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Exercise program aims to keep older adults active for life

Posted by Kate Rogers on July 13, 2022 in Partnerships
YMCA LiveWell program aims to improve physical and mental health with partners from Dalhousie and Acadia.
YMCA LiveWell program aims to improve physical and mental health with partners from Dalhousie and Acadia.

With Nova Scotia’s aging population, the need for a community-based program for managing chronic conditions has become increasingly important. Offered at Nova Scotia YMCAs, the LiveWell program was designed to meet the needs of aging adults across the disease and ability spectrum with the goal of building strength, balance, and overall fitness.

Led by consultant Scott Logan, a Dalhousie kinesiology graduate, and a team of researchers from Acadia University and Dalhousie University’s Faculties of Health and Medicine, LiveWell was initiated at both the Halifax and Bridgewater YMCAs in April for a 12-week pilot.

“LiveWell is focused on managing chronic conditions or what is called secondary prevention,” says Scott. “But as this grows, we have committed to looking at more primary prevention programming, so that further upstream we are helping develop healthy exercise habits with children, youth, new mothers and other specific populations.”

With funding support from the Government of Nova Scotia, Scott is eager to move beyond the Halifax/Bridgewater pilots and initiate permanent LiveWell programming at additional YMCA locations in Pictou and Amherst as early as this summer. The YMCA of Cape Breton will be following in the fall.

Though self-referrals and walk-ins are permitted, health care professionals are encouraged to refer patients to the program.

“It’s important for healthcare providers to know we’ve retained staff trained to assess and monitor patients and make sure they’re not at risk and that they’re safely progressing to improved, functional health.”

Scott says knowing that exercise is a proven benefit to both preventing and managing chronic conditions is the easy part. His team is looking beyond that body of evidence at the factors around participation and long-term retention.

They will be studying the program for three years with a goal of determining what makes people value the benefits and commit to exercise when they have many competing priorities.

The program team is also eager to address health inequities and the needs of marginalized groups, and will engage with African Nova Scotians, Indigenous, and LGBTQ+ communities, who don’t typically access these types of services and encourage their participation in this program and others.

Dr. Olga Theou, Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity, Mobility, and Health has been involved in the design of the LiveWell program and will continue to advise at all stages.

“We all need to be more active but there is no one size fits all solution,” she says. “The most effective physical activity program is the one that people will stick to.”  

If all goes well, LiveWell will be expanded beyond the five Nova Scotia YMCA “hubs” and will be offered in numerous YMCA outreach communities to ensure accessibility for everyone interested in participating.

For now, older adults and their healthcare providers are encouraged to get involved. LiveWell’s physical activity programming can be adapted to almost everyone, regardless of previous experience, fitness level, or ability. And as Dr. Melanie Keats, Kinesiology Division Head in Dalhousie’s School of Health and Human Performance and program consultant says, “Most of us can benefit from being more physically active or more simply, just moving more.”

Let’s get moving!

Learn more about the YMCA’s LiveWell program.