UWA Changemaker - Dr Bonnie Furzer

Lecturer – Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AES AEP)
Director – Thriving Exercise Rehabilitation Inc.
Senior Exercise Physiologist - Fremantle Hospital Mental Health Service

Exercise rehabilitation research

Bonnie Furzer Headshotconducted with haematological cancer patients, I was continually surprised by the magnitude of benefit from participating in physical activity. Of course we know that exercise is good for you, but I continue to be surprised at how much of a difference well designed and delivered exercise can make both on how individuals feel, but also their clinically relevant outcomes.  For cancer patients and survivors, and more broadly in other populations, the research continues to reflect these benefits. Our challenge now is to make exercise accessible for more people, and getting people to stick with it.

The other big surprise is that the volume of exercise does not need to be that high in order to see benefits. The program that was part of my PhD required physical exercise three times per week for up to one hour. We saw statistically and clinically meaningful differences across physical and psychosocial measures at wellbeing in patients, irrespective of age or exercise history. It is nice to know that every little bit counts. You don’t need to be going to the gym every day in order to see benefits.   

We have extended this research into a community service, with a number of programs available through UWA Exercise and Performance Centre to aid in the rehabilitation and management following injury or illness, including cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease and cancer to name a few.

Thriving Exercise Rehabilitation Inc.

Whilst completing her PhD, Bonnie established Thriving Exercise Rehabilitation Inc – a not for profit with the mission to use exercise expertise to improve the health outcomes of kids & young people.  Thriving offers exercise services for kids and young people, catering specifically for those who experience barriers to being active at school or within the community. This includes young people with musculoskeletal conditions; poor or delayed movement skills; behavioural, developmental or social challenges (e.g. non-verbal, social or activity anxiety); childhood cancer; metabolic disease and complex juvenile conditions (incl. intellectual/behavioural difficulties, depression/anxiety and Autism). 

Additionally, Thriving run family and professional education courses to increase community knowledge and service capacity, and are active research translation activities in partnership with UWA.

For more information – www.thrivingfit.com.au

Making a difference 

I consider myself, alongside other team members in SSEH, to be very lucky to be in a role supported by the School and UWA, involved in this kind of research. It is so rewarding to be doing work that positively impacts the health of individuals from 4 to 90+ years of age! Not to mention our ability to use both the research expertise within SSEH and clinical experience through the variety of community programs to inform and provide clinical learning experience to our students.

Working within the university system allows us to have a broader influence through research translation and the education of future exercise professionals, and to therefore increase the availability of high-quality services in the wider community. 

About Bonnie

After taking a gap year following school, Bonnie moved from Victoria to Western Australia, specifically to study a double degree (BA and BSc) at UWA. The UWA School of Sports Science, Exercise and Health was very highly ranked and a primary reason for her to make the move to the west coast. She has stayed ever since.

After completing first class honours, she embarked on a PhD also with the School of Sports Science, Exercise and Health. During her postgrad studies she worked, and continues to work, as a clinical exercise physiologist. She says she is absolutely lucky to be in a role that incorporates teaching, research and community exercise and making a daily difference to people’s lives.