December 2, 2015

Lungs in Action goes to university

Exercise maintenance classes for people managing COPD and heart failure

Lungs in Action is a community-based exercise maintenance program developed by Lung Foundation Australia in conjunction with a committee of experts in pulmonary rehabilitation. It aims to increase access to maintenance exercise classes for people after they have completed pulmonary or heart failure rehabilitation. Currently there are more than 100 classes per week across Australia which help people to better manage their lung condition.

Lungs in Action classes are provided in a variety of settings including private practice, district health centres, community halls and local gyms. The recent expansion of Lungs in Action into university clinics has proved to be a great combination with the benefits including well-equipped gyms, highly qualified staff, easy access and low cost. Importantly, through partnering with universities, students gain exposure to managing heart and lung conditions through exercise.

Brisbane’s Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Health Clinic provides a regular Lungs in Action class, so we have asked Director of the Exercise Physiology and Nutrition and Dietetics Clinics, and Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, Robert Mullins, to share his thoughts.

How did you first learn about Lungs in Action? How long has it been running at the QUT Health Clinic?

I have been aware of the Lungs in Action program for quite some time as I formerly taught exercise prescription and programming for cardiorespiratory conditions in an undergraduate and post graduate program at UQ from 2008 – 2013.

In 2013, I moved to QUT and completed the Lungs in Action training. From this time, the QUT Health Clinic has been running Lungs in Actions classes for the community and accepts direct referral from the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.

Do you mind sharing your thoughts on your experience with the Lungs in Action online and practical training?

The online training is comprehensive and utilises evidence-based resources and language which assists learning, program implementation and client interaction. The practical component is a great way to meet other health profesionals, clients with lung conditions and experience first-hand the application of the online theory.

What are some of the key benefits you’ve observed with people becoming involved Lungs in Action?

Clients often begin to decondition after finishing a pulmonary rehabilitation program if they do not keep up the same volume and intensity of exercise. This can be challenging for many individuals, especially those with heart and lung conditions, as they can experience periodic changes in their health status that require modification to their exercise regime, and often these changes require supervision. Supervised programs offer motivation, social support, the opportunity to ask questions, be monitored and have their technique corrected.

These factors can be difficult to manage alone and the good news is that with appropriate maintenance exercise, most people can maintain their gains or even improve their level of fitness.  This can have a significant impact on their symptoms such as breathlessness, fatigue, confidence, walking distances, and strength.

What do you think are the key learnings that students might take away from observing participants in Lungs in Action? How do you feel this experience prepares them?

A lot of university training focusses on the theory of conditions and it is really important to expose students to real clients with real concerns. To participate in the human experience and consider engagement with people rather than a transaction and interact with clients rather than instruct.

The Exercise Physiology Clinic at QUT is able to provide a synergy of theory and practice for students in a real world environment at the same time as delivering high quality health care to the community.

How do you think having a Medicare item number allocated to pulmonary rehabilitation and pulmonary maintenance exercise would influence management of lung disease across Australia?

The benefits of appropriate exercise and education for people with lung conditions has been well documented. Like most therapies for chronic conditions, exercise requires ongoing management to continue to receive the positive gains. The MBS item number will improve access, accountability of programs, client confidence in community programs and communication between health providers. Probably the most important outcome will be that those with lung conditions, who access this ongoing service, will experience a better quality of life and potentially reduced hospital readmission.

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Lung Foundation Australia has applied to the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) for pulmonary rehabilitation programs and follow-up pulmonary maintenance exercise (PME) programs like Lungs in Action for patients with COPD and other chronic lung diseases to be subsidised on the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS).  For more information on how you can show your support click here.

To learn more about Lungs in Action, please click here email lungsinaction@lungfoundation.com.au or phone freecall 1800 654 301.