Strathclyde researchers develop exercise app for carers’ health

An exercise app, designed to support the health of family carers during the COVID-19 pandemic, is being developed by researchers at the University of Strathclyde.

The Scottish Government is funding the study, which is aimed at producing an app enabling carers to exercise at home when they have the opportunity.

The content of the app will be informed by authoritative guidance from health bodies.

An early stage prototype has been tested by carers working at the University of Strathclyde. Researchers in the project are based in the University’s Department of Computer and Information Sciences and School of Psychological Sciences & Health.

Dr Kieren Egan, a Research Associate in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, is leading the project. He said: “Family carers are people who help to run this country. They’re like an underground force that keeps society moving.

“They can be young carers looking after a parent or parents; they might also be ‘sandwich carers’ looking after both their children and parents and trying to balance everything.

"This means that they are often very time-poor individuals who might not be able to use some exercise apps to the same extent as other people. Realistically, some carers, are doing well if they can manage 10 minutes’ exercise per day on a regular basis.

“Many other apps also have a focus on outdoor activity, which may not be so easy for carers to fit into their time. We’re looking to develop one which is accessible, based on the best NHS and WHO guidance, and we will co-create it with carers.

“It can be difficult to find tools giving you exactly what you want and it can be demotivating if they don’t, so we’re looking to find the nugget that does motivate individuals and is useful to them in the time they have available.

“The feedback we’ve had on the app work so far been really good and we’re looking forward to improving the prototype and testing the app within the community. We want carers, and the people they care for, to be able to enjoy the best quality of life they can and to stay fit and strong both within the COVID19 outbreak and beyond.”

The project is among a range of Strathclyde-led projects to have received Scottish Government funding, totalling £355,000, following a Rapid Research in COVID-19 call for bids by the Chief Scientist Office. Others are:

  • the development of a low cost, rapid, high-throughput COVID-19 assay for isolation/back-to-work decisions for key workers
  • an examination of whether social distancing has made us healthier and encourage the adoption, maintenance and sharing of positive changes
  • an examination of the impact of pandemic response upon public mental health and disparities.

The University of Strathclyde has, since 2019, held Carer Positive Exemplary status, in recognition of its support for staff who act as carers. The Carer Positive award, operated by Carers Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government, is presented to employers in Scotland who have a working environment where carers are valued and supported.