Twelve months ago, 43-year-old John Lee was on the brink of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Weighing almost 16.6 stone, and measuring 5ft 4inches, the father-of-four was warned by his GP that he was “a heart attack waiting to happen”.
Now, having followed a ‘gym prescription’ – or Physical Activity Referral as it is more formally known – he has shed 2.8 stone, ditched his fatty diet and is training to compete in his first half marathon.
The self-confessed former sofa-slouch is slimmer, healthier and happier, and says taking up activity ‘on prescription’ has probably saved him from a lifetime of taking tablets. It may even have saved his life.
John said: “I’d always been pretty fit in my youth. I was even a black belt in kung-fu. But gradually, life happened.
“I got married, had kids, and essentially let myself go without really noticing. The weight crept up and my activity levels dropped down to be virtually non-existent.
“In all honesty, I really don’t think I would have done anything about it were it not for a trip to see my doctor.”
John was told he was just one point from being classified as diabetic, and that if he didn’t lose weight he was at significant risk of suffering a heart attack.
Physical Activity Referral
His GP recommended Physical Activity Referral in Stockport (PARiS), a GP Exercise Referral scheme delivered by Life Leisure, which runs sports and leisure facilities in and around Stockport, as well as activity programmes in neighbourhoods across the area.
“At first it was a real shock to the system,” explained John. “I could hardly do five seconds on a cross-trainer without getting out of breath. I realised just how unfit I’d become.
“But what also shocked me was the amount of support I got. The PARiS instructors at my local Life Leisure gym in Brinnington were great, especially ‘Rocky’ (Paul Lindley), who worked really closely with me to tailor a programme that would help me improve at a pace I felt comfortable with.
“And the support wasn’t just in terms of exercise. As well as learning about what my body could and should be able to do, I found out about what types of food would help fuel that process.
“As I lost weight, I became more and more motivated to keep going so I’d think about meals entirely differently, about what would give me energy and support my ambitions. The whole thing has just changed my attitude to fitness and food completely.”
To further boost his progress, John has also joined his local Man v Fat football team, in John’s words a chance for “fellow fatties” to support each other in losing weight by playing football once a week, with teams awarded bonus goals based on pounds shed by players.
Now working out at least three times a week, spending time on cardio machines and weights, even doing sit ups – something the devoted house-husband to wife Lisa thought he’d never be able to do – John is over-the-moon with his progress.
He hasn’t used his inhaler for months, but it’s the changes he has seen in day-to-day life that mean most to the new fitness fan.
“I’ve got five children and the most important thing to me is that I’m around for them. Before PARiS that was in jeopardy,” John added.
“Now I’m more active, more fun, and enjoying doing more things with Lisa and the kids – sometimes the family come to the gym with me. I feel better, they feel better. I can’t really put into words what a difference this has made.
“I would not have been able to do this on my own. The PARiS scheme gave me the structure, support and impetus to make the changes I needed to.
“It changed, and probably saved, my life. For anyone out there really struggling with their weight, my advice is this. Have a word with your GP and see what referral schemes are available. It really is worth it.”