Exercise and Empowerment!

December 3 marks International Day of People with a Disability 2018. This year’s theme encompasses the empowerment of people with disability and ensuring their inclusiveness and equality in the community. 


International Day of People with a Disability is a United Nations sanctioned day that is celebrated internationally and has been celebrated since 1992. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disability and celebrate their achievements and contributions.


In the spirit of this day, we are proud to share a story on one of our Active Ability clients, Louise.



Louise has an intellectual disability and would like to improve her overall balance and overall stability. She is working on this with the guidance of her exercise physiologist Adelle. Louise is also exercising to increase her lower limb strength, balance and mobility.


Louise looks forward to her weekly exercise sessions with her exercise physiologist who provides fun and effective ways to challenge her balance. Her favourite exercise are any that include a ball (throwing and catching while standing on one leg on an uneven surface). Louise has been enjoying her exercise sessions. Louise smiles and laughs during the session and once the session is finished, staff have said she is happier!


Her exercise physiologist has seen improvements in both balance and strength, which she is proud of because it means that Louise is more safe and able to complete the activities she desires. It also means that Louise can access the community and what is has to offer!


Her support staff have noticed that Louise is more confident with walking and navigating unstable surfaces. For Louise this translates to greater community access!

 These images are examples of the exercises Louise is completing.

“I really enjoy being out in my community. My neighbourhood is great for walking and going out for lunches/coffee. I attend day program which gives me opportunity to do new activities and learn new skills such as dancing and cooking class.”


How Exercise Changed my Life

Ever since I can remember, I have been in a wheelchair. As a young boy I was injured in a horse riding accident. Over time I had to learn how to only use my arms and upper body for all my tasks. At first this was difficult, but like with anything new, I got used to this way of living.


At the start of the year, I was beginning to feel shoulder and arm pain. It was great timing when my NDIS plan was approved and I found out that I had funding for exercise. I was told the person that does exercises with people like myself are Exercise Physiologists. I didn’t know what an Exercise Physiologist was nor heard of one before. The young lady from Active Ability who came to see me explained what Exercise Physiologists do, and immediately I thought ‘this is what I need.’


Initially I wasn’t sure how I could exercise, as I always imagined exercise is only done in a gym. With Nadia giving me a lot of education, she said exercise can be completed anywhere as long as you have the right equipment (sometimes you don’t even need equipment). I thought this was great, because it meant I could do this in my own home. I began to see the benefits really quickly, so I even went and purchased the equipment Nadia was using with me so I could try the exercises myself on some other days of the week. 


Our client John, requires the support of an Exercise Physiologist due to the impact of his Spinal Cord Injury. John transfers up to 25 times a day, so without the ability to independently transfer, John not be able to transfer nor completes his daily activities (driving, self/care).


Why is exercise important for me?

I was already beginning to feel pain in my upper body, so I knew something wasn’t right but wasn’t sure what was going on. I was reassured and told that exercise can definitely help with my symptoms and allow me to feel stronger. Now, I can say that through completing the exercises I feel stronger and have less pain in my upper body. It is definitely important for me because I am preventing injuries. Also, by moving my arms and doing the arm cycling exercise, I am keeping fit and potentially reducing my risk of heart diseases, or diabetes later in life; something that runs in my family. 

My Exercise Program

These are some of the exercises I am completing!

What does the research suggest?

Different forms of exercise:

Aerobic exercise - should be completed daily for at least 30 minutes. Arm cycling and/or boxing are examples.

Resistance exercise - should be completed at least 3 times a week, with a focus on shoulder stabilisation and strength.

Flexibility exercise - should be completed daily in the form of stretches.

Tweedy et al., (2017).

“Thank you to Nadia for helping me and getting my health back on track. I had never exercised before and wasn’t sure what I would be doing but I can say this is helping me remain fit by preventing disease later in my life and keeping my shoulders strong.”


Tweedy, S. M., Beckman, E. M., Geraghty, T. J., Theisen, D., Perret, C., Harvey, L. A., & Vanlandewijck, Y. C. (2017). Exercise and sports science Australia (ESSA) position statement on exercise and spinal cord injury. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 20(2), 108-115.

Meet Luke, our newest team member!


Hello! My name is Luke and I am one of Active Ability's Exercise Physiologists.

Health and wellness has always been a big part of my life. I was known as the 'sporty kid' in school and would often attend football (soccer) out of school hours so it was inevitable I'd follow the path of exercise and rehabilitation. I became an Exercise Physiologist with the aim of empowering others to move often, improve their physical and psychological function and, overall, have a better quality of life. Using the scientific evidence available, I cater each exercise program towards the individual to best meet the needs of their health, condition or injury.

I have experience in clinical and community settings with multiple populations, including disability and mental illness. My role as an Exercise Physiologist is very much fulfilling - I am passionate about educating and encouraging individuals to live a positive lifestyle through regular physical activity.

Outside of work, I'm usually exercising, finding nice cafes or exploring sights around Sydney.

Luke Frijo (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)

If you would like to see an Exercise Physiologist in your own home, please give us a call today or click here.

Nutrition Hack


Wanting to "eat healthier", but not sure where to start?

The inside scoop from our dietitian

During my studies and as a dietitian, I frequently get asked “what is the ONE piece of advice you would give regarding nutrition?”. I never know quite how to answer this one… because if there was just ONE simple answer or secret key to health…then I probably would have to start looking for a different job. In saying that, eating healthy is not as mystifying as most people believe it to be. So, if I could give you ONE piece of advice it would be to not overcomplicate it, start small and simple when it comes to developing healthy habits.

But what does that mean?! Here are 5 easy tips on how to get started…

1.     Drink more water!

It sounds basic. And it is. Water is an essential nutrient however is an easy one to overlook in the colder weather… not to mention with all the other drink options we have out there! Not regularly drinking enough water can affect our physical and mental performance, kidney function and even oral health. So, be enviro-friendly, get yourself a drink bottle and fill it up!

2.     Eat more fibre.

An apple a day…isn’t really going to cut it. Think not just fruit, but vegetables, beans and lentils, wholegrains and nuts and seeds. The more variety the better! Increasing dietary fibre and resistant starch can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, weight gain and obesity and even some types of cancers. It helps keep our digestive system healthy and has even been linked to our mental health. Here are some easy ways to boost the fibre in your diet:

  • Leave the skin on your fruit and veg where you can
  • Add canned beans or lentils (drained and rinsed) to meals
  • Swap your bread and pasta for wholemeal/wholegrain varieties
  • Sprinkle some chopped nuts or seeds onto your breakfast

 3.     Learn how to cook.

Being healthy should be delicious. Learn how to cook the meals you enjoy, know what’s going into your food, save money on ordering out and be creative! Start small and develop some healthy “go-to” recipes.  

4.     Don’t believe everything you hear.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation out there on social media with a lot of diets and food trends promising miracle transformations and cures. One of the most frustrating things for people is the amount of conflicting messages and contradictory pieces of advice out there when it comes to being healthy. Here is a hint: buzzwords such as “superfood”, “clean-eating” and “detox” are just that… buzzwords used to grab attention. They have no scientific backing, be sure to be critical of the information you read and where it is coming from.

5.     Balance.

It is OK to enjoy that piece of chocolate every now and then (I certainly do). Avoid having an “all or nothing” mentality - food is what brings us together and is an important part of every culture. Just remember that the key is moderation! And just remember that if you need that little extra support when it comes to finding that balance, that is what us dietitians are here for!


Written by Rebecca Lancaster, APD

Superstar Swimmer!

This year in April, over 1,000 athletes with an intellectual disability competed in 11 sports in the Special Olympics Australia Games. Akanksha, one of our clients was one of these athletes! These Games are held every four years and provides the opportunity for individuals all over Australia to demonstrate their skills and sportsmanship whilst competing in their chosen events. 

Akanksha is a swimmer, swimming in freestyle and backstroke short distance events (50-100m).

Away from the pool, Akanksha loves playing other sports, in particular, she enjoys cricket, soccer, basketball and ten pin bowling! 

 Akanksha only began training with our Exercise Physiologist, Inez, in the gym 6 weeks leading up to the Special Olympics. They focused on increasing muscular strength in order to improve Akanksha’s performance. Akanksha did very well in her events and won two bronze medals!

Akanksha is hoping to qualify for the next Special Olympics in four years’ time. She will train for gold. With more training time under her belt, Akanksha believes this can be achieved! 


My trainer Inez and I. I'm holding the bronze medals I won at the Special Olympics!

My trainer Inez and I. I'm holding the bronze medals I won at the Special Olympics!

How did your love for swimming emerge?

When I started swimming I was very scared of deep side of the pool due to my sensory issues. I took that as a challenge and my parents helped me to get over my fear. I gradually started enjoying swimming and competing in Special Olympics competitions.


What was your favourite part of the Special Olympics this year?

My favourite part was being with my NSW team mates. I loved making new friends.


How much did you train in the lead up to the games? Both in and out of the pool?

I trained five to six hours per week.


The link to the Special Olympics website is here below: