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How vertical fitness classes are saving hearts and minds


A retirement home on Brisbane’s southside has started “vertical” fitness classes where seniors can join in from their balconies, after the facility went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Village Yeronga came up with the idea, fearing residents would struggle to maintain their fitness.

The “vertical exercise classes” involve a fitness instructor standing in a park with a megaphone at the centre of the village apartment buildings, demonstrating and communicating safe and functional exercises for residents to do while on their own balconies.

The centre’s physiotherapist, Miles Browning, said, “seniors need to keep fit all the time and one of the problems they’re confronted with is if they stop exercising, they lose their fitness really quickly”.

He said as soon as they knew they were going into lockdown, he and Village manager Kath Gilhooley decided to develop a number of different exercise opportunities for the residents, like the “vertical exercise class”.

The classes were a hit with residents, who were turning to other activities to stay fit.

“A number of them are wearing tracks through their carpet doing laps of their apartment,” Browning said.

“They love it — we started off with one class a week, now we’re doing three.”

When the Government ordered the shutdown of gyms, the Yeronga Village community was heartbroken.

“It was really unfortunate when we lost our community facilities, the gym and the pool specifically,” Mr Browning said.

“We had about 50 to 60 per cent of our residents using those facilities regularly.”

Resident Noela Melville was among those upset by the decision.

“I was missing going to the gym classes every week, as well as the aqua aerobics in the pool — really missing them and the company,” she said.

“Once this started, we were just so overjoyed … it’s company as well as physical [exercise].”

The classes have been a lifeline for both the residents’ physical and mental health.

With seniors being the most at-risk demographic, outdoor exercise is not recommended.

Gilhooley said she was grateful her residents could stay active and connected through the “vertical” classes.

“As you look around the village you can see that they can all see each other,” Gilhooley said.

“You know they have that camaraderie and that banter, and even from just mirroring someone physically, there’s a connection there and that’s really powerful.”

Queensland’s Council on the Ageing CEO Mark Tucker-Evans said the term “social distancing” should not be misinterpreted.

“We prefer to call it physical distancing and social connectedness, because one of the things we are concerned about is that people are becoming disconnected, so it is important that people remain in contact with their families,” he said.

– ABC / Jessica Rendall

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