Wellness Blog



Christmas can be a great time for family, food and relaxation, but it doesn’t need to derail your health and fitness journey. Our Exercise Elf can help you make the most of the season with mindful choices so that you can enter the new year feeling great. 

“Christmas is a time of year where sometimes our self-discipline is tested, our choice of food over-whelming and our motivation to move challenged. Pause as you read the following information and consider your choices:

If Betty weighs 73kg and walks at a pace of 4km/h, Betty expends 3.8kcal in one minute. For perspective, 100g of chocolate = 500kcal. Therefore, Betty would need to walk over two hours at that pace to burn off the chocolate.

Now, no one is suggesting that Betty must miss out on the chocolate, but a moderate portion of chocolate followed by a walk (or swim, or garden crochet with the grandkids) makes a winning combination.

To help you make more informed decisions about what you consume and exert this holiday season, consider the following:

Cola 330ml = 140kcal

Walking 4km/hr Cycling 30-50watts Rowing 100watts
65yr 175cm 85kg
40mins 35mins 17mins
60yr 165cm 70kg
54mins 46mins 23mins


Three slices of pizza  = 700kcal

Walking 4km/hr Cycling 30-50watts Rowing 100watts
65yr 175cm 85kg
241mins 206mins 103mins
60yr 165cm 70kg
268mins 230mins 115mins


Fish and chips 300g = 800kcal

Walking 4km/hr Cycling 30-50watts Rowing 100watts
65yr 175cm 85kg
275mins 236mins 118mins
60yr 165cm 70kg
306mins 263mins 131mins


So the take-away (pardon the pun!) message from this Exercise Elf is: if you indulge in extra calories, indulge in more movement!

However, if you return from the festive season with a new gift around your waistline, use the following as added motivation:

Estimated benefits of 10% weight loss

  • Blood Pressure
    ↓ about 10 mmHg in systolic and diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients
  • Diabetes
    ↓ up to 50% in fasting glucose for newly diagnosed patients
  • Pre-diabetes people
    ↓ >30% fasting or two hour insulin
    ↑ >30% insulin sensitivity
    ↓ 40-60% fall in incidence of diabetes
  • Lipids
    ↓ 10% total cholesterol
    ↓ 15% LDL (low-density lipoproteins or ‘bad’ cholesterol)
    ↑ 8% HDL (high-density lipoprotein or ‘good’ cholesterol)
    ↓ 30% triglycerides
  • Mortality
    ↓ >20% all-cause mortality
    ↓ >30% deaths related to diabetes
    ↓ >40% deaths related to obesity

(Haslam et al. BMJ 2006;333:640-642)


As part of our involvement in Stroke Prevention week we were fortunate to have Dr Claire Muller, Consultant Neurologist present to our staff on the latest in stroke detection and management.

You will notice a number of promotions around the facility next week advocate the F.A.S.T. protocol for identifying if someone is having a stroke.

F    FACE – Has the face or mouth drooped on one side?

A    ARMS – Can they lift both arms?

S    SPEECH – Is speech slurred? Does the person understand you?

T    TIME – This is critical. If you see these signs call 000 straight away.

Dr Muller suggested we also add B.E. to the acronym – so BE FAST.

B   BALANCE  Loss of balance, prolonged dizziness or an unexplained fall.

E   EYES Loss of vision or sudden blurred vision, decreased vision in one or both eyes

Sometimes these symptoms  disappear within a short time, such as a few minutes. When this happens, it may be a transient ischaemic attack (TIA). After a TIA, your risk of stroke is higher. A TIA is a warning that you may have a stroke and an opportunity to prevent this from happening. If this occurs you need to seek urgent medical attention.




Long-time UQHL participants will recognise a familiar face in the facility this week. We have welcomed back Simon Whitehart, experienced physiotherapist and the clinic’s founding manager to assist us during a period of transition. 

We took five with Simon to ask him a few questions about the benefits of his experience for our valued clients, and how he has expanded on his unique set of skills over the past 18 months.

Q: Simon, you took a secondment from Queensland Health to help us  transform UQHL from a concept to reality two years ago. What’s your fondest memory of that enormous undertaking?

My fondest memory is certainly seeing the facility coming to life with clients engaging and enjoying their experiences here. The mutual benefits of intergenerational interactions with the students were also special memories to treasure. From a personal note, my parents were also able to attend and being able to supervise some of their exercise sessions and spend some more time together was priceless.


Q: Returning to the facility now, how has the operation evolved? What’s changed?

On the surface the facility and experiences look very familiar and most importantly there are so many familiar and friendly faces amongst the clients. Whilst there has been some changes in the staff, there is a very strong clinical and reception team who are highly committed to every client’s health and wellbeing and experiences at UQ Healthy Living.

I do recognise, however, that a significant amount of work has been done behind the scenes in helping to improve the efficiency of the facility and I would like to make special mention to the contribution made by David during his time here at UQHL.


Q: You continued on with Queensland Health since we last saw you, in what capacity?

I’ve shared my time between Metro North​ sites, including coordinating  telehealth for their physiotherapy service during the pandemic, and converting all outpatient services to video conference. This mode of delivery promises to be a great way to improve patients’ access to care beyond the pandemic.

I’ve also been working in the the Office of the Chief Allied Health Officer contributing to models of advanced practice for allied health practitioners. This is also related to increasing opportunities for patients to see the right clinician at the right time.

During this time I’ve also begun my Masters in Leadership and Health Management and worked clinically, often on weekends in the RBWH Emergency Department and Orthopaedic wards.


Q: You have agreed to lend your expertise as caretaker until a permanent manager is appointed, what do you bring to the team and the clients? What can we all learn from you?

Coming back to the facility with a fresh (or refreshed) set of eyes grants me  the opportunity to take stock and focus on the original vision of the facility: promoting health and wellbeing in older adults, with services resourced by students, supervised by leading clinicians, and supported by cutting edge technology. I will support the team in their commitment to deliver quality care that considers the physical, mental and emotional health of our over 50s. 

The experiences I gained while helping to set up this facility will be enormously useful in guiding the alignment of the initial vision to current operations and beyond, as the team works towards an exciting expansion. The opportunities for this facility are significant, and the experiences of our clients here will go from strength to strength as they take control of their health with our support.


Q: What words of advice would you offer clients who have been hesitant to return to classes since we re-opened following lockdown?

Returning to the facility is a personal choice and we respect this.  It is fantastic to see a significant number of clients returning to classes and we look forward to a time when all our clients can join us again.

I want to reassure everyone that we remain committed to upholding excellent hygiene measures to protect our community, and appreciate our clients working with us in this shared responsibility. 

While we continue to regularly clean equipment, we ask clients returning to the facility do so on the understanding that they will be responsible for the cleaning of any equipment they use in between exercises, using the antiseptic wipes available . Staff on the floor will be ensuring that this occurs.

We encourage those still in isolation to please remain as socially connected as you can, we suggest joining our Facebook Group, calling a friend and reading our regular newsletter. Of course, of equal importance is remaining as active as possible until you return to classes. 


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

Book your UQHL review. We miss you!



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)