Exercising physical and mental health together online

09 October 2021

Article

Members of our exercise groups this week have not only had their physical exercise program delivered online, but also a mental health workout.

“With today being World Mental Health Day as well as the last day of Active Ageing Week, it’s great to celebrate how we are supporting people both physically and emotionally, especially at this time,” said Shakira Simon, Program Manager Allied Health services.

Many group members are at risk of declining health, so it has always been important to continue to support them during lockdown. But with the ongoing restrictions, we identified a need to integrate mental health support into the program, to help participants maintain overall health and wellbeing.

Shakira continues, “The integration of mental health support during our exercise groups came about after some feedback from our wonderful Allied Health Assistants who run the groups, Adam and Morgan. They felt members were staying on top of their physical health, but seemed a bit flat mentally and emotionally.”

Being a community health service with a broad range of primary health services, including counselling, mental health nursing and peer support, healthAbility was able to respond quickly and integrate emotional wellbeing exercises into the group sessions.

At first the group was a little unsure about being asked questions such as, ‘how can we care for our whole selves, all of our mental health and wellbeing needs, during this challenging time?’. But before too long, many members expressed relief at having the opportunity to connect and share.

“COVID-19 has impacted our personal and collective experience of mental health and wellbeing,” Roz Sandwell, Program Manager Mental Health explains.

“Our normal daily activities that provided us with opportunities to connect with others, in natural and informal ways, no longer exist. I call this incidental connection. When we do get the opportunity to leave the house, we are all wearing a mask. This impacts our capacity to make eye contact, recognise each other, and ultimately leads to feelings of isolation, disconnection and loneliness.”

Roz and her team are excited to continue joining the online exercise sessions for as long as needed. Their mental health support provides an opportunity for participants to engage in incidental conversations about pets, cooking, gardens, hairstyles etc., while offering some helpful strategies and information on what is needed to consciously maintain mental wellness.


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