Hilary Gilligan was referred by her GP to her local co-ordinator, Aisling Harris, who is based in Bundoran Seaweed Baths and Wellness Centre, Co. Donegal.
They are both pictured here out for a good old dander.
And Hilary had a very positive experience of the programme.
She told donegaldaily.com: “I thought that ‘enjoy’ is not a word that I usually associate with exercise. At the beginning of the 12 weeks I would have said that I was lazy and the thought of getting up off the couch and going out for a walk was not enjoyable to me.
“But now, at the end of the programme, I find myself saying that walking is my favourite form of exercise. I still have to organise and encourage myself to do it but the enjoyment of it is so much more visible, tangible experience in my mind.
“My GP exercise coordinator and I made a “Plan B” for the days when I feel really lazy and low, so that I can reward myself for small steps, and this works really well for me.
“It also helps boost my self esteem and protects me from feeling guilty for not committing to the original plan. Keeping an exercise diary also works well for me. I note the days that I don’t do any exercise and I sit with my coordinator who encourages and finds a solution to the reason I didn’t on that particular day, and then we come up with alternative activities for future days of the same kind.
“She has been very supportive and understanding on all levels. I have learned to be more aware of the amount of exercise I take, learning to make time for it and prioritise it in my weekly routine.”
GPs in the area have been recruited by the HSE’s Health Promotion Service, and patients are now being directly referred from their GPs to the local leisure facilities as part of the Exercise Referral Programme.
Liz Martin, Health Promotion Officer, HSE West, and one of the organisers of the programme in the North West, says; “Each patient is referred to a qualified Local Coordinator who guides them through a 12-week physical activity programme. The Local Coordinator offers behaviour change intervention, specialist advice about physical activity and disease as well as motivational support.
Each patient is provided with an activity programme individually tailored for them that can be home, community or leisure facility-based or a combination of all three. The patient does not have to attend the leisure facility for activity sessions if they do not want to.
Patients referred by their GPs pay for three assessments over the 12 week programme (€10-15 per assessment). If they choose a programme based in a leisure facility, then they will receive a 12 week membership at a discounted rate or a pay-as-you-go rate. By the end of the 12 weeks, the patient has developed the skills to independently maintain a physically active lifestyle.
To ensure patient safety and the effectiveness of the programme, Leisure Professionals are required to obtain the ‘Local Coordinator Certificate’ awarded through successful completion of the GP Exercise Referral National Training Course. This course is the only qualification recognised by the HSE, Irish College of General Practitioners and ILAM and is compulsory for anyone wishing to deliver the programme.
Liz Martin, Health Promotion Officer said: “Up to 41% of Irish people are sedentary and this programme specifically targets these people. The Health Promotion Team is responsible for GP recruitment, ongoing support to the local GPs and co-ordinators, as well as the provision of promotional packs and GP referral resources.”
Being physically active is one of the most important steps people of all ages can take to improve their health. If you are currently inactive and would like support in becoming more active, then ask your GP to refer you to one of the local GP exercise referral coordinators.
- Bundoran Seaweed Baths & Wellness Centre; Aisling Harris (087) 6824044.