Older members ‘appalled’ as AIS pulls the plug on aqua-aerobic classes

James Coleman 17 September 2021 42
AIS Fitness Centre

The AIS Fitness Centre houses three pools and a gym. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

News that one of the ACT’s largest fitness centres is pulling the plug on their aqua-aerobic classes has dealt a heavy blow to dozens of middle-aged and elderly Canberrans.

On Thursday, 9 September, members of the Fitness Centre at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) in Bruce received an email notifying them that it will not be reopening after lockdown lifts.

Operated by Sport Australia, the centre has been closed since the ACT went into lockdown in early August, but this was the first members had heard of a permanent closure. It has left them annoyed that they weren’t consulted and unsure of where to go next to keep fit and healthy.

The Fitness Centre incorporates 25 and 50-metre pools, a gym and a training pool. The closures will impact the gym, personal trainer sessions, recovery programs (dry and aqua), group fitness classes (dry and aqua) and school holiday programs.

The learn-to-swim classes and public swimming access will be business as usual once COVID-19 restrictions allow.

John Rees is one of many older members affected by the seemingly out-of-the-blue closure.

“There has been no consultation with any of the people who go to the centre, some of whom have been there for 20 years. All of a sudden, they get this email – on ‘R U OK’ Day, no less – saying that the Fitness Centres is closing. For a government agency, we think this approach by AIS has been appalling.”

The 25-metre pool forms part of the AIS Fitness Centre. Photo: AIS.

John says they want someone to talk to rather than “close us down and put us out on the street”.

Seven classes were held weekly, with a minimum of 50 to 60 people attending each class. Combined with the gym, there are about 200 members on the books at the Fitness Centre.

Many of these people are unable to use treadmills and other forms of vigorous exercise and have turned to aqua aerobics for cardio and resistance exercises. The buoyancy of the water supports the body and reduces the risk of muscle and joint injury.

“There are no other places in Canberra providing the same level of support and, indeed, dedication to their clients as is provided by the Fitness Centre management team at the AIS,” John says.

The email from AIS sent out to members reads that the Fitness Centre and associated programs are “no longer commercially viable in what has become an increasingly competitive fitness sector”.

To assist members in finding other facilities, AIS also compiled a list of other fitness options available to members in their local areas and negotiated some discounts for these.

READ ALSO: New AIS initiative sparks an important conversation around female health

John and the other members are grateful for this effort but having looked into these options, but he says none are on par with AIS services.

Not only that, but the current COVID-19 restrictions in the ACT mean that none of them are open.

“We can’t even go anywhere for the next four weeks to consider what these other options are,” John says.

“I am concerned that if forced to go elsewhere, many will just opt out entirely and give up, to the detriment of their physical and mental health.”

He adds that for him and other members, it is about more than just keeping fit.

“Someone might say that it’s only water aerobics and who really cares, but here in the ACT, we have been focussed on the aging population for many years. And this is something that is quite devastating for many of them.

“It is not merely a place to focus on our physical health and fitness. It is where we go to meet up with friends and maintain our connection to the community.”

John says they have sought a meeting with Sport Australia so all issues can be put on the table with the aim of a good-faith review of the decision but have had no response to date.

A spokesman for Sport Australia says that members and holiday program participants are being contacted, and refunds will be provided for any fees paid and unused from the start of the ACT lockdown.

“Members are also being assisted to find alternate facilities nearby that can offer a similar service.”

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42 Responses to Older members ‘appalled’ as AIS pulls the plug on aqua-aerobic classes
Bec Harris Bec Harris 5:03 pm 23 Sep 21

Sarah Tindale need any instructors? 🤔

    Sarah Tindale Sarah Tindale 5:25 pm 23 Sep 21

    Bec Harris I know, I read this article a couple days ago... Didn't think of that though 🤔🤔

    Scott Selway Scott Selway 5:40 pm 24 Sep 21

    Disappointed to not be returning to work after lockdown as well as seeing our elderly clients be left without a service that meets their demands. Furthermore a bit disappointing that those left without a job were not offered redeployment! The AIS fitness centre in particular was a warm and welcoming place for all instructors and clients with more of a family atmosphere then your typical run of the mill gyms around ACT.

    Thinking of all of our clients, particularly those who made it the place it was!!

Christa Sadler Christa Sadler 4:41 pm 23 Sep 21

Brad does this effect swim club.

Kayla Sadler Kayla Sadler 3:04 pm 23 Sep 21

Bianca Latimore- jump on all the Aqua instructors! Always need an Aqua cover!

Carol Treneski Carol Treneski 9:07 am 23 Sep 21

The team at the gym and pool worked with my Dad for years. He had Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia. They helped Dad retain some independence, reduced his falls and give him a valuable support network outside the family. This is such terrible news for so many people, including the wonderful dedicated staff. What a loss for the community. Appalling.

Melinda Parrett Melinda Parrett 9:13 pm 21 Sep 21

How sad! My mum used to run acqua aerobic classes here! 😘

Leslie McKenzie Leslie McKenzie 9:14 pm 20 Sep 21

I fear we will see the results of this in the health records. Where else could 50 people attend an aqua aerobics class 5 mornings a week. Some will not be able to afford more expensive gyms. They will not be accessible to others. Some will not feel up to going to another gym where they know no-one and can't keep up with the pace.

Kate King Kate King 8:40 pm 20 Sep 21

An absolute disgrace that it has been closed, especially with nothing even close to it in the area

Alisha Tarrant Alisha Tarrant 4:51 pm 20 Sep 21

This is a big loss for those whose needs were meet by facilities at AIS.

A real shame for members physical health and also mental health through sociability.

Craig Martin Craig Martin 1:28 pm 20 Sep 21

One more step towards the whole AIS closing down?

Carol Knight Carol Knight 1:01 pm 20 Sep 21

Jess Knight Michael will join us now! Mx

Jaanos Eesti Jaanos Eesti 10:27 am 20 Sep 21

The cancellation of the school holiday programs was very disappointing and, to be honest, doesn’t appear to make commercial sense. Their sports programs were almost unique in Canberra in that it had a high degree of structure within the program (not too much “down time” between games) which certain children thrived in. Likewise their specific sports programs offered good coaching, a mixture of attendance options (including 5 days). Whilst there were other companies making similar offerings, the AIS school holiday programs were priced competitively, with good staff, decent facilities and a had a strong track record in terms of quality of staff, program structure. I am amazed that they have been cancelled and know many families who are gutted to have lost their children’s favourite holiday camp option with no really comparable offerings available to replace it. A real shame.

    superdeck superdeck 12:17 am 09 Oct 21

    Was the only program in the green but couldn’t support what was in the red.

Finally Relented Finally Relented 8:17 am 20 Sep 21

Is Sports Australia local or federal?

John Moulis John Moulis 5:57 am 20 Sep 21

I trained at the AIS a few years ago and I couldn’t wait to get out. Awful place. The predominance of hard concrete and the general cold atmosphere – including the freezing cold change rooms – combined to make training a chore rather than a pleasant experience. It was like something out of the Cold War Soviet union. Perhaps that was the intention when it was built. Added to that, staff who really didn’t know anything about sport and who were just bureaucrats serving time. I’m glad I got out of there. Since leaving, my training has moved ahead in leaps and bounds.

Mookie Moo Mookie Moo 2:49 am 20 Sep 21

This is so disappointing. I have not used this facility, but I have done weekly aqua aerobics as my main form of physical fitness & wellbeing since in my 30’s. It’s the best exercise for recovery from pregnancy or injury too. How sad to lose this.

    Marty Hoenig Marty Hoenig 12:14 pm 20 Sep 21

    Brendo Collins the daily Aqua Aerobics classes have between 50 and 60 people per class . The gym is heavily used as well and the school holiday programs are extremely well patronised .. It is a political closer they ( Sports Australia ) just don't like Canberrans because they think we do not vote for them ..!

    Brooke Crisp Brooke Crisp 12:36 pm 20 Sep 21

    Marty I'm glad you said that. Aqua classes were always packed Monday to Friday.

    Mookie Moo Mookie Moo 1:30 pm 20 Sep 21

    Marty Hoenig It also says this in the article & comments. He’s just being rude. I was commenting for the importance of aqua for people of all ages.

    Kate King Kate King 8:41 pm 20 Sep 21

    Brendo Collins it had a great attendance at aqua classes

Anne Maree Crowe Anne Maree Crowe 12:20 am 20 Sep 21

I feel for these people who have lost their water aerobics classes. Many elderly and people with mobility issues rely on swimming and water aerobics classes to assist them with their fitness and to help with recovery from injuries such as back, knee and shoulder pains etc. I do water aerobics at Erindale and the classes are fantastic, though of course not available during lockdown. This sounds like an extremely unfair decision.

Margaret Edwards Margaret Edwards 9:54 pm 19 Sep 21

That’s where I fell in love with aqua aerobics many years ago.

Lizzie Parlane Lizzie Parlane 6:24 pm 19 Sep 21

Incredibly disappointed. I have used both pools for 18 years now - through pregnancy, to teach my son to swim, to keep fit. The only 50 metre pool that was clean and had wide enough lanes. Loved it. Wasn't it created to train Olympians and elite swimmers? There are not a lot of uncrowded 50 metre pools in Canberra, they'll be more crowded now.

    Tracey Crump Tracey Crump 9:46 pm 19 Sep 21

    Lizzie Parlane I think the pools will remain open (post lockdown) but the fitness programmes, including aquarobics will cease.

Liz Yuncken Liz Yuncken 5:28 pm 19 Sep 21

I'm so disappointed about this decision. AIS was almost the only place in the ACT that offered deep water aquarobics - other pools mostly offer shallow classes which are entirely different. I hope they reconsider, or alternatively that some other pools can fill in the gap.

Dianne Webb Dianne Webb 4:27 pm 19 Sep 21

I was really shocked and saddened to hear the AIS gym was closing. It is hard enough coping with lockdown without another blow to deal with. I joined the gym initially to rehabilitate after two total hip replacements, firstly in the pool with a specially created program in the early stages and then progressing to a specially written program using weight machines in the gym. After many months of inactivity and pain, it was liberating to be able to move thorough the water in a safe way. After 5 years I am still at the gym and have recently used the machines to recover from a chronic achilles strain. It is such a wonderful place for the elderly that is not provided by other gyms who cater more for the fitter, younger person with very different expectations. Once you know how to use the equipment, a supervisor is not necessary and there was an emergency button if needed when the gym was unattended. So if money is the issue, please let us oldies use the equipment without a staff member. Although I was provided with a list of alternative gyms, from experience I just know that there are no other gyms that cater for the elderly like the AIS gym. Please, please, please reconsider this decision.

Daniel Oyston Daniel Oyston 4:01 pm 19 Sep 21

Business, “We can’t make enough money to stay viable”

Clients, “Hang on. Have you asked us?”

Business, “Sorry, good point. We could increase the fees?”

Clients, “Ha ha not like that”


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