PERSPECTIVE: Winter 2016

Australian Fitness Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner believes that, together, we can change our nation’s health fortunes.

It is 30 plus years since I step touched and easy walked my way into the world of leg warmers, lycra and my first job in a gym. I marvel at the growth and development of the Australian fitness industry from then to now, and am forever grateful for my amazing opportunities and experiences along the way.

At the recent FILEX convention we were inspired to ‘realise our potential’, to optimise the health and fitness of our clients and ourselves. Yet as I looked out at the sea of faces during the Opening Address I wondered ‘how many of us feel like I have at times… a small fish in a very big sea?’

Just one weekend later, when I was MC-ing the Melbourne Mothers Day Classic event, it struck me again that each of the 100,000 participating walkers and runners may have felt like small fish in a massive ocean – and yet, united, they raised around $4 million dollars to fund research that will assist early detection, quality of life and survival rates in breast cancer patients.

Although the challenges we face may overwhelm us as individuals, when we work together we can achieve great things. Small fish can make a very big difference!

A disturbingly large number of Australians struggle with a range of physical and psychological conditions that stretch our health dollar, fill our hospitals and drastically compromise quality of life.

All these conditions – cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, cancer and depression, to name just a few – share a common thread: exercise. Every day new research demonstrates that exercise assists the prevention and management of numerous conditions, and enhances physical and mental health and quality of life.

I firmly believe that with the right choices and instruction, any body of any ability can benefit from exercise. There is an incredible opportunity for fitness professionals to reach out to all ages and abilities and help make Australians healthier.

Know your stuff

To confidently and safely prescribe an exercise program for a person with a condition it is vital to understand all elements of that condition and the exercise implications, indications and contraindications. There is no room for guesswork when dealing with people with special exercise considerations, so it’s vital that you source quality education about the condition.

Build relationships

Connecting with medical and allied health professionals is a great way to boost your knowledge, reputation and referrals. Succinct, professional and respectful, written or verbal, communication relating to your practice or an individual client will enhance fitness–medical relationships as well as your client’s wellbeing.

Get involved

Seek and grasp any opportunity to get involved in your local community. Volunteering your time, knowledge and experience at events and gatherings is a great way to promote exercise as the best medicine, and has the added benefit of raising your profile in your community.

Be flexible

While high intensity programs may appeal to many of our existing clients, they terrify others. To help health-compromised Australians reap the benefits of exercise we must also offer less daunting styles of fitness that are recognised as safe, effective and achievable.

Spread the word

Develop a relationship with your local paper and radio station and help spread the word that exercise is for everyone. Replace overwhelming information with bite-sized chunks of positive ‘you can do it’ messages that inspire people and give them confidence to give it a go.

Attitude

Sedentary people with health conditions often experience significant barriers to exercise. Fear of exacerbating their condition, embarrassment and fear of failure are common disincentives. A judgement-free, warm and understanding attitude is the first step to helping them take their first steps to improved health and fitness.

Social side

Embrace every opportunity to enhance communication, interaction and enjoyment for participants and clients. The incredible social and emotional benefits of group physical activity should never be underestimated.

Fun factor

It is true that exercise must be safe and effective, but wherever possible inject fun and laughter. If someone is enjoying their time training with you then they are much more likely to stick with it – and to make lasting changes to their health and fitness.

We deserve to feel very proud of our industry’s progress. Let’s keep it growing by helping Australians of all abilities realise their health and happiness potential.


Lisa Westlake, BAppSc (Physio) is a physiotherapist, fitness instructor, author and highly regarded industry presenter. Honoured with Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016, she adds the title to her previous accolades of Presenter of the Year 2003 and Author of the Year 2009. physicalbest.com