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Exercise Referral Scheme – joining a gym in old age

Age Space meets Norwich Fitness manager David Lane who explains how the Exercise Referral scheme might benefit your elderly parents or relatives.  It’s not as scary as it sounds!

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What is the Exercise Referral Scheme?

The scheme is for people with particular medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, arthritis and back pain; and for those who have problems with weight management or moderate stress or depression.  It is a great way for an elderly relative to take some regular, managed exercise, under the guidance of their GP.

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How to join

To join the scheme, visit the GP, practice nurse or other health care professional to check for eligibility and to be referred (you will need a referral form).

Qualified exercise professionals oversee the scheme at  convenient venues all over Norfolk.  One such venue is Riverside Leisure Centre in Norwich. Fitness Manager David Lane explains that a variety of exercise programmes are available in the gym, and that progress is monitored throughout the 12 session exercise plan.

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What to expect

There is a cost per session, although David says: ‘The first one is free of charge, when new starters have a consultation with an instructor who will review the referral form. Then we will devise a programme depending on indvidual needs.

‘An instructor takes every single session and once the programme is completed, there are options to sign up with the gym or we can suggest other ways of reaching personal goals.’  He says of the scheme: ‘It is brilliant for breaking down the barrier of going to the gym because, with an instructor on hand to help and support a new member, after a couple of weeks, we find that older clients realise it’s not that bad or scary’.

Although he makes the point: ‘We are extra careful with people with heart conditions.’ David is cardiac rehabilitation qualified and plans to start a cardiac rehabilitation course at Riverside within the next month (he is also cancer rehabilitation qualified and plans to start a course for that, too).

David’s advice for first-timers: ‘Start off by doing one or two sessions a week, just to ease yourself into it – that goes for the gym, group workout classes and the pool.’

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Other services at Riverside Norwich

For other exercise, Riverside offers 50-plus and disabled swimming sessions, plus there’s a Swim4Health six week membership scheme available.

David and his team also work closely with Cotman Housing, the East Anglian housing association, providing an outreach service, and liaise closely with the Norwich Clinical Commissioning Group. Other services offered at Riverside include a Dementia Café which is open on the first Tuesday of every month, with an added bonus of some exercise like playing table tennis.

‘We are a community gym and try and cater for everyone,’ he says, before concluding: ‘There’s plenty of support out there for anyone to get started, so I would say to people look to their local leisure centre and see what they have to offer as most gyms have something.’

* Riverside Leisure Centre, Wherry Road, Norwich. Called 01603 671390 or visit www.placesforpeopleleisure.org

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Exercise across Norfolk

Other locations in Norfolk which participate in the Exercise Referral Scheme are Victory Swim and Fitness Centre in North Walsham; Splash Leisure and Fitness Centre in Sheringham and Fakenham Sports and Fitness Centre.

*And other Norwich locations which participate in the Scheme include the Sportspark and the Norman Centre in Norwich; plus Diss Swimming Pool and Fitness Centre; Long Stratton Leisure Centre, and Wymondham Leisure Centre – all in South Norfolk.