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Group exercise key for Indigenous women’s wellbeing

by Katrina Phelps

The exercise equipment used in the fitness program.A UniSA Women’s Fitness Program has shown that organised group exercise may be the key to improvements in the physical and emotional well-being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women.

The three-year research project comprised six 12-week physical activity and nutritional programs with the aim of improving the metabolic health of the women who participated.

Karla Canuto, a Torres Strait Islander woman with training in Exercise Sports Science and Health Promotion, is using the research for the basis of her PhD. Canuto said there were positive results for those participants who were able to attend the program regularly and that many of them still had improvements after nine months.

“There are definite benefits to the health and well-being of women, in having long-term structured physical activity programs,” Canuto said.

“We found that participants enjoyed the activities and that offering transport and child-minding enabled women to attend who otherwise would have missed out.”

The project was completed at the end of 2012 at which time the University hosted a launch of the results to provide feedback to participants, their families, and community members.

Professor Robyn McDermott, Chief Investigator on the project, and Professor of Public Health in the School of Population Health, spoke at the event and encouraged the women to continue with their lifestyle changes.

“By simply moving more you are stimulating metabolic improvements in the body,” Professor McDermott said.

“Even if the weight is not moving, don’t be discouraged because the metabolic improvements are most important to your overall health.”

The project was funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC). Collaborating parties included Nunkuwarrin Yunti of South Australia Inc and the Aboriginal Sobriety Group Incorporated.