Exercise interventions are an effective means of treating people with chronic conditions such cardiovascular disease, mental illness and type 2 diabetes. For older Australians in rural and regional areas, there are barriers to accessing exercise and getting support to exercise safely and effectively. Exercise Sports Science Australia (ESSA) has launched a project that subsidises those over the age of 65 to participate in group exercise sessions delivered by its university qualified and Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEPs) and Accredited Exercise Scientists (AESs).
ESSA secured a Sport Australia ‘Move It AUS – Better Ageing’ grant for its Exercise Right for Active Ageing project. This builds on the Exercise Right initiative, an evidenced based information website inspiring people to live happier and healthier lives through motivational stories, engaging content and evidence-based tips, especially for people with chronic conditions.
Inactive older Australians in rural and remote areas and women over the age of 75 are the priorities of the project, designed to help them become more active through evidence-based, age-appropriate exercise. The project provides a subsidy to reduce the cost of assessments and exercise sessions led by ESSA members. The project is also an initiative to encourage delivery of services to rural and regional areas using telehealth.
Participants are screened via the industry standard screening tool to ensure the sessions are appropriate to their needs and abilities. They then undertake a subsidised pre-exercise assessment prior to starting classes, followed up by a post-assessment to measure progress.
Subsidised group sessions are held in facilities ranging from exercise physiology / exercise science clinics to council owned leisure facilities to retirement villages and include falls prevention, strength and balance, hydrotherapy and Pilates classes.
Rural and remote Australians who can’t access classes in these facilities will have access to classes via telehealth providers who meet best practice standards. Telehealth delivery will involve the AEP or AES running a group session using video conferencing technology so participants can attend classes in their own homes. All participants need is a computer with a web camera and a stable internet connection. They will receive support and feedback in real time from ESSA members during sessions, including referrals to local services as needed.
ESSA is developing Telehealth Standards which include technical and privacy requirements to ensure delivery is in line with legislation and best practice. Privacy is an important consideration with health information and the standards will reflect what steps are needed to ensure information is securely stored in Australia. Video resolution requirements will also be developed in line with developing technologies to ensure the quality of interventions are in line with clinical needs. Internet stability requirements such as implementing Software as a Service (SAAS) best practice will also be included in the standards to ensure participants’ safety, support and comfort throughout their sessions.
ESSA members are keen to engage with rural and regional community organisations to establish cross-referrals and identify volunteering opportunities for participants to promote social inclusion. If you are keen to find out more, take a look at the project website where you can locate a local provider. Health professionals can also email [email protected] for more information.