A little under a year on, and Let’s Get Moving is coming to a close at the Abbey Field and Hawthorn Surgeries. As an exercise professional, this was quite a different piece of work for me; I was spending my days sitting down on a chair, talking, rather than on my feet, showing exercises in a gym, running in a running club or taking an exercise class.

Having qualified in exercise referral about 3 years ago, and more recently in exercise for cancer patients, I know that with the caveat of some limitations, everybody can move more, and it will usually lead to an improved quality of life. I’ve seen many patients; young and old, with or without chronic illnesses, with or without children, fully employed, unemployed, retired.  But despite these varied backgrounds, they all had something in common, and that is they wanted motivation to move more. Some were already doing some activity, others none at all. Some were looking for advice after recent diagnoses. However, there is a common thread that holds most people back from change, and that is fear.  Fear of the unknown. Fear of the challenge. Fear of failure. Fear is quite a strong word, but by using it I feel it takes the power away: Fear is…

  • False
  • Evidence
  • Appearing
  • Real

I’ve really enjoyed my time at the Hawthorn and Abbey Field surgeries.  It has given me a greater insight into just how important a service like Let’s Get Moving is. Now more than ever, with the NHS overstretched it can be a real struggle to get appointment to see your GP, so it’s crucial that we take as much of our health as we can into our own hands.  And that means looking at lifestyle. Doing the things that will ensure we stay healthy for longer, such as not smoking, eating well, not drinking too much alcohol, reducing stress in our lives, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly.  All these things will lead to improvements in overall health, and in our own way, we can become a solution to the problem.

The World Health Organisation’s Definition of health, according to its 1948 constitution is:

“a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

What we have found is that through Let’s Get Moving, people’s physical health is improved.  Often people report having lost weight, being able to reduce blood pressure or diabetes medication, and having lower BMIs.  These are all signs of improved physical health. However, people often said to me at their follow up appointments that they “feel much better in themselves”.  Most of the time, people saw an improvement in their mental well-being, and in a few cases where life circumstances may have led to a reduction in mental well-being, patients said that they were better able to cope with these setbacks.

Why is this? I think it’s because doing something as simple as taking a 10 minute walk every day is a relatively easy thing to control in your life, but by taking control of it, you can get a sense of achievement and it makes you feel good.  Being able to take control means that when you are faced with other challenges, you deal with them and work through them, rather than letting them take over you and your life. So Let’s Get Moving helps with the second part of the definition of health, your mental health. The third part, the social, really depends on you.  One of the questions in our mental well-being scale is “I’ve been feeling close to other people”.  You are asked to rate this on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is never, and 5 is always. This really depends on you as a person.  I know myself as quite an introvert, so I am much happier in one on one situations or alone than I am in big groups. I would rate my answer as 5 however, when I get to see close family and we have a nice time together – that is enough social interaction for me.  However, for some people, this wouldn’t be enough, and having lots of friends and seeing lots of people at work is important for their social well-being. Some people chose to come to the weekly group sessions and found their social well-being from that. Others chose to do their new exercise with friends or family and built up their social interaction that way. On the flip side, some people who came to their initial appointments were feeling particularly down because they had stopped exercising with their partner/friend, starting the programme having lost out on all 3 aspects of health that they once had.  But, by taking part in Let’s Get Moving, they were able to regain them all.

We know we need to move more, but rarely do we consider the wider benefits.  I enjoy exercise because of how it makes me feel, giving me endorphins and a sense of achievement.  Right now I am 37 weeks pregnant and had to give up running when I was 20 weeks pregnant. This has been a huge personal challenge for me, as I have lost out big time on the mental well-being I was getting from running, and because I’m not out and about at events all the time, I am really missing that bit of social interaction that I didn’t realise I needed.  I’ve found it incredibly isolating, and I can’t wait to get back to it. Yes, I’ll be slower than I used to be, and I won’t have as much muscle tone, and I will probably have to stop and walk a lot more than I used to, but these negatives are nothing compared to what I’ll gain from getting back out there and moving as my body is supposed to.

What I hope that Colchester has gained from Let’s Get Moving is to overcome all those fears we have about doing more exercise, and enjoy the benefits, and most importantly enjoy the benefits of the process of exercise, and not just the outcomes.  After all, we’re looking for lifestyle changes and not a quick fix. So, whilst losing weight may be a valid goal, once you hit your target, you still need to keep moving so that you continue to gain the wider benefits. What I’ve gained from Let’s Get Moving is a wider understanding of the challenges people face when starting their exercise journey.  Many of the patients I’ve met are quite different to the typical client I would have had in a gym environment, where they have already overcome many of their fears before they come into contact with me.  It has also made me even more passionate about the need for each and everyone of us to do as much as we each individually can to maintain our health, so that the NHS can remain for those who truly need it.

So remember what you’ve learnt from Let’s Get Moving, you’re capable of so much more than you think you are and it only takes one step in the right direction to get you going. Let’s Get Moving was that first step, you got moving, it’s time for the next step.

Let’s Keep Going!