A RECENT study has shown the positive effects exercise has on older people living with a mental illness in regional areas, and three Charles Sturt University staff are thrilled to have been part of the process.
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Tegan Hartmann, Caroline Robertson and Rachel Rossiter all co-authored the report, in collaboration with lead author Gabrielle McNamara from the Western Local Health District (LHD).
Ms Hartmann said while studies happen all of the time in the health service, having a study published isn't as common and she hopes the findings go a long way in addressing mental health in older people in the future.
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"One of the goals in teaming up the Western LHD and the CSU academics was to get it published, because when we get it published then we can make change," Ms Hartmann said.
"Now that it's published, it can be used to inform future practices and make a stronger case for the role of exercise in managing mental illness."
While the whole process took around 12 months, between designing the intervention, recruiting participants and ticking all of the other boxes behind the scenes, the study itself only went for nine weeks.
Participants aged between 70 and 87 years old, from the older people's mental health (OPMH) service in Orange, were required to take part in one hour of self-paced exercise three times a week for the duration of the study.
The sessions were led by an accredited exercise physiologist and the physical and physiological outcomes were monitored.
"We looked at the physical outcomes, so physical functioning because they are older individuals, but then their psychological scores so symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression," Ms Hartmann said.
"And then how they perceived the exercise intervention, so if they felt better, if they noticed any changes with their physical function and if they noticed any changes in their mental wellbeing as well.
"It's only a small-scale study but it's really shown some promising outcomes."
The outcome of the study supported the hypothesis; that exercise does help the mental wellbeing of older people, but Ms Hartmann said another interesting finding was the sense of belonging the participants had from exercising in a group on a regular basis.
Ms Hartmann said the outcomes of the study can now be used to shape the healthcare infrastructure and where funding in allocated in the future.
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