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Physical activity workshop to get patients moving

Emma Breheny
6 October 2016

During a PhD on primary prevention of chronic disease using physical activity, Nicole Freene, APAM, made some surprising discoveries about physiotherapists’ promotion of more active lifestyles.

Her study found that, to get people moving, one home visit and four follow-up phone calls from a physiotherapist were just as effective as a group-based exercise program run by fitness instructors.

‘With a little bit of brief advice, we could potentially have a huge impact on the population’s physical activity levels,’ Nicole says.

However, she became concerned by Debra Shirley’s research from 2010 that showed 60 per cent of physiotherapists in New South Wales had a poor awareness of what exactly Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend.

While all physiotherapists are aware of the benefits of exercise, Nicole realised that without knowledge of the current guidelines, they were unable to take advantage of their position as trusted healthcare professionals to influence behaviour change.

‘We’re exercise specialists. We’re trained with strong backgrounds in disease, pathology and body systems, and we’ve got all these fantastic skills but we’re not using them as much as we could in this space,’ she says.

To address this, she’s planning a physical activity workshop next year featuring speakers from several fields. After discussing the specifics of the physical activity guidelines, speakers like Elisabeth Preston, APAM, and Alison Harmer, APAM, will talk about physical activity’s role in stroke and type 2 diabetes, respectively. Kellie Toohey and Rohan Telford are also going to speak on paediatrics and palliative care.

To conclude the event, each practitioner will share their tips on how to incorporate conversations about physical activity into consultations, with the goal of getting patients moving at the right intensity for up to 300 minutes per week.

‘Most people would know that they need to do 30 minutes of activity most days of the week but the message about intensity has been missed,’ Nicole says. ‘They should be able to talk but not sing.’ She’s quick to remind people that physical activity can be any bodily movement (like gardening or housework) whereas exercise is more structured and repetitive.

Her tips to get patients motivated are to remind them that anything is better than nothing and they can break their 30 minutes into 10-minute blocks during the day. In terms of what the right exercise is, she says that moderate intensity is key and the activity must be something the individual enjoys.

‘It has to be something they can incorporate into their life for the rest of their lives,’ Nicole says.

She’s also found that talking through the evidence supporting the health benefits of exercise makes patients realise it’s time for them to become more active.

‘When they hear that there are so many different disease processes it can help prevent, that it reduces your risk of dying from any cause by at least 30 per cent, they listen.’

The first ‘Physical activity across the lifespan’ workshop will be held on 11 February 2017 at University of Canberra. Registrations will be handled directly by University of Canberra.


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