for Ageing Better to support those with long-term health conditions to improve their strengthening.
In this guest blog, Sarah Curgenven, Project Manager at the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, writes about the dos and don'ts when it comes to promoting strength training activities to people living with long-term health conditions.
Maintaining and improving muscle strength is crucial to help people live independently as they age and empower them to manage long-term health conditions. But as of late 2019, too few people with long-term conditions (LTCs) did strengthening activities on a regular basis, and too little was known about how they could be supported to increase that participation.
Responding to these gaps, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy (CSP) received funding from Sport England and the Centre for Ageing Better to tackle the issue. We started working with BritainThinks in January 2020 to understand more about our members’ experiences of talking about strength. We sought crucial perspectives from people living with LTCs to better understand their experiences, what motivates them and their barriers. We have published our research in an insight report summarising the findings and recommendations for strength messaging from people living with long-term health conditions.
We spent a year listening to people living with LTCs about their thoughts on strengthening and here is what we learned when it came to the beliefs, barriers and motivations of people living with long-term conditions:
What motivates people living with LTCs?
The ability to ‘do more’
- Maintaining independence
- Ability to complete daily activities
Feeling better (physically or mentally)
- Physical appearance / body image
- Improved self-esteem / confidence
- Managing condition or symptoms (e.g. pain)
- Improved mood or mental health
“If it worked, it would help with drying my hair. It takes me so long because I haven’t got the strength to keep my arm up."
What are the main barriers for people living with LTCs?
- Don’t know enough about it
- Worries about pain or making condition worse
- Long-term condition makes it difficult
“I am worried about pain - having pain, being in pain and then having a bigger issue to deal with later that needs further attention.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic developed, we recognised the need to explore the impact of lockdown on our target audience and, to help enhance the findings from the insight, test some draft stimulus. This included testing of visuals, tone and narrative.
From this insight, the following key considerations to creating effective messaging were developed. Here are some dos and don’ts when having the conversation:
- Say ‘gradually increase’
- Say both ‘maintaining’ and ‘improving’ strength
- Use everyday, simple language (e.g. raising your leg)
- Convey that strengthening is easy
- Provide a target and show strengthening is accessible (i.e. at home, with everyday items)
- Talk about choosing from ‘approved’ exercises
- Refer explicitly to strengthening and to the audience having health conditions
- Say ‘gently increase’
- Only say ‘maintaining’ or ‘improving’ strength
- Use words seen as jargon/technical (e.g. calf raises)
- Explicitly say strengthening is easy
- Use unnecessarily patronising terms (e.g. lifting ‘small’ bottles)
- Ask the audience to ‘design’ a programme of strengthening
- Be vague about the target audience or message
We are currently working with MOVE Consulting to support physiotherapy staff to develop products and tools to support engagement and adherence in strength-based activities for their patients. Our vision is to convert all of our findings into a concise creative brief that can take us to a national activation of ‘Stronger My Way’. We want to work with partners to develop those plans and support a sustainable rollout and we want to create a legacy for this project that empowers people living with long-term conditions to get stronger, their way.
To join the conversation use #talkaboutstrength on social media, for more information, visit www.csp.org.uk/strength