Get Healthwise this new year!

Get Healthwise this new year!

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is encouraging people with specific health conditions to join the Healthwise scheme – a free 12 week physical activity programme to get their new year off to a healthy start. The scheme is available at registered leisure centres and Healthy Living Centres (HLCs) within the Belfast and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust areas and is for people with certain health conditions who have been referred by their GP, nurse or other health professionals.

The scheme is suitable for those with:
• high blood pressure;
• a body mass index (BMI) of more than 25;
• asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD);
• diabetes;
• osteoporosis;
• hypertension;
• coronary heart disease and associated risk factors;
• anxiety;
• stress;
• depression.

Trained health and fitness staff at each centre are available to take people through the scheme over the 12 weeks. They will develop a physical activity referral programme to suit a person’s health needs and monitor any improvements to the person’s health. Some activities include walking, swimming, group activities and training in a fitness suite.

Government guidelines suggest that adults should take 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity physical activity, at least five times per week to gain a health benefit. Moderate activity will make you breathe faster, feel warmer and have a slightly faster heart beat.

On Monday 17 January 2011 a promotional day was held at the Grove Health and Wellbeing Centre, Belfast to raise awareness of the Healthwise programme. Staff were available to discuss how people can access the Heathwise programme and what is involved in the 12 week scheme.

Nicky McKee, Physical Activity Referral Officer, PHA said: “Many benefits can be gained from physical activity. We encourage everyone to get active, but for some people this isn’t always easy, especially those who already have health conditions. The Healthwise scheme is important because those on it can benefit from physical activity in a safe, friendly and warm environment, tailored to suit their health needs and beneficial to their overall health.”

Linda Little, a nurse practitioner at Grove Medical Practice who works with participants on the Healthwise scheme, said: “The Healthwise scheme has been a success at the Grove as, initially, some participants have been nervous about going to the gym, but once they join Healthwise, they have found physical activity enjoyable thanks to the scheme. We have found participants with a variety of problems, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease who have continued physical activity after the 12 weeks, which has made an overall improvement to their physical and mental health.”

Councillor Peter O’ Reilly, Chairman of the Parks and Leisure committee at Belfast City Council, added: “The Healthwise physical activity referral scheme has been one of our most successful partnerships with our fitness instructors dealing with around 1,000 people a year. It is a model of inter-agency cooperation and partnership between the council, the PHA, the Health and Social Care Trust and the Belfast Education and Library Board, and fulfils one of our key aims to help Belfast to be a healthier city. Each of our leisure centres has instructors trained in the scheme who are able to tailor the 12 week exercise programme to individuals’ needs.”

Caption: At the promotional day held at the Grove Health and Wellbeing Centre, Belfast, are back row from left, Nicky McKee, Physical Activity Referral Officer, PHA; Kareen Murray, Healthwise participant and Jana Leathem, Healthwise fitness instructor. Front row from left, Richard McMillan, Healthwise fitness instructor and Seamus Mullen, Head of Health Improvement and Wellbeing, PHA.

Notes to the editor

• The Public Health Agency (PHA) funds the Healthwise scheme.
• The Healthwise scheme lasts 12 weeks and is free of charge to the participant.
• For a list of leisure and Healthy Living Centres (HLCs) that run the Healthwise scheme, visit: