“EXERCISE is more powerful than any drug,” was the message from local GP Jane Harvey at a Live Active event.
Dr Harvey, whose practice is in Dukinfield, was speaking at Active Medlock where the success of the programme was celebrated.
And there was a chance to hear some of the life-changing stories from around 2,700 individuals who had taken part since the referral scheme was launched in June 2015. It is delivered by a team of nine.
Those who have benefited included David Howard, 64, from Greenacres and formerly of Mossley, who struggles with balance due to an incurable nerve problem between his brain and spine.
He says his life has been transformed since he took part in the programme that is run by Active Tameside that is a charity.
David, who attends Active Copley, explained: “My doctors cannot believe the improvement in my condition.
“While there is no cure, exercise will slow it down. If I don’t do anything, I will end up in a wheelchair.
“I do 10 classes each week and feels tonnes better. It has improved my quality of life.”
David, who used to be keen at martial arts attaining a black belt, fourth dan in ju-jitsu, admitted his life was difficult in the two years before his diagnosis.
He continued: “I was told to go to the gym initially, but that didn’t work. When I had a scan, no problem showed up.
“I was getting stressed and fell out with family and friends and there were times when I felt like killing myself.”
Mark Tweedy, Active Tameside’s CEO, described it as “trailblazing” and a way of combatting an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.
“There are other similar programmes in the UK but nobody does it better than Tameside,” he explained.
Live Active’s mantra is “inspiring people to live well and feel great”.
Kim Roberts, who manages Live Active, pointed out it improves life expectancy and reduces inactivity.
She explained: “The fact we had 2,700 referrals to the service is testimony about how it works.
“Around 70 per cent completed the course and 86 per ceny remarked it had improved their quality of life and 57 per cent perceived a noticeable improvement in their fitness.
“Most were inactive when they came to us, but by the time they left they were doing an average of 170 minutes exercise each week.”
Angela Hardman, Tameside Council’s director of population, health, has worked with Mr Tweedy to set up the initiative.
She said: “It is a fabulous grassroots scheme that improves people’s health and wellbeing.
“GPs, physios and health visitors can make referrals and it is a programme of intervention.
“And its success is down to the ability to keep hold of them to gain the maximum benefit”
Dr Harvey is a great advocate of the scheme – as are all the medical practices in Stalybridge – which is an alternative to taking tablets.
She said: “When patients see their doctor it is usually because of a crisis or illness, but more power should be given to initiatives like Live Active.
“This programme can change lifestyles and even reverse the risk of developing diabetes so enhances lives.
“It is about the integration of the services, selfcare and allowing people to enjoy their lives and not rely on medicine.
“You don’t have to run marathons, but it is a case of doing little activities.”