Long term exercise engagement following hospital-led community-based gym program in persons with history of polio

Ms Su Wen Ng1, Ms Claire Formby1, Ms Karen Borschmann2

1Polio Services Victoria, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Victoria, Australia; 2Allied Health Research and Translation, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Aim: The aim of this study was to examine long term exercise engagement for persons with history of polio after participation in a community-based gym program, and to identify their enablers and barriers to exercise to inform service development.

Design: A cross-sectional study with questionnaire data collected by telephone

Method: Semi-structured questionnaires regarding current exercise undertaken and, enablers and barriers to exercise were conducted. Participants had previously completed an individually tailored six-week community-based gym program supervised by physiotherapists from Polio Services Victoria. Content analysis of qualitative data was performed.

Results: Twenty-four participants, independently mobile with or without gait aid (n=23, 95.8%), female (n=15, 62.5%), on average 20 (IQR: 16.8–25.3) months post-program were included. Pre-program, only 10 (41.7%) participants had engaged in exercise, which included Pilates, gym and hydrotherapy. At follow up, most participants (n=22, 91.7%) reported that they were undertaking exercise, in a variety of community settings. Aquatic-based exercise was preferred. Four themes were identified regarding enablers: environmental, physical, psychological and social. Environmental factors included safety of equipment, location, cost and availability of resources.

Conclusion: A high proportion of persons with history of polio reported continued engagement in long-term exercise following participation in an individualised gym program. Basing the program within a community setting with supervision from hospital staff may have encouraged ongoing exercise participation..

Key Practice Points:
• Persons with history of polio may engage with long-term exercise after attending a supervised gym program in a community setting
• Mode and setting of service delivery may influence engagement in long-term exercise


Su Wen Ng is the Senior Clinician Physiotherapist at Polio Services Victoria, St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. She is also the Intrathecal Baclofen Clinic Co-ordinator and has worked in multiple teams across Health Independence Programs (HIP) including the Young Adult Complex Disability Service, Community Rehabilitation Centre and Rehabilitation in the Home since 2016. Su Wen has also worked abroad in the UK National Health Service and previously at Monash Health. Over the last ten years, she has developed a strong interest in Neurological Rehabilitation, Spasticity and Falls.

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