What condition or health issue do you work with your Accredited Exercise Physiologist to manage?

My health issues are:

  • Bad veins aka chronic venous insufficiency; phlebitis
  • A bad knee – no ACL
  • A bad foot – affected by osteoarthritis


How did you come to work with an Accredited Exercise Physiologist?

My daughter graduated from Sydney University with a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science in 2002. And her career had taken her to programs encouraging seniors to exercise to and stay active. She encouraged me to join the gym where she worked as an Exercise Physiologist. Set up by Uniting Ageing it helped seniors improve their fitness by designing exercise programs around their individual health and medical issues.

Have you always been active or were you prescribed exercise as part of your treatment management? If not, what were your initial thoughts, did you want to exercise?

By the time I retired 11 years ago my activity levels had dropped right down – just a little bit of daily cycling and the occasional walk in the bush.

The motivation that had kept me going back to one commercial gym after another had evaporated.

My retirement triggered a review of this situation. I thought that the ageing process might be slowed if i could commit to more physical activity. But how could I boost my activity levels? I decided I would join a bushwalking club, give up my car and cycle more. I soon discovered that the bad veins, the bad knee and the bad foot had other ideas.


How did you feel when you started to exercise, what differents did you start to notice for both your physical and mental health?

I started at the Seniors Gym in Lilyfield 4 years ago and I clearly remember my first day there. I had a long meeting with my EP where we talked about all my health issues as well as my personal goals including regular bushwalking and using the bicycle to get around instead of the car. Supplemented by public transport and a commercial car share company. Then she did an initial physical assessment of my current fitness to get a baseline for gauging future progress. Sit-to-stand, hand grip strength, balance, 6 minute walk and BMI. It was very comprehensive and gave me a lot of confidence that I was in good hands. My EP set up my initial program and explained what each exercise was designed to do and how it dovetailed with my needs. I knew that I would be reassessed after my initial exercise program of 8 weeks. And that was a great motivator. She was able to point out where my results fitted within percentile rankings of people my age and I could see that I was not as unfit as I had imagined. This was also very motivating. Also each exercise in my program had a path of progression and a goal, for example, I started leg presses at a training weight of 195 and progressed to 234 units – a 20% increase. I was elated.


I knew one of the biggest challenges for me was just to keep coming to the gym. We set a target of 2 visits a week and I was pretty pleased with myself when I achieved close to that target. But even more of a boost was the outcome of the follow up assessment at the end of the initial program where I scored some modest increases in aerobic fitness, strength and balance.

The key factors for me in maintaining motivation have always been:

  1. Professional assessment and exercise programming
  2. Realtime access to professional advice so change program where issues arise
  3. A clear understanding of what I want to achieve and how to achieve it
  4. Measurable, realistic goals and indicators of fitness that can be monitored over time
  5. Access to good quality advice and health information that complements the program

How has your condition or health issue improved, do you believe exercise plays a key part in this level of improvement?


Since starting at the Seniors Gym under the guidance of an EP I’ve been able to build up the strength in my knee to the point where I recently did a 4 day walking trip with my bushwalking club. Walking in the bush on uneven ground with lots of strenuous ups and downs is demanding on my knees but they are stronger now than they have been for many years. The pain and swelling I used to experience after a 2 to 3 hour bushwalk is a thing of the past. Also the calf strengthening and stretching I’ve been prescribed may well be responsible for the fact that since I started working with my EP I have had no recurrence of the regular phlebitis that troubled me. I have worked with my EP to incorporate specific exercises into my daily activities to support my arthritic foot. It still flares up but less frequently. And I feel confident that future arthritic joints will benefit from the same style of exercise. I am still cycling and do not own a car. I find I can get where I want to go with the bike, public transport and car sharing. Recently I bought an electric bike and this has extended my cycling range. Everytime I ride up a monster hill it seems like paradise on 2 wheels.



What would you say to other people who may have been advised to exercise, who are apprehensive?


My advice would be to start slowly and don’t expect spectacular improvement immediately. Get good advice and see an EP who can design a safe and challenging program to help you exercise without making your current health problems worse. Set realistic goals so you can register progress. This will help to motivate you. The physical changes that occur with ageing can be frightening, but exercise will help to slow them down.


Do you think you’ll continue to maintain an active lifestyle?

Yes I think I will always try to maintain an active lifestyle. I believe there will always be some kind of physical activity I can do. With the guidance of my EP I know I can continue to train safely at the Seniors Gym for many more years

About Gayle’s Accredited Exercise Physiologists – Elly Williams

After graduating from The University of Sydney in 2002, Elly worked on a Hip Fracture Intervention Trial at Balmain Hospital and as an Exercise Physiologist at the Centre for STRONG Medicine for 6 years before joining the Uniting Seniors gym team in 2010. Elly’s passion is using exercise to help prevent, treat and manage chronic disease in older adults. She also enjoys coordinating and mentoring the many university students that attend Uniting Seniors Gyms.

Elly represented NSW in Dragon Boating from 2010-2014 and loves the outdoors and a good Sunday brunch.

Want to read more about the benefits of exercise? Click here to read more.