I’ll be honest, when Jacara asked me if I would write a blog post for the Team Storm website I had absolutely no idea what I would write about. One of the suggestions she gave me was to write about “something you are interested in as an exercise physiologist”…
First of all, the title Exercise Physiologist (EP) is one that usually gets a lot of blank stares when I’m asked what I do for work, but in a nutshell an EP is an allied health professional that specializes in prescribing exercise to help treat & manage chronic conditions, illnesses, or injuries as well as for general health or disease prevention. From clinical populations like people with cardiovascular, respiratory, or neurological conditions, to individuals with lifestyle diseases like diabetes, to injury rehab or return to sport for athletes. It is probably still a somewhat new profession in the field and it can sometimes be misunderstood or mistaken. However, an annual campaign that runs in the last week of May called “Exercise Right Week” aims to raise awareness for EPs, and exercise or sports scientists, encouraging people to seek the right exercise professional for their own individual requirements. Luckily enough for me, while doing some prep for the upcoming campaign at work (and after a long few days of still having no clue what to write about) I found my topic: the Exercise Right Week 2018 theme-“Motivation to Move” and how my motivation has helped me find my area of interest as an EP.
For an EP, understanding your client’s motivations & behaviours can be extremely important in providing an effective service. However, since finishing uni & getting into the workforce, I have come to realise how understanding my own motivation to move is so important to my integrity & sincerity as a practitioner.
I was always a pretty active kid & I played a lot of sport growing up, which lead me to a degree in Exercise & Sports science. Originally that was my motivation. I loved sport and so the exercise I did was always focused around improving my sporting performance. Naturally I thought that this was the direction that I wanted to take my career in also. After my degree I enrolled in a Masters of Clinical Exercise Physiology. Of the 18 months I spent doing my masters, I reckon for at least half of them I was still under the impression that athletic performance, injury rehab, and return to sport was the path I wanted to follow.
Being born in New Zealand, into a big Maori family I was aware of the health gap that existed between my people & non-indigenous people. I moved to Melbourne at the age of 9 and as I grew up here I came to learn that the same health gaps existed between Australia’s indigenous & non-indigenous populations. What I also learnt, was that the personal & deeper understanding I had of why this gap existed, was not one that many others shared or one that was really explored in my classes at uni. Indigenous populations of various countries were mostly just tacked onto the end of a paragraph, with 1-2 sentences highlighting that we have a higher prevalence of, or are at increased risk of things like hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease etc. etc. the list goes on. But despite that, the research, discussion, and initiatives to understand the reasons behind it and how to change it were absent. Maybe it was because I too am an indigenous person of my own country. Maybe it was because the more I thought about it, the more apparent it became to me that those statistics were probably true of many of my own family members. Either way it was obvious to me that as I entered the field as a health professional, as an EP, and as a young Maori woman, I had to do my part to make sure my own and other indigenous people were more than just those last couple of sentences. I had become motivated to move for the betterment of my own health and that of those around me, and to be a strong example that we could be more than a statistic.
BUT the problem is that for a lot of people, regardless of where you come from, participating in regular exercise is sometimes easier said than done. We’ve all done it, skipped a workout because we thought we didn’t have enough time, said it was too cold outside, or had something else to do that was just more important. Even though we know exercise is good for us, it tends to get easily bumped down th priority list. Sometimes this is because we don’t realize how extensive the benefits of exercise really are. It can help reduce risk factors associated with things like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and even some cancers. It can not only help strengthen your muscles & bones, but your heart, lungs, and even your mind. I could literally go on all day. You name a health condition and there’s probably some research out there that suggests exercise could help in its prevention, treatment, or management. However, whilst all these things might be true, if the way an exercise intervention is delivered isn’t appropriate for the person or the population it is being delivered to then you’re probably not going to get very far. Generally it’s the disparities between, or the downfalls of people or groups, that prompts the call for a change to be made. While it is true that we need to understand the inequalities, it is also important that we don’t narrow our focus so much that they are all we see. Understanding the strengths and assets of a community or an individual, what is unique about it, and how this can be advantageous can provide a much more balanced approach. I was lucky enough to be employed by not one but two workplaces after graduating where this is a priority, and I’m able to use my own personal motivation to move as motivation in my work every day.
There is so much information and speculation out there in the world of health & exercise. The truth is that what works for one person isn’t necessarily going to work for the next, what works for one group of people might not be as successful for another, and this can be extremely confusing. During the short time I have been at VAHS, I have seen that first hand. What I have also seen is the strengths of the community I work in and how this has helped people on their own exercise journeys. A focus on family, commitment to community, strong networks, and a care for others. Making exercise a family affair, and the fact that it’s even an option to have your kids as well as your mum exercise all in one place together. Providing a social environment, interaction, and an opportunity to spend time with people in your community. Holistic services that allow you to get care for your family members as well as yourself.
In saying that, there’s no massive secret or magic trick to suddenly make exercise easier, it still takes work, time, and motivation. Don’t be overwhelmed and think that you have to do things the way you see on TV, instagram, or in mainstream media. Find what works for you, even if it takes a few tries. Find out what is achievable & maintainable for you, even if it’s not as much as you would like to start with. Find your strengths, the ones within yourself as well as in the environment around you. Find the exercise professionals who understand how to best use these strengths. But most of all find the things that in the face of everyday challenges will motivate you to move.
On behalf of Team Storm we would like to thank Baelee for this deadly blog . Its been awesome working with her and I hope we continue to do so into the future 🙂 JT.