The Low Intensity Exercise Program (LIEP) is an innovative program being offered by the Dartmouth Community Health Team. The LIEP is grounded in Capital Health’s Our Promise in Action which articulates a commitment to build citizen capacity in the self-management of chronic health conditions as well as to improved access to health services. The LIEP is a 10 week community based exercise program, supervised by physiotherapists, designed specifically to meet the needs of individuals who are physically limited due to chronic conditions. LIEP is unique as it brings together, via self-referral, people with varying chronic conditions (chronic pain, arthritis, orthopedic conditions, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, neurological and mental health conditions, etc.) all under the same roof in their own community. LIEP’s innovative design helps participants take control of their own health through the integration of self-management supports and behavior change techniques into all components of the program. Unlike other exercise classes where participants simply follow the leader, LIEP participants are taught how to self-monitor their exercise intensity level (using blood pressure and oxygen readings, blood glucose results). Participants keep daily records of attendance, pedometer steps, rate of perceived exertion (effort), and signs and symptoms in their log books, thereby building their skills and comfort level for exercising independently. The LIEP incorporates exercise that improves aerobic endurance, strength, flexibility and balance. The program participants are guided to establish realistic goals using behaviour change principles, and work together with the physiotherapists to develop individualized home exercise programs, using problem-solving to find solutions to barriers to physical activity that exist in their lives. Upon successful completion of the program, participants are navigated to community exercise programs and other resources. Participant screening, assessment, exercise testing and exercise prescription is led by physiotherapists, and is consistent with American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM Guidelines), the gold standard for exercise testing and prescription nationally and internationally. Clients attending the LIEP are assessed prior to attending the program (pre), at the end of the 10-week program (post), and six months after completing the program (follow-up). The outcome data from the impact evaluation demonstrates that the LIEP program has had a very favorable influence on participants’ physical activity maintenance, quality of life, blood pressure and program satisfaction. These improvements were maintained at the 6 month follow-up.
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