Amy Simpson: Building confidence and connections through physical activity

Earlier this year, HND Fitness, Health and Exercise students at UHI Perth enjoyed Strength and Balance training delivered in partnership with Paths for All as part of their course curriculum. One promising student, Amy (19) shares how taking part has improved her self-confidence and strengthened her relationship with her grandad, James.

Amy and her grandad, James, enjoy spending time centred around physical activity.

Getting to know Amy:

I qualified as a Gym Instructor last year on my HNC course and now work part time as a Fitness Advisor. I deliver gym inductions and teach fitness classes. I enjoy going to the gym and spending time with my friends and family. I have a Black Belt (2nd Dan) in Karate and have had the opportunity to compete all over the world. You could say physical activity is incredibly important to me!

Describe your experience of the Strength and Balance training session and how you put it into practice.  

I attended the Strength and Balance training session at the start of the year. My college class took part so we could support staff in local care homes to deliver sessions to their residents. The course involved going through Strength and Balance in detail with the trainer, Paula, and then being observed through active delivery. I enjoyed the course as it gave me confidence teaching exercises to older adults. My classmates and a few members of staff from local care homes were on the course, so it was nice to talk to them about their different experiences.

I went to Kincarrathie House care home in Perth with my classmates Beth, Kieran and Fraser for 12 weeks. There were initially 12 residents who took part in the sessions and during the time we were there, this group grew to about 18.  

We worked with Activity Coordinators Karin and Carol who were fantastic and always had the residents ready to go! We taught the residents seated warm-ups which I choreographed to music; we did Strength and Balance and then finished with fun games like Boccia and balloon volleyball. The residents loved the sessions, and we could see improvements in the residents over the 12 weeks. For example, they increased the number of sit-to-stands by doing more repetitions and number of sets. We got great feedback from the residents themselves, too and we built great friendships with them over the weeks we were there. I’m going into my 3rd year of the BSc Sport and Fitness Degree at UHI Perth next year and want to go back and volunteer at Kincarrathie as part of the course.

Amy assists her grandad, James, to carry out a Strength and Balance movement, in a gym.

What inspired you to start training sessions with your Grandad?

Grandad (75) loves gardening and loves to dance on a Saturday with my gran at the Ex-Service Club in Perth. He didn’t go to the gym or do any form of Strength and Balance. He was also a bit unsteady on his feet and has experienced reduced mobility as he has aged.

As part of my second year (HND) Fitness Testing and Programming module this inspired me to choose my Grandad as a client, as I like working with older adults. My dad raised concerns about my grandad’s balance, and I thought I could help. Grandad is retired, so I knew he was free during the day, would be reliable and available to come to the college to do the sessions as he lives close by. I planned to use Strength and Balance with him, get him to do more walking and be more active in the gym. Grandad regularly walks to the college gym and does a dance warm-up as part of the session. This was then followed by Strength and Balance, upper body exercises and static stretches at the end of the session to cool down. We have a great relationship, even though there is 56 years between us – we also share the same birthday and my family joke that when I was born, I was a birthday present for him!

I did pre- and post- fitness testing with my grandad and would see improvements with both his health and fitness with improvements in Sit to Stands, Peak Flow, BMI, Body composition, walking distance and Blood Pressure. Our relationship has always been great, but it has been fantastic to see my grandad more often. I loved taking him to the college gym, so he can see where I study and what I do at college. He asks a lot more questions about my studies now and chats to other people when he’s here. He’s bumped into old friends in the gym, and he also talks to my tutor Lisa about gardening, and he even brought her in an Aloe Vera plant.

What are your top highlights from the entire experience?

Going over Strength and Balance in detail with the tutor really helped, and to understand how each one can help with daily movement. I also liked we got cue cards to take away, to look back on when instructing. Second, being able to gain confidence by speaking to large number of residents at the same time, to see how much they have progressed and enjoyed the sessions.

Lastly, being able to lead a Strength and Balance session alone and see him improve over time was amazing. At first, he was very off balance and used the wall for support and at the end he was much more stable and didn’t need to use the wall for support at all.

What are your aspirations beyond your studies?

Next year I am going into 3rd year of the Sport and Fitness Degree at UHI Perth and looking forward to it. Doing the projects this year has inspired me to want to work with older adults in the future. I want to do my university research projects on this topic.