Strong benefits of training later in life

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COTA ACT CEO Jenny Mobbs, with Strength for Life fitness instructors Donna O’Brien, Diane Percy and Duncan Craig. Photo: Senthan Thani

Council of the Ageing ACT has launched an evidence-based, strength training program to help keep seniors independent for longer. This is a sponsored post.

COUNCIL on the Ageing ACT (COTA ACT) has launched Strength for Life, an evidence-based strength training program to help keep adults over the age of 50 years, independent for longer, says Strength for Life coordinator Diane Percy.

The first of the Strength for Life classes in the ACT will be held at the Hughes Community Centre. The aim of the program is to help older people improve their strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and coordination, while socialising with like-minded people in their local community, Diane says.

“It’s never too late, and you’re never too old,” she says.

“Statistics show that not enough older adults are regularly strength training.

“The benefits are huge, such as improving balance, strength and coordination, which in turn can help to reduce the risk of falling or reduce the severity of a fall if it does happen.

“It can help to improve lower body strength for better balance and may also help in the management of stable chronic conditions such as arthritis, heart disease and diabetes and also manage lower back pain.”

Strength for Life is designed to help people over the age of 50 years, and Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people over the age of 40 years, to improve their strength and physical fitness, Diane says.

She says other benefits of strength training are the potential to improve posture and mobility, and the opportunity to meet other people and remain socially connected with the community.

COTA has received funding from Sport Australia, under the Better Ageing Grant, to expand the Strength for Life program nationally and to introduce the program for the first time to ACT, NSW and Tasmania.

The program, established in WA, SA and Victoria since the early 2000s, will roll out to other locations in Canberra over the coming months so that it can be accessible to everyone.

Diane says COTA ACT has had a lot of interest from potential new providers of the program across Canberra, including fitness centres, community organisations, retirement villages and physiotherapy clinics. Greenway Views’ new LDK seniors living village in Greenway will be the first to offer Strength for Life classes to their residents and community members, from March 2020.

“COTA ACT is delivering a Strength for Life instructor training workshop on the weekend of February 29 and March 1 at CIT in Bruce,” Diane says.

“We are welcoming up to 15 registrations from qualified and experienced personal trainers, exercise physiologists and physiotherapists.”

Diane says the classes will be affordable, on-going and personalised, with a maximum of 15 participants in every class.

By personalising the exercise programs, the instructors are able to tailor programs for all levels of ability, she says.

“The focus of Strength for Life is for people over the age of 50 years who may be less active or not active at all, and who may be looking for a place where they can exercise safely, and that the exercises are appropriate for their individual goals,” Diane says.

The program offers two tiers for participants, Tier 1 classes are delivered by exercise physiologists or physiotherapists, for participants who may be at higher risk due to particular health issues, and Tier 2 classes are delivered by accredited personal trainers.

An initial assessment is conducted prior to starting the program and an individualised program will be developed for each participant.

The Strength for Life classes are delivered in a group setting, with everyone participating in a group-based warm up, then each participant will be doing their own personalised program with supervision from their instructor.

“And just as important, it will be fun,” Diane says.

“It’s a social environment, with some instructors using background music and the personality of the instructor shining through. We know that when people enjoy the sessions, they are more likely to stick with it.”

Even if people are physically active through walking, cycling, golfing, gardening or dancing, Diane says strength training is the base for being able to continue all these activities each day.

For older adults, Diane recommends that strength-training activities should include exercises for all the major muscle groups, at least twice weekly, to achieve health benefits.

Before starting the classes, participants will need to fill out an enrolment form which includes a pre-exercise medical questionnaire. Some participants may need a medical referral before starting (forms available on request). They will also attend a 45-minute assessment and program design session prior to attending their first class.

“It can happen that we become less active as we age,” Diane says.

“We want to grow the Strength for Life program in the ACT, to be able to give those people who are inactive or not active enough, that stepping stone to exercising on a regular basis.

“The Strength for Life program also focuses on social inclusion, so we are encouraging future providers to consider organising a coffee or tea catch-up after class, because we know that it’s nice to finish off the class with a chat.”

The first Strength for Life classes will be held at the Hughes Community Centre, 2 Wisdom Street, Hughes, 1.15pm, Mondays and Fridays, and 3pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

At this location, classes cost $8 for COTA ACT members and $10 for non-members. The individual 45-minute assessment is $45.

For more information, call 6282 3777, email strengthforlife@cotaact.org.au or visit cotaact.org.au

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