Oakleigh Recreation Centre's low sensory studio proving popular

girl using rowing machine in low sensory room at ORC

A gym in full swing can be an inspiring place to work out, the shared excitement and energy of a large group driving participants on to their fitness goals.

But for many, that same workout can be an assault on the senses. The bright lights and thumping music of a regular gym environment can be challenging – often too challenging – and a deterrent to any involvement in an otherwise beneficial exercise regime.

In response, Active Monash has developed a small group, all-abilities exercise program in a new low-sensory studio at the Oakleigh Recreation Centre.

Classes are capped at six participants, ensuring everyone receives suitable guidance and instruction from trained instructors throughout the session. Circuit-style classes are designed to be enjoyed by anyone aged 16 and older living with a disability, the program offering numerous benefits with a focus on cardio, strength and balance training.

But, most importantly, working-out in a low-sensory environment – with reduced noise, lighting and fewer visual distractions like mirrors – makes for a more comfortable exercise experience.

Participants who would normally baulk at the idea of entering a gym are now able to enjoy the benefits of increased fitness, opportunities to make new friends and improved self-esteem - a positive introduction to a gym environment in a safe and comfortable setting.

“We’ve covered all the mirrors with blinds; there’s dimmers on the lights, so we can turn them down; we keep things quiet, although we can have music if anybody wants it,” Group Program Co-ordinator Carol Syer said. “Even the way we (staff) move about the room or move the weights and equipment, we are very conscious of the noise we make.”

And, though the program is still in its infancy, it’s clear that sessions held in such a calm environment have hit the mark, providing something of an exercise safe haven for participants.

“We held the first classes last week,” Carol said. “And we had people come to both sessions. We got some really good feedback.

“It serves a lot of people that may not have felt included in the past. It’s important that everyone has a space where they feel comfortable. Some people have told us even just to walk into the centre can be very challenging.

“I think this will suit a lot of people. A low-sensory space will suit people with autism or with an intellectual disability. Anyone who has a need to exercise in a more private setting.”

Classes run every Tuesday (10.30am) and Thursday (11.35am). Support workers and carers are welcome to attend the sessions to provide additional support.

Please bring a drink bottle, mat and a towel to wipe down equipment after use. Wear clothing that is easy to move around in, like track suit pants or leggings, and comfortable closed toe shoes (runners). It’s a good idea to have light clothing available as participants can become quite warm during class.

Learn more about the program at All Abilities Small Group Training Active Monash

Active Monash is proud to continue to focus on providing opportunities for all members of the community to participate their way! Find out more at Sports and Recreation | City of Monash


What: All Abilities Small Group Training (low-sensory studio)

Where: Oakleigh Recreation Centre (Studio 4), 2A Park Rd, Oakleigh

When: every Tuesday (10.30am) and Thursday (11.35am).

Cost: $7.90 per session (free for members)

Age: 16+

How do I join: bookings can be made online or by calling 9265 4888.