Free fitness initiative promotes health in the NT

Aussie-Fans in Training (Aussie-FIT), a footy-themed, group-based health promotion program that encourages  adult men to get fit and adopt a healthy lifestyle will be offered in the Northern Territory in 2024 for the first time ever with funding secured through a Heart Foundation Behaviour Change Strategic Grant.

Professor James Smith

Professor James Smith, Deputy Dean of Rural and Remote Health NT at Flinders University, and Lead Investigator of Aussie-FIT, says the new initiative is desperately needed, with heart related hospital admissions occurring twice as often in the Northern Territory compared to the national average.

“This alarming trend is compounded by new national statistics, indicating that 75% of Australian adults do not meet physical activity guidelines, 95% aren’t getting their recommended daily intake of fruit and vegetables, and 67% are overweight or living with obesity,” he says.

Aussie-FIT will encourage men aged 35-75 to take control of their health and wellbeing in the fun, safe setting of local AFL clubs according to Dr Bryce Brickley,

Dr Bryce Brickley

Research Fellow (Men’s Health) from the College of Medicine and Public Health in Darwin.

“The cardiovascular benefits of being active and eating a healthy diet are well established and it’s really important that we work with the local community to deliver health programs that are appealing to men and will support them to live healthier and happier lives,” Dr Brickley says.

“Aussie-FIT is a free of charge, evidence-based program that is unlike any other health initiative in Australia. It’s also offers the chance for participants to meet like-minded men, in a supportive, easy-going and sport-focused atmosphere,” he says.

While heart disease impacts both men and women, most men risk the quality and length of their lives by carrying excess body weight, with more Australian men being overweight (75%) than Australian women (56%).

Concerningly, heart disease occurs at a higher rate and at a younger age among Indigenous men.

The Darwin Buffaloes Football club is the first NTFL club to partner with Flinders University to host the program, demonstrating their commitment to social and community impact and eagerness to support the health of their male footy fans.

Project Co-investigator and Darwin Buffaloes Premier League Head Coach Cameron Stokes says that the club is proud to support the health and wellbeing of men in our community.

“Aussie-FIT will be a chance for our fans to [re]connect with the club, recognising the important role that our club plays in the lives of so many men and their families,” he says.

Researchers have been working with local stakeholders, including a community advisory group (majority Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander men) to establish the program, and it is now scheduled to commence in February 2024.

The program will be delivered by local club coaches at the footy grounds and supported by an Accredited Exercise Physiologist to ensure physical activity is completed safely, in accordance with participants’ fitness levels and physical abilities.

“For those who take part, we will assess heart health risk factors throughout a 12-month period to evaluate the effectiveness of the program and examine how we can set it up long-term in the community,” Dr Brickley says.

“We’re now looking for men in the NT to join the program, so if you think Aussie-FIT might be for you or your friends or family, get in touch here –”

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College of Medicine and Public Health Flinders Rural and Remote Health