Last year was the busiest ever for Jersey’s Exercise Referral scheme, with a record 1007 islanders joining between January and December 2013.
Survey results also show that more people are keeping up with a healthy lifestyle after taking part, especially those who didn’t previously exercise. In this group, three times as many participants have continued their fitness programme after finishing the 16-week course.
Exercise Referral, which is based at Fort Regent, aims to improve people’s health through increased levels of physical activity. The team of medically-trained fitness instructors work with clients to design an activity plan tailored to help them with a specific condition such as high blood pressure, weight loss or recovery from an illness or operation. About half the participants are referred by their GP and another 39% by physiotherapists. Nurses, doctors and the Diabetic Department also refer their patients to the service to help them recover.
For 2013, 64% of participants reported better general health and/or quality of life at the post-programme assessment. This is a 13% increase on the previous year.
Val Wood, head of Exercise Referral, said: “The programme works very well in terms of giving people back their quality of life. If they’ve had an operation of have a medical condition it can help them get back to their previous level of physical activity and even get back to work sooner.”
Martin Knight, Head of Health Improvement at the Public Health Department, said: “People who are regularly physically active reduce their risk of many long term diseases including circulatory disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes there is also a reduction in the risk of dying early by up to 20-30%. As well as the personal costs of disease that physical activity can prevent the reduction in disease and better disease management will also have the benefit of reducing the associated treatment costs.”
It has been estimated that physical inactivity causes about 37,000 premature deaths in England each year.
1. Geraldine Des Forges
I am 68 years old and a Type 1 diabetic, taking four injections of insulin a day. Many of the people who go to Exercise Referral are the same age as me or older and our levels of ability are quite varied. Despite this, I have never felt conspicuous, or out-of-place, in the gym.
Like many mature diabetics, I also have to take tablets to control my blood pressure. For some years, I have suffered from lower back pain, due to a severe curvature of the spine. As a result, I have avoided exercise and have gained weight.
I asked my GP if I could go on the Exercise Referral programme to lose weight and get fitter. I had taken part in it a few years ago and, on that occasion, I lost ½ stone.
Physical activity can be difficult for a Type 1 diabetic. Over-exercising can make my blood sugar level fall too low, which causes me to become disorientated and confused. For this reason, it is essential that my tutors understand my condition and don’t put me under pressure to do more than I can manage.
The Exercise Referral tutors are brilliant and very encouraging. The environment is not at all competitive and I certainly don’t feel intimidated there. It’s thanks to their support that I have learned to keep my blood sugar levels stable, whilst still managing to increase my level of physical activity. This has given me a great deal of confidence.
After 6 weeks on the programme, I am certainly feeling fitter and am looking forward to the rest of the course.
2. Colin Masterman
Being on Exercise Referral changed my life fundamentally and probably saved it too!
In July 2012 I went to my doctor feeling very unwell. I was suffering from episodes of bradycardia, where your heart pauses and then kicks in again. It can be quite alarming to see these pauses on your heart monitor. An air ambulance took me to Oxford where I was a patient in the renowned John Radcliffe hospital for ten days. When I came home it was with a pacemaker in place to keep an eye on me and kick in if my pulse dropped below 40 beats per minute.
The physical aspects may have been fixed but the psychological aftermath of seeing my vital signs flat line still needed attention. The truth is that I was overweight and did insufficient exercise which, coupled with a good diet but a penchant for red wine, and a work-life imbalance, left me in a poor state. Cardiac Rehabilitation at Overdale three times a week was the immediate interim solution. The wonderful team of physiotherapists and a group of a dozen or so fellow survivors provided camaraderie and mutual support. I purchased a bike and began cycling every day.
Next came Exercise Referral at Fort Regent where the very professional team assessed and coached me into a fitter regime. I was looked after principally by the marvellous Anya Staunton and the talented Paola Mitchell who were both professional and diligent in guiding me into achieving realistic goals and maintaining good routines.
Their cheery encouragement was the key factor in building my confidence and keeping me motivated. Getting into a routine of attending two or three times per week was also important. The record keeping was crucial, allowing me to monitor and see real progress and improvement over time. At the end of the referral my progress was assessed against my initial benchmark results. I am now an Active member and basically self-motivated, although the Exercise Referral team maintain a watchful eye and offer continuing informal encouragement and indeed advice. I always feel that I am in good hands. I owe them a great deal for changing my life patterns. I am now fitter and stronger, leaner and far happier. I sleep better and I feel better in myself. I have even joined the fabulous Nordic Walking class. I’m a regular “gym bunny” these days!