How exercise physiologists can help you

The exercise physiologist helping patients make permanent lifestyle change

Two exercise physiologists explain how they help people with heart conditions to exercise safely as part of a cardiac rehabilitation programme.

Cardiac rehabilitation begins while patients are still in hospital, explains Hayley Evans, who is part of the award-winning team at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust.

A member of the team visits each patient on the ward and talks to them about what has happened, their medications and how to make healthy lifestyle changes. They also explain the rehab programme.

“Some people are concerned about starting to exercise, so we explain that it is individually tailored and built around their personal goals,” Hayley says. The ward visit is followed by an hour-long clinic session within the first month. This goes into more detail about behaviour changes, medications, wellbeing and anything else patients want to discuss. The clinic also arranges when and where people will attend exercise and education sessions. At the first of these, staff work one-to-one with each patient.

We encourage people to choose their own exercises

“Some people have never been in a gym before,” says Hayley. “We show them all the machines and how they work. We go through warming up and cooling down. We reassure them that it is safe to exercise, as their main concern is normally how far it is safe to push themselves.

“As they progress through the course, they learn how to use the machines on their own and we encourage them to choose their own exercises. This way, it is easier for them to continue themselves after the programme.”

Weekly sessions are run in local gyms, but patients can choose alternative activities, including an aqua aerobics class. There’s a special class for people facing greater limitations too, helping them regain mobility for day-to-day activities.

Nicola Heath, also an exercise physiologist, explains that patients have different options. “We have a home programme of exercises for any patients who don’t want to or aren’t able to come to the sessions,” she says. “We can do a clinic over the phone if necessary, so they can tell us how they are getting on and if there are any problems.”

The course finishes with a progress review. “We review how they feel and whether they have achieved the goals set at the beginning, and what to do next,” Nicola says.

Participants can keep going to the gym, either for a small charge or sometimes funded by the local council. “We link with different walking groups as well, so if the gym isn’t their thing, they have other options,” says Nicola.

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