GP exercise referral scheme from Vivacity  

Eleven years ago, at the age of 48, Kevin Miles suffered a heart attack. Now he’s turned his life around and is the healthiest he has ever been, thanks to regular fitness classes and Vivacity’s GP Referral Scheme. Toby Venables reports

‘I go to the gym at Vivacity Premier Fitness Mondays and Fridays,’ says Kevin. ‘Then on Tuesday and Thursday go to classes run by Martin Smith and Sarah Leadbetter, and on Wednesday I go to the Cardiac and Respiratory class at the Hampton Leisure Centre.’

It’s a far cry from how life was 11 years ago, when his heart attack hit. ‘My job was a sedentary one. My only exercise was walking into town to get my supply of ciggies!’ There is a history of heart problems in Kevin’s family. His grandfather suffered from angina, and his father had had a heart attack just nine months before Kevin did. But still he hadn’t expected it to happen to him.

‘It was completely out of the blue,’ he says. ‘I just woke up one morning with chest pains, feeling like death. Like an idiot, I went to work, but soon felt so bad I had to come back home. It was my dad who told me to go to the doctor. The GP wasn’t very happy with me – he realised I was having a heart attack and sent me straight to hospital. Luckily, it was a minor one, but I really should have gone straight there. That’s the benefit of hindsight!’

That heart attack was Kevin’s wake-up call – as he puts it: ‘the kick up the backside to get fit’. Anyone in their 40s or 50s who feel it’s a bit late in the day to start getting fit should heed Kevin’s example. When I speak to him he’s just come back from the gym, and describes what’s involved in his Wednesday Cardiac and Respiratory class: ‘It’s an exercise circuit that involves 16 stations, including step ups and step downs, running, walking, spin bikes, wall presses, squats, exercises with resistance bands and a minute on the punch bag. It’s pitched specifically for people with diagnosed heart conditions or breathing problems such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease.’

This class is one of a range of specialist classes offered under Vivacity’s GP Referral Scheme, each of which is geared specifically to those with health conditions who may find exercising a challenge. The weekly classes are available at reduced rates for anyone who lives a sedentary or physically inactive lifestyle, consisting of less than 150 minutes of activity per week. They also present an opportunity to meet and socialise people with who suffer from similar conditions.

‘There are people at the class I go to of various abilities,’ explains Kevin. ‘You work as hard as you feel capable of doing. I’ve actually been doing this sort of thing for 11 years, so now I’m fairly fit.’ In fact, he reckons he’s the fittest he has ever been since leaving school. ‘I notice the difference when I walk into town and back. I don’t feel it. Just a few years ago when I did that, I’d get back home feeling absolutely knackered…’

Kevin has become so keen on keeping fit over the years that he now attends classes every weekday. He went to Vivacity Premier Fitness the first day it opened and became a member on the spot. ‘I worked out that membership was going to be better for me, and when I saw all the facilityies I just thought “Why not?” Now I can go to any of the six Vivacity gyms or three pools and get free entry to any of the exercise classes.’

For Kevin, his time spent at the gym has literally transformed his life. ‘Last time I went to have my annual review at the cardiac clinic, the nurse was very pleased with me,’ he says. ‘She was positively beaming!’ And that, after all, is exactly the sort of expression you want on the face of your cardiac nurse.

GP referral scheme programme
Programmes covering a wide range of health conditions are available at Hampton Leisure Centre in a private studio environment, and classes are at the reduced rate of just £2.50. Teas and coffees are served after every session where you can relax and chat in a friendly setting.

■ Obesity, Diabetes and Hypertension Programme Every Monday, 10.45am – 11.45am This is for you if you have a BMI of 25 or above, hypertension, diabetes type 1 or 2 or a family history of heart disease.
■ Increasing Mobility Programme Every Tuesday, 10.45am – 11.45am The increasing mobility programme is to help those with limited mobility, this could include those who have suffered injury and are post physiotherapy.
■ Cardiac and Respiratory Programme Every Wednesday, 12.30pm – 1.15pm The cardiac respiratory programme is available to those with asthma, emphysema, coronary obstructive pulmonary disease or heart disease.
■ Musculoskeletal Programme Every Thursday, 11.00am – 12.00pm For those suffering from arthritis, osteo-arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis.
■ Dementia and Alzheimer’s Every Thursday, 1.45pm – 2.45pm This class is sensitive to those with specific needs who may be living with depression, anxiety, stress-related illnesses, dementia or Alzheimer’s.
■ Stroke Rehabilitation Every Monday 11.00am-12.00pm Specifically focused on the needs of stroke survivors, to help them regain control and improve their quality of life. Please note: This scheme is not for you if you have unstable angina, unstable hypertension, unstable diabetes, severe coronary heart disease or early post myocardial infarction/coronary artery bypass graft/angioplasty, unstable/severe mental health problems or are in the late stages of pregnancy. Speak to your GP if you are unsure – exercise instructors reserve the right to refuse to support any patient whom they feel unqualified or unconfident to deal with. control and improve their quality of life.

You can complete a self referral form online at or print a GP referral form and speak to your healthcare professional about your condition at your local surgery.

For more information you can speak to an advisor on 01733 864 764 or email in confidence.

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