photo-icon Morgan Sette

Building mental muscle

Our Wellbeing People of Adelaide


Posted on 30 May 2019

The physical benefits of exercise can be easy to see but being active also improves mental wellbeing, where results can take many forms. For some, exercising might provide a positive focus in tough times. For others, it could open the door to meeting someone new or simply put a smile where there wasn’t one. Whatever it is, everyone deserves the chance to feel better, inside and out, and that’s what Activate Adelaide is all about.

Since 2010, Pushing Performance has been delivering personal and group health and fitness training programs in South Australian schools and businesses. More recently, it’s found avenues to reach the wider community.

“There are plenty of people in Adelaide who want to be active, but cost, emotional state, living arrangements, and limited social networks can be barriers."
Simon Lucas, co-founder and director, Pushing Performance

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Pushing Performance director Simon Lucas leads an Activate International Students class.

Working with organisations servicing those at risk in the city, Pushing Performance designed a more extensive offering, and with corporate backing, launched their first free community program in mid-2018. Created for those living rough on Adelaide’s streets, it was delivered at Baptist Care SA’sWestCare Centre – a haven in the city’s south-west offering access to health and wellbeing services to disadvantaged people of all ages and backgrounds.

With additional financial support secured through a successful City of Adelaide Recreation & Sport Grant application, this year, Pushing Performance has been running customised Activate Adelaide programs in several city spaces. Delivered through its Corporate Health Hub business, they’re providing access to exercise for the homeless, people at risk, international students and people over 55. Read on to discover more about two of the programs.

With choice, comes chance

“Compassion in action.” That’s how Soso, a city local with a contagious smile, describes Baptist Care SA’s WestCare Centre in Millers Court – and he’d know.

Every weekday and Sunday for three years, Soso has started his day at the centre and he’s been involved at the twice-weekly free Activate Adelaide sessions since day one.

“Whatever the trainer tells me to do, I do!” said Soso. “The stretching, the bike, the rope jumps, the squatting. Everything!”

“We believe that when someone starts to respect their entire being then they’ll likely respect the way they approach certain situations,” said Simon Lucas of Pushing Performance.

Classes incorporate strength, fitness, and co-ordination-based activities – but the physical outcomes aren’t as important as having the opportunity to build self-respect.

For Soso, attending a session simply makes him feel better.

“They’re likely to improve their ability to communicate better and ultimately have a story to share with their peers that inspires and motivates positive changes within the community.”

“The sessions are very good for spiritual, mental, and physical health. Exercise teaches you how to persevere and focus. It’s also an act of discipline and mindfulness.”
Soso, participant at the Activate Adelaide program at Baptist Care SA’s WestCare Centre

For those doing it tough, going to a gym is just not an option and Craig McGlone, Baptist Care SA’s Community Development Manager, said the Activate Adelaide program levels the playing field a little. 

We all know working-out gets the endorphins cranking,” said Craig. “For our guys, that’s a healthy way of feeling good about themselves in the middle of a day where they might be facing many challenges.”

Whether centre visitors participate or not, the sessions can provide a welcome distraction from other negative situations.

“A class usually attracts around four to eight participants, but some people are happy to just sit and watch,” said Simon. “As the smile on their face intensifies, it’s clear they’re emotionally engaged and excited by what they’re seeing.”

Forging friendships through fitness

Every year, thousands of young people make the choice to come to Adelaide to study. For some, leaving behind everything that’s familiar to further their education or career in a foreign country can be a daunting transition.

“In our dealings with City of Adelaide’s Wellbeing and Resilience team last year, we identified that many students find it hard to make new friends, connect with their communities, and engage outside of study,” said Simon Lucas. 

“We created a program that gives students a chance to engage, connect, and have fun together. It’s about breaking down emotional barriers, physically sharing something in common, and ultimately building a positive environment that promotes healthy living.”

Student boxing in a fitness class
photo-icon Morgan Sette

Student Yogesh Chapagain gets into his workout at an Activate International Students class at the University of Adelaide Village.

The Activating International Students program is offered for free every second Monday evening (6:30 pm – 7:30pm) to all international students residing at the University of Adelaide’s Village. Classes attract between 15 to 25 students and variety is key.

“One week we might run a high energy boxing session where students work together to complete challenges and sets in a fun, energetic environment,” said Simon. “The next session might focus on communication or team building where we design activities where they have to physically and mentally approach a task and problem solve to get a successful result.”

Student Yogesh Chapagain moved to the city from Nepal in July last year. He’s been attending the Activate Adelaide sessions on and off since March and thinks they’re a great addition to the Village’s social engagement program.

“I enjoy the team building games the most because this way you can grow your connections. Through these sessions, I’ve gotten to know several new people whom I call friends now.”
Yogesh Chapagain, Activating International Students participant

Many Activate Adelaide programs, including these student sessions, will run across winter.

“To create long-lasting positive change, we need to first help people create good life routines,” said Simon. “There’s always going to be vulnerable moments where that routine can become undone, so we need to support our individuals during these times and continue laying their foundations for the future.”

Article by

Skye Murtagh

Skye Murtagh

Skye is Adelaide Living's main driving force. She is passionate about sharing stories from all walks of life. When she's not busy weaving beautiful words together, she's singing a line or two from her favourite song.


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