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A home for life: Renovating your body and mind

Did you know that – according to the 2021 Census – Australian adults live in an average of 11 dwellings over their lifetime? Yes, 11! But there’s a home you only get one of: your body. So, when it comes to taking care of your precious vessel, it pays to learn the ins and outs of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through movement and mindfulness. For some inspiration, and motivation, we spoke to local fitness and wellness expert Mel Raleigh about the evolution of fitness, its importance to our wellbeing – and its positive impact on our community.


Fitness throughout the decades 

Before the 1970s, organised fitness (other than sport) wasn’t common. People incidentally lived more active lives.

But then, in 1969, the era of Jazzercise came along.

Jazzercise was an upbeat mix of jazz, Pilates, ballet and kickboxing that many believed was best performed in a brightly coloured leotard.

By the time the 80s rolled around, health clubs began to rise in popularity (along with personal computers and desk jobs). And the gym scene has been pumping ever since.

‘Today, there are movement trends and fitness options to suit everyone,’ says Caulfield local fitness and wellness expert, Mel Raleigh. 

‘So, no matter what you’re into, it’s about getting out there and having a go. No excuses!’


We need to keep our bodies moving

Today, with our inactive, desk-bound lifestyles, intentionally moving our bodies is essential for our physical and mental health.

‘Many of us spend all day sitting at computers or scrolling on our phones – hunched over and stiff. So we must proactively bring in movement to counteract it,’ Mel says.

Not sure where to begin? Mel has some advice.

‘The key is to start where you’re comfortable. If you want to train at home, do it. Keen to try a gym? Check it out on a free trial. Or, if you’d prefer to be in your local park, step outside and go!

‘Whether your goal is to develop better posture, get stronger or learn to recover faster, the same rule applies – just do what feels good for you.

‘Because it’s not about being perfect, it’s about getting started!’ Mel encourages.



Make it functional – and fun

Wellbeing does take some discipline, but that doesn’t mean it has to be regimented.

Mel gets this. ‘My philosophy towards wellness and fitness is there are no rules! Train in ways you enjoy. Because then you’re far more likely to be consistent.

‘But if you want to stay strong and healthy throughout your lifetime, I encourage you to consider some functional training, too,’ she says.

What is functional training? It’s exercise that mimics real-life movements and actions, such as bending, squatting, pushing, pulling, lifting and twisting.

‘Functional training creates a solid physical foundation for all body types,’ says Mel.

‘It’s great for everything, from increasing athletic performance to injury prevention. Plus, it increases your stamina and confidence in your ability to tackle any task in your day.’



Building physiques and friendships

An understated benefit of fitness is the relationships it can foster. And because we’re social creatures, simply spending time with like-minded people is enough to boost our wellbeing.

‘I’ve seen it with so many of my clients; when they feel connected to and motivated by others, the positive influence on their progress and mental state can be profound,’ Mel says.

And according to our local guru, Caulfield and its surrounding suburbs create these networks very well.

‘I love living in Melbourne’s southeast. There’s a real culture of getting out with friends for a walk and chat. Or groups catching up for a personal training session in the park.

‘Having your friends join you for a workout also helps with accountability. You can’t leave your bestie to do it alone now, can you?’ she chuckles.

Well, maybe you could… But you’ll be far less likely to live any laziness down. 


Move and eat to feel complete

A wealth of benefits comes from nurturing our bodies and minds. Mel knows this all too well.

‘Exercise significantly reduces the risk of health concerns like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. And it’s long been linked to better mental health,’ she says.

But she does stress, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

‘It will always benefit you to get personalised exercise and wellness advice,’ she states. ‘A tailored fitness plan – especially if it incorporates nutrition – will help you get results faster.’

Does that mean no treats or cheat days?

‘Not at all,’ Mel smiles. ‘In fact, that’s not sustainable. Just make sure your plan works for where you’re at – and where you want to go – so you can be sure to kick your goals.’


Keeping active across the ages  

Mel is passionate about every aspect of her career but stands firmly by one message: ‘There is no excuse not to take care of yourself. Especially not your age,’ she states.

‘I have clients ranging from 12 to 93 years of age. So I just adjust my workouts to suit the individual's abilities and needs.

‘For instance, training the core is important at all ages – and every session should have abdominal workouts woven in. But with my older clients, it often becomes the focus,’ Mel continues.

And it’s not just because almost everyone loves a six-pack.  

‘A strong body needs a strong core, especially as we age,’ Mel explains. ‘It will keep you mobile and independent for longer, which is important for your body – and your mental health.’ 



Mindfulness makes more magic

So how does working out your body actually help your mind?

‘Physical activity supports our mental health through the endorphins we release, the confidence we gain, the connections we strengthen and the friendships we make,’ says Mel.

And in recent years, there has been a noticeable shift towards destigmatising mental health challenges – a movement the fitness industry has been paramount in facilitating.

‘Fitness professionals care. We want our clients to look and feel their best, physically, emotionally and mentally. And I, for one, am honoured I get to help my clients do just that.’

And we’re grateful for Mel, too. Because there’s nothing the Gary Peer team loves to see more than happy, sweating, smiling faces – all across Melbourne’s southeast.


Interested to learn more about what goes on in the Gary Peer community? Follow The Peer Blog for more insights into Melbourne’s southeast.