Exercise services for rural and remote Australians

Exercise services for rural and remote Australians

If you live in rural or remote Australia, we don’t have to tell you about the strains on resources – be it limited supply or having to travel hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers, to access specialised services.

The difference between living and working rurally compared to in a metropolitan area can be miles apart (quite literally!).

This can be the same for accessing exercise services from professionals, such as Accredited Exercise Physiologists (AEP) or Accredited Exercise Scientists (AES), in small remote communities compared to urban areas.

We spoke to Yerik Noorie about the challenges rural communities are faced with relating to limited exercise services and got a taste of what it’s like to work as an AEP in Longreach, Central Queensland.

HOW PROVIDING EXERCISE SERVICES DIFFERS IN RURAL AND REMOTE COMMUNITIES

Sense of community 

The career as an AEP is extremely rewarding, particularly in rural and remote regions where you’re able to service members that would otherwise not receive treatment. There is a sense of community living in a small town which is conducive to a unique AEP-patient relationship.

The nature of our profession allows us to devote greater time to one’s needs and ultimately, provide better follow up care.

AEPs travel to you! 

Generally, rural and remote AEPs are required to travel within a designated area of nearby communities to provide exercise services to a handful of communities.

The demanding nature of work and limited resources requires health professionals to be adaptable and operate with utmost care and efficiency, adopting a generalist approach.

Drawbacks of rural and remote

Unfortunately for some regions, the frequency of visits can be limited resulting in community members having to wait a month between treatments.

Within that time, many individuals begin to decline as they may require greater follow up care which highlights the need for significant patient education.

COMMON CONDITIONS TREATED BY EXERCISE SERVICES

We’re exposed to a range of clients with varying pathologies in rural communities. Most conditions we treat are cardiopulmonary, musculoskeletal and metabolic concerns. It is also not uncommon to manage pre- and post-operative cancer, neurological, renal and mental health related conditions.

Another common goal we work towards is prolonging independence for older adults and allowing them to stay active in the community.

BENEFITS OF EXERCISE

There is strong evidence to support physical activity and exercise as a means of improving our health profile. AEPs can use exercise to reduce disease risk and address modifiable risk factors to improve functioning and quality of life.

For the elderly population, this means maintaining their autonomy to live independently and assisting with their ability to complete activities of daily living (ADL).

Helps treat musculoskeletal injuries

Many individuals in these regions are susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries that significantly impacts their ability to work. The arduous and repetitive nature of work in the outback predisposes one to musculoskeletal complications. We’re able to provide these members with strategies and movements to continue working with reduced pain, improved fitness and provide them with additional resources to address their comorbidities.

WAYS TO INCREASE ACCESS TO EXERCISE PHYSIOLOGISTS IN RURAL AND REMOTE AUSTRALIA

It’s all about raising awareness of who we are, what we do, and how we can help people living in rural communities. Some individuals may be hesitant to see us professionally due to the word, ‘exercise’ in our name. So, breaking down misconceptions and bringing awareness to the fact that physical activity can come in many forms with something available for everybody is the first step.

AEPs could also benefit from greater awareness from GPs. As allied health professionals, AEPs can work with GPs to provide patient-centered care and treat individuals as a whole whilst inadvertently lessening the burden on the healthcare system.

LIVING IN RURAL AUSTRALIA? HERE’S HOW YOU CAN ACCESS EXERCISE SERVICES…

Rural and remote Australians can access AEP services with ease due to the large funding bodies in certain locations. The majority of outback Queensland is government funded, particularly more remote areas. Therefore, individuals do not have to pay out of pocket allowing more people to access our services that may not otherwise be able to.

To find an AEP near you, chat to your GP or use this search function on the Exercise & Sports Science Australia website.

Written by Yerik Noori. Yerik is an Accredited Exercise Physiologist working for the North and West Remote Health. 

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