The facility, which is the brainchild of the Parkinson’s SA Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Olivia Nassaris, is setting out not to only provide physical, mental and social benefit to its ageing users, but also financial benefit for the charitable organisation which supports more than 8,000 South Australians living with Parkinson's and their family members each and every year.
Ms Nassaris says that while the Brain X Body Fitness Studio, set to open in Unley in January 2019, was developed to help the organisation make up for lost Government funding, it is an initiative that will provide great benefit to everyone involved.
“The idea, or my interest, in neuroplasticity research comes from Dr Jay Alberts in the US,” she explains.
“He was tandem cycling with a friend who had Parkinson’s and noticed that after the strenuous ride and after pushing her, her tremor had reduced.
“So he studied and trialled the amazing human ability to reshape the brain and improve its function through neuroplasticity training exercises.”
She says the studio is based around this and has three main areas of impact:
The impact on the individual - delivered through looking after the body, brain, reducing falls risks, increasing social interactions and offering a community space;
The impact on the health system - with the goal of reducing hospital stays, falls and the impact on the public health system, supporting people to stay at home longer which has positive impacts on the economy and leaves the health system open to urgent issues; and
The financial support given to Parkinson’s SA - generated by the studio in the same way other charities run op-shops or cafés.
With so many benefits around improving the lives and outcomes of so many people across a number of avenues, Ms Nassaris says the hype around the new studio is palpable.
“There is definite excitement about it - everyone can’t wait for it to open,” she explains.
“People are excited about it for the fact that it’s the first of its kind but also because it’s addressing an issue - our ageing population and people living longer.
“This group of people actively want to stay at home longer, reduce hospital stays, reduce falls and reduce their chances of dementia and this is a way for them to work on that.
“Everyone is really responsive to the fact that we are actively doing something to improve brain health that has never been done before, that is it a very social initiative targeted at the older demographic, and that the money people put in to it is going to a philanthropic cause.”
In addition to working on building the concept for the studio over the past 12 months, Ms Nassaris has also been working on a number of partnerships to make the studio a reality, as well as teeing up research funding grants.
“We started off the idea for the studio with zero budget, so I have been working over the past 12 months to build a foundation of partners who have each put in $150,000 to the project either in cash or in kind,” she explains.
“I’m not only excited to see the idea come together, but I’m so excited about the data from the studio that we will be collecting to show how people progress physically, mentally and with their mood and reductions in any medications.
“We will certainly not be letting that data go to waste - we will be measuring everything and working on research which will be done in conjunction with the Neurological Physiotherapist with the practice next door to the studio.
“We have our first research grant already - three years of funding to study the gaming console OrbIT in the studio.
“We are open to any students or the like to collaborate and participate in any research - we are open to everything.
“We hope that it will also be a place where students in the research space can come and do placements so the Studio can serve a purpose for education too.”
Brain X Body Fitness Studio is scheduled to open in Unley, South Australia, in January 2019.