National Exercise Referral Scheme making a healthy impact in Bridgend County Borough
22 February 2017
Now into its tenth year, the National Exercise Referral Scheme has helped make physical activity a new way of life for thousands of people who suffer from health problems in Bridgend County Borough.
The Welsh Government funded initiative lets people with certain medical conditions be referred by their doctors to improve their lifestyles by taking part in activities at local leisure centres.
Participants follow a 16-week exercise programme and classes are tailored specifically to help with cardiac issues, low back pain, weight management, lung conditions, strength and balance, and joint problems.
Water-based hydro gym classes are particularly effective for orthopaedic problems, while certain classes are targeted at people affected by stroke. Bridgend County Borough is also one of a few areas in Wales selected to run a pilot programme for Parkinson’s referrals.
The scheme is run locally by Bridgend County Borough Council in partnership with Halo Leisure, and during the last year alone, 1871 local residents were referred.
Rebecca Evans, the Minister for Social Services and Public Health, visited the Bridgend Life Centre earlier this month to see the impact of the scheme for herself.
The Minister said: “It was great to visit the Bridgend Life Centre to see first-hand how the National Exercise Referral Scheme is supporting people to manage their long-term conditions. Through locating exercise classes, a library and children’s play facilities all under one roof, the Centre is helping residents to be socially active too.”
Among the scheme participants the Minister met during her visit was Stephen Bower, from Bridgend.
Three years ago, after coming back from a holiday, Stephen felt particularly sluggish and knew it was more than just the extra few pounds he’d gained from enjoying his travels.
After going to see his GP, Stephen discovered that he needed immediate heart surgery. His rehab began with physio sessions at the Princess of Wales Hospital, then he started going to exercise referral classes at Bridgend Life Centre last February.
Sixty-seven-year-old Stephen said: “I come here twice a week to do a circuits class and I also keep up my exercises at home. Although I used to do some sport when I was younger, I wish I had taken fitness more seriously earlier in my life. If I had then I would be running for Great Britain! Seriously, this place is wonderful and I can’t praise the staff highly enough.”
Another local resident who has changed their life for the better thanks to the scheme is 79-year-old Sheila Evans from Brackla.
In December 2012, Sheila went to see her GP who suspected Parkinson’s. After following a course of physio treatment, she was referred to the scheme and now attends Parkinson’s circuit classes at Bridgend Life Centre twice a week.
She has found the classes extremely beneficial, as her husband David explained: “When I broke my back last year, Sheila wasn’t able to go to her classes for a few weeks and her progress went backwards. We certainly noticed a difference, and she felt much better once she resumed the classes. We would recommend the scheme to anyone.”
Councillor Huw David, the Leader of Bridgend County Borough Council who is also the WLGA spokesperson for health and social care, said: “This fantastic scheme has delivered outstanding results for local people for nearly a decade. It has shown that making exercise a key part of your weekly routine can work wonders for your overall health and help to prevent certain conditions from deteriorating.
“As well as the physical benefits, exercise is also linked to improved mental wellbeing, and there is also the social aspect too, as the classes let you meet and make friends with people who have similar conditions to you.”
The National Exercise Referral Scheme is available throughout Bridgend County Borough. If you are aged over 17 years old and feel that you would benefit from the scheme, please speak to your GP or practice nurse.
Halo is a registered charity and social enterprise that runs leisure centres in Bridgend County Borough in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council. To find out more about activities at local leisure centres, please visit www.haloleisure.co.uk.