A Q&A with our Specialist Deconditioning Physiotherapist

3 November 2023

Specialist Deconditioning Physiotherapist, Brooke Holden, has recently started a new role, funded by Kingston Hospital Charity. Partnering with care homes and GP practices in Kingston and Richmond, Brooke can now work with a team of trained volunteers to tackle the risks associated with deconditioning across our communities.

Laura Greene, Head of Volunteering and Community Partnerships talks to Brooke about her career, her vision and about how Kingston Hospital’s members and supporters can get involved in the Community Rehabilitation Volunteering Service.

Q: Brooke, why did you choose a career in Physiotherapy?

I grew up playing sport and was always interested in sciences at school. I saw the benefits of rehabilitation first hand after members of my family sustained various sporting injuries and underwent surgeries, which piqued my interest. I was inspired by the physiotherapists’ aim of improving function and thus quality of life.

Whilst doing my A Levels, I read a quote which said, “Doctors can save lives, but Physiotherapists can give quality and meaning to life.” This really motivated me to help people in a way that they can not only live life but enjoy a quality of life. I took the long route into physiotherapy, starting out with a degree in Sports Science, taking time out as a professional carer, and then pursuing a masters in Physiotherapy which was intense but incredibly rewarding.

Q: What is a Deconditioning Physiotherapist?

My aim is to encourage people to have an active and healthy lifestyle through exercise, particularly people who are at risk of a poorer quality of life though their health, age and other factors. This can include older people, people with a sedentary lifestyle or people with mental or physical health conditions that can impact on their motivation and ability to exercise. It’s a holistic role where I can develop services and new ways for people to remain active, healthy and make a conscious effort to improve their quality of life.

Q: What is deconditioning?

Put simply, deconditioning comes about as a result of a sedentary or inactive lifestyle and fundamentally causes a loss of muscle mass, muscle strength and other physiological and psychological changes. There are many factors which contribute to the onset of deconditioning, which can include an acute health event resulting in a hospital inpatient stay or prolonged bed rest. There can also be social causes, for example the pandemic, which left many people without any reason to leave their homes for much of the day, leading to less physical activity. Deconditioning impacts an individual’s quality of life, stealing independence and increasing risks of morbidity and ill health. We can support individuals in the community and help prevent this deconditioning cycle from starting.

Q: What can people do to prevent deconditioning?

There are lots of things that people can do to prevent deconditioning. The first is to get talking about deconditioning and the importance of physical activity. People can learn what deconditioning is about and make friends and relatives aware of what it is, the risk factors, and how to reduce these through increasing and maintaining physical activity, at any age.

Next, people can take time to learn about what is available in their local community to get active. There are lots of local services ranging from private gyms to council funded walking groups and everything in between. We can all encourage our friends and family to find new ways to get out of the house, or even remain active in the home through making movement a priority. It doesn’t have to be circuit training! Any movement is good movement, even marching on the spot whilst watching TV!

As professionals, we can work in a more integrated way to promote local services to our patients and clients and make them aware of the risks of deconditioning by making every contact count.

Q: How can Kingston Hospital’s members and supporters get involved?

We are now recruiting for volunteers in the New Malden and Richmond area to join us and volunteer with people locally who have been advised and supported by their GP to participate in our gentle movement programme.

Volunteers are fully trained and supported to visit patients in their homes on a weekly basis for eight weeks to help them to get moving at a pace and level that’s right for them, encouraging people back to health through a cuppa and a few repetitions of each exercise on the programme.

We’re looking for people in these areas who can give a couple of hours each week to really make a difference to an older people who may be at risk of getting weaker through deconditioning. The work we’ve done so far has shown that the programme can be life changing for our patients and for our volunteers too.

If interested, please watch our short film to find out more or contact us via khft.rehabvolunteers@nhs.net to register your interest. Recruitment will open on 4 December and training takes place in February 2024.

Tell us how we are doing we'd love to have your opinion