A Monmouthshire woman has described how an exercise referral scheme operated by MonLife has helped change her life following a serious health condition that put her into a three-week induced coma.

65-year-old Sheila Viner was referred to the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) at Chepstow Leisure after being admitted into intensive care and spending over 11 weeks in hospital in 2020. The NERS, which operates across all 22 local authorities, is an evidence-based health intervention programme that incorporates physical activity and behavioural change to support people improve their health and wellbeing.

Sheila joined the MonLife scheme at Chepstow Leisure Centre following advice from her physiotherapist. Talking about the programme, Sheila says she’s not only seen a benefit to her physical health but it’s also helped build her confidence.

I was contacted by Claire who organises the classes, we had a friendly chat about my health issues, how exercise can help me with my personal health, and what I would like to achieve to improve my day-to-day life. The exercises were for all different levels of health and fitness and fun to do.

“The classes have helped me enormously. I have gained strength in my arms and legs and my mobility has improved greatly. I can now walk without my stick most of the time and I can stand to cook my meals and cakes. I am able to go shopping on my own as my confidence has improved greatly.”

Between 2019 and 2020, the MonLife referral scheme received over 1200 referrals, with 70% of all referrals coming via the NERs generic pathway. Of all the referrals, 99% of people were able to increase their activity resulting in 59% experiencing lowered blood pressure, 61% increasing their fitness, and 46% lowering their BMI.

Face-to-face classes were halted during the pandemic but resumed in September 2021 at Chepstow, Caldicot, Monmouth, with Abergavenny starting back on the 10 January.

For Sheila, the return to the classes has also meant the opportunity to meet new people. She added: “I have gained so much from these classes, my health and fitness have improved so much over the past few weeks and this has helped my day-to-day living. I have also met so many lovely like-minded people and I look forward to my classes every week.”

Cabinet member with responsibility for MonLife, Councillor Lisa Dymock said:

“We never truly understand how much of an impact schemes like the exercise referral scheme can make until we hear stories like Sheila’s. For many others in her situation, doing any sort of physical activity following a serious health condition can be daunting and overwhelming. This initiative is designed to support people through that challenging time and ultimately help them on their journey to recovery. Like Sheila, this scheme not only aids physical recovery but has a huge impact on mental health and confidence. If like Sheila, you have experienced a life-changing health condition or injury, please come and talk to our advisors or your doctors to access this brilliant service.”

People referred to the scheme get access to their respective leisure centre’s fitness suite and swimming pool, access to all NERS/Fit4Life classes, 4,16, and 52 week progress consultations, and a free kit bag. The scheme costs £16 per month and can be accessed by contacting MonLife’s Exercise Referral Coordinator on 01633 644800 or by being referred by a GP / practice nurse; physiotherapist or dietician.

By Gwynoro Jones

Former MP for Carmarthenshire, Gwynoro Jones joined the team covering politics in Wales. He has a wealth of experience in politics and has been a regular commentator on radio, TV and in newspapers in Wales. Email: gwynorojones@walesnewsonline.com

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