FaLls EXercise Implementation (FLEXI) Study receives funding from the NIHR Healthy Ageing, Dementia and Frailty National Priority Research Programme

Elderly people exercising in a group.

A falls implementation study which evaluates the implementation of the scale-up of the ground-breaking Falls Management Exercise (FaME) programme, which has recently been featured in a World Health Organization report, will receive further funding from the NIHR Healthy Ageing, Dementia and Frailty National Priority Research Programme.

The FaLls EXercise Implementation (FLEXI) Study will commence on 1st October 2021. This study is a collaboration between ARC Greater Manchester (ARC-GM), NIHR Applied Research Collaborations (ARC) East Midlands who are leading the project and ARC South West Peninsula.

The FaME programme is a group-based, face-to-face, six-month exercise programme specifically aimed at improving the strength and balance of people aged 65 and over. FaME was developed by Professor Dawn Skelton, who is now at Glasgow Caledonian University, and published while she was working at The University of Manchester.

Dr Elizabeth Orton, FLEXI Chief Investigator, Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, NIHR ARC East Midlands and a Consultant in Public Health, said: “Preventing falls is so important, particularly as many older adults have been shielding during the Coronavirus pandemic and may have lost some of their mobility and strength during this time. This will place them at a much higher risk of having a fall. The good news is that we know that exercise programmes like FaME can reduce the risk of having a fall. Unfortunately, however, programmes are not always available locally. This research will help us understand how to increase the availability of FaME and understand what makes programmes successful.”

The FaME implementation toolkit was developed in the East Midlands, showing that it worked outside of a research setting. An implementation toolkit was developed for rolling out the FaME programme and this is what will be tested in the FLEXI Study across two very different regions, Greater Manchester and Devon, to see if it works in these populations too.

Professor Chris Todd, FLEXI Co-Investigator, Professor of Primary Care and Community Health at the University of Manchester and Lead for Healthy Ageing at NIHR ARC Greater Manchester, said: “I am really thrilled to be part of this collaborative world class research team, which includes Professor Dawn Skelton, who published the original clinical trial demonstrating that the FaME programme works. This new funding allows us to focus on how best to ensure FaME is delivered appropriately and is made available for older people.”

Professor Victoria Goodwin MBE, FLEXI Co-Investigator, Associate Professor in Ageing and Rehabilitation at the University of Exeter and NIHR ARC South West Peninsula, reveals why she is so enthused by this new study, said: “Being part of this research is hugely exciting to me as a physiotherapist who, over the past 20 years, has delivered the FaME programme, taught others to deliver it, and conducted research on preventing falls amongst older people and those living with Parkinson’s. It will be an amazing opportunity to collaborate with a national group of leading researchers and practitioners on preventing falls, as well as working with members of the public, commissioners and experts in innovation, spread and adoption to improve the availability of evidence-based strength and balance training for older people.”

Professor Dawn Skelton, Professor of Ageing and Health at Glasgow Caledonian University and developer of FaME, said: “Many years ago, I developed FaME with colleagues in the fitness industry so that we could try to ensure some effective exercise for a condition that was considered to be a normal part of ageing, falls. FaME has been shown to be effective both in older adults at high risk of falls (frailer and history of falls) as well as sedentary older adults at lower risk of falls. It needs to be available, just as aspirin is available for reducing the risk of a stroke. This study will help embed it into systems more widely.”

NIHR ARCs support applied health and care research that responds to, and meets, the needs of local populations and local health and care systems, aiming to improve outcomes for patients and the public; improve the quality, delivery and efficiency of health and care services; and increase the sustainability of the health and care system both locally and nationally. Whilst also undertaking implementation research to increase the rate at which research findings are implemented into practice.

Further information about the FLEXI study is available here.

You can keep up to date on progress by following the @FlexiStudy Twitter account.

Back to top