News & Events
Leith Park exercise park pays dividends for older people
February 24, 2021
Older people who do regular physical activity at Seniors Exercise Parks show significant improvements in physical and mental health and wellbeing, new research by the National Ageing Research (NARI) Institute published in BMC Geriatrics shows.
Leith Park residents have been taking part in national research looking at whether seniors exercise parks yield significant improvements in physical and mental health.
And the research findings, published in BMC Geriatrics, is clear: those who do regular exercise showed significant improvements in physical strength and functional mobility, which were sustained long term.
Old Colonists’ Association of Victoria residents have been working with the National Ageing Research Institute in the ENJOY Seniors Exercise Park physical activity program over the past two years. The exercise park was formally launched in August 2019 but research had started before. The program was brought to an abrupt halt due to the pandemic.
“Importantly, their physical activity level also increased from sedentary to being sufficiently active to gain health benefits,” said Professor Pazit Levinger, lead NARI researcher.
“And they rated quality of life, wellbeing, fear of falls, falls risk, depressive symptoms and loneliness, as significantly improved.”
OCAV Leith Park residents took part in the ENJOY program alongside residents from Whittlesea City Council and Wyndham City Council. The program has been supported through Gandel Philanthropy.
In all, 80 people aged over 60 underwent a 3 month structured supervised physical activity program, which was followed by 6 months unstructured, independent use of the exercise park.
Exercise was conducted in groups, followed by a social morning tea.
Participants were assessed at baseline, 3 months and 9 months and were evaluated for physical activity, physical function and health-related quality of life measures.
The results showed that:
- at 3 months: there was a significant increase in physical activity levels including improvements in physical function, self-rated quality of life, and wellbeing. This was combined with a reduced fear of falls, depressive symptoms and loneliness.
- at 9 months: there was sustained levels of physical activity, improved physical function, reduced fear of falls and reduced risk of falls.
“The excellent physical gain benefits we saw at three months were sustained at the nine-month mark,” said Professor Levinger.
“People continued to use the exercise park without a supervised program. Not only were they motivated, they enjoyed the equipment and the socialising opportunities.”
The NARI research shows when you create accessible outdoor environments that encourage and provide opportunities for older people to engage in physical activity and social interaction, they will participate. And this is critical for healthy ageing.
With higher sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity reported among older people, only 25 per cent of older Australians currently meet recommended physical activity guidelines.
“Our home has always been a place where family and friends are welcome. Our cottage at Rushall Park is no different and the community of friends here is important to us and that’s why their work is part of my art box,” Jennifer Barden said.