7 May 2015

Exercise is the Best Medicine

From Our Changing World, 9:34 pm on 7 May 2015

By Alison Ballance

Exercise is good for you – and it can save your life.
That's according to exercise experts Greg Anson and Jim Stinear from the University of Auckland.

Jim Stinear (left) and Greg Anson in front of the Health and Performance Clinic gym at the University of Auckland's Tamaki Campus.

Jim Stinear (left) and Greg Anson in front of the Health and Performance Clinic gym at the University of Auckland's Tamaki Campus. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

“Physical inactivity can kill you. And World Health [Organisation] data in 2010 indicated that more people died from physical inactivity than from smoking”, says Greg Anson, head of the Department of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Auckland. “Physical activity is an essential part of living well.”

As well as advocating for exercise as a way of preventing illness, Greg Anson and his colleagues are strong believers in the recuperative powers of exercise. “Clinical exercise physiology provides an intervention for rehabilitation, and also the opportunity to study the pattern of recovery following injury.”

Clinical exercise physiologists at the Health and Performance Clinic at the University of Auckland use personalised exercise prescriptions to help people recovering from medical conditions ranging heart attacks and strokes to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, as well as muscular conditions and people recovering from surgery.

The clinic has about 50 cardiac patients and a further 70 with medical issues ranging from diabetes to cancer.

Nigel Bass standing next to the weights machines in the gym.

Nigel Bass is a retired cardiologist who used to refer cardiac patients to the Health and Performance Clinic for exercise rehabilitation, and has been using the clinic himself to aid recovery from a bad back. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Last year Linda Boyens discovered a lump in her breast, and a diagnosis of breast cancer led to a left mastectomy, followed by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. As part of her recovery she’s been taking part in prescribed exercise treatment at the Health and Performance Clinic. “I’ve been absolutely delighted with it, having been a gym bunny and always thought about a healthy lifestyle,” says Linda. “What I wanted … was to get my flexibility back, and obviously recovering from the wound. And also to get me back into a really great space.”

Another of the clinic’s clients is Nigel Bass, a retired cardiologist. In his professional capacity at Auckland Hospital he often referred his patients to the cardiac rehabilitation programme that was the predecessor of the current Health and Performance Clinic. Last year Nigel was admitted to hospital with severe back pain that left him using strong pain medication and crutches. Almost at the end of his 12-week course at the clinic Nigel says he is feeling much better.

As well as offering rehabilitation for people like Linda and Nigel, the clinic is also a training and research facility for students studying for a Master’s degree in exercise physiology. It has just become the first exercise physiology clinic outside the United States to become accredited to CAAHEP, the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs.

Brighid McCaffrey (left) completed a Masters degree and now works as a clinical exercise physiologist in the Health and Performance Clinic, for which Stacey Reading is Director. Gym equipment includes stationary bikes and weight machines.

Brighid McCaffrey (left) completed a Masters degree and now works as a clinical exercise physiologist in the Health and Performance Clinic, for which Stacey Reading is Director. Gym equipment includes stationary bikes and weight machines. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Stacey Reading is programme director of the Health and Performance Clinic, and he says the research carried out at the clinic aims to “better utilise exercise to help people improve their functional capacity once they’re affected by something like heart disease or a stroke."

Stacey says that "discovering new best practises and the best way to apply that exercise to help people is the focus of most of our research here.”

Jim Stinear, director for the post-graduate programme in clinical exercise physiology at the University of Auckland, says he believes that “our programme has struck a nice balance between rich clinical training environment but still adhering to what our university takes a great deal of pride in, which is its research. I’m always reminding students of ‘how will this inform our clinical practise’.”

The University of Auckland Clinics' Health and Performance Clinic is a specialised teaching clinic, one of six that are collectively known as the University of Auckland clinics.

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