• Dr Christina Ekegren

"Physiotherapy students need to know why we prescribe physical activity" An interview with Dr Freene

An interview with Dr Nicole Freene, Clinical Assistant Professor (Physiotherapy, Faculty of Health) at the University of Canberra, on integrating physical activity resources into the physiotherapy curriculum.


Nicole, can you please tell our readers why you introduced the ‘Movement for Movement’ teaching resources to the University of Canberra Physiotherapy program?

Physiotherapists’ are exercise specialists, and physiotherapy students need to know why we prescribe exercise and physical activity for our patients.

The ‘Movement for Movement’ teaching resources were designed by Ann Gates (@exerciseworks) and her team to be a worldwide interdisciplinary, undergraduate resource on exercise medicine for the prevention and treatment of non-communicable diseases. It is important that physiotherapists are not only equipped to prescribe physical activity for secondary prevention of chronic disease but also for primary prevention. We need to be aware of the benefits of physical activity and simple methods of physical activity promotion, so we can take advantage of any opportunity to promote a more physically active lifestyle. By educating our future physiotherapists at the University of Canberra to promote physical activity at any opportunity, we plan to make every contact count.


How long did it take for students to study the resources? Did some students benefit more than others?

The ‘Movement for Movement’ slide-sets provide information on the benefits of exercise and physical activity for a number of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer, and other conditions including pregnancy, surgery, and primary prevention of chronic disease. All students were allocated time (1.5 hours) for self-directed learning to review all the slide presentations (14 in total). The presentations are brief and some of the information is repeated. Some of the material within the slide-sets was also covered in face-to-face lectures during the unit cardiothoracic interventions. The aim was for students to read through the slides, have access to them for future reference, and discover how powerful physical activity can be!


The physiotherapy students that have access to the ‘Movement for Movement’ slides are a combination of both undergraduate and postgraduate students. Their backgrounds are varied, with some students already having a background in exercise science. Despite this, it appeared that most students appreciated the resources, with some seeing this information for the first time and others using it as a refresher. Students agreed that the ‘Movement for Movement’ content was engaging, presented in an interesting way and had excellent visual impact. The content in all topics increased their understanding of the benefits of physical activity and exercise; in particular, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and dementia.


Would it be feasible to deliver this program at a professional development level? If so, how could this be done?

The physical activity resources consist of national and international strategies and infographics, background introductions, specific disease and health condition slide-sets, a text module, and advice on how to use the resources effectively. The ‘Movement for Movement’ resources are designed for undergraduate use only. Although, @exerciseworks has developed a free Open Online Course which anyone can access via registering and logging in to Open Online Courses: Public Health, Climate Change, Exercise, Injury Prevention, Mental Health, Informatics; Exercise and Health.


You can read Nicole’s recent blog post titled “Canberra physiotherapy students’ commit to making every contact count for physical activity!” at BMJ Blogs

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