News News Seniors exercise parks improve physical and mental health of older people: research 19 November 2020 Media release Older people who do regular physical activity at Seniors Exercise Parks show significant improvements in physical and mental health and wellbeing, new research by the National Ageing Research (NARI) Institute published in BMC Geriatrics shows. The research will be presented at the Australian Association of Gerontology Conference 18 – 20 November. NARI Professor Pazit Levinger said participants in the ENJOY Seniors Exercise Park physical activity program, showed significant improvements in physical strength and functional mobility, which were sustained long term. "Importantly, their physical activity level also increased from sedentary to being sufficiently active to gain health benefits," said Professor Levinger. "And they rated quality of life, wellbeing, fear of falls, falls risk, depressive symptoms and loneliness, as significantly improved." Seniors Exercise Parks feature innovative outdoor exercise equipment designed for older people that integrates multiple exercise stations to improve strength, balance, flexibility, mobility and function. Research Eighty people aged ≥60 years underwent a 3 month structured supervised physical activity program using Seniors Exercise Park equipment, which was followed by 6 months unstructured, independent use of the exercise park. Exercise was conducted in groups, followed by a social morning tea. Participants were assessed at baseline, 3 months and 9 months and were evaluated for physical activity, physical function and health-related quality of life measures. Results At 3 months: Significant increase in physical activity levels. Significant improvements in physical function, self-rated quality of life, and wellbeing. Reduced fear of falls, depressive symptoms and loneliness. At 9 months: Sustained levels of physical activity, improved physical function, reduced fear of falls and reduced risk of falls. “The excellent physical gain benefits we saw at three months were sustained at the nine month mark,” said Professor Levinger. “People continued to use the exercise park without a supervised program. Not only were they motivated, they enjoyed the equipment and the socialising opportunities.” “This sustained engagement provides promising results for the potential benefits of scaling up the ENJOY program to reach a greater number of older people.” “There is currently very little public outdoor exercise equipment suitable for older people,” says Professor Levinger. “But our research shows when you create accessible outdoor environments that encourage and provide opportunities for older people to engage in physical activity and social interaction, they will participate. And this is critical for healthy ageing.” With higher sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity reported among older people, only 25 per cent of older Australians currently meet recommended physical activity guidelines. The ENJOY program was led by NARI in collaboration with Whittlesea City Council, Wyndham City Council, Old Colonists' Association of Victoria and with long term funding support from Gandel Philanthropy. “As a part of our focus on healthy ageing, Gandel Philanthropy has supported this vital research since 2013. The Research to date is very promising as it shows that the combination of purpose-built equipment, specialist exercise programs and social connections offers proven and sustained physical and social health benefits. The Seniors Exercise Parks are also a lasting legacy, supporting older people to stay active in their communities,” said Alexandra White, Gandel Philanthropy’s Grant Manager for Australian Programs. While the ENJOY research program is complete, the Seniors Exercise Parks remain in the community as a legacy for everyone to enjoy. “Our research clearly shows when you deliver a program and the equipment remains in the community for people to freely access, they do so and reap the health benefits,” says Professor Levinger. Notes to editor: Professor Pazit Levinger is available for interview. Research: BMC Geriatrics Video: ENJOY Seniors exercise Park Media contact: Rebecca Matthews: [email protected] 0414 980 452 Find NARI on Twitter: @NAgeingRI ______________________________________________________________________________________ The National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) is Australia’s only independent national research institute dedicated to ageing. NARI is committed to improving the life and health of older people through research and its translation into evidence based practice.