Wellness Blog

Active & Mindful Challenge: Daily Motivation

Looking for daily inspiration to stay active and mindful this June? Check out our calendar of daily ideas to keep you motivated and moving. Challenge yourself  – can you complete every activity before month’s end?

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday

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Enjoy washing your hands. Remember all they do for you!


Stay hydrated. Make that extra cup of tea. Consider herbal tea this time?


Revisit an old hobby. No matter how long it has been.


Rediscover your favorite music. Something that lifts your spirits.


Take a small step towards an important goal.


Try these breathing exercises.


Start a new project.  


Get moving – even indoors. Lunging, or squatting, walking on the spot. What can you do?


Write down 10 things you’re grateful for.


Find positive stories in the news. Share this with someone.


Choose an extra piece of fruit today. What’s in season?


Smile. Take a moment to smile.


Try out that recipe you’ve been wanting to make. Our dietitian also has some great ideas. 


Dedicate a few minutes to  gentle stretching. 


Connect with nature. Notice life continuing.


What new thing can you learn today? A fun fact? A new skill?


Watch the sunset.


Say thank you to someone you’re grateful for.


Share what you’re feeling. Write it down or say it out loud. How can we help you?


Do three acts of kindness. No matter how big or small.


Make a plan for a special outing or getaway in the future. Where will you go? Who will you see?


Go on a morning walk. Choose a route on which you feel safe.


Distant bird watching. How many feathered locals can you spot?


Try meditating. Deepak Chopra can help with the zen.


Send a letter or message to someone you cannot be with.


Clean out a cupboard or bookshelf. Clean space, clean mind.


Take one day to switch off all technology. Maybe you’ll finish that book or tend to the garden?


Play cards. Challenge someone else or choose a one person game.


Make time for self-care. Do something kind for the body or mind. It does a lot for you, after all.

What’s the big deal about Vitamin D in the cooler months?

And how you can get the right balance.

by Penny Oxby, UQ Healthy Living Accredited Dietitian. 

Autumn in Brisbane is glorious – the daytime temperature is just right for outdoor activity or jobs around the home and the cooler nights allow for a good night’s sleep.  However, the cooler seasons of autumn and winter also bring shorter daylight hours, which puts many of us at risk of developing seasonal vitamin D deficiency.  

Vitamin D is fat soluble, and people under the age of 50 can produce and store extra vitamin D for times during the cooler months when production goes down. However older people are less efficient at making vitamin D and so are at greater risk of seasonal deficiency. Others who are at greater risk of D deficiency are people with very dark skin, those with limited sun exposure and people with conditions that affect vitamin D metabolism or absorption.  


Why we need D if we want to age well
Vitamin D acts on many tissues and organs throughout the body but is best known for its role with calcium in maintaining healthy bones. The amount of calcium absorbed from our gut (from the foods and fluids we consume) is enhanced by vitamin D.  

Low levels of vitamin D reduce calcium absorption. If the body’s demand for calcium is greater than intake from the gut then calcium is withdrawn from our bones. Over time this reduces bone density, which increases the risk of thinner, more fragile bones and osteoporosis. Vitamin D also improves muscle strength and function, and low levels have also been associated with dementia, cognitive decline and depression so having normal levels of vitamin D is an important part of healthy ageing. 


Sunlight – it’s all about balance.
Most of our Vitamin D comes from the action of sunlight on our skin. Small amounts of vitamin D come from the diet, but it is almost impossible to get enough Vitamin D from diet alone. Foods that are rich sources of vitamin D in Australia include eggs (highest in the yolk), fatty fish (sardines, salmon and tuna) and fortified products such as margarine.  

So if sun exposure is recommended for Vitamin D, how much sun is needed and what’s the best way to be sun safe? The Cancer Council has some great advice about getting the balance right for healthy sun exposure. The trick is to be aware of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The sun’s UV radiation is the main cause of skin cancer and is measured on a scale from 0 (low) to 11+ (extreme) 

When UV levels are 3 or above, sun protection is a priority (“slip, slop, slap, seek and slide”). When UV levels are below 3, sun protection is not generally required. You can maintain your vitamin D levels by being physically active outdoors such as going for a walk when UV levels are below 3. In Brisbane our average UV levels are greater than 3 year round but at this time of year, UV levels fall below 3 in the mornings and early afternoons. You can use the Cancer Council’s “Sun Smart” app (available to download for free) to find out when sun protection is recommended every day.  


How can you find out if your vitamin D is normal? 
Vitamin D levels in your body can be checked with a blood test. See your doctor to discuss whether you should be tested.  

If you are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency, your doctor will discuss ways of treating this, which may include vitamin D supplementationThe most common form of supplement is an oral tablet, taken daily or sometimes weekly. To normalise your vitamin D stores, your doctor may recommend a short course for two to three months at a higher dose. Thereafter management will depend upon the cause of the deficiency.  

For more information about vitamin D and meeting your requirements, book a dietetics consult with us today.




Make better decisions from shopping aisle to plate with professional dietetics support.

A large proportion of those aged over 51 do not meet the recommended daily nutrition requirements and over 70% are overweight or obese, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in a recent report on Nutrition across the life stages.  

“Nutrition plays a vital role in tackling many health issues, particularly in later life, and many people just need the right support to make better choices,” says UQ Healthy Living dietitian Penny Oxby.

“That’s why I offer practical advice and tools to do this. This might be help understanding food packaging and labelling, or advice on healthier swaps or substitutes on some of their favourite products.”

Penny is committed to improving the lives of over 50s through good nutrition. Her advice is specific to the unique challenges of an older demographic as well as the individual’s goals and requirements.

Penny supports disease prevention and management, addressing a range of health issues such as weight concerns (excess weight and unplanned weight loss), chronic health issues such as Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and heart disease; as well as providing simple strategies to maintain a healthy diet.

“Our team appreciate the challenges over 50s face and can equip you with the skills and knowledge required to make healthy choices, access nutritious foods, and prepare and cook healthy meals.”

Penny’s individual consults are priced competitively to ensure our service is highly accessible.

Contact reception to find out more P:  3443 2586.



Some of us are understandably concerned about COVID-19 in our community. It is important that we remain informed on the facts in order to protect ourselves and each other as best we can, and  alleviate any unnecessary concern.

The Facts
Queensland Health provides a reliable source of information and is updated regularly. We recommend heading to the  QH Novel coronavirus alert page and the Fact sheet to answer some of your questions.

What is UQ Healthy Living doing to reduce risk?
UQ Healthy Living  requests that all clients wash their hands and/or use the sanitiser located beside the lockers upon entering the gym and leaving.

We continue to wipe down the machines with antibacterial solution at a minimum of three times a day.

We ask that you follow government guidelines regarding self -quarantine post travel.

Are you unwell?
If you are feeling unwell and have cold and flu symptoms we ask that you do not attend your class or consult. Please give us as much notice as possible. We will rebook your class and waive any penalty until further notice.

Again, please refer to the QH website for up-to-date guidance on what to do if you are experiencing symptoms.

The Power of Pets: Therapeutic benefits of animal interaction

Discover the therapeutic benefits of animal interaction.

Perhaps we always knew it, but the proof is in! Studies suggest that pets are good for your heart – in every sense  of the word. Interacting with animals has been shown to lower cortisol (a stress-related hormone) levels and blood pressure, reduce loneliness and boost your mood.

“Animals support our physical, mental and emotional well-being, ” explained our favourite clinical geropsychologist and neuropsychologist (and cat owner) Dr Nancy A. Pachana, during a recent UQHL presentation on  the health benefits of human-animal interactions.

Joining Pachana were furry guests Nala and Mufasa, courtesy of Happy Paws Happy Hearts and the RSPCA. At just eight weeks old, the puppies provided instant proof of their influence and charmed all in attendance.

Physical benefits

Pets are attributed to an increase in exercise (e.g. dog walking) and rehabilitation (e.g. in stroke victims through brushing their pet’s coat) for their owners, Pachana explained.

According to the research, petting or talking to dogs leads to improved cardiovascular health,  and both cat and dog owners may experience fewer minor health concerns.

Mental and emotional benefits

The benefits to our mental and emotional well-being are also generous. “Having a pet reduces social isolation for older adults across settings and across varying levels of health and cognitive decline,” Pachana said.

Animals improve psychological well-being and social interaction for those who live alone; and improve social functioning and impulse control for members of animal therapy groups. The studies found  pets buffer the impact of stress, increase self-esteem and reduce anxiety.

Benefits for older persons

Pachana explained the particular importance of animals for older persons, stating that  over 60% of community-dwelling older adults cited pets as a key source of emotional support. 20% of these
ranked their pets as the most important support source .

“Dog therapy also reduced aged care resident’s loneliness and depression and improved cognitive impairment in those with dementia. The presence of animals provided… increased socialisation in nursing home residents.”

(N=120) Ueda (2005, unpublished honours thesis)

Winter Warmer: Lovely Lamb & Barley Soup

While Brisbane might be the capital of the sunny state, it doesn’t stop us from experiencing that winter chill. It’s vital that we nourish our bodies properly throughout the season, to maintain a healthy weight and give our immune system the support it needs.

In later life, our immune response is reduced, which contributes to more infections. There appears to be a connection between nutrition and immunity in seniors. “Micronutrient malnutrition” is a form of malnutrition that is surprisingly common even in affluent countries such as Australia. This occurs when a person is deficient in essential vitamins and trace minerals.

Recently our dietetics service performed a live demonstration of easy to prepare, nutritious meals to inspire over 50s to eat well through the cooler months. Following taste tests from our onlookers (some coming back for a second try – just to be sure, of course!) the feedback on the ‘Lovely Lamb and Barley Soup’ was overwhelmingly positive. The verdict: This nutritious soup is nothing to be sneezed at! A simple recipe that proves that healthy eating this winter doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or overly time consuming.

If you’re interested in learning more simple, healthy recipe ideas tailored to the needs of over 50s, and you think you might benefit from a personalised eating plan book a dietetics consult with us.

Download the recipe card here


  • 1/3 cup (75g) pearl barley
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 2 sticks celery, diced
  • 600g lean lamb leg,
  • cut in 2cm cubes
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 2 cups (500ml) salt-reduced chicken stock
  • 3 cups water
  • fresh rosemary, chopped (optional)


  1. Cook barley in boiling water for 10 minutes. Drain.
  2. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Cook for five minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Turn heat to high, add lamb and garlic. Cook for five minutes or until lamb is browned.
  4. Add barley, tomatoes, stock and water to pan. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for one hour or until lamb is tender. Add water if too thick. Serve with a sprinkle of rosemary.

The true value of student care: Intergenerational impact and future-proofing services

What do we mean when we say UQ Healthy Living’s student workforce is an asset to our clients both now and into the future? What is unique about the interactions you have with our allied health team; and could you be contributing to a healthier future for your generation simply by looking after yourself? Let’s look beyond the indisputable value for money and consider the additional and often unexpected benefits offered by a student resourced service.

By 2050, a quarter of the population will be over 65. The large baby boom cohort is currently setting the lifestyle and health trajectories which will carry them into the coming decades. It is vital that we create a sustainable workforce that is adequately trained to support these Australians today and tomorrow.

The disparity between the number of students going on to choose employment in aged care and those who choose more relatable clinical settings, is well recognised. Recent studies found that a positive clinical placement characterised by appropriate training and support in an environment focused on quality care, can produce positive attitudes to older people among students (Wallace et al 2007). Your participation with UQHL’s services exposes practitioners-in-training to the stimulating, dynamic work environment that caring for over 50s offers; and can demonstrate the complex needs and opportunities for allied health care in this space. Our clients positively reflect on ‘giving back’ to assist in the students’ development and their contribution as a client remains invaluable.

In addition to future-proofing your health services, student care brings with it a contagious energy from which our clients draw inspiration. The positive effects of intergenerational interaction are well documented, and there is much academic discussion around the potential born of intercepting life experience and youthful perspective, in a shared and meaningful purpose. A Spanish study (Hernandez 2008) of 179 university students and 101 seniors demonstrated remarkable results in an intergenerational care environment, including reduced stereotypes, improved opinions of each other, and improved state of mind.

Fueled with knowledge from the latest research and eager to explore its applications, our students provide attentive care, and view our client’s success as their own. Furthermore, our clients gladly contribute to the exchange, generously sharing their experiences and working with students to explore treatment pathways.

The student /client partnership can result in genuine connections. Studies show that seniors with a strong network not only live longer, but also cope better with health conditions and experience less depression.  Whereas, lonely people have a faster cognitive decline than those who have more satisfying social connections. Regular interactions with your student practitioners working towards a common goal, builds trust and provides valuable interaction.

Effects of Intergenerational Interaction on Aging, Hernandez; Educational Gerontology, 34: 292–305, 2008
Robinson A et al (2008) Modelling connections in aged care: development of an evidence-based/best practice model to facilitate quality clinical placements in aged care, Report on Stages 1-3, Dept of Health and Ageing, University of Tasmania, Queensland University of Technology, University of South Australia, Edith Cowan University
Wallace, C et al (2007) ‘Teaching nursing home: development of an Australian model’, Geriaction, Spring, 5-11

The myths and realities of social work – and why it might be just what you need

By Rhiannon Gatenby, UQ Healthy Living Social Work Service

There appear to be many misconceptions in the Brisbane community (and further afield!) as to what social work and the role of a social worker is. Some immediately think of the removal of children from homes considered unsafe; people in dire straits without income or support; or victims of partner violence or elder abuse all requiring desperate assistance.

The truth is that while social workers can and do work with these types of people and in these situations – we are not limited to the critical or the dramatic. Social workers are interested in helping and advocating for disadvantaged groups, but we also are interested in a person’s overall wellbeing, from physical, to social, to mental. That’s people just like you.

The support we regularly offer over 50s is varied and might be as simple as linking a socially isolated client with a community group that shares their interests. We might help someone 65 or over navigate My Aged Care online and access any services and funding they may need to live a fulfilling life. We could inform one of our seniors about the process of appointing an Enduring Power of Attorney and walk them through the terms of agreement.

We partner with individuals to achieve their goals, by equipping them with resources and knowledge, and empowering them to take the steps needed to move to where they want to be.

This is why a service like social work compliments UQ Healthy Living so well. To truly promote health and wellbeing for over 50s, we must support more than the physical. An interprofessional health service must also meet the social and psychological needs of our clients to ensure they are healthy and happy in every aspect of their lives.