Bob and Joan
Bob and Joan Hendry say that exercising with the TIME program helps them maintain independence at home. (Photo: Courtesy of the Hendrys) ​

Bob and Joan Hendry have a home full of memories and a garage full of tools.

While Bob, who is 86 years old, admits that he isn't able to tinker around in the garage as often as he used to, both him and his wife are committed to living independently, at home, for as long as possible.

"We know that moving to a long-term care home will come eventually, but we want to push it off as far as we can," he says.

And thanks to their weekly participation in Toronto Rehab's Together In Movement and Exercise (TIME™) class, an adaptive, gentle, fitness program for people with balance and mobility challenges, the Hendry's get the conditioning they need to carry out day-to-day tasks, and put off that transition.

Leveraging community partnerships

Designed by physiotherapists at Toronto Rehab, and led by fitness instructors in community centres across the country, the purpose of TIME is to increase access to exercise for people with balance or mobility challenges, who can walk a minimum of 10 metres unassisted, with or without a walking aid.

But the benefits extend beyond exercise, says Diane Tse, clinical coordinator for the program.

"TIME also provides social and recreational benefits for participants, and supports their integration in to the local community," Diane says. 

Now in its 11th year, with more than 46 programs across Canada, TIME reflects UHN's commitment to driving the convergence of care, research and education, and demonstrates the impact that a collaboration between healthcare and community partners can make, in providing safe and effective exercise opportunities for people who may otherwise lack access.

 "For people who are at risk of becoming less and less active due to movement challenges, TIME puts them in motion to improve their health and well-being through exercise," says Margot Catizzone, physiotherapist and clinical lead for the program.

Teaching participants how to move around safely

TIME exercises focus on improving flexibility, strength, physical coordination, mobility and balance.

"A typical class incorporates exercises that are functional, and support the tasks and activities of daily living," says Lynette Hamid, the Hendrys' TIME instructor at the York Recreation Centre.

This is critical to Bob and Joan, who both live with spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spaces within your spine, which can lead to pain, weakness, and the seizing of your spine.

"We need the exercise to keep whatever mobility we have," says Bob.

"I don't exercise to see wonderous results – what I'd like to see is that I don't get any worse."

Step-up exercises strengthen hips and legs, and improve the balance needed to navigate stairs, which the Hendry's do on a daily basis.

Weight-shifting exercises, including dance steps or lunges, improve ease of movement, and support important activities such as walking.

Slowly standing from a seated position and lowering back onto a chair improves leg and core strength and balance, which is essential for using the toilet, sitting for meals, getting in and out of a vehicle, and even crouching to reach a low drawer.

"As a TIME instructor, it's most rewarding when participants start to build their confidence and sense of hope," says Lynette.

"Once they believe I can do this, they become more determined to regain – and maintain – their independence through consistent effort."

Proven results

And that effort is paying off.

In evaluations of the TIME program, participants and their caregivers describe how increased balance, strength, and confidence helps improve mobility, daily function, participation in social and leisure activities, the mental health of caregivers, and reduced caregiver assistance.

Research also reveals that community partners perceive collaboration with healthcare as crucial to sustaining the safety and quality of the program.

 "Our instructors are enthusiastic, encouraging, and make sure we're doing exercises safely," says Bob.

"We're grateful for programs like TIME, that help us live the life we want to be living."

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