Coming to the gym has helped me lift my arm as well as my spirits
Mary, 69, from Stretford, has struggled with poor health since the late 1990’s. However, since joining the classes at the George H Carnall Leisure Centre she is feeling so much better about herself. She says: “As soon as I walk through the leisure centre doors, I feel my spirits lifting, I’m so happy to be there, seeing my new friends and fitness instructors.”
Back in the 1990’s Mary suffered an inflammation of the brain, which forced her into a wheelchair, and to give up her beloved career as a nurse. She spent five years in a wheelchair feeling overwhelmed by the condition. There was a further health set back in 2016 when Mary suffered a stroke that affected her speech and her strength and mobility on the left hand side of her body.
Whilst recovering from the stroke she attended physiotherapy sessions at hospital. It was her physiotherapist that referred Mary to Trafford Leisure’s Falls Prevention classes, ‘Step Up’, at the George H Carnall Leisure Centre. Mary started attending these classes in March 2016 and was astounded at her physical improvement. She says: “I’m healthier now than before the stroke, I’m speaking much more clearly and I am physically much stronger. I have much more movement too! I also feel more confident in my body’s abilities and balance. I’m now using just one walking stick at the gym, and feel secure enough on my feet to use two crutches when I’m out and about in my daily life.”
The Step Up Programme organised by Rachael Forde, Active Living Manager, is an eight-week low impact physical activity programme designed specifically to improve strength, balance, flexibility and endurance, to help manage day to day tasks and build confidence. Exercises include heel to toe walking, flamingo leg swing, single leg balances and body weight transfer movements.
Rachael has a Postural Stability Instructor (PSI), Level Four qualification, and the classes she teaches are a combination of Falls Management Exercises (FAME) and the Otago Programme, which are a set of leg muscles strengthening and balance restraining exercises proven to reduce falls. Rachael says: “In a safe and supervised environment we teach an exercise called ‘backwards chaining’ which is a sequence of movements combined together to help practice getting down to the floor safely. Once learnt, in reverse it can be used as a safe and effective way to get up from the floor. Practising these exercises could be potentially lifesaving, and certainly helps to keep people out of hospital.”
After completing the Falls Prevention course, Mary graduated onto the ‘Next Steps’ Class and also tried out some gym equipment with her friend, another Mary, who she met through the sessions. They have become firm friends since meeting.
Rachael Forde says: “I really enjoy having Mary in my classes. She’s a popular ladyand is very much a regular. As part of her Activity Referral I showed Mary around the centre and discussed what exercises would be the most beneficial for her, taking into consideration her specific medical requirements. The Next Steps class is a simple circuit session to music, which myself and Ryan Thomas, Fitness Instructor & Falls Coordinator, organise every Friday. Mary has gone from strength to strength and I’m delighted with her progress.”
Mary concludes: “When you have poor health, it’s very easy to become disheartened and isolated. I’ve always surrounded myself with people, but I still sometimes got low. I’m so much happier since joining the gym; not only do I feel stronger and more mobile, but I’m sleeping better and I feel much more confident. I’ve made some lovely new friends and I look forward to seeing them every week. We have a real giggle in the classes, they are a great bunch. Rachael and Ryan reassure us to take everything at our own pace. They don’t even seem to mind some of our more unusual music requests including Twist and Shout and even Shirley Bassey!”