Dr Gregory Stewart

“Put a Spring in your Step” is an innovative  exercise rehabilitation program that has been operating from Springs Medical in Daylesford since 2017.

It came into being when Lynda Poke, General Manager of Springs Medical, and Dr Shelley Bowen of Health Futures Australia applied for federal funding through the Primary Health Network to run a rehabilitation and exercise  program for people with cardiac and respiratory conditions. Overwhelming evidence linking good health and exercise means that this should be an integral part of primary health care.

As  preventative health programs in gymnasiums had rarely been a part  of  general practice, the directors of Springs were uncertain of its chances of success. The great unknown was whether there would be enough demand for such a program. How to get people involved? Dr Jonathon Barrell and RN Amy Miles were integral in getting the program up and running.

Having worked at Springs Medical for many years, I had occasion to require the services of the program myself after open heart surgery. I recall feeling as weak as a kitten and totally out of condition. The initial exercise physiologist, Bree Parison, was full of encouragement and care, ably assisted by nursing staff Vicki Sundblom and others. Once the novelty of having one of the local GPs as part of the rehabilitation group wore off, I felt like part of the gang.

People who were in the group varied a lot. Some people had never previously been off the couch. Others were quite fit people who had experienced some health issues. It didn’t matter – we were all trying to please Bree and improve on the program she had started us on. I had never previously been in a gymnasium and I associated it with pumped up young men with funny T shirts listening to ‘doof-doof’ music but I looked forward to my twice weekly gym sessions.

An initial assessment is made and a gym program twice a week is organised. The program consists  of a circuit made up of cardio exercise on a bike or a treadmill, light weights, balance and coordination exercises and Pilates. This is augmented by information sessions by a physiotherapist, dietician, podiatrist and psychologist. There is scope to continue with exercise programs once the initial program is completed and a discharge plan is made.

As the program has evolved, it has expanded beyond cardiac rehabilitation to include people with diabetes, mental health issues, musculoskeletal problems and others.

The program became a success mainly through word of mouth. The active participants exceeded expectations and at times there have been lengthy waiting lists. COVID lockdowns were challenging but the program survived and expanded to include Trentham and Creswick. Locally, springs Medical has taken over the lease of the Mink Street gymnasium.

Current staff are coordinator Milly Gellatly, exercise  physiologists Jack Clark and Jake Dwyer and administration staff member Linda Carroll. Apparently Jack Clark, is a singer of note who likes to incorporate singing into his programs!

My personal experience was that a great camaraderie was evident and there certainly was plenty of humour shared amongst participants. With the expansion to include a wider range of health issues it is now called a “Wellness program” a term I must admit I have trouble with this term as I associate it with influencers on Instagram trying to sell products. I guess I should get over it?

Contact a GP Springs Medical to inquire about eligibility. It is a federally funded program but a smallpatient contribution may be requires. At present there is a short waiting time to join the program in the order of 2-3weeks.

Dr Gregory Stewart is a recently retired local GP who has worked in Daylesford for over 25 years.