‘Self-medicate with exercise for a healthier life’

A body pump class at Life Leisure

Residents in Stockport are being encouraged to ‘self-medicate’ with exercise thanks to the success of a health intervention scheme.

Run by Life Leisure, the PARiS (Physical Activity Referral in Stockport) programme is a joint venture with Public Health Stockport whereby GPs issue ‘activity prescriptions’.

Aimed primarily at individuals who are inactive and/or who suffer from chronic health conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, joint pain, COPD or depression, the current initiative sees GPs prescribe a six-month tailored programme based on individual needs, the objective being to increase activity levels in order to improve overall health and support effective ‘self-management’ of long-term conditions.

The activities ‘prescribed’ can be anything, from swimming, cycling and gym sessions, to movement, balance and dedicated rehab classes, but they all have one goal – to put people back in charge of their own health.

The results of the programme have been so impressive that the partnership has now added the opportunity for patients to self-refer in the hope that this will make the scheme even more accessible to those who would most benefit.

Michelle Childs, Health Development Manager at Life Leisure, said: “In the last 12 months, 770 individuals from Stockport who completed a six-month programme saw their activity levels increase dramatically, with average weekly energy expended on exercise up by 287%.

“Participants also saw average mental health score improve by 5.5 points – a clinically significant jump.

Michelle Childs
Michelle Childs

“It’s clear that with this programme we are helping them become and stay physically active, in order to benefit their overall health and prevent unnecessary visits to the doctor or in some cases, A&E.

“We thought, this is working so well – what can we do to make things easier? What can we do to get more people involved while also taking pressure off local GP services? Enabling people to self-refer was the obvious answer.”

In addition to accessing the scheme via GP consultation, Stockport residents can now self-refer though the Stockport Triage Assessment Referral Team (START) or an online self-assessment form on the Life Leisure website.

Michelle added: “The team are all trained to spot any signs that indicate a GP re-route is needed and also to ensure activity prescribed is entirely appropriate to the individual’s conditions, ability, age and objectives.”

The introduction of the new self-referral process has been praised by local health authorities and care providers.

Dr Donna Sager, Stockport’s Director of Public Health, said: “Physical activity plays a vital role in keeping us all healthy and can also benefit people to manage a long term health condition.

“We are always looking for ways to support people to look after their own health and wellbeing, and so welcome the move to now accept self-referrals onto the programme.”