Physical Literacy News

The University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Centre for Health and Ageing is offering a new way for men and women aged 50 and over to get fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

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Having opened in 2016, the University’s Centre for Health and Ageing aims to promote and improve health and fitness.  Since its inception, the Centre has worked with a range of people and its work has continued to develop and grow.  It now has a client base of over 70 people – both male and female – all of whom have had their own individual training programmes developed specifically for them by a team of experts.

Irrespective of previous fitness levels or health, over 95% of those who’ve taken part have improved their current fitness status.

The Centre first opened as a direct response to the overwhelming amount of interest from the media and members of the public to the research of UWTSD’s Dr Peter Herbert.  Dr Herbert is a leading authority on fitness in the older generation.  His PhD looked at methods of training for older men, proving that shorter, harder training sessions followed by longer recovery periods can have positive results on their fitness levels. He also understands that a more moderate type of exercise can offer an alternative option to improve health and fitness.

As a highly experienced physiologist, Dr Peter Herbert has a wealth of knowledge and experience of working with sportspeople of all ages from a wide range of disciplines, including rugby, boxing and cycling. A former Strength and Conditioning coach with the Scarlets and the Wales national rugby team, Dr Herbert is also an extremely successful cyclist, having won a bronze medal at the World Masters Track Cycling Championship at 73 years of age.

With the initial programme offered at the Centre for Health and Ageing being a great success, Dr Peter Herbert has been looking at the provision in a bid to enable more people to take part.

“Even though the Centre for Health and Ageing has been an incredible success, the scope and capacity of provision is too limited to have a wider community impact,” says Dr Herbert.

“It is also evident that these successes, especially relating to impact and high member adherence, have been achieved by implementing the latest evidence-based exercise strategies as well as the world class research in aging and exercise produced within the University’s Wales Academy of Health and Physical Literacy.

“The high motivation of the clients over a three-year period resulted in an incredibly low drop-out rate – less than 10% – meaning that other members of the community who were initially interested in taking part in the programme were unable to do so because of the limited number of places available.”

To solve this problem, Dr Peter Herbert decided to change the class format by organising sessions of one hour a week over a period of eight weeks.

The aim of this block of sessions is to improve the members’ fitness, provide them with the technical knowledge of how to exercise and enabling them to organise their own training programmes, maintaining focus and motivation resulting in healthier lifestyles. It will also give them the confidence to join a class or a gym elsewhere within the community once the eight-week block of sessions have been completed.

Over the last eight weeks, Dr Herbert has been running a pilot scheme at UWTSD and two of those who took part are husband and wife Paul and Pauline Roche from Saundersfoot.

82 year-old Paul and 79 year-old Pauline initially reluctantly decided to take part in this scheme to keep their friends’ company but having completed their eight-week block, they are both delighted that they signed up – and are looking forward to another eight-week block after Christmas.

“Paul has had two spinal operations and as a result has stroke-like symptoms in one arm and one of his legs,” says Pauline. “A Consultant told us that Paul needed to start exercising but he has always been anti-gyms.  We did not have the confidence to attend our local gym and didn’t really want to go.  However, this experience with Dr Peter Herbert has been excellent.  We have both gained so much confidence.

“I also have osteoarthritis and have poor balance,” adds Pauline.  “I’ve had numerous falls but since starting our sessions in Carmarthen, I definitely feel much better. I used to have difficulty closing the car door or reaching for things at the top of the wardrobe but now I feel much better and am able to do more than I could previously.  I’ve been really surprised by this and also surprised by how enjoyable an experience it’s been.  I really didn’t expect it to be pleasurable but I feel so much better after each session.

“During the first session, Peter and his team did an assessment of our needs and we were then given a training programme to follow.  The personal trainers stayed with us throughout each of the sessions – showing us how to use the machines and spurring us on.  The help was constant and each week, they would watch us and we would progress with their advice – we were never afraid that we would fall or injure ourselves, as the support was so great.

“This has been a very positive experience and the social aspect of meeting other people was also important,” continues Pauline.  “We felt supported and observed the whole time – there was also someone there throughout to push you and I think that was the secret.  I would definitely recommend this way of training to others – especially for people of our age group who would be unsure about what to do in a gym.  We both now feel much better and feel more energised too.”

The Centre is open to the public and aims to develop strong links with the local community by bringing together groups who have similar health and exercise needs to socialise as well as to improve their well-being.  It is also a research hub that looks at how exercise can be used to enhance health and fitness in older people.

“Having researched fitness in older people and having seen the results of the work we’ve done over the last three years I feel that we definitely offer a service that greatly benefits the older population in West Wales,” adds Dr Peter Herbert.

“Along with the help of a select number of students studying Sport, Health and Fitness related degrees at UWTSD, we are able to offer clients a tailored training programme that will suit the age and needs of each individual.  We’re looking forward to opening up the Centre to a greater number of people across West Wales and I look forward to working with a range of people of all fitness levels and abilities.”

Fitness sessions are held for one hour, once a week over a period of eight weeks.  All sessions are held at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s Carmarthen campus and must be pre-booked.  The eight-week block of sessions costs £64.

Also included is a pre-course health and fitness assessment. The exercise groups will be small (maximum of 6 people per group) to ensure that all will benefit from the highly experienced and qualified staff who’ll lead the sessions.  Should you have any current medical condition you will be required to produce a letter from your GP to support your enquiry.

For further information, please contact Dr Peter Herbert directly by emailing p.herbert@uwtsd.ac.uk

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