University of Alberta – Master of Science in Physical Therapy – 2021
Preventative healthcare is important because it allows people to influence their future outcomes by incorporating healthy decisions into their current lifestyles. As a Physiotherapy student, I have learned about various positive impacts that healthy lifestyle choices, particularly exercise can have on one’s health. These include improvements in physical, mental and emotional health. This is described well in an article by MedLine Plus (n.d.), in which they outline the benefits of not just focusing on one type of exercise, but instead incorporating elements of cardiovascular fitness, strength training, balance and flexibility. Appropriate exercise can reduce the risk of many ailments, with a few key examples including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and mental illness. Thus exercise can be seen as a very powerful form of preventative healthcare.
The area of preventative healthcare that I feel particularly drawn to is helping senior citizens incorporate exercise into their lives. This past spring, I had the opportunity to do a clinical placement at the Seton Community Hospital in Jasper, Alberta. While I was there I got to take part in a seniors exercise class in which seniors from around the community came into the clinic to participate in station-based group exercise. The class included different types of exercise, while also creating a fun, inclusive and social environment. The article by MedLine Plus (n.d.) also emphasizes these factors as hurdles keeping seniors from being more active – they want to exercise at a level they are comfortable with, in ways that will be enjoyable and many seniors also prefer to include elements of socialization.
While there are many ways that I hope to influence preventative healthcare throughout my career the idea that I feel most excited about is an extension of the above senior’s exercise class. I hope to find employment in the Edmonton area after graduation and would like to develop a similar program for seniors in the area. Speaking with friends and family in this age category it seems like there are two areas of interest that would be particularly enticing to them: walking groups and group exercise classes that would allow for varying levels of physical ability. Therefore, the concept that I have (which admittedly is in very early stages of development at this point) would be to offer a seniors exercise class through my place of future employment on a twice per week basis. One day per week (weather permitting) would include finding a nice local area to walk as a group, while the other day would involve a station-based exercise class in the facility I worked at. The exercise class would allow seniors to focus on specific areas (for example fall prevention) that were important to them with the guidance of physiotherapists. Of course there would be many logistical, financial and liability issues associated with such a program, but I feel that given my previous experience with group exercise that I would be capable.
Another concept that I hope to include in the program would be a partnership with the Greater Edmonton Animal Rescue Society (GEARS). I feel like by requesting small attendance donations from the participating seniors that such a partnership could be mutually beneficial to the clinic, the seniors and to GEARS. I would also be interested in seeing if GEARS would be receptive to the idea of bringing dogs currently up for adoption to the walking class; this could provide more joy for both the seniors and the animals, which are in need of exercise as well. It is also possible that the seniors could bring grandchildren, friends and other family to walking sessions, further developing a sense of community within the program.
There are also a variety of other ways that I hope to promote preventative healthcare throughout my career such as educating clients, leading by example, and being involved in volunteer activities. However, the seniors exercise class is an idea that has really piqued my interest and I hope to carry forward in the future. While this concept is in an early stage, I feel that it is feasible and given the benefits it could bring to all the groups involved, it is something I truly hope to be involved in early in my career.
MedlinePlus. (n.d.). Exercise for Older Adults. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/exerciseforolderadults.html