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Physical activity referral programmes for people with health conditions

Physical activity referral programmes for people with health conditions

Physical activity referral programmes, who can do them, how they can help you and how they work.

We run physical activity and exercise programmes in partnership with local leisure centres and sports organisations for people with specific health conditions.

The aim of these programmes is for people with specific health conditions to achieve the Department of Health’s recommended 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity a week. This is any physical activity that:

  • increases your heart rate
  • makes you breathe faster
  • feel hotter
  • be slightly breathless

Who can do the programmes

You can take part in these programmes if:

  • you're over 16
  • you’re not very physically active, so you do less than 90 minutes of moderate physical activity per week
  • you have a stable medical condition: see the list below
  • your health professional thinks you’ll benefit from regular physical exercise and has access to your medical notes

Your health professional can refer you onto the right programme or explain how to join one yourself. 

What  programmes you can do

Depending on your health condition, you could do the:

The type of programme you could do will depend on if your condition is considered low, medium or high risk by your health professional. 

Low risk health conditions

These include:

  • being overweight, obese or underweight with no other medical conditions
  • high normal blood pressure: between 130/85 to 139/89
  • type 2 diabetes, diet controlled
  • raised cholesterol
  • stress or mild anxiety
  • mild or moderate depression
  • mild skeletal and muscular injuries

Medium risk health conditions

These include:

  • blood pressure stage 2 and below: more than 160/100 
  • type 2 diabetes, medication controlled
  • type 1 or type 2 diabetes, insulin dependent 
  • osteoarthritis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  • stroke or ‘mini stroke’, also called a transient ischaemic attack
  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • fibromyalgia
  • back pain

High risk health conditions

These include:

  • a cardiac event that results in phase 3 or 4 cardiac rehabilitation 
  • cancer
  • Excluded health conditions
  • You won’t be able to take part in the programmes if you have these health conditions:
  • very high blood pressure, more than 160/100
  • claudication, artery disease that causes leg cramps
  • unstable angina
  • acute heart failure
  • acute respiratory disease

You also can’t take part if you’re pregnant or receiving palliative health care.

How the programmes can help you

Regular exercise and activity can:

  • improve your mood
  • help you manage your weight
  • lower blood pressure
  • increase your lung capacity 
  • reduce the risk of developing other health problems like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, breast cancer or dementia
  • help you stay mobile and continue to do daily tasks

You’ll get the most benefits from the programme if you go at least twice a week. 

How the programmes work

When you join a physical activity programme, you’ll need to:

  • attend your scheme regularly
  • visit your health professional after 12 weeks to talk about the effect of the scheme on your health and physical activity levels and how you can keep active and exercising after you finish the scheme
  • go to any health checks or follow ups  if your instructor asks you to
  • give us feedback about any changes to your condition or your experience doing the programme