Highlighting LowCost and NoCost group exercise in a regional community

  • L to R.  Professor Ross Wilson (Bathurst Rural Clinical School) Associate Professor Peter Simmons (Bathurst Rural Clinical School) Jean Fell (Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre) Adam Lamers (Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre)
    L to R. Professor Ross Wilson (Bathurst Rural Clinical School) Associate Professor Peter Simmons (Bathurst Rural Clinical School) Jean Fell (Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre) Adam Lamers (Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre)
  • BMW&T Walking (Bathurst Men’s Walk& Talk)
    BMW&T Walking (Bathurst Men’s Walk& Talk)
  • Chair Yoga
    Chair Yoga
  • Swimming
Associate Professor Peter Simmons and Professor Ross Wilson
Bathurst Rural Clinical School, Western Sydney University

‘We’ve been talking about doing something like this for 25 years!’: local physiotherapist.

We know that regular exercise is good for us, but cost and lack of awareness of what is available are two major barriers.

To address the issues of cost and awareness in Wiradyuri country at Bathurst, NSW, Western Sydney University’s Bathurst Rural Clinical School (BRCS)and The Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre have created the LowCost or NoCost Exercise directory www.binc.org.au/lowcostnocost/.

‘Encouraged by our community reference group, the BRCS developed a directory of free and affordable exercise options in and around Bathurst. We sought a local partner with web traffic to host it permanently online’ said BRCS researcher Associate Professor Peter Simmons.

‘The Neighbourhood Centre prioritise community participation and were immediately onboard with promoting group exercise. Their web whiz Adam Lamers, made it all come together online.’

‘Whether you are a community member wanting to help a family member, or a GP or counsellor advising a client, the LowCost or NoCost directory was created to make it easy to find a local exercise group that matches your needs.’

The printable online directory includes 30 exercise groups available in Bathurst for $10 or less weekly. Each program lists information about the sort of exercise involved, where, when, cost, eligibility, fitness levels and a local contact.

There are 7 walking groups catering to men or women of different needs and on different days. There are several Tai Chi and seated Tai Chi groups, as well as more intense running, dance, strength conditioning and dragon boating. Some programs target more specific needs, such as Exercise for Parkinson’s, the Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation Program, and Flexit Over 50s. They’re all run by dedicated and welcoming community members.

Executive Officer at The Bathurst Neighbourhood Centre Jean Fell said the list of exercise options is growing as the directory becomes better known.

'Since launching in late 2023 the LowCost or NoCost directory has consistently generated highest volumes of traffic on our Facebook and website and click throughs to individual exercise program pages. As awareness in the community grows, the online traffic is increasing. In March 2024 there were 7344 Facebook views, rising to 9126 views in April. Data is also being collected for the website and for individual programs.

According to local GP and BRCS Professor, Ross Wilson, exercise is a vital part of lifestyle for individuals’ health and wellbeing. ‘Exercise helps individuals with cardio, stomach, diabetes and mental health problems. These are also the main reasons for hospital admissions and drug prescriptions, so exercise and fitness are good news for health services trying to manage costs.’

‘Add to that, the enormous benefits from having fun and meeting people, and group exercise makes a huge contribution to community wellbeing’.

Recently ten of the group leaders joined the BRCS’s community reference group to plan the future of the directory. Several leaders commented that the LowCost or NoCost directory is long overdue, with one physiotherapist saying ‘‘We have been talking about doing something like this for 25 years!". They said the first priority is to raise public and clinician awareness, to continue to try to make sure that individuals who can benefit are connected to the right local exercise programs.

The leaders also want to work effectively together as part of care and fitness pathways. With better understanding of each other. For example, people can articulate from seated Tai Chi to Tai Chi, from cardiac rehab to Men’s Walk and Talk, and on to parkrun. With plans underway to raise awareness about the directory, the various groups are expected to experience increase in uptake of their programs which will lead to better community health outcomes.

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