by Wendy Deamer
Council funded gyms have worked together with the NHS and created a 20 Week Gym Referral Scheme. So if you shy away from leotards and muscle vests – don’t despair. Pop along to your GP and you could so easily be on the road to becoming a happier and healthier person. Sadly however, few people seem to be aware of these schemes.
I visited Creations gym in Boston, Lincolnshire to find out a little more of what is on offer with these referral schemes and who they are aimed at. The funding for the scheme at Creations is split between NHS Lincolnshire Direct and Lincolnshire Sports Partnership, a local sports charity.
Lisa Chadburn has worked at Creations for 15 years and is a great ambassador for these schemes. She told me Creations had 12 local GP surgeries referring people to the gym.
Lisa said ‘Most people think a gym is where people come simply to improve their looks and bodies, they don’t realise the benefits exercise can bring for so much more than just this’.
Lisa explained to me the many health problems people are referred to the gym for - blood pressure, cardio problems, strokes, post and pre operations, asthmatic and breathing problems, even depression.
I asked one lady in the gym why she had been referred? She told me she had spent two years at home nursing her husband and had become very low and lethargic. Her doctor had recommended a referral to lift her spirits and get her out of the house. After just two weeks she was already beginning to feel a benefit. She had more energy and her mood was generally uplifted making her more able to cope with her situation.
People are also referred by Consultants particularly for orthopaedic problems. Physiotherapy at hospital covers a limited amount so patients are referred for a broader range of exercise. Rehabilitation centres refer people and adults with learning difficulties can also benefit.
Macmillan Cancer Charity recommends exercise following treatment for cancer stating ‘Being advised to rest and take it easy after treatment is an out of date view’.
Cancer specialist Professor Robert Thomas, editor of Cancernet.co.uk has also said – ‘You can reduce the chances of cancer coming back if you continue to exercise’.
The first referral visit involves a health assessment. Weight, height and medical history are mandatory. Staff will calculate your BMI (body mass index), your body fat, your blood pressure, your resting heart rate, and even tell you the ‘age’ of your lung capacity. This information is kept on your record and an appropriate exercise programme is tailor made for your personal health requirements. Changes/improvements in these statistics at the end of the referral will be reported to your GP.
People are told what their personal fitness programme will include and the health benefits they will receive. They are accompanied throughout their visits and the workings of the equipment explained to them so they know what part of their body they are targeting and why. At the end of the referral people are offered a gym membership without the membership fee – a further health incentive.
This is just one report from a gym in Boston, Lincolnshire but these referrals run all over the country and are available to anyone aged 16 years upwards. So if you want to improve your general wellbeing, physical and mental fitness, joints, breathing and feel fit, healthy and happy- visit your GP. It could be the first step on the road to a whole new you.