Confusion about requirements for obtaining assistive technology funding can leave participants without supports that could greatly enhance safety, independence and participation and tangibly help to meet their NDIS goals. Our NDIS-registered occupational therapists share their insights into getting the right support for yourself or a participant in your care.

Whether you work with NDIS participants or are a parent or carer, you’d be all too aware of how greatly assistive technology can impact a person with disability. From devices that assist with tasks such as getting out of bed or showering to mobility devices that promote participation in activities outside the home and communication devices enabling interaction and engagement in family, social, leisure, education and work life, AT tailored to a person’s individual needs can fundamentally enable advancement towards achieving a range of goals set out in an NDIS plan. However, when it comes to identifying quite what AT options best fit an individual’s needs and obtaining relevant funding, especially when equipment and devices span different categories and price levels, the process can seem like a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle. Common questions include how AT can fit into a person’s NDIS budget and whether it can simply be purchased or requires recommendation by an occupational therapist. Our NDIS-registered occupational therapists are not only experts in assessment to determine which AT will provide maximum benefit, they’re also versed in criteria and processes for obtaining required funding and can help you or your participant to make the most of AT and realise their potential. Here are some of their insider tips.

AT in a nutshell

Assistive Technology (AT) under the NDIS refers to  any piece of equipment, modification or item that makes a participant’s daily life easier - from modified kitchen utensils to a stairlift or an electric scooter. As with funding for other types of supports under NDIS, funding decisions for AT depend on an item being deemed ‘reasonable and necessary’ against a participant’s unique needs and goals.

OTs as AT specialists

An occupational therapist is an allied health professional with comprehensive knowledge and skills in assessment of capacities and in devising solutions to enhance these in the context of a person’s environment(s). As well as devising treatment interventions, they can identify areas that may be improved with certain devices or equipment and facilitate the process based on a participant’s NDIS plan - whether they have an active AT budget and need assistance to upgrade or change AT that is not fit for purpose or whether they require recommendations for consideration in an upcoming plan review. Other allied health professionals including speech pathologists and physiotherapists may also recommend AT.

When (and when you don’t) need an AT assessment

Whether or not you or your participant needs a report from an allied health professional to qualify for funding for AT depends on the category into which the AT falls. Broadly, AT falls into three cost categories, each with different requirements (AT is also differentiated by risk categories).

Low cost

If relevant funding is included in a participant’s plan, low-cost and low-risk items can often be purchased without a report, although it’s best to check with a support coordinator or plan manager before going ahead with a purchase.

Mid cost

For AT costing between $1,500 and $15,000, a letter of support from an allied health professional is required, no matter whether the item is considered low or high risk. Guidelines can change, so check the NDIS website for current information.

High cost

High cost items are considered those costing $15,000 and over. Such items require completion of an AT Assessment Form by a relevant allied health professional and quotation of AT cost for consideration under the NDIS. This assessment conveys how this equipment will help and why the particular equipment recommended is the best choice. For instance, a higher priced item may be deemed appropriate where it could reduce a participant’s need for paid supports in future.

CASE STUDY: Life given a big lift by AT

Household stairs

Household stairs

A 41-year-old participant with cerebral palsy, intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder was experiencing left-sided weakness, which made it difficult for him to walk up and down the stairs to his bedroom. While his mother and main caregiver would provide physical assistance to help the participant to safely access the home’s upper level, his experience of falls in the home and prognosis of physical deterioration suggested that a home-based assessment could reveal solutions in the form of AT and/or modifications to enhance safety and daily living. Based on balance assessments and assessment of the home environment, our practitioners prescribed a stairlift, which has been used safely with no further falls. According to OT Yuho: “We were able to improve this participant’s independence in reaching his room and bathroom, improve home safety and contribute to the family's greater health and wellbeing through reduced worry, stress and needs for assistance.”

Let us make NDIS referrals easier 

Navigating NDIS categories and criteria can be complicated and time-consuming. Whether you’re a support coordinator or other referrer, parent or carer or participant, our dedicated community division can help make sense of requirements and processes for allied health services and AT, in turn helping participants to obtain tailored, multidisciplinary allied health care to help them to achieve their goals.

To refer a patient, client, participant or yourself, click below to complete a simple, online referral.

Make a referral now!

How to pre-fuel and re-fuel to optimise recovery and repair from exercise and injuries

Whether you’re a gym-goer, runner or cyclist or athlete training and competing, you’re probably intimately acquainted with dietary practices that optimise performance. But fewer of us pay such attention to nutrition practices to optimise recovery - both from routine training or comp and from injury incurred during either. It’s an odd oversight, since post-training and post-match nutrition can fast-track recovery from fatigue and DOMS and mean less down time between sessions as well as reducing injury risk. For those who are injured (who hasn’t felt the frustrated urgency of wishing away an injury?), it can mean an earlier return to sports. Our sports division chiropractors and physiotherapists attest that athletes and fitness enthusiasts who integrate manual therapies and exercise prescription with strategic nutrition components and timing tend to recover faster and more fully than those who don’t. It makes sense, since both regular tissue micro-damage (e.g. muscle micro tears from a hard lifting session) and injury damage require delivery of specific combinations of nutrients and adequate kilojoules to enable growth and repair.

We’ve asked our multidisciplinary sports division practitioners and dietitians for DIY diet tips and tricks you can action today to promote recovery (in turn aiding performance), reduce injury risk and optimise healing, repair and recovery from injury.

Fuel for optimal performance and injury prevention 

When it comes to fitness and sports nutrition to reduce injury risk, optimise performance and facilitate repair and recovery, meals are often categorised as ‘pre-fuelling’ and ‘refuelling’. Pre-fuelling can help to prepare muscles for exertion and prime them for optimal performance while re-fuelling aids repair and recovery. While elite athletes and those participating in endurance events may include strategic carbohydrate intake in days leading up to an event and top-ups during an event (and a consistently balanced diet is important for any fitness enthusiast) most of us really only need to focus intricately on the fuel we consume in the hours before and after exercise. It’s important to note that pre-fuel and re-fuel needs will vary based on factors including exercise type, duration and intensity and body weight and body mass composition, but here are some general guidelines.

Pre-fuel

The tip: Eat up

While many fitness enthusiasts are wary of consuming too many kilojoules for fear of fat gain or inhibiting fat loss in the case of body composition goals, eating too little before exercise can increase injury risk. When your body can’t access the energy it needs to perform at a certain level, it may be forced into catabolism, which means your body starts breaking down its own tissue (muscle) as a source of energy. Essentially, it feeds on itself. In such cases, the depleted body doesn’t have access to the energy it needs to repair tissue damage, in turn compromising recovery. The tricky thing is, you don’t see or feel it. Many people who undereat assume their recovery is complete and return to exercise in a compromised state of repair, inadvertently attracting a higher risk of injury.

The trick:

Monitor your workout performance, your body weight and your body composition. If your performance declines, it’s possibly a sign you’re not eating enough. If weight declines and body fat percentage remains the same, it may be a sign that you’ve entered a catabolic state and are losing muscle due to inadequate fuel supply.

The tip: Carb cram

As well as obtaining enough kilojoules to fuel your chosen sport or exercise, it’s important to reiterate the importance of carbohydrate as a component of your pre-workout snack or meal. Ingestion of carbohydrate three to four hours before exercise increases liver and muscle glycogen and enhances subsequent endurance exercise performance. A common sign of depleted glycogen is early fatigue and/or compromised form, which can increase injury risk.

The trick:

Unless you’re an endurance athlete anticipating an event of 90 minutes or more, you probably don’t need to start your carbing days ahead. However, including ‘good carbs’ (e.g. whole grain bread or crackers) in the hours before a workout can both aid performance and guard against the injury risk increase encountered when glycogen is depleted.

The tip: Embrace fat

Fat has gained a reputation for promoting heart disease and turning into body fat, but the right fats are among an athlete’s best nutritional tools. Healthy dietary fats enable the creation of healthy cell membranes that better resist damage during exercise. Specific fats also help to mitigate inflammatory processes, in turn helping to stop minor injuries from progressing into larger ones. A University of Buffalo study found that female runners who consumed the least fat were most likely to have an injury.

The trick:

Aim to derive about 30 per cent of your daily kilojoules from fat. Ensure that no more than 10 per cent of total daily kilojoules come from saturated fat and obtain 20 per cent or more from unsaturated fat. Omega-3 essential fats are also highly regarded when it comes to combating inflammation. Aim for 3,000mg daily.

The tip: Calculate calcium

Calcium is crucial for bone health and healthy bones with good density are less susceptible to bone strains and stress fractures.

The trick:

Aim to obtain 1,000 to 1,300 mg of calcium daily from your diet (that’s about twice what’s estimated to be consumed in an average adult diet). Think three serves of low-fat or fat-free dairy (make sure fat-free options aren’t packed with sugar such as some fruit yoghurts). If you’re unable to meet your calcium needs through diet, speak to your dietitian or GP about a calcium and vitamin D supplement.

Re-fuel

The tip: Time your top-up

To promote optimal repair and recovery of muscle and joint tissue, post-exercise meal timing is as important as meal type. Not only can it help you to more effectively meet your fitness goals, it can help to prevent injury at your next session.

The trick:

Damage that occurs during a workout is repaired most effectively in the two hours following the workout, which means that what you eat during this window can work for or against you. The ideal post-workout meal or snack comprises both protein and carbohydrate, which stimulates muscle protein synthesis and replenishes depleted glycogen stores. In a study involving Marine recruits, those who used a carbohydrate-protein supplement daily after physical training through 54 days of boot camp had 37 per cent fewer muscle and tendon injuries, and less muscle soreness than recruits who used a carbohydrate-only control or a placebo. Simple options include a large glass of low-fat chocolate milk or a turkey or chicken sandwich on wholegrain bread.

NUTRITION FOR INJURY RECOVERY

When you incur a physical injury, there is some type and degree of tissue damage greater than the microdamage expected from a heavy workout or session. While injury first aid protocols and treatments administered by a physiotherapist or chiropractor are critical for setting in motion a correct and optimal repair process (hence facilitating efficient and full recovery and healing and minimising the risk of injury recurrence), they can be helped or hindered by the nutrition available to the body. Simply, certain nutrients are more useful than others when it comes to repairing and rebuilding damaged tissue and growing healthy new tissue. A useful way to consider nutrition following injury is to target three key post-injury stages: Inflammation (marked by pain, redness, heat and swelling, when healing chemicals are attracted to the injured area), proliferation (when damaged tissues are removed and replaced with fresh blood supply and temporary tissue) and remodelling (here, the temporary tissue is replaced with stronger, permanent tissue).

Stage 1: Inflammatory stage

Anti-inflammatory foods may help to curb swelling. While we don’t want to eliminate swelling altogether as some swelling is integral to recovery, controlling its level by boosting your intake of anti-inflammatory foods and reducing or eliminating pro-inflammatory foods may help to ease discomfort.

How to:

Boost the anti-inflammatory credentials of your diet by including foods such as

-Extra virgin olive oil, fish oil or flax oil

-Fatty fish (salmon, anchovies or sardines

-Avocados

-Broccoli

-Dark chocolate or cocoa

-Berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or raspberries)

Combine this with minimising or eliminating pro-inflammatory foods such as

-Processed meats high in saturated fat like beef jerky, bacon, canned meat, salami and hot dogs

-Trans fats like vegetable oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil and margarine

-Fried and deep-fried foods

-Sugar-sweetened beverages (soft drink, energy drinks and sports drinks)

-Refined carbohydrates (white bread, pasta and white rice)

Stages 2 and 3: Proliferation and Remodelling Stages

The active rebuilding of tissue requires sufficient energy (kilojoules) and adequate amounts of protein, minimally-processed carbohydrate, healthy fats and fruit and veg. (The repair process can increase metabolism or daily energy needs by more than 15 per cent, which means finding a middle ground between your usual rest day intake and your training or workout day intake. If your regular rest day intake is 7,500 kilojoules, this may mean adding around 1,125 kilojoules.)

How to: To cover your nutrient needs, a useful guide for each component within each meal is

This advice is general in nature and may not be applicable to your personal needs. Before commencing a sports nutrition plan, it is advisable to consult an accredited practising dietitian (APD) or sports dietitian.

Max your recovery with mix & match Physio, Chiro, Dietetics *SAVE WITH A SPORTS MEMBERSHIP*

Whether you’re looking to optimise performance and prevent injury, shorten down times between training and workouts or optimise recovery from injury, a combined multidisciplinary plan devised by our practitioners in collaboration can help you to achieve it and maintain it long term. For just $10 per month, billed quarterly, our Sports & Wellness Membership gives you a discount on every single physiotherapy, chiropractic and dietetics appointment and lets you mix and match the services you need to meet your fitness and sports goals. Better news? You’re not locked in. At the end of each three-month period, you can choose to renew or not. What have you got to lose except your injury risk, performance dip or injury layoff? 

To start enjoying SH member benefits, simply book your first appointment here or by calling 9013 5987. Click here for prices, details and terms and conditions.

What are the secrets to physiotherapy that promotes efficient healing and lasting pain relief? Clue up on these insider secrets.

If you’ve ever Googled your musculoskeletal symptoms, condition or injury type, you may be tempted to believe that there is a universal textbook that sets out how to heal everything from tendonitis to tension headaches. In fact, unless you’ve been used as a case study, your personal experience and pain have never before been encountered. It may sound strange, but your experience (read: suffering) of pain is a bit like a fingerprint. Even other people with the same type of injury or diagnosis may require a markedly different treatment plan to yours for effective healing and long-term pain relief. This is why our practitioners place so much emphasis on assessment – and why, in addition to physical factors such as pain type and movement patterns, they also ask about everything from your sleep habits to your stress levels. It is also why we place so much importance on at-home exercises and lifestyle measures. So how can you make the most of your personal pain profile to achieve the best results?

Physio tip 1:

Your personal pain profile is made up of a number of factors including pain mechanism type (nociceptive, nociplastic or neuropathic pain mechanisms), pain processing physiology, psychosocial factors and pain perception, and movement patterns. For instance, two people presenting ITB could have differences in pain processing physiology, psychological states and movement function. Similarly, two people with low back pain can have significantly different movement patterns with either increased or decreased extensor muscle activation. Some of these factors can be identified during a physical examination, but others can only be identified indirectly, through what you report about your experience.

How to use it:

In the lead-up to your first appointment for your current complaint, take notes about your experience. As well as documenting details of your pain experience (when the pain or movement dysfunction started, where it hurts, what the pain feels like, what seems to make it worse or better), keep a diary of your sleep and wake times and sleep quality, stress levels daily or a few times a day (on a scale of 1 to 10) along with any notable stressful events or factors, daily or twice-daily mood (either 1 to 10 or using words such as ‘calm’, ‘anxious’, ‘happy’) and pain level (1 to 10 or none, mild, moderate, severe). This record can help your practitioner to more precisely identify and prioritise pain-related factors in your treatment plan, in turn, promoting more efficient healing and relief.

Physio tip 2: 

Pain processing physiology and pain perception significantly impact whether you experience your pain as intolerable or anxiety-provoking and debilitating or whether you experience it as tolerable and manageable. These are often assessed in combination (e.g. you may have high fear or movement or pain catastrophising with depression or without). This isn’t to minimise your very real experience of pain. Injury and tissue damage can undoubtedly be excruciating – especially in the case of severe injuries. However, it is increasingly recognised by leading experts and research that treatments recognising pain processing and pain perception can both reduce limitations experienced in relation to pain and expedite healing and recovery.

How to use it: 

Knowledge is power. Our physiotherapists emphasise sharing with clients the mechanisms behind their pain as well as how they propose to address it. If you don't feel adequately informed during your treatment, ask questions (it may help to write a list to take to your appointment). In addition, being completely honest with your physiotherapist about factors such as fear and anxiety related to movement - even if they don't ask! - can help them to address this within your treatment. For pain processing physiology, a physiotherapist may work to reduce pain experienced as your brain’s way of protecting against further damage. For instance, if it is excruciatingly painful to turn your head past 30 degrees, a physio may discern that this movement-limiting pain is in fact a sort of ‘overprotective error’ and use gentle, manual techniques to convince your brain that certain movements are safe and that it doesn’t need to send pain signals. When it comes to both pain processing and pain perception, consulting an accomplished and empathic healthcare professional can encourage the brain to reduce the severity of the pain experience. Feeling less pain after consulting a healthcare practitioner can be attributed not only to the treatment provided, but also to the reassurance and confidence that the pain will subside and that there are solutions. Learning about the causes of pain from a qualified practitioner such as a physio or chiropractor can also reduce anxiety about how ‘bad’ it is, in turn reducing the perception of pain. A key benefit of managing pain perception is that it can reduce fear of undertaking movement and exercise required to fast-track recovery (many people resist performing rehabilitation exercise due to fear and anxiety about making the pain worse). In some cases, such as where pain maintaining factors such as fear of movement or pain catastrophising don’t lessen with physiotherapy appointments alone, your physiotherapist may identify psychosocial factors as priorities for treatment intervention and recommend consultation with a Soaring Health psychologist as part of a multidisciplinary treatment plan.

The bad news is, there is no simple answer to why you’re in pain. Google certainly doesn’t know! The good news is that diagnosis and targeted treatment by an allied healthcare professional combined with recommended self-management strategies will very likely deliver pain relief and allow you to return to living a full, free and satisfying life.

Affordable, personalised pain relief and recovery with a SH sports and wellness membership (just $10 per month*)

Whether your personal pain profile primarily requires hands-on physiotherapy techniques and at-home exercises or requires a combination of physiotherapy and chiropractic or remedial massage and psychology or even dietetics, our Sports and Wellness Membership makes optimal recovery and pain relief more affordable. For just $10 per month (*billed quarterly), you’ll receive a significant discount on every single appointment. To become a member, simply book an appointment at your preferred clinic online.

To start enjoying SH member benefits, simply book your first appointment here or by calling 9013 5987. Click here for prices, details and terms and conditions.

Maximise your or your pariticipant's NDIS funding for allied healthcare with these insider tips and tricks

  1. Start your Plan ASAP

Your plan’s life cycle commences the moment your plan is approved, so it’s advisable to research providers, services and products discussed when setting your goals before your plan is approved so you can ‘activate’ these supports immediately. This guards against wasting a month or more of supports while you conduct research and make enquiries. This is especially important if your plan includes allied healthcare services such as occupational therapy, speech pathology, physiotherapy, dietetics and psychology, which are often funded under the NDIS Improved Daily Living category. These are often addressed after core supports such as personal care, which means that they may not commence when the plan does. Moreover, increased demand for NDIS allied healthcare services means that many providers have waiting lists, which can further delay treatment commencement. When researching providers for yourself or your participant if you’re a support coordinator or other NDIS professional, especially when seeking allied healthcare providers, make a point of asking about their waiting lists for relevant therapies and shortlist those who can provide treatment in a timely manner and on a consistent basis, if you require it. For instance, we have introduced priority ‘no wait’ NDIS appointments across occupational therapy, speech pathology, physiotherapy/hydrotherapy, dietetics and psychology at our Templestowe Lower clinic (see below for our simple online referrals process).

2. Schedule appointments and bookings

Whether your Plan lasts for 12 or 36 months, it’s important to plan your year, as much as you can, to optimise entitlements across support categories. For instance, if you have weekly appointments with an allied healthcare provider, try to schedule multiple appointments in advance to ensure continuity and regularity (scheduling appointments by the week may mean there are weeks when you’re unable to secure a timely appointment). This is important both to optimise therapeutic benefits of your treatment plan and to prevent ‘wasting’ treatment funding due to missing sessions that can’t be made up. While there are many anecdotes of participants ‘cramming’ to use up funding before their plan review, this is less practicable when it comes to allied health treatments that rely on optimal intervals between sessions. At the end of your plan, any unspent funds are surrendered back to the NDIA and unused parts of your support budget may be deemed unnecessary for subsequent plans.

3. Look for all-in-one

While it’s perfectly acceptable to use one NDIS-registered allied healthcare provider for one therapy type (e.g. physiotherapy) and another for another (e.g. occupational therapy), your treatment funding can be more efficient and effective when you use a single, multidisciplinary provider. Not only can they streamline your admin and relieve you of the stress of juggling multiple sets of paperwork, they will be accustomed to scheduling appointments in complementary disciplines to ensure consistent treatment at optimal intervals. Their practitioners will also be accustomed to working collaboratively to review your treatment plan and progress for optimal results in line with goals identified for the therapy in your NDIS plan.

4. Ask about the fine print

It can often seem as though NDIS funding is more abstract than, say, ‘money’. As such, many people are less attentive to exactly where each dollar is going. Yet it’s important to remember that your budget is ‘spent’ in exactly the same way as a savings account and to be wise about its usage. One way in which participants inadvertently ‘waste’ funding is by being unaware of hidden costs such as practitioner travel fees for at-home and community-based consultations. These can differ between providers and a more expensive travel fee, if added to regular consultations, can add up and reduce the number of sessions your funding affords. Our unique travel policy, with travel fees significantly less than those set out in NDIS guidelines, includes a number of ‘funding-saving’ measures such as a fixed practitioner travel fee, meaning participants’ funding for therapeutic services goes further. Click here to watch an animated video explaining how our travel policy can maximise your NDIS funding.

TAKEAWAY TIPS

No wait time NDIS allied health services

Don’t risk wasting the full benefits of NDIS funding due to waiting lists for allied health treatment services. Our new priority appointments stream for NDIS participants at our Templestowe Lower clinic means that you or your participant can commence treatment as soon as the same week we receive your referral. Our online referrals process is quick and simple. Click here to make a referral.

Hidden signs your injury hasn't fully healed and tips to reduce injury re-occurrence and promote complete, long-term recovery.

How do you know when your injury has fully healed or when it’s repaired enough for you to return to your usual activities or sport? Most people gauge healing or repair by remittance of pain. Whether the injury is caused by sport or exercise or everyday activities, once pain subsides or reduces, it’s common to move on as if it never happened (albeit with the niggling anxiety that it might flare up and we may have to, gasp!, see a physio).

In some cases, that may seem to be the end of it. But as physios, we are all-too-familiar with treating issues that result from injuries that in fact hadn’t fully healed or left a legacy of other issues that, over time, caused other problems. In some cases, people who have ‘thought they dodged a bullet’ and recovered without treatment exhibit problems such as excessive formation of scarring, which could have been prevented with treatment at the time. This is why our assessment includes questions about past injuries and treatment.

We are also too familiar with cases where a person has become frustrated with the restrictions of injury and, in turn, overestimated ‘how much better it feels’ and returned to usual activities only to experience re-occurrence of pain, weakness and movement limitations (familiar?). The reason these post-injury issues are so common is that, often, residual effects of injury are hidden, which makes it tricky to gauge your own recovery. So how can you avoid being that person re-experiencing injury or experiencing long-term performance deficits? The answer is a combination of knowledge, pro-recovery practices such as getting adequate sleep and eating well, exercises and precautions prescribed by a physiotherapist and, where appropriate, manual therapies (e.g. massage or dry needling).

Know the hidden effects of injury

The pain may have gone (or almost), but there are a number of hidden effects of injury that may remain without you knowing and fail to heal further without strategic rehabilitation.

  1. Tendon timing  

Some experts say that, once a tendon is injured, it almost never fully recovers. That’s a bit extreme. With the right rehabilitation, carefully timed return to full activity or exercise, tendon injuries can become trouble free, but it’s important to realise that tendons heal slowly. Returning to full activity or exercise too soon can impair or inhibit this healing and set you up for long-term problems from a tendon that hasn’t sufficiently healed. On the flip side, it is important to engage in particular exercise tailored to facilitating recovery and to return to activity or exercise soon enough so it can be used to aid further healing and recovery of movement and strength.

  1. Range of motion 

It’s not always obvious when range of motion (ROM) is limited compared to before the occurrence of injury, but this is a common residual effect of many common injuries. One cause of this is scar tissue. For exercise enthusiasts and athletes, this means compromised performance and, potentially, further injuries caused by trying to force a joint or muscle through full range of motion or overcompensation by other body parts to try to make up for the deficit. There can also be undue stress or strain on joints and/or muscles, increasing injury risk. Physiotherapy can help to minimise formation of scarring and other ROM issues using targeted movement, massage and other hands-on treatments.

  1. Impaired proprioception

After we experience injury, our ‘feeling’ or ‘perception’ of the injured body part or region (‘proprioception’) may be altered, resulting in awkward or sub-optimal movements or even misjudgment (for instance, after an ankle injury, you may be a bit unstable and make mistakes such as placing your foot down at a slightly different angle or misjudging your step, which, combined with lingering weakness, can result in re-rolling or activation of injury). Impaired proprioception can also negatively impact performance in sport and exercise. A positive fringe benefit of physiotherapy for injury rehabilitation is improvement of proprioception.

  1. Subtle weakness and stiffness 

Even after ligaments and cartilage have recovered sufficiently to free you from pain, muscle strength may remain compromised. Weakened muscles are among the hidden residual effects of injury which, without targeted strengthening rehabilitation, may leave you vulnerable to re-injury or new injury. If your injury has required immobilisation or a support such as crutches or a sling, chances are, your muscles will need to be built back up with strenghening exercises. As well as weakened muscles, post injury, joints may be stiff and ligaments less taut, which may require prescribed exercises to facilitate return to normal range of motion and capacity.

  1. Medical complications 

Certain medical conditions can inhibit complete or optimal healing and recovery of injuries.  For instance, conditions with symptoms including poor circulation (e.g. cardiovascular disease) can slow or impair injury recovery due to lack of oxygen and nutrients in blood to the injured tissues. Diabetes can also disrupt expected healing processes. A physiotherapist will identify any such factors in an assessment and tailor treatment to overcome barriers to recovery as much as possible. Lifestyle habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol or consumption of recreational drugs may impair or prohibit a complete or optimal recovery from injury.

  1. Insufficient sleep and nutrients 

Your body’s own repair mechanisms are at their peak while you’re sleeping, which is why your physio may ask about your sleep hygiene, sleep hours and sleep quality. Skimping on quality sleep can contribute to slower or compromised healing. Equally important is nutrition, which can work for or against tissue repair and recovery. This means consuming regular, balanced meals comprising protein to facilitate tissue repair, slow-release carbohydrate to fuel brain functions integral to sending signals for tissue repair and to provide adequate energy for your body to conduct repair functions and healthy fats including Omega-3s, which may help to promote bone and joint health. Hydration is also crucial, not least because good circulation is crucial for delivering blood and oxygen to damaged tissue.

If you’re not sure whether your injury has healed sufficiently to return to full activity or sport or exercise or wish to make sure there is no residual injury or damage that may cause ongoing problems, consider consulting a physio.

Stay pain and injury free for just $10 per month* with Soaring Health's NEW 3-month Sports & Wellness Membership

Whether you want to make sure an injury heals optimally, wish to relieve or avoid neck and back pain or are keen to get an edge in your sport or exercise performance, our NEW 3-month sports and wellness membership makes maintaining your body at its best affordable. For just $10 per month (*billed quarterly), membership entitles private clients to reduced fees for every single consultation, from physio to chiro and dietetics. It also entitles you to a 30 per cent discount on therapeutic products and access to member offers and packages. If you have applicable private health insurance, a membership may mean you can claim for more sessions. The sooner you join, the more you can save!

To start enjoying SH member benefits, simply book your first appointment here or by calling 9013 5987. Click here for prices, details and terms and conditions.

While people with disability may face a few more barriers to participation in work than others, there are many organisations and programs to help people of all abilities to realise their vocational ambitions.

With the new year underway and many people returning to workplaces after two years of working from home, you or someone in your care may be wondering what options and supports there are for people with disability to follow their vocational ambitions. As well as being an excellent way to develop new skills and expand your social circle, participation in work can instil a sense of independence and purpose and can greatly increase a person’s confidence. Whether you or your participant wish to explore fields of interest through work experience or an internship or you’re looking for resources to assist with interview preparation and job hunting, there are a range of organisations, programs and supports to help make it happen. Our community team has put together key go-to resources to get you started.

Getting started 

These service providers can help people with disability to narrow their interests, prepare for work and find suitable employment opportunities.

JobAccess: JobAccess is a Government-funded initiative that aims to support the employment of people with disability. It provides information to job seekers and employees as well as employers and service providers.

Visit their website here or contact them by phone on 1800 464 800.

Disability Employment Services (DES): This is a national network of businesses that provide support to job seekers with a disability, injury or health condition. DES can offer assistance with resume preparation, interview skills and looking for jobs that match your skills and abilities. DES offers two streams, depending on a person’s level of need for support.

Find a local provider here. A Centrelink representative can also help to connect you with a nearby DES.

Australian Disability Enterprises (ADE): ADE is a group of over 600 organisations that provide supported employment opportunities to people with moderate to severe disabilities (usually intellectual disabilities). They offer opportunities in a number of areas including design, packaging, landscaping, manufacturing and hospitality.

Find ADE organisations across Australia here

Recruitability: Recruitability is an Australian Government-run scheme designed to encourage people with disability to apply for employment in the Australian Public Service (APS). The program allows people with disability who apply for vacancies the opportunity to automatically progress to the next stage of the recruitment process as long as they meet all eligibility and minimum requirements.

To find opportunities under Recruitability, visit the Australian Public Service Commission website here. You will need to go to 'advanced search' and select 'RecruitAbility' under ‘Programs and Initiatives’. RecruitAbility will display at the top of the job listings and a list of RecruitAbility jobs will appear.

Australian Network on Disability (AND): This member based organisation supports employers to include people with disability in their workplace by sharing resources and running training programs. AND also runs the Stepping Into Internship and the Positive Action towards Career Engagement (PACE) programs (see below).

->The Stepping Into Internship program provides skilled university students who experience disability with a paid internship at a leading business. The internship is a minimum of 152 hours.

->The PACE program is a mentoring program where students and job seekers with disability are matched with a professional from an Australian business. The program lets you meet with your mentor six to eight times in three months, for one or two hours at a time.

Visit the AND website here

NDIS support for work experience, work preparation and work life

Some funding may be able to obtained to support vocational goals. NDIS funding always depends on whether a support relates to the goals in a person’s NDIS plan. Work and study are no different. To obtain any possible funding, it is important to ensure that work and/or study goals are included in, or added to, the plan. (If you’re a participant, you will need to discuss this with your support coordinator, LAC or planner.) Generally, NDIS funding would be considered in cases where a person couldn’t obtain required assistance from a disability employment service (DES, see service providers, above). In specific terms, NDIS funding may be granted to provide extra workplace support because of your disability. E.g. assistance to stay on track with work tasks.

Funding for work preparation and work experience

If you or your participant are just starting to think about the possibility of employment, NDIS funding may assist with a sort of ‘feeling out’ process under the ‘capacity building - employment’ budget. To qualify for this category, a support must be deemed ‘reasonable and necessary’. This may enable a person to test their work skills through work experience, build relevant skills such as following directions and gain competencies to enable a transition to a disability employment service (DES) for participants who are ready or eligible.

No-stress NDIS referrals

Whether you’re a support coordinator, participant or parent or carer, navigating the fine print of your NDIS plan and turning it into an active treatment program can be daunting. As an NDIS-registered all-in-one allied healthcare provider, we make the process from referral to treatment simple and stress free. Simply click below to refer a participant or yourself and we’ll contact you within 48 hours to make an appointment and guide you through the path to stress-free treatment management at one of our three state-of-the-art multidisciplinary clinics, in Thomastown, Craigieburn and Templestowe Lower. Click here to make a referral.

Fitness resolutions are fraught with mistakes that cause many of us to ‘fall off the wagon’ or face a plateau or injury by February. But it doesn’t have to be that way. To make your new year fitness resolutions last for the long term, try these science-based hacks. 

If you’ve ever set a new year fitness goal and fallen off the wagon by February, you’re in good company. Failure rates for new year’s health resolutions are estimated to be as high as 80 per cent. In fact, it’s a wonder any of us continue to make them. Yet somehow many of us manage to conveniently forget what happened last time and set ourselves up to repeat the cycle. Foolish? It depends whether you reflect on factors involved in past failures and incorporate your learning into your new attempt (you know the quote, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result’?). If you’re ready to change your relationship with new year’s fitness resolutions, keep reading.

Why fitness resolutions fail

There are myriad physical, psychological and practical reasons why fitness resolutions fail – from flagging motivation to lack of time and pain, discomfort or injury. However, broadly, failure factors tend to fall into two categories: planning and execution. The former relates to setting goals and strategically planning to achieve them. The latter pertains to the implementation. Each of these stages can be a minefield of common mistakes that catch many of us off guard or leave us baffled as to what went wrong.

What could possibly go wrong?

PLANNING MISTAKES:

IMPLEMENTATION MISTAKES:

NEW YEAR FITNESS RESOLUTION SUCCESS FORMULA

Many ‘mistakes’ in both planning and implementation create a negative Domino effect. For instance, setting overly ambitious goals pretty well guarantees that you will soon confront your own failure, which may cause you to train harder or more frequently in an attempt to ‘fix it’. This may lead to physical and/or psychological burnout. Bye bye, resolution. On the flip side, you can use this science to create a positive Domino effect that promotes success (without applying overt effort to each factor). If you’re ready to set in motion a cascade of success, consider these ‘hacks’.

  1. Mix it up

It makes sense that the more you do the same thing, the better you’ll get at it, right? Not quite. Doing the same workout day in, day out is likely to result in slowed or stalled progress or a ‘plateau’ (that is, you’ll stop seeing results, which may undermine motivation or cause you to push beyond your limits, resulting in over-training and inadequate recovery that further impede progress). Why does this happen? Adaptation. That is, your body adapts to certain activities or movements, becoming more efficient, which means the processes that enabled gains in strength or speed or endurance are dialled down. Depending on your fitness goals, a rule of thumb is to change up your workout routine every two to five weeks. As a positive knock-on effect, this also prevents boredom and apathy and promotes sustained motivation. Between ‘change-ups’, incorporate variety by adding different techniques to your workout program – think supersets, circuit training and HIIT (high-intensity interval training).

  1. Pace yourself 

Fitness is often associated with a gung-ho ‘go hard or go home’ mentality. However, this is actually self-defeating. Doing too much in a bid to attain faster results is often false economy. In fact, over-training is one of the main enemies of successful fitness resolutions. Why? The effects of over-training make it difficult or impossible to maintain optimal training. Form is compromised, which means exercises fail to achieve what they should when performed correctly. Other effects such as joint and muscle pain, fatigue and depleted energy may force time-outs or reduced training that effectively delay results. Along with regulating training frequency and demands, it is important to factor in recovery periods (or rest days). Without this, your body can’t rebuild and repair muscle tissue, which is a key factor in achieving optimal results. Relatedly, to work optimally, your fitness resolution needs to be supported by adequate, good-quality sleep. Sleep enables the body to dedicate resources to repair and recovery and growth. (Yes, some of your ‘progress’ may occur while you’re snoozing.)

  1. Evaluate

What’s the point of setting goals if you’re not keeping tabs on whether your workout program is advancing you towards achieving them? Regular evaluation can reveal what is working as well as what isn’t, providing opportunities to tweak your routine early (rather than blindly continuing with something that isn’t working or isn’t working as expected). Of course, evaluation requires data. To capture the interplay of success factors we’ve discussed, make a habit of keeping a fitness diary, not only to record how many sets and reps you did on Wednesday, but to document associated factors such as nutrition and sleep and the effects of specific conditions (for instance, a workout in which you became fatigued earlier than expected may be explained by missing lunch or a poor night’s sleep). As far as monitoring exercise, for cardio, record intensity, distance and duration. For strength work, record the exercise performed, the weight load and your sets, repetitions and periods. In addition, make a note of how you felt after each workout. Review your fitness log weekly and try to identify both positive and negative patterns or links and make adjustments accordingly.

LIMITED OFFER! If you’re determined to ensure that your fitness resolution lasts long term and minimise risk of plateaus and injury, take advantage of our special NEW YEAR FITNESS RESOLUTION FOUNDATION PHYSIO CONSULT for just $60 (regular initial physio consult $97). Appointments from January 4. Offer ends Friday, December 24. Click here to book now! 

Many social, leisure and community participation new year's resolutions may qualify for NDIS funding. From cooking classes to music concerts, our community division experts have put together a few tips to turn resolution into reality.

The end-of-year holiday period is a great time to consider what you would like your life to look like over the next 12 months. You may reflect on what you wished you were able to do during the year but couldn’t due to COVID restrictions. Perhaps you’ve been inspired by an event such as the Paralympics or by something you’ve seen on social media (hello, making authentic Italian pasta) and are itching to learn. Maybe you just want to expand your social network or connect with like-minded others by participating in group activities (social connectedness and a sense of belonging are known to boost wellbeing). But how do you make it happen or help someone in your care to achieve their resolution?

While many people make resolutions related to social, leisure and recreation ambitions - from joining a book club to taking art classes - for people living with disability, the practical side of actioning these resolutions often involves a bit more research, planning and coordination. For instance, to access funding for a support worker or assistive technology to enable participation in a mainstream activity, relevant amendments may need to be made to a participant’s NDIS plan in one or more categories. The good news is that, whether you are an NDIS participant or caring for someone who is, there are a range of provisions that can help to support you to turn your new year’s resolution into reality.

What does NDIS cover?

If you’re a participant, carer, support worker or in another NDIS-related role, the obvious question is probably, ‘But will the NDIS plan cover THAT’ (read: ten pin bowling, cooking classes, pottery workshops)? This is where it can get a bit tricky, because NDIS supports for these areas fall into two main categories. That is, social and community participation funding falls under both the ‘Core Supports’ and ‘Capacity Building’ sections of an NDIS plan. What’s the difference?

In addition to these categories, certain skills-based classes, workshops and tuition may qualify for other categories if they tangibly contribute to increased capacities for independence and/or daily living tasks (e.g. cooking). Some participants may also be able to use assistive technology funding for equipment enabling an activity related to identified goals.

How to find an NDIS-funded activity 

While there has been a marked increase in activities and classes for people with disability in recent years, finding a class, workshop, group, activity or facility that fits a participant’s needs can be tricky.  In addition, disability-specific events are often run infrequently, which means that places are in high demand and often sell out well in advance (booking itself can be tricky when you need to wait for confirmation of funding for assistance to participate). The good news is that you don’t need to look only for disability-specific groups or events. In fact, doing so may mean you miss out on a whole world of interesting events and on meeting a range of interesting people. Consider these ideas and, while it might sound obvious, don’t forget Google. Try both search terms related to disability and NDIS (e.g. ‘cooking classes Melbourne disability’ or ‘cooking classes Melbourne NDIS’ and simply ‘cooking classes Melbourne’ or ‘cooking classes northern suburbs Melbourne’). We’ve put together some examples of activities to try.

Cooking classes (cooking classes may also qualify for other areas of support under a participant’s NDIS plan depending on identified goals)

NDIS cooking classes

Whether you’re a total novice, have a few culinary skills or consider yourself a budding Masterchef, Real Life Skills has three levels of cooking classes for NDIS participants. The 10-week term programs enable participants to build up skills and confidence and prepare increasingly complex dishes.

NDIS Cooking Classes & Learn to Cook Courses | Real Life Support Skills (rlsss.com.au)

Home cooking for NDIS participants

These three-hour classes tailored specifically to NDIS participants are run monthly by Otao Kitchen. It is suggested that participants attend six sessions to build up a repertoire of kitchen tricks including recipe substitutions. While they are meticulously planned and coordinated for maximum learning benefit, these sessions have a social feel and include a free glass of beer, wine or soft drink and a communal dining experience at the end.

Home Cooking | NDIS Participants | Otao Kitchen

Master Chef Kitchen classes

The Master Chef Kitchen weekly classes run by The Disability Trust include a cool twist: each week, a class member is able to choose a recipe for everyone to eat and take home.

Master Chef Kitchen - Monday « The Disability Trust

Cooking classes for all abilities

Held in the beautiful Macedon Ranges, Life and Fork’s cooking classes feel more like a social gathering than a formal class - although they are led by a highly-qualified trainer who takes care to adapt the class to the needs of students of all abilities. Classes come in two formats: hands-on classes, where you make and eat your own creations and workshops (a demonstration-based format).

https://lifeandforkcookingschool.com.au/cooking-classes/

Miscellaneous classes

From making your own personalised silver ring to dumpling making and Thai cooking, pottery classes and workshops that guide you in painting a portrait of your pet, there is a class for everything you’ve thought you’d love to learn (and for many things you never considered). According to Class Bento, many NDIS participants have used their Social And Community Participation funding for classes.

NDIS Social and Community Participation Activities Experiences Melbourne | ClassBento

Active activities

Ten pin bowling and indoor rockclimbing are two mainstream recreational activities that may be recognised as valuable towards NDIS plan goals and which have modifications and provisions to enable participation by people with varied abilities. For instance, many indoor rockclimbing centres have ‘hoist sessions’ for wheelchair users. Ten Pin Bowling Australia also promotes participation by people with differing needs and encourages NDIS participants. Talk to your plan manager about including bowling or climbing in your plan.

People with Disability - Tenpin Bowling Australia

Arts and culture

Major arts venues such as the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), Victorian Arts Centre and State Library frequently host events, tours and workshops tailored to participants with varied needs and have provisions such as 'companion card bookings' that allow free entry for a carer or support worker. These venues are also wheelchair accessible and most include an Assistive Hearing system.  Look out for events with modifications such as Relaxed Performances, Auslan Interpretation, Audio Description and Captioning.

Accessible Events | Arts Centre Melbourne

Jump the January wait list. Refer a participant today!

Are you leaving referrals until the new year when you’re less busy? What if doing it now only took a few minutes online and ensured that your participant(s) received priority appointments in January? You can tick it off your list and forget about the stress of notorious new year healthcare waiting lists.

To lock in your participants' priority January appointments at our Thomastown, Craigieburn or Templestowe Lower clinic, click below to complete our simple online referral form. Priority referrals close December 24. Don't miss out!

Click here to make a referral

These scientific, no-hype, non-hacks can fast-track fitness results and help to prevent injury.

Lockdowns have lifted. Gyms are open. Sports are back on. And summer’s coming. No wonder searches for fitness ‘tricks’ and ‘hacks’ have skyrocketed. Who could blame us? The perhaps-disappointing fact is, most effective practices, whether for performance gains or injury prevention, are not tricks at all. (It’s pretty hard to put one over the complex machine that is the human body.) Rather, they’re evidence-based approaches based on scientific research. The twist is, that non-tricks and non-hacks can actually fast-track results and reduce injury risk in the long term. If you’d like to skip the trial and error, our physiotherapists and chiropractors have compiled some key summer fitness tips that speak your body’s language.

Focus on range of motion

Maintaining optimal range of motion around joints has been shown to reduce the risk of injury in exercise and sports. Optimal range of motion means that your joint travels through that range without ‘borrowing’ that range from other areas (such ‘borrowing’ or ‘compensation’ can cause undue strain and increase injury risk). The challenge is identifying an abnormal range of motion in yourself. A physiotherapist can assess your range(s) of motion relevant to your preferred exercise or sport and prescribe exercises to improve any range of motion deficits.

Prioritise stability, strength and balance

The same study showed that strengthening exercises reduced injuries during sports participation by up to two thirds. Simply, engaging in explosive activity without preparing the joint (s) can result in sudden injuries such as tears or strains or promote the onset and deterioration over time of less-acute strains. Key exercises in this area address stability, strength and balance. (This is why elite sporting teams including footballers include stability-training and ancillary training such as yoga and Pilates.)

Build in a warm-up and cool-down

A good warm-up includes strengthening, stabilising and range-of-motion exercises. Aim for around 10 to 15 minutes. While your warm-up may include dynamic stretching, stretching alone has not been shown to reduce injury risk. After your workout, factor in a warm-  or cool-down session to reduce the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and let your heart rate return gradually to its resting rate while letting blood flow return to its regular course (during exertion, it will be channelled to working muscles). A simple example is following a run with a lighter jog before walking for five minutes.

Invest in rest

Rest is critical to fitness development, whether your aim is increasing muscle mass, gaining strength or increasing speed or endurance. Research shows that muscle growth and development relies on sufficient rest, during which repair occurs, in turn contributing to progress. Doing a hard session every day can be false economy. This doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing. Active rest can include lighter exercise such as swimming or yoga. The other solid reason for building in rest periods is injury prevention. Exercising when you’re exhausted or depleted compromises your ability to engage core and stabilising muscles, which can lead to mistakes or deficits in form/technique and lead to injury. Within the ‘rest’ category, obtaining adequate, good-quality sleep is also integral to optimal recovery and repair.

Remember micronutrients

While most fitness enthusiasts are conscious of obtaining adequate macronutrients from food and/or supplements (especially protein), many of us may be unaware of micronutrient deficiencies that can compromise performance and undermine progress and results. Magnesium is a case in point. If your body has too little magnesium, it can result in or worsen muscle cramps and tightness after exercise. A magnesium supplement may help to alleviate these complaints. Some research also suggests that high-quality fish oil supplements could help to ease inflammation, swelling and joint pain that may undermine performance.

If you're not sure how to implement these key elements, consider consulting a physiotherapist or chiropractor for an assessment and personalised recommendations that address your needs and goals.

To celebrate the end of lockdowns, dawn of daylight savings and warmer weather, why not get familiar with Victoria’s accessible beaches and national parks?

With the easing of lockdowns and travel restrictions and summer on our doorstep, there’s no better time to explore Victoria’s great outdoors – from vast golden beaches to lush national parks. Greater Melbourne and regional Victoria boast an array of natural locations and facilities that have been tailored to accommodate visitors with varied needs and abilities. In fact, Victoria has 10 ‘accessible beaches’ and is home to three beaches with 24/7 matting for wheelchair accessibility. For those who prefer to get off the beaten track and escape the heat under the canopy, greater metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria also boast a number of national parks with free use of motorised and manual all-terrain wheelchairs that enable access and exploration of terrain that would otherwise be inaccessible in a wheelchair.

Accessible beaches

Victoria is home to 10 accessible beaches - eight of which are within greater metropolitan Melbourne. The beaches in our accessible beaches category offer various features, from ramps and wheelchair beach mats to accessible change rooms and/or showers.

WILLIAMSTOWN BEACH

Distance: 15 minutes west of Melbourne

Features:

ALTONA BEACH

Location: 22 minutes west of Melbourne

Features:

MORDIALLOC BEACH

Location: 25 minutes south of Melbourne

Features:

MT MARTHA BEACH

Location: Mornington Peninsula

Features:

ST KILDA BEACH

Location: 10 minutes south of Melbourne

Features:

PORT MELBOURNE BEACH

Location: 5 minutes south of Melbourne

Features:

HALF MOON BAY

Location: 35 minutes south of Melbourne

Features:

HAMPTON BEACH

Location: 35 minutes south of Melbourne

Features:

CARRUM BEACH

Location: 40 minutes south of Melbourne

Features:

LORNE BEACH

Location: 2 hours from Melbourne

Features:

For details of accessible beach facilities or to find an accessible beach in another Australian state, click here.

Accessible parks and trails

While national parks might conjure images of steep, unmade trails and wheelchair tyres lodged in mud, there are a number of Victorian parks that offer free use of all-terrain wheelchairs that enable visitors with mobility limitations to explore areas and terrain that are not wheelchair-accessible. TrailRider all-terrain wheelchairs have adjustable seating and supports and are suitable for adults and children with varying abilities. Local staff can advise on the best trails and routes for chairs and provide assistance in safe use (the chairs do require a minimum of two operators). If you need extra support, at the Dandenong Ranges and Grampians National Parks (which also offer motorised TrailRider chairs, as does Wilsons Promontory National Park), you can enlist the assistance of a Parks Victoria TrailRider volunteer, who is trained to push and pull the chair. Use of TrailRiders and assistance are free but you do need to book a chair and/or volunteer at least a week in advance. Click here for booking details.

Motorised TrailRider locations

Other TrailRider chair locations

TrailRiders can be borrowed free of charge at the following shires and information centres, located near parks (chair can be transported in most standard SUVs and vans).

Colac Otway Shire (Manual TrailRider)
Great Ocean Road Visitor Information Centre, 100 Great Ocean Road, Apollo Bay, 1300 689 297 or gorvic@colacotway.vic.gov.au
Website: www.visitotways.com

Hepburn Shire (Manual TrailRider)
Daylesford Regional Visitor Information Centre, 98 Vincent St, Daylesford, 1800 454 891 or events@hepburn.vic.gov.au
Website: www.visitdaylesford.com.au

Kinglake National Park (Manual TrailRider)
Parks Victoria Office, 2970 Heidelberg-Kinglake Rd, Kinglake, (03) 8427 2066

Loddon Shire (Motorised TrailRider)
Loddon Visitor Information Centre, 24 Wilson Street, Wedderburn, (03) 5494 3489 or loddonvisitorinformation@loddon.vic.gov.au

Moorabool Shire (Manual TrailRider)
Lerderderg Library, 215 Main St, Bacchus Marsh, (03) 5366 7100 or info@moorabool.vic.gov.au
Website: www.moorabool.vic.gov.au

Howmans Camp Alpine Centre (Motorised TrailRider)
2587 Bogong High Plains Road, Falls Creek, (03) 5758 3223

Surf Coast Shire (Manual TrailRider)
Surf Coast Sport & Recreation Centre Beach Road, Torquay (next to the Visitor Information Centre and Surf World Museum), (03) 5261 4606 or surfcoastsrc@surfcoast.vic.gov.au
Website: www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au

Warburton Visitor Information Centre (Motorised TrailRider)
3400 Warburton Hwy, Warburton, (03) 5966 9600 or info@visitwarburton.com.au
Website: www.visitwarburton.com.au

To find accessible parks in other Australian states, click here.

If you're looking to get out in the great outdoors and unsure of what you can safely manage with your current chair or capacities, an NDIS-registered occupational therapist can provide advice and evaluate your current assistive technology and resources against your goals and needs.

Give your snacking habit a healthy overhaul with these delicious, dietitian-approved grazing options.

Between working from home and home schooling, many of us have become accustomed to a regular habit of snacking throughout the day. (After all, the fridge is only a few steps away.) Some popular media have painted the snacking phenomenon as a negative side-effect of COVID-19 life, but in fact, snacking can be a healthy part of a balanced diet for both adults and children. Well-chosen snacks can help to prevent weight gain by preventing excessive hunger and overeating at mealtimes. They can help children and adults to maintain focus and concentration throughout the day. And they can contribute valuable nutrients to help you to meet your daily quotas.

Why has snacking got a bad reputation? 

Simply, many foods associated with snacking are brimming with sugar, fat and salt, are nutritionally-empty and fail to provide a sense of satiety (meaning that they don’t help to regulate appetite and may even stimulate it). Classic examples include packet potato chips, muesli bars, sweet biscuits or muffins and chocolate. Common ‘snack food’ favourites also contribute a disproportionate amount of energy (kilojoules), increasing the likelihood of exceeding daily kilojoule needs and promoting weight gain. Worse, many snacks are packaged to promote mindless eating of excessive portions (a medium packet of chips or crisps grazed mindlessly at your desk can contribute more than 2,000kJ, which is a third to a quarter of an average adult woman’s daily energy needs and equivalent to a main meal - minus the nutrients).

How can I choose healthy snacks?  

The surest way to ensure that a snack is healthy is to make it yourself (see our list of 16 healthy snacks below), however, there may be times when you need a packaged snack for convenience. When evaluating packaged snack options, prioritise these factors specified on the nutrition information panel (NIP):

How can I make my own healthy snacks? 

These balanced, healthy snacks contain 600kJ or fewer. Mix up your snack rotation to keep it interesting and don’t be afraid to get creative by mixing and matching items.

  1. 19 rice crackers
  2. 1 small nut bar or breakfast cereal bar (look for less sugar)
  3. 1 small tin baked beans
  4. 1 egg with 1 slice bread (no spread)
  5. 1 cup reduced-fat milk with 1-2 teaspoons malt powder e.g. Milo
  6. 2 cheese sticks
  7. 4 mini or 1 large sushi rolls
  8. Tomato salsa with vegetable sticks (e.g. carrot, celery, capsicum)
  9. Cottage cheese or ricotta with vegetable sticks
  10. 1 corn on the cob (no butter)
  11. Snack pack/handful (30g approx) of almonds, walnuts or unsalted mixed nuts
  12. Small tin (e.g. 85g) of tuna
  13. Crunchy peanut butter on a rice cake or celery sticks
  14. Medium piece of fresh fruit (e.g. apple, banana)
  15. Crispbread with cheese or avocado
  16. Raisin bread slice spread with cottage cheese or cheddar

Punchline:

When choosing a snack, consider whether it’s filling and provides prolonged satiety (does it include protein and/or fibre)? Is it low in sugar, fat (especially saturated) and salt? Is it around 600 kilojoules? Favouring these attributes will help you to keep your and your family’s snacking on track.

If you're not sure whether your healthy eating efforts are actually healthy or would like assistance with creating a sustainable, convenient meal and snack rotation, consider a consultation with an accredited practising dietitian (APD), who can skill you up to enjoy delicious, convenient meals and snacks without the guesswork.

Optimise your immunity and protection against disease with evidence-based nutrition science. 

In a climate of COVID outbreaks and vaccination queues, it’s little wonder that there is heightened interest in dietary measures to boost immunity and protect against sickness, from colds and flu to COVID-19. But while the internet is brimming with tips, from special herbal tea blends to specific food inclusions and exclusions, a lot of advice is based on myths and a motley patchwork of semi-facts rather than scientific evidence. The bad news is that, unfortunately, there is no specified diet to enhance protection against illness. This is, in part, due to the fact that nutrition is only part of the picture when it comes to immune function (most of us know that when we become overtired or over-stressed, or ‘run down’, we tend to encounter more illness). On the flip side, there are certain foods and food constituents that can, in synergy with other lifestyle measures such as adequate sleep, help to stave off infection and disease.

How foods support immune function

Consuming adequate nutrients as part of a balanced diet is a foundation for healthy function of cells, including immune cells, which guard against microbial attacks and can help to prevent or mitigate excess inflammation that could lead to disease or illness. Each stage of the body’s immune response depends on the presence of various micronutrients. Examples of nutrients that have been found to promote the growth and function of immune cells include vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc, selenium, iron, and protein. Another important consideration is supporting good gut bacteria with nutrients such as fibre. Some 70 per cent of the immune system comes from the gut, so supporting good gut bacteria with dietary habits such as consuming 25 to 30 grams of fibre per day can help to support immune function (if your fibre intake is minimal, build up gradually by adding a piece of fruit a day to avoid gas and constipation). Some research also supports a case for including pre- and probiotic foods to cultivate optimal gut bacteria. This has been discussed especially in relation to practices such as taking antibiotics, which can deplete good gut bacteria and promote bacterial imbalance.

Immunity nutrition mistakes

Just as immune function can be positively influenced by consumption of nutrient-dense foods, diets consisting primarily of highly-processed foods and lacking in minimally processed foods can negatively affect a healthy immune system.  A diet high in refined sugar and red meat and lacking fruit and vegetables may also work against healthy gut bacteria and potentially contribute to chronic gut inflammation - which can negatively impact immune function.

Immunity foods menu

Prioritise plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds and aim to include loads of colour (generally speaking, richly-coloured plant foods are high in desirable nutrients). The Mediterranean diet is a good guide. As well as a wealth of immune-supporting vitamins and minerals, these ingredients contribute fibre, which promotes growth of good gut bacteria.

Lifestyle factors to optimise immunity 

To optimise the effect of an immune-supporting diet, attend to these protective lifestyle factors.

  1. Eat a balanced diet including whole fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains and maintain adequate hydration (primarily with water).
  2.  Don’t smoke.
  3. Moderate or avoid alcohol consumption.
  4. Undertake moderate regular exercise.
  5. Aim for seven to nine hours of good-quality sleep each night. Try to keep to a regular sleep schedule, waking up and going to bed around the same time each day.
  6. Manage stress. Find strategies that work with your interests and lifestyle—from exercise to meditation or a creative hobby such as playing music, practising art or cooking.
  7. Wash and/or sanitise hands throughout the day. This is particularly important after being outdoors, after being in public places, before and after preparing and eating food, after using the toilet and after coughing or blowing your nose.

If you suspect that your immune function is sub-optimal or you would like to ensure that your diet supports optimal protection against illness, consider consulting an accredited practising dietitian (APD), who can equip you with knowledge and practical tips for meeting your health goals.

The cumulative effects of COVID restrictions may have hidden, long-term effects on our mental health long after lockdowns. We explore common signs and offer tips to manage the effects.

For more than a year, we’ve lamented limitations that curtailed our usual freedoms. Many of us will have felt frustrated about not being able to make our own life choices or follow through with plans. It was common practice to sit by the TV every Sunday, wishing for permission to return to normal life - from going to work to weekend cafe brekkies and watching the kids play sport. So why, when many restrictions are lifted, do some of us feel ambivalent about resuming activities we so desperately missed? In fact, there are valid reasons why many of us will experience anxiety and trepidation about returning to ‘normal life’ (or finding our ‘new normal’). 

Repeat lockdowns and post-traumatic stress 

It may sound counterintuitive, but later outbreaks and restrictions are thought to come with psychological effects different to - and perhaps worse than - those from previous lockdowns. This is true even when subsequent lockdowns are shorter or less limiting than earlier ones. One reason is that second and third-round lockdowns followed a period of returning to semi-normal life only to have it suddenly taken away. Mental health experts say that this, along with prolonged uncertainty, stress and sense of being unsafe during recurring COVID outbreaks, has made it difficult for many of us to trust that we will ever be able to enjoy the freedom to design our own lives without fear or anxiety. Some experts have likened the mechanisms of some reactions to those seen in clinical post-traumatic stress. Even among mentally healthy people, symptoms paralleling post-traumatic stress may include avoidance of specific situations or even of leaving the house, hyper-reactivity to ‘triggers’ and avoidance of feeling by engaging in ‘self-medicating’ behaviours from excessive busyness to alcohol consumption.

Self-management and recovery

Even if you’ve resumed normal activities and simply ‘got on with life’, there may be residual effects you don’t recognise or attribute to COVID outbreaks and restrictions. These may include persistent anxiety, having a temper or ‘short fuse’, avoidance of or lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, sleep disturbance and somatic complaints such as digestive issues and headaches. Like post-traumatic stress responses, the emotional and mental health effects may manifest months after the event (at the time, you enter a kind of survival mode). Whether you’re currently limited by restrictions or transitioning to ‘COVID-normal’ life, consider practising these simple self-care and self-management methods to optimise your mental health and wellbeing.

  1. Take it easy. When restrictions are lifted, we may feel a pressure, obligation or urgency to embrace our new freedoms in one fell swoop - from dining out to visiting friends and relatives and booking holidays. Remind yourself that there is no external deadline. It’s not a competition or race. Be patient with yourself and resume activities at a pace with which you feel comfortable. 
  2. Focus on positive changes. The unprecedented challenges and changes imposed by COVID can make it tempting to dwell on what we’ve lost or sacrificed (e.g. missed time with loved ones or job opportunities). When you feel yourself ruminating, make a conscious effort to flip the coin. Compile a list of positive effects, such as increased contact with loved ones via video link or greater appreciation of relationships. Perhaps you’ve gained new skills or realised interests or passions such as art or cooking or gardening. Work to maintain any newfound pleasures.
  3. Take back control. Many of us will now face many new uncertainties and anxieties. We may face the challenge of finding a new job or even a new career. We may have to reassess our financial position and lifestyle. What previously seemed secure may now feel as though it’s up in the air. To combat the effects of such unknowns and restore a sense of agency and stability despite question marks, try to channel your focus and energy into what you can control. Maybe that’s rebuilding valued relationships, focusing on helping children with their academic work or undertaking a course to enhance your value in the workplace. Also focus on creating structure and routine, which can lend a sense of security and comfort.
  4. Reflect on past successes. Chances are you’ve overcome many stressful events and survived. In hindsight, you may have recognised valuable lessons and strengths gained through the experience. Reflect on these past challenges and harness the lessons or skills to navigate current challenges.
  5. Break the 'what if' loop. When external circumstances are uncertain, many people immediately imagine worst-case scenarios and 'what ifs'. Get out of the habit of ruminating about what might happen. Breaking this cycle or loop may mean avoiding triggers or stimuli that promote rumination such as watching the news or compulsively checking online news updates or news-related social media accounts.
  6. Engage in self-care. Good nutrition, sleep, exercise, leisure and relaxation practices can heighten resilience to mental and emotional stress by stimulating mood-regulating brain chemicals and promoting perspective and balance. Make a point of prioritising regular balanced meals, establishing good sleep hygiene, completing regular exercise and engaging in pleasurable and relaxing activities.
  7. Seek support. When you’re stressed, anxious or depressed, it can be tempting to withdraw and isolate, yet there is abundant evidence that social support from trusted friends or family can counteract the cycle of rumination that perpetuates symptoms. 

If you are struggling with your mental or emotional health as a result of COVID, please reach out to a mental health professional such as a psychologist.

Boost your sport or exercise performance and reduce injury risk with these physio-approved strategic stretching tips. 

When it comes to preparing for exercise, many people take a sort of common-sense, ad hoc approach. For those who have been exercising or playing a sport for years, it’s also common to keep doing the same warm-up and cool-down year after year without factoring in the latest research findings or changes to activity type. A case in point is performing static stretches before sport or exercise. 

Once held as the gold standard for warming up, static stretching - which is, as the name suggests, holding a stretch in place for 25 to 40 seconds - is now thought to be less effective than dynamic stretching when preparing for exercise. Dynamic stretching that mirrors the movements in your chosen activity or sport optimally prepares muscles for dynamic activity and may also bypass a possible drawback of static stretching in the form of compromised explosive movements due to decreased strength and power. Yes, static stretching may actually undermine performance - especially in sports such as running. Eccentric power (muscle contraction during muscle lengthening) has been shown to remain reduced for up to an hour after static stretching while other compromises such as hindered coordination of explosive movements may last up to two hours after static stretching. 

What’s optimal when preparing for dynamic activity? Conclusions differ, but extensive research supports the case for a warm-up consisting of submaximal intensity aerobic activity (e.g. jogging) followed by dynamic stretching. Is that to say you should ditch static stretching? No! Static stretching can be useful, especially at the end of a workout to reduce muscle soreness and return the muscle to its pre-exercise length. Static stretching is also still recommended as part of a maintenance stretching program to promote static flexibility and reduce injury risk. If you are using static stretches as part of a warm-up for dynamic activities, make sure you pair them with dynamic ones and hold static stretches for less than 45 seconds.  

Why you need dynamic stretching 

  1. Dynamic stretches are functional movements that mirror those in a chosen activity or sport. Muscles should be taken to their range limit with continuous movement. Examples may include high knee lifts, kicking heels to bottom, large side steps, step lunges, hip rolls and running backwards.
  2. Dynamic stretching improves dynamic flexibility, whereas static stretching solely promotes static flexibility.  
  3. Dynamic stretching has been found to reduce injury incidence during sports.
  4. Dynamic stretching prepares muscles for rapid changes in muscle length by increasing core and muscle temperature, delivering oxygen and nutrients to working muscles and elongating muscles integral to a chosen sport.  

If you’d like to leverage the science of stretching to boost exercise or sports performance and/or reduce injury risk, consult a physiotherapist for a list of personalised stretches tailored to your activity and fitness and for guidance in correct form.  

There is a fine but definite line between ‘normal’ winter blues and a form of depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Our psychologists reveal ways to tell the difference and simple practices to boost your winter mood. 

Have winter’s shorter, colder days caused you to want to hibernate? Perhaps your usual motivation and vigour have gone out the window? Or maybe you persistently feel pessimistic or hopeless? While many of us experience a downgrade in our sense of vitality and wellbeing in winter (often called ‘winter blues’), persistent, negative changes to mood or outlook and those that compromise your usual level of functioning may indicate a more serious condition known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

What is SAD?

SAD is considered to be a sub-type of depression. It is marked by symptoms of other types of depression but only occurs during certain times of the year. Usually, the onset of SAD symptoms occurs in autmn/winter, with symptoms resolving spring/summer. While there is no definitive ‘cause’, research has identified factors that are likely to contribute to SAD. These include

  1. Reduced exposure to sunlight, which can affect the body’s circadian rhythms and levels of anti-depressant neurotransmitter serotonin - both of which can influence mood. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood and is often targeted by pharmaceutical anti-depressant medications.
  2. Disruptions to regulation of the hormone melatonin, which responds to changes in light, impacts sleep quality and quantity and may directly and indirectly impact mood.

Is it winter blues or SAD?

The differentiating factors between winter blues and SAD rest largely on severity and persistence of symptoms. Typical SAD symptoms can include:

How to boost your winter mood

Whether your mid-year malaise qualifies as ‘winter blues’ or the more severe SAD, there are a number of lifestyle practices that can help to combat the effects of contributing factors. Consider these tips to enhance your mental health and wellbeing during winter.

If you are experiencing persistent negative changes to your usual mood or mood patterns, motivation or ability to cope with daily life and demands, consider consulting a psychologist, who can assist with strategies to enhance wellbeing and continue to live a rich and satisfying life year round.

Soaring Health acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the lands on which our services are located.

We honour the strength and resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and pay our respects to all Elders, past and present.
Copyright © Soaring Health Pty Ltd 2024. All Rights Reserved.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram