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Bond helps seniors muscle up against disability

Bond University will be a leading partner in new research into the benefits of resistance  training through a government funded program designed to help the ageing population stay independent longer.

A $1.3 million grant from the Department of Social Services will fund the two year project headed by University of Queensland Dr Tim Henwood and Bond University Associate Professor Justin Keogh.

Associate Professor Keogh said they hoped that the program would demonstrate that resistance and weight bearing exercise reduced physical disability and ultimately the uptake or continuation of government services and care packages in older Australians.

He said it would also look at the practical application of such programs in a real world setting.

"Exercise is a fantastic option for offsetting the age-related challenges we will all face one day," he said.

"Greater promotion and uptake of resistance and weight bearing exercise would reduce health expenditure in Australia and help older people live well in their homes for longer.

"Through this project we want to demonstrate the effectiveness of exercise in maintaining independence, while monitoring the issues that may effect the success of such programs outside the supervised environment."

Associate Professor Keogh said the program would recruit older people accessing government health care benefits such as home care or home support services, who were at risk of hospitalisation or full-time residential aged care.

"The trial will involve people above the age of 65 who are currently living at home but utilising government home and community care services, particularly for day-to-day tasks such as mowing the lawn, washing and cooking," he said.

"Once people start accessing this type of support it can often be a slippery slope into further disability and greater requirements for care services.

"We know that intervention through resistance training has the potential to prevent such disability and requirement for care services, resulting in a happier, healthier community of older adults."

Associate Professor Keogh said exercise could be as effective as medication and surgical interventions in treating many chronic diseases that are common in older adults, with wider benefits and potentially less side effects.

"Most medications are designed to target one condition or symptom, resulting in many older people taking a multitude of drugs," he said.

"Becoming more active reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, reduces the risk of falls through improved strength and balance, and may significantly reduce the need for medication.”

"Improved health and mobility also has social benefits, which in turn improves mental health so the advantages of being physically active in older age are far reaching."

The research project, which is expected to start in August 2015, will seek to recruit approximately 600 people aged over 65 in the Brisbane region.

The group will participate in a twice-weekly progressive resistance training exercise program utilising the latest in European, computerised HUR equipment.

Associate Professor Keogh said the trial would also look into the wider issues around the uptake of exercise programs including lack of services and accessibility.

"We'll be monitoring what percentage of people take up the offer of enrolling in the project, how many complete the 24 weeks of exercise and how many continue to be active after the research study is completed," he said.

"We need to look at identifying any potential issues surrounding the delivery of such programs so that they can be more effectively offered to the community."

Bond University is partnering with University of Queensland, Burnie Brae, HUR Australia and St Vincent’s Health Australia to evaluate potential economic benefits of such a program.

Funding for the project is part of the Department of Social Services $34 million Aged Care Service Improvement and Healthy Ageing grants aimed at tackling challenges in aged care nationwide.

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