Championing physical activity

We’re proud that after a successful pilot earlier this year, our online course on ‘Championing physical activity for people affected by dementia’ will be running again later this year. We are grateful that the funding we received from the Leisure Studies Association and Active Herefordshire & Worcestershire enabled us to successfully develop and pilot the course earlier this year. For the next iteration we are charging a very reasonable rate to attend the course. With this in mind we thought we’d tell you a bit more about how the course was developed and piloted, and what difference it made to students. Thanks go to other members of the Association for Dementia Studies for sharing their slides from a recent presentation about the course at the University of Worcester’s Learning and Teaching Conference.

The course logo, showing a stylised figure with its arm outstretched, and the course title 'Championing physical activity for people affected by dementia'

The origins of the course

Despite a recognition that regular activity can have beneficial effects on wellbeing, people affected by dementia are more likely to be inactive and experience inequality with respect to participation in leisure based on physical activity. This can often be due to people finding that leisure and physical activity related environments are inaccessible, and staff may lack an understanding of dementia and how to support people with the condition. This can result in people affected by dementia withdrawing from activities, with subsequent impacts on wellbeing, identity and social inclusion (please see the references at the end of this blog for supporting information).

Two recent PhD studentships with a focus on sport and dementia provided important insight into this area, and existing expertise within the team – combined with our learning from developing other online courses such as the Meeting Centre training course – enabled us to begin planning and developing the course. An initial consultation with professionals and people with lived experience of dementia identified and clarified the key areas to be covered by the course. These were explored during the course through a combination of original content developed by the team and existing content relevant to the topic. Keeping the voice of people affected by dementia central to the course was an underpinning theme which influenced the choice and development of the course content.

Piloting the course

The course was developed to be delivered online over a six-week period. It comprised five topics with one topic per week, plus one week part way through the course to enable students to put their learning into practice and share their experiences with the group. Each week students were expected to undertake self-guided learning activities such as watching video clips, reading relevant materials, and taking part in online discussion boards. Additionally, there were weekly live online group sessions facilitated by the tutor. In total, there was an expectation that students would undertake 3-4 hours of study per week.

Slide with a collage of the different course content, including screen shots of videos, discussion boards, activities and reading/resource lists

The pilot course was delivered to a dozen professionals from health, housing, and sport and leisure settings. Where possible, students were encouraged to be in a position to deliver activities during the practice week. As it was a pilot, the team wanted to assess the course’s impact on a diverse range of professionals in terms of their knowledge and confidence to deliver leisure and physical activities for people affected by dementia. Consequently, with appropriate ethics processes in place, students were invited to complete a short questionnaire before and after the course and also to take part in a focus group to discuss their experiences and highlight anything that may need to be changed within the course. Eleven students completed the pre-course questionnaire with nine also completing the post-course questionnaire. Five students took part in the focus group, with a further student giving their feedback via a semi-structured interview that covered the same areas as the focus group.

Findings from the course

While only small numbers of students were involved in the evaluation aspect of the pilot course, it was encouraging to see that their self-rated levels of knowledge and confidence (out of five) improved following the course, and were supported by comments raised during both the questionnaires and the focus group.

Slide showing a table of the pre/post course survey results (knowledge of dementia, knowledge and ability of providing physical activity to others, and confidence in providing physical activity all increased after the course, going from 3 to 3.6, 3.2 to 4.0 and 2.8 to 4.3 respectively), and quotes from the students including one that says "It covers a really important topic that has been neglected by both the care industry and the fitness industry"

The focus group helped the team to identify a couple of areas where improvements can be made to the course, but overall the comments were positive about key aspects of the course. Although not all students had been able to deliver activities as intended, they were still positive about the course and other students were putting their learning into practice.

Slide showing quotes for the three key aspects of the course: 
Delivery mode and course structure 

“The course was interesting throughout, and I was able to fit it in around my job.” (survey response)

Multidisciplinary approach enabled creativity and community of learning from practice

“one great thing I took away…is the different dynamics of people, of where they worked, what sort of things they were doing, but also at the same time, that networking, that sharing information” (Social Housing Worker)

Making the remote real through lived experience

“it's the videos, people's personal stories”…”it gets you thinking and…puts you…in their mindset and what it might feel like to have barriers and just focus on why it's so important” (Care Home Worker)

So what next?

The team is proud that they have successfully developed and delivered a novel online course which has shown positive impacts on a diverse range of professionals’ knowledge and confidence, which in turn is positive for people affected by dementia. The course will be amended and updated in response to student feedback and delivered again in the Autumn. Although students will be charged to attend it will be run on a ‘not for profit’ basis to make it as affordable as possible. The team is also hopeful that future research will be undertaken to further explore the impact of the course on and in practice.

If you are interested in the course please see the flyer and contact Course Lead Dr Chris Russell ( for further information.


  • Alzheimer’s Society (2013) Dementia 2013: the hidden voice of loneliness. London: Alzheimer’s Society.
  • Alzheimer’s Society (2020) Worst hit: dementia during coronavirus. London: Alzheimer’s Society.
  • Livingston, G. et al., (2020) ‘Dementia prevention, intervention, and care: 2020 report of the Lancet Commission’,
  • Lancet, 396(10248), pp. 413-46. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30367-6.
  • Sport England (2020) We are undefeatable. Available at: (Accessed: 1 June 2022)

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow


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