The benefits of exercise for improving and maintaining health and well-being, as well as preventing ill health, are well recognised. These benefits do not stop once a person moves into residential aged care, and indeed may be more important for regaining and retaining mobility, preventing falls, reducing the use of pain medication, and providing individuals with choice and control while minimising any responsive behaviours. Promoting opportunities for formal and incidental exercise and physical activity in residential aged care (RAC) can therefore offer multiple physical, psychosocial and cognitive benefits to residents.
In Australia accredited exercise physiologists (AEP) will soon become funded health professionals in the aged care system, as part of an evidence-based general wellness and restorative therapy program. AEPs are four-year trained health professionals who deliver clinical exercise programs for people at high risk of developing, or with existing, chronic and complex health issues. AEPs therefore have the ideal mix of theoretical knowledge and practical skills to provide individualised assessments and exercise prescriptions to individual and groups of residents who present with varying levels of physical and cognitive ability, in order to enhance their function, health and quality of life.
A joint partnership with a leading Australian aged care provider and university partner is aiming to further examine the expected and experienced benefits of using resistance band training, increasing the exercise and physical activity levels in care recipients. Benefits previously demonstrated include following: increased range of movement in joints, improved muscle strength, balance, reduced number of falls, better sleep and enhanced overall level of wellbeing and social engagement.
The university’s Exercise Physiology Research Group is investigating how exercise physiology can be used to assist older adults suffering from multiple comorbidities to reach their full potential. This project will enhance collaboration amongst existing clinical staff with the exercise physiologist, supervised exercise physiology students, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to ensure the care recipient’s safety and to provide the best possible outcomes for each individual.
This collaborative project will demonstrate how exercises delivered by qualified exercise physiologist fit strongly into the expansion of the existing therapy program and their inclusion is vital in the future.
The outcome of the study in a 60-bed aged care home will support the expansion of exercise services from five to 25 aged care homes.