Health leaders welcome lockdown weight-loss and exercise success stories

  • 25 September 2020

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Health leaders in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire have welcomed new figures that show that more than a third of local people increased their physical activity during lockdown and encourage others to do the same to protect their health.

Data from the Healthier Together Citizens’ Panel* revealed that 37% of people in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire increased their levels of physical activity since the Covid-19 outbreak, with 35% saying they did the same amount and 21 % said they did less.

NHS Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG (BNSSG CCG) which is part of Healthier Together, is encouraging everyone to look at ways to increase their physical activity and make healthy eating choices which they can maintain throughout the year.

CCG Medical Director and GP Dr Martin Jones from the CCG said: “It’s really great to see that so many people have increased and maintained physical activity, even during the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. Whether it’s a regular walk, run, cycle or exercises indoors, it all helps to boost and maintain fitness.

“Getting regular exercise is one of the best things we can do to keep ourselves fit and well. It’s an essential part of keeping our weight at a healthy level and helps to boost our immune systems which protects us from infection. It’s also a great way to lift our mental health as getting out into the fresh air and getting the blood pumping releases feel-good hormones.”

Case study 1

Alan Thoburn, 75, from Thornbury was among those who took the opportunity to make changes to his lifestyle during the pandemic. He lost more than two stone during lockdown by following calorie-controlled recipes and went for daily for walks with his wife Mary. Alan suffered with knee pain but since losing weight is finding it a lot less painful to walk.

He said: “I knew I was overweight and had wanted to do something about it for some time. When lockdown started we stopped going to the pub for drinks and meals so I used it as a chance to lose some weight. It would have been hard to do it alone but Mary helped by cooking low calorie meals and we cut down on bread and started eating more pasta and fruit and vegetables. The weight started to come off gradually and Mary also lost some weight without really trying. I always used to walk but had knee pain but I noticed my knees were less painful as the weight came off. We walked every day during lockdown and I’ve continued, walking three to four miles a day.

“I am so glad I have done it and don’t want to want put it back on again, I feel I have changed for life and got used to eating smaller portions. I used to have trouble doing up my shoes but now I don’t, the only problem I have is I have to buy some new clothes now!”

Case Study 2

Mike Dick, a retired PE teacher from Bristol was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes 12 years ago. Since then he has successfully gone into remission through diet changes and exercise and is now a mentor with Bristol-based charity Brigstowe which supports people in BNSSG with long-term conditions.

Mike, 63, found out he had Type 2 diabetes through a routine health check. He said: “It was a big shock as I didn’t have the risk factors like being over-weight but my Dad was African-Caribbean and my mum was Asian which can put you in a higher risk group. I had a sweet tooth and needed to cut down on sugar. I also had a knee injury which stopped me doing so much exercise and meant I had to retire as a PE teacher.”

A knee-replacement operation seven years ago changed things dramatically for Mike as he was able to start exercising regularly again.

He said: “I had been quite sedentary before because of my knee pain, but after the operation I was able to exercise every day; riding my bike, walking and playing bowls. I also play and teach walking rugby and try to do something every day to get my heart rate up. I lost weight, felt fitter and I noticed I could exercise for longer. Just before lockdown I was told that I am now considered to be in remission from diabetes.”

Mike has mentored two people with Type 2 diabetes through Brigstowe, helping them to find ways to manage their condition and improve their health.

He said: “My first mentee told me that he had liked to cycle when he was younger but that he had stopped because he had pain in his feet and hips. I suggested we go for a bike ride together and at first we went very slowly but as time went on we went faster and he started to feel better.

“My second mentee was a woman who had back problems and used to go to aqua aerobics which she couldn’t do in lockdown, so I found her some exercises she could do at home on YouTube. Soon she was growing in confidence and doing more videos. She also liked to cook and I found her some recipes that could help her with her weight. Both of my mentees improved their blood sugar levels and lost weight, it is good to be able to help.”

Mike's tips to for managing diabetes are to try and exercise every day and to get your heart rate up. He also said you don’t have to give up your favourite food, just treat yourself once a week instead of everyday.

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