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NHS regional push to encourage more activity at home

People across the North East and Cumbria are set to benefit from a new health and fitness programme being launched this week.

Households across the region will have the HowFit (Home Wellbeing and Fitness) Plan instructional leaflet delivered to their homes over the next two weeks. The Plan is designed to help people improve their fitness and health which is important at any time but may also need a boost as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

With the aid of a website and printed booklet, HowFit encourages users of any ability, from chair based to fairly fit, to undertake a plan of simple exercises that can be carried out at home without the need for any special equipment.

The NHS programme was created by north east consultant physician, Dr Steve Parry, with exercises designed by personal trainer Phil Earley and physiotherapists Heidi Williams and Skye Owen – it demonstrates simple exercises to get you moving and improve your health.

Dr Parry says, “Being active is one of the best things you can do to look after your physical and mental health at any age, but especially as we grow older. No matter how old you are or which level you are at, some exercise is better than none, and it’s essential you build it into your daily life.

“I’ve witnessed at first hand the effects of people being less mobile during the pandemic and was keen to help get people moving again – especially those who don’t particularly like the kind of exercise promoted by fitness gurus and gyms.

“Exercise can cut down your risk of developing medical issues such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure, and can also reduce the chance that you could be admitted to hospital due to illness or an accident. Taking part in HowFit can improve your strength, flexibility, balance and stamina with the convenience of exercising in your own home at a time that suits you. No equipment is needed for HowFit, and it’s free.”

There’s a range of simple exercises divided into four categories focusing on mobility, strength, cardiovascular health and stability and balance and co-ordination, with videos and animations to help you get them right.

HowFit was created in 2020 in partnership with NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and NHS Newcastle Gateshead CCG, with leaflets in those areas delivered last autumn. However, following feedback from people who used HowFit, CCG’s across the region are now supporting the programme to be made available more widely, with over 1.4 million leaflets being delivered.

Jackie aged 72 years from North Tyneside already enjoys regular exercise by walking her dog. However, she found she had problems with her balance, Jackie was encouraged to participate in the HowFit programme to build up strength.  She saw definite improvements walking up and down her stairs at home which helped also improve her confidence as a result.

Jackie commented: “Whilst some of the exercises were basic, I still do them as a means to remain active. The exercises were brilliant and when you have done them you feel great”.

Derek, aged 73 also from North Tyneside is in good health but now finds that he is struggling with a lack of balance and diminished strength in his muscles. During lockdown Derek participated in an organised online HowFit session setting himself the goal to improve both his balance and increase his muscle strength. By following the steps in the HowFit plan he was soon able to perform the more challenging exercises. He has seen a real improvement in his physical strength, adding “my balance has improved too.”

The HowFit information leaflet will be distributed to households across the North East and North Cumbria in early September. More information can also be found on the HowFit website at www.howfittoday.co.uk.

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