Jan 16, 2018

Swapping Slippers for Sneakers: Seniors Exercise Parks Dedicated to the Elderly

There have been countless research over the past few decades that indicate exercise is good for the body and mind – especially in the elderly.

Living a more active life can help prevent and lower the risk for heart disease, diabetes, dementia and help people live longer.

Victoria University research has found that outdoor exercise parks specifically designed for seniors help them better enjoy life, and could lower rates of costly falls common with ageing.

A trial park in Sunshine North proved that exercise on balance beams, ramps, and step-up benches dramatically improved participants’ ‘functional health,’ or their ability to cope with daily activities such as tying their shoes, shopping, gardening, or catching a tram.

Nearly 70 Melbourne residents, aged 60 to 87, took part in the 18-week clinical trials.

Exercise physiologist Dr Myrla Sales, who based her PhD on the research, said that seniors have few exercise options in public spaces in Australia, despite the popularity of these kind of parks in other countries, particularly Asia and Europe.

She suggested exercise parks for seniors be co-located with children’s playgrounds so grandparents could exercise while supervising their grandkids.

Her findings showed participants improved muscle strength, balance, and physical function, which are all risk factors for falls.

She said more senior exercise parks could lower incidents of falls among older Australians, which are often accompanied by devastating downward spirals in their health.

While only 17 per cent of the volunteers in the study had ever exercised regularly before, they all reported feeling better physically and mentally after the trial.

“These people are not from an exercise generation and technology has replaced much of the incidental exercise they once did,” Dr Sales said.

Other barriers that prevented them from previous exercise, especially for women, was their long-held perception that exercise was for men, and their lack of time or access to spaces where they felt comfortable to exercise.

“Some seniors of this generation may play lawn bowls or do physical incidental activities, but that is not the same as systematic, structured exercise that works on their strength, balance, mobility, flexibility, and coordination,” she said.

Dr Sales said participants also reported that they enjoyed the opportunity to socialise in the outdoors, while exercise physiologists (including VU students in training) were on hand to ensure they performed exercises correctly.

Dr Sales is calling on local councils and philanthropic organisations to help build other exercise parks dedicated to seniors around Australia so more people could benefit from her research.

The study, A Novel Exercise Initiative for Seniors to Improve Balance and Physical Function, has been published in the Journal of Ageing and Health.

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    1. I think it’s a great idea too but not in conjunction with children’s parks it won’t work, I don’t like that idea at all.

  1. This would be wonderful in our area. There a lot of seniors like me in my area who would definately benefit from this exercise and the opportunity to socialise.

  2. Most seniors do not want to go to a gym but they would love to use this type of equipment at their own time and pace without the loud music and show ponies around ( sorry youngins) but its true I have seen elders using park equipment on their early morning walk brilliant and I agree not in a childrens park play area.

  3. I have been teaching mature aged adults fitness for over 30 years. The benefits are amazing. Balance, reflexes, socialising, independence along with being fitter and healthier. They are not as sick as others, they recover from illness quicker, their immune system is better. They are more active and less afraid to try new things. They look younger than their age and a t younger. I’m 68 and I’m teaching them. It improves their lifestyle and gives them the courage to do more. Functional exercise is keeping my classes alive and vibrant. I love the idea of exercise equipment in parks.

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