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Exercise is just the tonic to boost patients' recovery

A SCHEME that prescribes exercise to patients overcoming illness or recovering from an operation has helped change the lives of hundreds of people in Swansea for the better.

National exercise scheme

The National Exercise Referral Scheme encourages people to take part in a range of activities from fitness classes and gym sessions to chair based exercise depending on their needs.

Last year 1,644 people were referred under the scheme in Swansea and figures show more than 70 per cent continued to exercise once the programme had ended - well above the average for the Wales.

It is funded by the Welsh Government and delivered by Swansea Council's Culture and Tourism team at a variety of venues in the city including leisure and community centres.

Lisa O'Connor, who runs sessions at Penlan and Penyrheol Leisure Centres, said people can be referred by a variety of health professionals including GP's, practice nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

She said sessions are tailored to each patients' needs to ensure they are fully supported to make the most out of every session in the 16-week programme.

Lisa added: "It is really important to build a rapport with everyone who is referred because they have got to enjoy the classes if exercise is to become part of their life."

Beverley Baker, who is retired, was referred to the scheme via her GP and says she was apprehensive at first.

She said: "I had never been into gym before but Lisa has been a dream. She comes round and encourages you and shows you how to use the machines.

"This has given me a step into doing exercise more frequently and now I exercise three or four times a week. I've always been active but through this it's given me more confidence and I'm getting back to my normal self.

"To others who have been referred I would say 'don't be worried - the initial thought of it is the worst. They are so warm and friendly - no just Lisa but the others on the scheme. We all just want one thing and that's to get better and it's been fantastic."

Early this year Clive Saunders underwent cardiac surgery and was referred to Penlan Leisure Centre where he is one of a number of patients who now regularly hit the gym.

He said: "I'm feeling 100 per cent better. When I first came up to the gym I was tired but since coming here I can now walk long distances which I could not do before.

"Before I was lucky to be able to walk up the drive to my house and now I walk for three quarters of an hour in the evening, half an hour in the morning and twice a week I'm here.

"The instructors are brilliant and they will walk you through everything and explain everything to you. They make sure you take your time when you start and then it's up to you to pick up a little bit at the time. I would advise anyone to come up here."

Latest figures show that 73 per cent of those who took part in the scheme last year in Swansea have continued to exercise after it ended.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council's Cabinet Member for Investment, Regeneration and Tourism, said: "Our team who deliver the National Exercise Referral Scheme do a brilliant job supporting people who've been prescribed exercise by their doctor as a way of managing or overcoming illness or recovering from an operation.

"To have the best retention rate in Wales is testimony to the team's commitment and care for everyone involved."

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