Lesley reignites her passion for art

A table with colourful pottery pieces, including a vase, plates and bowls

Lesley Collett has always appreciated and enjoyed creating art and since her diagnosis with Multiple Scleroris (MS), has been able to reconnect with her passion through her participation in ACH Group ceramics group.

It’s Tuesday just before 1pm and the ACH Group ceramics class. There’s  general chatter about what everyone’s been up to, when we’re greeted by the ACH Group coordinator and the class teacher. The  display of colourful pottery pieces from last sessions, all fired and finished, are an exhibition of creativity on their own.

One of the vases on display featuring lilies has been created by Lesley who finds inspiration mostly in nature – in her garden, looking out of the window – seeing trees and plants, observing textures and details.

We asked Lesley about her creative process and what is important to consider when living with a chronic condition such as Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

“I like working with clay because it gets your brain engaged, it gets your hands engaged, it’s tactile, you can just lose yourself in it and you don’t think about anything else that’s going on.”

Lesley working on a clay piece

Lesley has thoroughly enjoyed the classes which have reignited her passion for art. Trying things she hasn’t done for many years and regaining interest in working with clay has been a highlight.

“Working with clay is just different compared to painting. As time goes on, your needs end up changing, your body changes, your eyesight changes, so you have to be little bit more adaptable of what you can actually physically achieve.”

Lesley also reflected that joining the group is also an opportunity to get involved in a social situation and be with like-minded people who share the same interest.

“I think it’s something everybody can aspire to. It’s about finding what you like working with, and you get some encouragement and you’re with people you can get inspiration from.”

“I don’t have a plan, I observe what’s around me, and when I have the medium in front of me, then I work from what comes to my imagination and what the limitations are with the medium that we’re using – and it’s challenging that way and things just seem to happen. I just get totally absorbed in it.”

The element of surprise…

“After you’ve left it for a couple of weeks to dry out, it’s always a surprise because you don’t know if it’s going to make it through the firing. You don’t really know what colour you’re going to paint it until you’re there and at the end it’s a surprise, but I guess, there’s also some type of a vision for some of the pieces of work you’re going to do if you have a plan, but then you have to be aware that it may not always go as planned because of the limitation of what you’re working with and the time you’ve got.”

When you live with a chronic condition…

Lesley was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1984. Looking back Lesley reflected that she had been having issues probably good ten years leading to the diagnosis, not realising what it actually was. Some of the symptoms included vision problems, a lot of fatigue issues that went on for many years and nobody knew why. The diagnosis came when Lesley lost sensations in her body from the chest down to her feet.

“MS is very unpredictable; you just don’t know what you get from one day to the next. As years go on, you learn how to manage it, learning to rest when you need to. Creating a support network is also important – reaching out to your family and community, finding allied health professionals that can support you.”

“MS affects my walking and there are things I can’t physically do, but I can use my hands and my vision, permitting that I don’t have an episode when I am feeling tired and I can’t see too well. It doesn’t preclude me from doing what I love and I am still enjoying my life.”

Lesley uses other ACH Group services, such as exercise physiology, and has regular sessions with a physiotherapist, which she finds extremely helpful and important.

“I exercise, mainly stretches, every day – to keep mobile as much as possible.”

In the past, Lesley also enjoyed joining ACH Group’s art groups and creating metal work.

When asked what she wishes people knew about MS, Lesley shared…

“Try not to be judgemental. If you see someone having issues, try not to label or say – that’s what is wrong with the person. Someone with MS might look perfectly normal and people expect them to be able to do certain things, but that’s not always the case, especially when fatigue and pain set in.”

Lesley hopes that raising awareness about MS will help the public understand that it’s a situation when it’s not always obvious.

What is multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, neurodegenerative condition that affects the Central Nervous System (CNS). The body’s own immune system appears to attack the protective sheath of fatty protein, called myelin, which surrounds the nerves in the brain, spinal cord and the optic nerve.

Source: https://www.ms.asn.au/

Strength training weighs up

Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders.

Incorporating this type of training into your exercise program provides many benefits to support healthy ageing.

Strength training, also known as weight or resistance training, involves exercises using your own bodyweight or equipment, like dumbbells, resistance bands, and weight machines, to build muscle mass, strength, and endurance.

The benefits of strength training are considerable and varied.

After the age of 60, on average 3% of muscle mass is lost every year.

Strength training can play a vital role in regaining these losses. Increasing muscle mass builds your strength and stamina to support you to engage in everyday activities from walking to climbing stairs, carrying shopping bags or doing housework.

As well as increasing muscle mass, strength training increases bone density, and can support the management of osteoporosis.

As you gain muscle, your body begins to burn calories more easily making it easier to control your weight.

Strengthening exercises can increase flexibility and balance, reducing falls and injuries.

There’s further evidence that strength training minimises the symptoms related to chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, combats cognitive decline and improves your mental health.

What to consider when strength training

1. Check in with a health professional

Always check with a qualified health professional, such as your GP, before commencing any new exercise program. This is to ensure you can exercise safely without your new routine having adverse effects on your health.

2. Seek an individualised program

A physiotherapist or exercise physiologist (EP) can develop a strength program that is tailored to you and considers your personal goals, and current health, fitness, and strength.

A tailored program will give you confidence that the exercises you’re doing are safe and effective. Furthermore, you can choose to take part in group exercise classes or one-on-one sessions with an EP.

Having the experienced eye of an EP monitoring you will ensure you are exercising safely and correctly, to get the most out of your session.

3. Know your body

When exercising, stop if you feel pain, or you have difficulty breathing. Before you commence again, check with a health professional and they can review your program and modify as required.

4. Find ways to keep motivated

Finding the motivation to keep exercising can be challenging at times. Setting weekly goals, tracking your progress, and rewarding yourself when you achieve your milestones is an effective way to keep motivated.

Consider asking your friends to join you, so exercising is also a social occasion, or compiling a playlist of your favourite songs as music not only helps boost your endurance and exercise performance, but it can also help you fight off fatigue.

Exercise safely and achieve your personal goals

ACH Group has three health and wellness hubs located across metro Adelaide, with a team of Allied Health professionals to assist you to exercise safely and achieve your personal goals.

Specialised health and wellbeing programs combine exercise and education to promote independent living and positive health outcomes.

Rudi’s kicking his own goals

Rudi is kicking his own goals

Rudi Baumer said his greatest loves are, “my wife Nikki, our children and grandchildren, and Arsenal.”

Nikki teased, “that’s the first time Arsenal hasn’t come first.”

The couple married in 2004, and six months later Rudi was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. The first symptoms were a few twitches, but as time progressed it affected Rudi’s ability to use his legs and arms.

In 2012 Rudi had deep brain stimulation to control the shaking, then in 2018 had a suspected stroke. Dementia and diabetes followed, and then depression.

There was no more soccer (competing or coaching), socialising was challenging, and even visiting family was hard with Rudi’s speech deteriorating, leaving him feeling disconnected and frustrated.

But then something profound happened a few months ago when Rudi joined ‘Everybody’s Game’, a walking soccer program run by ACH Group for people who have had a stroke, or live with neurological conditions.

Rudi’s skills on the wing came to the fore, and his kicking accuracy was rewarded with an Adelaide United jersey. This is a prize neither Nikki nor Rudi could have ever imagined, and it won’t be joining the haul of soccer medals and trophies in the spare room – this one’s for celebrating every day.

“I call him the Energiser Bunny because he runs up and down the pitch with endless energy,” Nikki said.

“He’s off like a rocket. He has the biggest smile on his face and for those two hours at Everybody’s Game he comes alive.”

And where is Nikki during the game? “I’m the cheer squad!” The couple also enjoy babysitting their grandchildren and beach walks together.

“Rudi may not walk very fast, but we’re not in a race; we’re happy to simply sit and look at the ocean,” Nikki said.

Rudi’s message to anyone with a similar condition: “do what you love.”

Rudi takes part in ACH Group art and exercise classes to support him to live well.

“With art I can just draw, there’s no guidelines or rules,” Rudi said.

A first of its kind in South Australia, Everybody’s Game is run by ACH Group in partnership with Football SA, and Flinders University.

Yoga and its benefits

Yoga benefits to older people

What is yoga?

Yoga is a form of gentle exercise that is not religious but promotes spirituality, encouraging people to learn and develop inner peace and nurture their ‘mind, body and spirit’.  This ancient practice, founded in India’s Himalayas region, increased in popularity in Western culture during the 1960s-70s and continues to grow in popularity across all age groups today.  

Yoga is usually practiced in a quiet and calming environment, often with soft music or lighting. People in a class are encouraged to focus on their breathing as they follow the teachers’ instructions.

The teacher demonstrates and explains set movements and ‘postures’ that move the body in a certain position, requiring strength, concentration and balance. But don’t worry, you do not need to be able to twist yourself into knots, classes and movements can be tailored to suit individual abilities and will adapt as you improve.

Yoga unwinds the spring by stretching the body in a safe and systematic way. This begins with the major muscles and gradually attends to the smaller muscles as the larger ones become more supple. The result is an increase in range of motion for the limbs, improved posture and a reduction in stiffness and pain. While stretching the muscles, strength is also developed, providing more support for the joints and improvement in balance and mobility.

People feel the benefits of yoga immediately and often report that they can move more freely and feel ‘lighter’ and ‘calmer’.

Health benefits of yoga

According to Yoga Australia, there is a growing body of evidence to demonstrate that yoga can be a useful and cost-effective tool in the management and treatment of a wide range of conditions. There are proven health benefits of yoga to both your mental and physical health. Let’s find out.

Calming effect and reduced anxiety

Yoga has been proven to help reduce anxiety and as a method to cope with feelings of anxiety. According to research, yoga can be considered as a complementary therapy or an alternative method for medical therapy in treatment of anxiety disorders.

Yoga practice that involves meditation and breathwork can help improve your mental well-being and promote emotional health. There is growing evidence that meditation and mindfulness exercises may help manage symptoms and conditions like anxiety, stress, chronic pain, depression, chronic pain, sleep problems and so on. Remember yoga and meditation can’t replace traditional medical treatment but are helpful tools to assist with other treatments. Always consult with your healthcare provider about the benefits of incorporating yoga into your treatment.

Improved cardiovascular health

Studies show that yoga may help improve cardiovascular health or heart health and minimize the risk of heart diseases. High blood pressure is one of the major causes of heart problems and yoga can be used as a tool to help lower blood pressure. Practicing yoga may help lower blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels as well as heart rate. A study has shown that slow-paced yoga classes twice a week helped reduce the frequency of atrial fibrillation episodes in patients with the condition.

Increased joint mobility

Beside improving mental health and heart health, yoga can help reduce tension and improve joint flexibility. People with arthritis can benefit greatly from attending regular yoga classes as yoga helps build muscle strength and improve balance.

A study by Dr. Kolasinski on the effects of yoga on people with knee osteoarthritis (OA) has found that people who take 90-minute modified Iyengar yoga classes once a week for eight weeks reported reductions in pain and improvements in joint stiffness. Another study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania found that yoga could provide relief for people with hand osteoarthritis and improve finger range of motion.

Improved respiratory efficiency

The respiratory system is one of the most important systems of the body since it connects the whole body and supplies oxygen throughout to every single cell. Yoga practice that involves breath work or known as ‘pranayama’ breathing exercise has proven to help improve respiratory system. Regular yoga breathing exercises can also help sort out problems in the respiratory system such as asthma, hay fever, shortness of breaths and sinus problems. Clinical study has found that yoga exercise amongst patients with asthma helped reduce the number of day and night attacks, reduction in use of drug and significant improvement in the peak expiratory flow rate.  

Enhanced memory and concentration

Yoga does not only help strengthen the body; it also helps strengthen the mind. There is growing evidence over the years that emphasises the positive effects of yoga practice on connection between physical activity and improved brain health. A 2016 study by the University of California compared yoga and meditation with those from memory-training exercises such as crosswords, puzzles, and brain training. Study participants were divided into two groups: one practicing yoga and meditation while the other group practicing memory-training exercises. The result found that both groups saw similar improvements in verbal memory. However, those who practiced yoga saw some additional benefits such as improvement in visual-spatial memory, depth perception, improved moods and communications, improved ability to focus and multitasking.

It’s time to take up yoga

yoga is a gentle exercise to help connect mind, body and spirit

Yoga is for everybody. Some people may say “I’m not that flexible so I won’t be doing yoga.” That is not true. The term yoga in Sanskrit means ‘to yoke’ which means to connect. Yoga is a holistic practice to connect the body, mind, and spirit. This ancient practice has proven to offer great health benefits over decades. Yoga is for everybody no matter what age you are. Yoga is more than just the physical practice of poses or known as asanas. Yoga pratice which involves meditation and breathing exercises that can help improve overall health and well-being. Yoga offers many modifications and variations for everybody with props such as blocks, straps, bolsters to help ease you into the practice. Therefore, yoga can be practiced even if you are not flexible. Having a yoga instructor that understands your previous injuries, health issues and your limitations can help personalise the experience to your own body, your own ability.

ACH Group offers a wide range of health and wellbeing services include exercise groups and wellness groups. Our specialists will work with you to develop a personalised plan that helps keep you active and living life independently. Stay informed and up to date with our healthy ageing and well-being tips by following us on social media and browsing our blog.

5 health benefits of walking

Walking is beneficial for your overall health and wellbeing

Walking is a simple way to improve your overall health. Walking can offer many benefits to people of all ages and fitness levels. Walking is free and easy to start. Physical activity does not have to be vigorous to improve your health. Something as simple as taking a 30-minute walk a day can have a massive effect on fitness and wellbeing. Walking is low impact, requires no equipment, and can be completed at your own pace.

ACH Group’s exercise physiologist – Jack Carter discusses 5 benefits of walking and how walking can impact your overall health and wellbeing.

Burns calories

Depending on your fitness goal, walking can help maintain your weight or even lose weight. Reducing body weight helps lower the impact on joints. Your body needs energy for all types of movements. Daily calorie needs differ from person to person and are affected by factors like your weight, gender, and activity level. Fun fact, walking one-mile burns around 100 calories. If you want to intensify your walk to burn more calories, try walking on an incline. Walking on an incline also increases your leg muscle activation and strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

Strengthens the heart

Walking improves cardiovascular fitness and enhances pulmonary function. Research has shown a 30-minute of daily walking can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease by 18-20%. Researchers found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% and cut the risk of dying by 32%. If you find it difficult to complete a 30-minute walk, start small. Break your 30 minutes into smaller and achievable goals. For example, you can walk for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 during lunchtime and 10 minutes walking before or after dinner. If you’re time short, you can break your 30 minutes into three 10-minute sessions for 5 days.

Reduce joint pain

Benefits of walking to your health

Walking supports and strengthens the muscles surrounding the joints. Less impact on joints means lower pain when moving. There is growing evidence that walking can ease arthritis pain and improve other symptoms. Walking can help improve stiffness, fight off fatigue and reduce joint pain. Walking helps improve your range of motion and keeps you active. Always consult with your GP before taking any new physical activity and especially if you have arthritis. You can also speak with your exercise physiologist or personal trainer for advice about how to build your routine and make the most of this exercise.

Improve balance and mobility

Walking improves your coordination and balance which reduces the risk of falls. It also helps prevent injury and improve limb control. Studies found that walking among older adults could be more effective for fall prevention than balance training. For safety, always check with your GP about your walking plan and how to get started safely.

Enhance circulation and greater blood flow

Walking improves feeling in extremities and shown to reduce the risk of coronary blockages, especially in older adults. Walking, either brisk walking, incline walking or a casual walk around the block helps increase blood flow throughout your body and helps lower blood pressure.

Walking safety tips

You need the right walking shoes to get started

It is important to consider your safety while walking. Follow these 7 handy walking safety tips before you get started:

  • Walking in areas designated for pedestrians. Look for well-lit areas if possible.
  • If you walk in the evening or early morning hours, wear a reflective vest or light so cars can see you.
  • Wear correct fitting shoes with good heel and arch support. Speak with your podiatrist to make sure you have the right shoes and the right support before taking up walking.
  • Drink plenty of water before and after your walk to stay hydrated.
  • You can also recruit a friend or family member to walk with you and hold you accountable.
  • Consider getting a pedometer or other fitness tracker to keep track of your daily steps.

ACH Group offers allied health services provided by our experienced health care professionals to help you stay healthy as you age. We offer a wide range of services from physiologist, exercise physiologist, personal training, occupational therapy, massage therapy, podiatry to dietetics. We specialise in health and wellbeing for ageing bodies and our qualified health specialists will work with you on a personalised plan to help achieve your goals. Contact us on 1300 22 44 77 and speak to our friendly team to find out how we can help.

5 benefits of playing video games

Benefits of playing video games

When was the last time you played video games? What types of games did you enjoy playing?

Regardless of what sort you are into, playing video games is good for you. The benefits of playing video games are endless ranging from improving cognitive functions, multi-tasking ability to stress relief.

Gaming is booming amongst Baby Boomers and older adults.

According to recent research, over 40 percent of Australians aged 65+ regularly play some form of video game – and it’s not just fun and games either! One of the reasons for the surge in popularity among older demographics is video games’ potential positive effect on spatial navigation, the brain’s ability to learn, wellbeing, social connection, and even mobility and balance.

Keep reading to explore 5 unexpected benefits of playing video games and if you aren’t currently playing video games, see how you can get started.

Video games have a positive effect on spatial navigation, perception, and memories

Playing video games can be good for your mental wellbeing

In a study conducted in Macquarie University researchers suggested that making a habit of playing video games can actually increase your brain’s grey matter volume and the connectivity between different parts of your brain. What’s grey matter, you might ask? Put simply, grey matter is associated with your brain’s muscle control, memories, spatial navigation, and perception.

The researchers looked at competitive video game players and found that they had more grey matter than average suggesting that games can help your brain stay fit and functioning. Playing games has also help with the ability to focus and your multi-tasking skills.

Video games can help you learn faster

Our brains can be very powerful, and according to researcher and neuroscientist Daphne Bavelier “our brains are constantly predicting what will come next – whether when listening to a conversation, driving, or even performing surgery”. To do this our brains develop models or ‘templates’ from the world around us to understand what will happen next.

In a study conducted by Daphne and her team, looking at action-oriented games and the effect on cognitive function and learning, they found that those who played action video games, such as Call of Duty, were able to create ‘templates’ a lot faster than those who played games that were more slow-paced, from other genres. Put simply, action video games can help people learn faster.

Other studies also proved that action games substantially improve performance in a range of attentional span, visual task performance and cognitive tasks. Playing games help you notice smaller details, improve problem-solving skills and learn to combat impulsiveness.

Video games can improve your mobility and balance

Video games have a positive effect on spatial navigation, perception, and memories

Exergames (games that encourage exercise) like Nintendo’s Ring Fit video game can be fun ways of getting in some physical activity from the comfort of your own home. Studies have shown that exergames are not only fun and engaging but are also able to improve balance and mobility in older adults. In a study conducted with a group of 1520 older adults, researchers concluded that participants’ postural balance and mobility increased after playing physical video games on Nintendo Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation console systems

Playing video games can be good for your mental wellbeing

Studies have shown that playing video games can be good for your wellbeing and mental health. A breakthrough study from Oxford University, conducted throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, found that people who played games for longer reported greater wellbeing.

Playing games helps with stress management and improves your overall mental wellbeing.

Games can help you be more social

Playing video games can help you be more social

Finally, video games don’t have to be a socially isolating experience. As video games allow people to connect with one another from across the world, it could be a great tool for tackling loneliness. There are many games available that involve playing with friends, family, and others online. Games such as Farmville, Words with Friends, or Boom Beach can provide players with a virtual social community. Playing video games with others online can improve social skills in understanding behaviour, collaboration and teamwork, and with peer-to-peer learning.

And there you have it! The benefits of video games are endless. As video games become more popular and technology evolves, there are many new ways to play games and get involved. You don’t have to take up playing video games full time to reap the benefits.

If you’re new to playing video games or need assistance or advice, we can help. ACH Group’s Smart Technology service offer set up and coaching support to help you stay connected and independent in your own home. Our Exercise Physiologists and Occupational Therapists will help work out which devices and games that best suit your needs.