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MONDAY – Move your Mood (Mental health)

You may have heard at some point that exercise increases levels of serotonin and endorphins! This is absolutely true, and only just the start of how exercise is beneficial for the management of anxiety and depression. Particularly since COVID, there has been a substantial decrease in social isolation, lack of opportunity to exercise and general uneasiness and uncertainty of the future. In fact, 1 in 6 Australians are currently experiencing depression or anxiety—or both (Beyond Blue, 2022).

Postnatal depression is experienced by 1 in 7 Australian women and for around 40% of this population, their symptoms will begin during pregnancy (Black Dog Institute, 2020).

Exercise positively influences hippocampal neurogenesis in the brain! In layman’s terms, the brain begins to desensitise itself to stressors and prioritises endorphins, serotonin and endothelial growth factor- all pathophysiologic mechanisms that negate anxiety and depressive disorders (Duman et al., 2001).

The pathophysiological basis of these mental states is a combination of environmental factors and genetic predisposition- stressful events in life can also trigger transient or acute episodes. Imbalances in neurotransmitters in the brain manage the way the brain ‘thinks’ and ‘perceives’. The neurotransmitters of endorphins (prerequisite to dopamine), dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine— to name a few— are utilised in pharmaceutical interventions to mitigate adverse mental states. When you participate in exercise as an adjunct to medication, exercise further improves symptoms compared to medication alone! Particularly with anxiety disorders, comorbidity risks increase the chance of cardiovascular disease and immunosuppression. Exercise is an effective and evidence-based method to decrease the risk of these subsequent developments. Exercise-induced increases in blood circulation to the brain influence of physiological reactivity to stress, which in turn increases mood states, motivation and a more efficient memory (Guszkowska et al., 2004.)

Co-morbidities and lifestyle factors that may be perpetuated by depression and anxiety (Sharma et al., 2006):

  • Sedentary behaviour
  • Poor nutrition
  • Alcohol/substance abuse/smoking
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes

30 minutes a day of either strength-based or aerobic-based exercise is recommended 3-5 days a week to improve mental health!

Health benefits of regular exercise (Sharma et al., 2006):

  • Reduction in anxiety
  • Reduction in depression
  • Increased mood states
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Increased energy and stamina
  • Increased effectiveness of medication
  • Increased mental alertness and energy levels
  • Weight reduction
  • Reduced cholesterol and improved cardiovascular fitness


At The Body Refinery, you can choose from a myriad of classes that suit your interests and fitness levels to kickstart your mental self-care! We offer everything from stretch and relax classes to high-intensity strength and conditioning to get that heart rate up! Power Pregnancy, Strong Mums and Pregnancy reformer classes are also on offer for new or second-time mums to find that support and motivation through working out with other mummies!

Watch the video here:

Exercise Right Week Exercise Physiotherapy The Body Refinery New Farm

TUESDAY – Heal your Heart (Cardiovascular health)

The organ that works overtime! The heart can cope with a substantial amount of stress over a lifetime, so it is important we give it the love that it needs! Prolonged sitting, poor diet, lack of exercise and aches and pains can be barriers to moving your body and increasing your heart rate. Our 21st-century lifestyle habits have more negative effects than positive when it comes to heart and vascular health— 1 in 3 people over the age of 18 have high blood pressure, affecting men and women at an equal rate (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2022).

Prolonged high blood pressure can lead to serious health issues, such as (ABS, 2022):

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Kidney disease
  • Valve diseases

The heart pumps blood around the body consisting of oxygen, nutrients and hormones to vital organs and muscles, as well as carrying waste products out of the lungs, kidneys and digestive system. The heart sometimes does not pump blood as efficiently as it is intended to. The cardiovascular system is made up of not only the heart but all the vessels that transport the blood around the body. The heart and vessels require mechanical stress, in the form of deliberate heart rate elevation, to adapt and become stronger. If these structures are not exercised often or efficiently, they can start to become lazy. Vessels will stiffen and/or calcify, become blocked by plaques and the chambers in the heart start to pump less efficiently, potentially not ejecting enough blood or leaving some behind, leading to lower cardiac output. Studies have demonstrated that low levels of physical activity are associated with a higher prevalence of most CVD (cardiovascular disease) risk factors, including hypertension, obesity, dyslipidaemia, metabolic syndrome, depression and type 2 diabetes (Rennie et al., 2003).

Exercise Physiologists are trained in the chronic conditions listed above and prescribe the appropriate heart rate values based on age and pre-existing medical conditions. Their skillsets are catered to ensuring that you are working at your individualised values, ideal for mitigating the risk of heart conditions. Cardiorespiratory fitness in general is crucial in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. Physical inactivity and poor diet are the highest contributors to CVD (cardiovascular disease). Repetitive bouts of exercise lead to significant improvements in physiological function, such as prevention of oxidative stress, chronic inflammation and endothelial function (Lavie et al., 2015). The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 30 minutes, 5 days a week of moderate intensity activity, with two sessions being geared towards major muscle group training (ASCM, 2022).

Besides chronic conditions. Exercise Physiologists are clinically trained to assess and prescribe exercise to train specific energy systems of the body, utilising intensities, load and exercise modality to best benefit each individual client. Getting your heart rate up and muscles working is one of the most beneficial ways to mitigate the risk of cardiovascular diseases throughout the ageing process!

At The Body Refinery, we offer many classes to get the blood pumping and heart rate elevated! If you have a pre-existing cardiac condition, speak with your GP for clearance prior to attending fitness classes, or come see one of our Exercise Physiologists for a 1:1 initial assessment to review risks, goals and plan your fitness journey!

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WEDNESDAY – Brace your Body (Musculoskeletal health)

Joint pain? Osteoarthritis? Osteoporosis/osteopenia? Overweight? Looking to stay overall fit and healthy? Resistance training is for you.

Inactive adults experience a 3%-8% loss of muscle mass per decade, coupled with a decreased resting metabolic rate and increased fat accumulation (Westcott, W.L., 2012). The process of age-related loss of muscle mass is referred to as sarcopenia. Increasing or simply maintaining muscle mass plays a crucial role in mitigating not only age-related decline in physical performance but also decreases the likelihood of balance-related bone fractures, movement control, walking speed, cognitive abilities and independence. Resistance training is a commonly overlooked exercise modality that aids in cardiovascular conditioning as well as targeting general muscular strength. Bodyweight exercises, pin-loaded machines or the use of free weights have all been proven to enhance insulin sensitivity, decrease low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) and triglycerides, while simultaneously increasing total high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol) (Marini et al., 2008). Exercising your muscles has effects on all parts of the body, even organs! The pancreas produces insulin, which essentially uptakes glucose into our cells for energy use. Around 80% of glucose is deposited into skeletal muscle to be used for energy. If it’s not being used via mechanical contractions of the muscle, insulin sensitivity occurs, leaving more glucose circulating in the body than it is being used for energy (McGlory et al., 2018). This long-term pattern can lead to metabolic dysfunction (cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity).

Resistance training under the supervision of a trained Exercise Physiologist can promote bone development in patients presenting with osteoporosis and osteopenia. Bone development is signalled by the brain when mechanical stress is applied to muscles which pull on the bone to move the joints. Studies have shown a 1% to 3% increase in bone mineral density with structured resistance training prescription (ACSM, 2020).

Exercise Physiologists are trained to apply the appropriate volume, intensity, modality and specificity in prescription to individualise programs tailored to their client’s needs. The method in which the load is applied to the muscles will even act to isolate the loss of bone density in the areas affected (hips, spine etc) (ACSM, 2009).

Not only does RT (resistance training) benefit bone density, it acts as a protective mechanism for:

  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Tendon and ligament strength
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Cancers
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Arthritis
  • Chronic inflammation (autoimmune disorders)
  • Metabolic disorders

Regular performance of resistance training following a cancer diagnosis serves as a protective effect on cancer-specific mortality, cancer recurrence and all-cause mortality. Muscle mass and strength are inversely associated with cancer mortality (Bennie et al., 2016). RT also serves to alleviate some of the unwanted side effects associated with therapeutic approaches to cancer treatment, such as gastrointestinal irritation, fatigue, sarcopenia and peripheral neuropathy from chemotherapy treatments.

Resistance training doesn’t always mean lifting heavy weights repetitively. At the Body Refinery, working with an Exercise Physiologist one-on-one can provide a clear objective – specific to your needs – to enhance your muscle mass in a healthy and functional way. For those over 50, join our Better Bones class, a circuit-based resistance-training class catered to healthy bones and musculature. For those who want a faster, higher intensity workout, join our Strength and Conditioning classes – all run and programmed by our on-site Exercise Physiologists.

Watch the video here:

Exercise Right Week Exercise Physiotherapy The Body Refinery New Farm

THURSDAY – Boost your Brain (Neurological health)

Brain health can come in many forms- neurological health, mental health and neuromuscular health. Despite the categories it can be broken into, total brain health is the capacity to perform any task at hand with adequacy, whether that be motor control or verbalisation. Diseases of the brain can be congenital (from birth), progressive disorders, physical or viral damage, or age-related decline. Neurodegenerative and cognitive dysfunction/decline are resultants of both environmental and genetic components- as neurons in the brain cannot regenerate, brain dysfunction is irreversible, however, can be slowed in its progression (Wang et al., 2020). Preventing cognitive impairment and brain dysfunction can be mitigated by preventing the vascular risk factors, such as physical activity, appropriate body mass index, blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood glucose to maintain optimal brain health. All of which can be modified through exercise!

The 6 Pillars of Brain Health (American Heart Association, 2017) :

  • Physical activity
  • Mental exercise
  • Healthy diet and nutrition
  • Social interaction
  • Sleep and relaxation
  • Avoidance of vascular stressors (inflammatory markers)

Physical activity plays an important role in preventing degeneration of the body and mind. Exercise stimulates the nervous system and causes hypertrophy (growth) of the neuromuscular junction (communicates the motor nerve to its muscle fibre), and lack of exercise inversely causes degeneration (Nishimune et al., 2014). Studies have proven that exercise acts as a ‘dose’ for gene expression within muscle tissue and even the spinal cord! This provides many beneficial potential therapeutic targets for motor neurone diseases, neuromuscular junction diseases, musculoskeletal diseases and age-related cognitive and physical degeneration (Perreau et al., 2005).

Neuromuscular conditions that affect motor output and sensory information such as Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, stroke, MS, and cerebral palsy are conditions whereby exercise is a crucial rehabilitation tool. Exercise decreases the likelihood of comorbidity acquisition as well, decreasing inflammatory markers in the body, reduction in cholesterol, blood pressure and increased cardiovascular fitness. Mitigating comorbidities through exercise can assist in delaying the rate of progression or severity of symptoms. Exercise for the brain isn’t solely beneficial if presenting with neurological challenges, it is a proactive mitigator of lifestyle and genetic risk factors. Exercise assists in cognitive function, depression and anxiety, protection against oxidative stress and dopamine production (Svensson & Deierborg, 2015).

Motor control difficulties in Parkinson’s patients is a prime area of focus for exercise physiologists. No two patients are the same in terms of characteristics such as freezing, depth perception, gait, posture and autonomic nervous system functions such as thermoregulation, blood pressure and altered heart rate. Moderate to vigorous exercise interventions have been shown to decrease the risk of developing PD (Parkinson’s Disease) and modify the progression of the disease (Crotty & Schwarzschild, 2020). As Parkinson’s is neurodegenerative, the benefits of engaging in exercise include reduced inflammation, reduce mitochondrial dysfunction and increase neurotrophic growth factor expression, which maintain and proliferates neuronal function (Liu et al., 2018). Exercise physiologists focus on mitigating motor control decline with amplitude-focused resistance training, balance and fall prevention and postural training. The complexity of the Parkinson’s itself requires the therapist to juggle multiple aspects of the presenting symptoms, medications and progression, which requires a high level of training and skill in exercise management (Moore, Dustin & Painter, 2016).

At the Body Refinery, we offer classes ranging from Parkinson’s-specific group exercise, strength and conditioning, group and 1:1 pilates sessions with our skilled physiotherapists and exercise physiologists to keep your neuromuscular system sharp and challenged!

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FRIDAY – Gather your Group (Social health)

It is undisputed that regular physical activity can promote good health, improve cognitive function and prevent acute and chronic disease (Bartolomeo & Papa, 2017). Exercise physiology’s integration of ‘exercise as medicine’ spreads across the disciplines of cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, metabolic, neurological and mental health— but how does exercise itself influence our prosocial behaviours?

The subsequent positive “non-physical health” effects of participating in physical activity improve life satisfaction, happiness, subjective wellbeing, mental health and interpersonal relations (Gothe et al., 2013).

Positive experiences associated with physical activity can provoke feelings of accomplishment, and when experienced in the context of interdependent social connection, creates social bonding and belonging.

Have you ever participated in a group exercise class that was kicking your butt? And at some point in time, the entire room collectively groans at the instructor prompting the class to ‘finish strong, this is your last set!’ I know I have. And I’ve bonded with those around me sharing in the experience.

When there is support around you experiencing the same environment, there is an increase in social support and reward. The “I’m not stopping if they’re not stopping” competitive self-talk creates the motivation, but also the atmosphere of “we’re all in this together” collectively connects the group. Social support in the form of group physical activity positively enhances motivation, adherence, engagement and a sense of achievement. It has also been shown to buffer or reduce the sometimes unpleasant exercise-induced effects such as fatigue and muscular pain (Davis, Taylor & Cohen, 2015).

The World Health Organisation’s definition of health incorporates three domains: physical, mental and social (2022). Social support is measured through the four modes of leisure time, all positively affecting social health via the mental health pathway! The four modes outlined by Eime et al., (2013) are team sport, individual sport, organised but non-competitive physical activity and non-organised physical activity. Due to the social nature of most sport, it is associated with greater psychosocial health benefits than other forms of physical activity. But if you’re like me, and have experienced injury preventing you from continuing to participate in team or individual sport, it can be confronting to lose this ‘identity’. Finding the modality of exercise or physical activity you enjoy is a highly subjective and individualised decision. At The Body Refinery, we offer all sorts of classes, intensities, and number of participants for you to feel comfortable, guided and have some fun! Our clients are like our family, and we love seeing you excited to move your body and catch up with one another throughout the week!

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SATURDAY – Spoil Yourself (Self-care)

Hippocrates said, “eating alone will not keep a [person] well; [they] must also take exercise”.

It’s a slippery slope using exercise as punishment for overindulging on the weekend or sitting at a desk all day. Sure, we all want to look good in that dress or feel confident in our bathers. That doesn’t mean we should use what is meant to be fun and enjoyable and rewarding as a negative!

Exercise is for your heart. Exercise is for your mind. Exercise is for your muscles. Exercise is for yourself.

Self-care is widely applied across healthcare utilising collaborating care plans between patients and healthcare professionals with the duty of exploring barriers, providing advice and education as well as manual and non-manual therapies to assist in general well-being (Button et al., 2015).

Medical practitioners have a wide range of techniques to create trust and adherence to the self-care aspect to treatment plans. We may see you for 1-2 hours a week, but what you do for the remaining hours outside of our care is what will truly make the difference. Particularly for chronic conditions, such as arthritis, cancers, hypertension, neurological disorders and cardiovascular pathologies, it is crucial to have a self-care plan to follow to maintain the effects of manual or cognitive therapies administered by your healthcare practitioner.

The Transtheoretical Model (5 Stages of Change) categorises mindsets and lifestyle behaviours (Raihan & Cogburn, 2022):

  1. Pre-contemplation— not yet aware of the need to change
  2. Contemplation— aware of the need to change and actively pondering it
  3. Preparation— getting emotionally ready and gathering mechanisms to support change
  4. Action— actively involved in trying to change behaviours
  5. Maintenance— having established a new behaviour, working to maintain it in the long-term

Physiotherapists and Exercise Physiologists see clients at all of these stages, with the goal of getting the client to stage 5, maintenance of new behaviour. Self-care is ultimately a physical and psychological self-actualisation process, ensuring complete autonomy and responsibility for one’s actions and habits. Exercise doesn’t need to be a chore, it should fit with your lifestyle, your goals and your healthy habits. Just like choosing a more nutrient-dense meal instead of fast food, choosing to take the stairs instead of the lift, little by little these choices become habits, and habits become a lifestyle!

As we have seen throughout Exercise Right Week 2022, moving your body comes with a myriad of positive benefits – it is NOT selfish to prioritise your health by taking the time to exercise!

Self-care can also come in the form of a remedial massage or an infrared sauna! Spoil yourself at The Body Refinery and give your body a little extra love!

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