People in Scotland who help look after someone living with dementia are being invited to assess whether a smartphone-based app called “CAREFIT” helps them to engage in regular physical activity.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde are looking for 50 people to take part in an eight-week trial of the app. The research team would like to understand whether this type of digital resource has future potential to increase physical activity in this important demographic.

According to Carers UK, 75% of carers in Scotland said they had suffered mental ill health as a result of caring, while 81% of carers of all ages in the UK said they are not able to engage in as much physical activity as they would like.

Positive behaviours

Dr Kieren Egan, Senior Research Fellow in Healthy Ageing and Carer Digital Health in the Department of Computer & Information Sciences, said: “Scotland’s ageing population means that we’ll need even more care in society in the years ahead. This includes family and friends as carers, who need to look after their own health as much as the person they are looking after. However, this doesn’t always happen and instead many carers become isolated, overworked and burnt out when caring for many hours a week over many years.

“The app we have developed is designed to enable carers to engage with physical activity in a user-friendly manner that builds around a busy week, including ongoing caring tasks.

Our long-term goal is to use digital approaches to help carers sustain such positive behaviours. 

Dr Bradley MacDonald, Research Associate in Computer and information Sciences, said: “Through the study we want to understand how to regularly measure physical activity amongst carers, explore unexpected benefits and understand how to reach carers through different channels.

“We’ll also recruit health and care professionals to understand who would be willing to recommend such an app, what added value it could bring for their roles, and how it could integrate into existing services and infrastructure.”

Educational information

The cross platform app will be available on both Google and Apple smartphones. The app has been co-designed with carers from the outset and builds around physical activity guidelines including cardiovascular, muscle and balance, and sedentary breaker activities, as well as featuring a planner and educational information. It includes videos created in partnership with Strathclyde Sport, demonstrating different exercises.

The CAREFIT app has been built in collaboration with app developer Add Jam and involves partnerships with Carers Scotland, Alzheimer Scotland and a number of Health and Social Care Partnerships, with funding from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR).

Patricia Clark of Carers Scotland said: “It’s great to see this support continue as the app develops, and it’s exciting to see the team gather evidence that could make a positive difference to carer outcomes.”

The researchers are looking for Scottish adults (18+) who help look after someone living with dementia, with access to the internet who are thinking about undertaking physical activity. Anyone who may be interested can ask for more information or request to join the study by contacting: