Wrapping up her studies in exercise physiology and rehabilitation science at University of Canberra, Hale Gym personal trainer Gemma Wheildon has the over 55s on her mind.
“The more research I read, the more it becomes apparent so much about our quality of life as we get older – our health and wellbeing, our safety and disease management – is heavily impacted by physical activity,” she says.
“The evidence backing the positive effects of exercise – the improvements to immune function, joint health, metabolic function – is all laid out clear as day.
“Given people are living so much longer now, it’s more important than ever we help them live independent, active and interesting lives.”
Gemma has joined forces with respected pilates instructor of 30 years, Lanette Gavran to develop New Phase – a 12-week program at Hale Gym for over 55s.
Drawing on their respective areas of expertise, Gemma and Lanette’s program entails two 60-minute classes a week, covering the spectrum of individual capabilities with one goal: equipping seniors with the tailored know-how to make a sustainable improvement to their quality of life.
Participants get access to the gym, sauna, steam room and plunge room for the duration of the program, as well as 10 per cent off Hale Spa treatments.
Participants undergo pre-exercise screening and a full composition body scan at the beginning and end of the 12 weeks – a central and critical feature of the program.
This shows imbalances between the left and right sides of the body as well as any conditions that need to be considered as Gemma and Lanette deliver a personalised program.
It also allows them to measure changes and improvements.
“As we get older, incidents of muscular or skeletal damage, physiological conditions, diabetes, heart disease, degenerative joints and so on increase,” Lanette says.
“Our goal is to assist people, who may have complications, who may be scared to exercise, go to a gym or participate in a gym program.
“This is an appropriate and safe place to gain strength, coordination, balance and core control.
“We expect to have some participants who are quite experienced and people who are total novices. We want people who have perhaps never exercised to know that it’s never too late and this is an ideal program to get started – an environment where you can gain some confidence in being active without it being scary.
“Part of our goal is to coach people to do things that will benefit them long term, so hopefully they can continue to lead active lives long after the program is complete.”
It’s a sentiment strongly echoed by Gemma.
“Having health conditions is a reason to come, not a reason to stay away,” she says.
“Lanette and I can work with anything.”
Their goal is for participants to leave with increased lean muscle tissue and strength including pelvic floor, better coordination, balance and core control, and improved functional range of movement (flexibility).
Gemma says the benefits are not only physiological.
“The other really important part of strength and conditioning for seniors is that it helps to maintain a sense of confidence and capacity,” she says.
“It allows us to be able to remain independent and do the day-to-day things, but also the bigger, more exciting things. And that has multiple benefits from a mental wellbeing perspective.
“Research has also shown that continuing to be fit and active has a positive impact on cognitive function and exercise treatments can be helpful in managing cognitive conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
“Those conditions have just overtaken cardiac complications as the number one cause of deaths in Australia.
“By providing a service that is backed by science but also enjoyable, we hope to make a big difference in our clients’ quality of life.”
New Phase kicks off on Tuesday 11 April at Hale Gym in Brassey Hotel, 10 to 14 Macquarie Street, Barton. The program costs 12 weekly payments of $69 and spaces are limited. For more information visit Hale Gym.