Leeds scheme helps hundreds to get moving

Claire McGarry pictured with her patient Alice Truswell at Colton Mill Medical Centre.
Claire McGarry pictured with her patient Alice Truswell at Colton Mill Medical Centre.
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Physical activity is one of the easiest and best ways to improve and maintain health.

But many people still fail to do enough exercise – latest figures from NHS Digital show that over a quarter of adults do less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week.

Encouraging an increase in activity is one of the main priorities of health experts and a new scheme in Leeds is helping residents to boost their levels.

Healthy Lifestyle Services started six months ago in east Leeds to educate and support people in becoming healthier, despite any pre-existing health conditions they may have.

The NHS-funded programme sees patients at 15 surgeries being referred by their GP and undergoing a consultation with project manager Claire McGarry, who is a personal trainer.

She said people were referred by their GP if they were inactive, or needed support to live a healthier lifestyle, such as improving their diet.

“They come and have an initial consultation, and on the back of that we have lots of services available,” she said.

“We have some gym equipment, such as a cross trainer, bike and stepper.”

During the consultation, a personal exercise plan will be developed to help reach their goals like losing weight or improving mobility.

They can also try out the exercise equipment so they feel more confident, as this is an issue which can stop people from participating.

“People say they want to go to the gym, but they feel self-conscious,” Claire said. “We break that habit. They know what to do, so they don’t feel so daunted by it.”

In addition to the consultations, several exercise sessions are run as part of the scheme, including pilates, chair aerobics, boxing and dance fitness classes. A walking group has also been set up by a patient.

Participants in the scheme can come to a series of initial sessions, and then they are pointed towards other local classes or groups.

“People can come to six sessions, but then after that we have a list of local community sessions that are similar to what they have been doing,” Claire added.

Around 200 patients have joined the scheme so far, with impressive results – including reducing their risk of diabetes and being able to come off medication. If it continues to be a success, the programme – which is funded by Leeds South and East Clinical Commissioning Group – could be expanded.

“It’s things like this that make it so worthwhile, seeing the results,” Claire said. “If it’s saving the NHS money in the long run, it’s certainly worth funding.”

* Latest figures from NHS Digital show that in 2015, 58 per cent of women and 68 per cent of men were overweight or obese.

Obesity prevalence increased from 15 per cent in 1993 to 27 per cent in 2015.

Just over a quarter 26 per cent of adults ate the recommended 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day in 2015.

In 2015/16, 26 per cent of adults were classified as inactive – doing fewer than 30 minutes physical activity a week.