Increased confidence, weight loss and lifestyle changes towards a better, more healthier outlook are just some of the comments from participants of the Healthy Hearts ‘Fit to Exercise’ programme
Established as part of the Beyond 20,000 Days Campaign the ‘Fit to Exercise’ programme aims to improve the cardiovascular health of people with heart failure and other cardiac conditions living in South Auckland, whose health/fitness needs are not currently met through existing programmes.
A team of specialist physiotherapists and nurses offer fitness assessments to people referred through the cardiology specialist service. This assessment includes a simple fitness test and questionnaires relating to health, wellbeing and quality of life. There is also the opportunity to review medications and action plans, discuss concerns and work towards a healthier lifestyle.
Findings are then discussed with each person, together with exercise options, which include walking or home based exercise programmes, review of existing home circuits, liaison with personal trainers or referral to an innovative pilot programme being run at AUT University’s South Campus. This unique collaboration, between AUT University and Counties Manukau Health (CM Health) offers people with heart failure an individual tailor made exercise and fitness programme and the opportunity to use local and high quality facilities.
“We now have two classes underway, which are being well received by Healthy Hearts participants and their whaanau/family in terms of location, access, and designated parking spaces (fees are 50c/hour),” says Sarah Mooney, Physiotherapist. “We are also noticing, that as people become more aware of their condition, they are becoming more confident in their ability to exercise. For example Peter a 61 year old man, known to have a complex cardiac event including heart failure, was assessed at the ‘Fit to Exercise’ assessment clinic. He was found to be fearful about exercise and generally inactive, yet when he did exercise (walk), was breathless. This breathlessness reinforced his fear of activity. The specialist team found that his breathlessness was related to his chronic obstructive lung disease and in fact, not his heart, and were able to re-instigate a comprehensive inhaler regime which he had not used for several years.”
The plan for Healthy Hearts “Fit to Exercise” is to build on the current programme, offering more places to people with heart failure. The team would also like to develop a women-only programme (all heart conditions) and a programme for people with heart failure whose weight prohibits them from using traditional gym equipment (i.e. > 140 kg). These are two important groups that are under represented in the population of participants attending current cardiac rehabilitation programmes and known to Counties Manukau Health.
On completion of the programme, participants are re-assessed and given the all clear to work independently within local gyms and other exercise settings. Referrals can also be made to other community based programmes.
Looking to the future, the collaborative aims to offer timely assessments to all people with heart conditions (once stable) and referral into local, community based programmes responsive to their unique needs and provided by specialist physiotherapists and nurses.