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Monday 24th October 2016

Partnership benefits those with poor health

22nd April 2009

Central YMCA, the UK’s leading activity for health charity, has joined forces with Westminster NHS (previously known as Westminster PCT) to offer a new location where patients can access advice on physical activity in order to manage health problems and aid recovery.

The partnership enhances an existing exercise referral scheme, which has been operating since 2003 in the borough. It allows residents to use exercise as a way to manage and improve poor health.

The scheme, which has also been running successfully in neighbouring Camden for eight years, sees GPs recommend physical activity to patients to help manage a variety of health problems including conditions such as mental health issues, rheumatoid arthritis, high blood pressure, stroke and cardiac arrest, obesity and HIV.

Participants are referred to the Central YMCA Club, a facility on Great Russell Street in central London, which is more than just a gym. A personalised mini-fitness assessment is made and this is then followed by four one hour, one-to-one sessions with an NVQ Level 3 trained fitness instructor. Participants then take part in six supervised gym sessions before completing a further questionnaire to re-examine fitness levels. To keep activity levels up, those who complete their ten weeks are invited to join the Club at a reduced rate, with a supporting programme of free updates and classes to keep activity varied, interesting and effective.

“Central YMCA believes that people should engage in exercise because it has many benefits – social, psychological and spiritual – and as well as managing physical problems it also helps you to feel better about yourself and boost esteem,” said Central YMCA’s programme manager Declan Duncan, “We provide referrals with a realistic way to exercise – producing an personalised , varied programme with which they can engage and enjoy. This is not about achieving a ‘body beautiful’ but about encouraging healthy living and improving all round wellbeing.”

The Mental Health Foundation recently urged that all GPs should offer exercise on prescription to patients with depression; but reported that less than half (42%) report having access to exercise referral schemes.*

In fact, relatively few communities in the UK currently benefit from an ‘Exercise on Prescription’-style approach to treating illness, despite a growing body of evidence that exercise is an effective form of treatment for many health problems.

“We are extremely pleased about this new partnership because we know our health professionals can refer patients to a safe and supportive environment for exercise. We also know that the people who need the most help in becoming more active can have the specialised assistance they require, by working with the instructors at Central YMCA, to benefit their physical and mental health,” said Ruth Quigley, Physical activity co-ordinator at Central West London Community Service who deliver the project for Westminster NHS. “Our health professionals are confident that following referral, the patient will receive the support they need in exercising safely and beginning to lead more active lifestyles.”

A series of support events and three and six month follow-up phone calls check progress and monitor any drop outs and why this occurs.

“The programme is working well and we find people do choose to stay with the scheme because of the personal service and encouragement,” Declan added, “We know that many of our referrals feel very uncomfortable with the traditional idea of a gym but we are able to overcome this with the community feel at the Club and the way we treat everyone as an individual.”

Central YMCA hopes to work with other boroughs in London to continue to grow and expand the reach of the programme.

*    From the Mental Health Foundation’s Up and Running Report – a full copy can be downloaded at: http://www.mhf.org.uk/publications/?EntryId5=43026




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