Article Text

Exercise referral for drug users aged 40 and over: results of a pilot study in the UK
  1. Caryl M Beynon1,
  2. Amy Luxton1,
  3. Rhiannon Whitaker2,
  4. N Tim Cable3,
  5. Lucy Frith4,
  6. Adrian H Taylor5,
  7. Lu Zou2,
  8. Peter Angell3,
  9. Scott Robinson6,
  10. Dave Holland1,
  11. Sharon Holland1,
  12. Mark Gabbay4
  1. 1Centre for Public Health Research Directorate, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
  2. 2North Wales Organisation for Randomised Trials in Health (and Social Care), Bangor University, Bangor, Wales, UK
  3. 3Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK
  4. 4Department of Health Services Research, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK
  5. 5Department of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, UK
  6. 6School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Caryl M Beynon; c.m.beynon{at}


Objectives To test whether older drug users (aged 40 and over) could be recruited to an exercise referral (ER) scheme, to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability and measure the impact of participation on health.

Design Observational pilot.

Setting Liverpool, UK.

Participants (1) 12 men and 5 women recruited to ER. (2) 7 specialist gym instructors.

Outcome measures Logistic feasibility and acceptability of ER and associated research, rate of recruitment, level of participation over 8 weeks and changes in health.

Results 22 gym inductions were arranged (recruitment time: 5 weeks), 17 inductions were completed and 14 participants began exercising. Attendance at the gym fluctuated with people missing weeks then re-engaging; in week 8, seven participants were in contact with the project and five of these attended the gym. Illness and caring responsibilities affected participation. Participants and gym instructors found the intervention and associated research processes acceptable. In general, participants enjoyed exercising and felt fitter, but would have welcomed more support and the offer of a wider range of activities. Non-significant reductions in blood pressure and heart rate and improvements in metabolic equivalents (METs; a measure of fitness) and general well-being were observed for eight participants who completed baseline and follow-up assessments. The number of weeks of gym attendance was significantly associated with a positive change in METs.

Conclusions It is feasible to recruit older drug users into a gym-based ER scheme, but multiple health and social challenges affect their ability to participate regularly. The observed changes in health measures, particularly the association between improvements in METs and attendance, suggest further investigation of ER for older drug users is worthwhile. Measures to improve the intervention and its evaluation include: better screening, refined inclusion/exclusion criteria, broader monitoring of physical activity levels, closer tailored support, more flexible exercise options and the use of incentives.

  • Public health
  • Health services administration & management
  • Mental health

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