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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

COTA VIC’s bite-size exercise program to have Aussies Living Longer Living Stronger

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We often retreat during the winter months, with lounging on the couch — blanket over lap — a far more appealing proposition than the chilly prospect of a walk around the block.

But consistent is key for elders wishing to keep their physical wellbeing in check, which is why Council on the Ageing Victoria (COTA VIC) is encouraging elders to perform a ‘Random Act of Exercise’ to add a quick and easy boost to their day.

With video examples available to view online via this link, the initiative aims to incorporate extra movement seamlessly into elders’ days.

Mish Wright, coordinator of COTA VIC’s Living Longer Living Stronger (LLLS) program, tells Aged Care News that the initiative helps to break down the intimidating nature of exercise in older age.

“We should be exercising every day for 30 minutes … but it can be really difficult … and it doesn’t mean we have to do that exercise all in one hit.

“If we have a random act of exercise that we do, every time we get up to put the kettle on, or before we have a shower, doing movements to benefit mobility: reaching and stretching behind, reaching up and stretching overhead [it can be so beneficial].

“So it’s taking something that we already do and attaching a random act of exercise to it- like an exercise snack.”

COTA VIC’s Mish Wright says the Random Act of Exercise initiative is helping to break down the intimidating nature of exercise in older age.

By breaking the notion of a workout into bite-size activities, Wright says that it makes for a much more engaging and sustainable exercise program for older adults.

“It’s answering the question of: do we create an exercise programme for people who are absolutely terrified of the word exercise?

“How can we make movement more fun, because exercise has so many bad connotations for so many people.

“I always say, ‘if we were selling sweets or lollies, people would line up down the street’.

“But we’re not: we’re selling pain, uncomfortableness. That feeling like you don’t belong, that feeling like you’re not strong enough.”

These small additions to an elder’s daily routine, in contrast, build confidence in a slow but steady way.

And consistency is key, with fall risk estimated to be a third less for elders who consistently exercise, as compared to their sedentary peers.

In this Random Act of Exercise tutorial, created by COTA VIC, elders are taught how to stabilise and strengthen their core muscles from the comfort of a seated position.

Starting lightly with some random acts of exercise may open the door to more intensive exercise routines.

COTA VIC’s original LLLS program provides such an opportunity, with elders provided tailored support to conduct strength and balance routines — but all in a friendly group environment.

“Strength training for older adults really increases their ability to do the activities of daily living longer. It allows them to stay independent and have better health outcomes,” Wright says.

She says that COTA VIC have structured their fitness program around three key principles.

Firstly, is not simply a group fitness class.

“Although it’s in a group setting, participants have their own program,” Wright explains.

“That is key, because we can cater to chronic conditions better that way.”

… women tend to make up the majority of the class — I think driven by that need to socialise — and they often bring their husbands and then their husbands get addicted and keep coming along!

Mish Wright

Secondly, all classes are concluded with an opportunity for social connection.

“After the session, there is a cup of tea together; that socialisation is really, really important,” Wright says.

“It is funny because women tend to make up the majority of the class — I think driven by that need to socialise — and they often bring their husbands and then their husbands get addicted and keep coming along!”

“And then the third one, and this goes to the values of COTA, is that we look after people who are much more marginalised in society … it’s cheap, with no lock-in fees.

Wright, above right, speaks to participant Jan about how the program has benefitted her over the last seven years.

Whether it’s engaging in a random act of exercise from the comfort of one’s home, or joining in a live class, Wright says she hopes her work will change the harmful perception that ageing means the end of one’s fitness journey.

“Inactivity breeds inactivity and that all impacts on mental health and socialisation, so this really is a game changer for both physical and mental health.”

Living Longer Living Stronger is offered at fitness and leisure centres, neighbourhood and community houses, and personal trainers across Victoria.

Inactivity breeds inactivity and that all impacts on mental health and socialisation, so this really is a game changer for both physical and mental health.

Mish Wright

Victorian elders wishing to participate in the program should call COTA VIC on 1300 13 50 90 or email llls@cotavic.org.au for assistance.

Living Longer Living Stronger can be provided as a lifestyle facility within aged care facilities. Providers are advised to email llls@cotavic.org.au to enquire.

Random Acts of Exercise is a program funded under the Change our Game initiative by the Victorian Government’s Office of Women in Sport and Recreation.

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