Wellbeing, Nutrition and Exercise – lessons from NERS

Today, as part of my drill down in to local health and care services I visited the National Exercise Referral Scheme (NERS) at the local leisure centre and also saw the Community Wellbeing activities run in parallel by the Leisure Trust.

“The NERS runs at Merthyr Leisure centre and Aberfan and Merthyr Vale community centre is a Public Health Wales funded programme, providing clients who are at risk of developing chronic disease with professional support and encouragement to build more physical activity into their daily lives”.  Clients are referred in to the scheme and the accredited NERS instructors will design a programme suitable to each individual”. You can read more generally about NERS here.

Today in Merthyr I saw NERS rehabilitation circuits, nutritional and tai chi classes in action alongside the tennis and curling sessions of the Trust’s community wellbeing programme. There are over 30 NERS sessions per week ranging from Zumba to aqua gym.

Thank you for the really warm welcome from the participants that I met who had nothing but praise for the programme and the benefits it has given to them personally and socially. I was joined on this visit by Rhys Taylor from the British Lung Foundation who strongly support the scheme due to the benefits that arise for people with lung conditions.

Earlier this year I wrote a piece for the Welsh Fabians about Wellbeing in all policies. You can read it here – these NERS and community wellbeing activities reflect this thinking as they are taking action to improve the lives of the participants, improving the overall wellbeing in our communities and reducing pressure (and costs) for our NHS. The benefits the scheme delivers are:

  • Weight management,
  • Reduce blood pressure,
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes,
  • Reduce the risk of some cancers,
  • Reduce stress and anxiety,
  • Improve mental and social wellbeing,
  • Increase energy,
  • Improve strength, mobility, coordination and balance; and
  • Improved health and wellbeing.

These benefits are well evidenced and what an inspiring story it provides. The scheme requires each participating individual to also commit to regular attendance so that the benefits of the programme can be achieved.

So what did I learn?

The benefits of the NERS scheme are well evidenced and what an inspiring story it provides. The scheme requires each participating individual to also commit to regular attendance so that the benefits of the programme can be achieved. When they do the benefits are clealry significant for each individual.

The visit did challenge some of my own perceptions which is always a good thing. The activities are more wide ranging than I thought and the participants have a wider range of conditions than I realised. I noted some interesting process issues around the referral of records from the ‘medical’ world to NERS that I will follow up. I also took on board the message that the scheme could move to a more family centred approach so that the wellbeing of more people is addressed.

The work of the Leisure Trust in promoting inclusive wellbeing activities alongside the NERS programme was a good initiative and I will visit the Trust again for a further discussion.  I noted that improving communication with health professionals about these wellbeing opportunities is important.

The visit also reinforced that basic and consistent message for all of us, irrespective of our current health condition, we can benefit from incorporating regular exercise and improved nutrition in to our daily lives. That is our responsibility, and the contribution we can make, to securing increased wellbeing in our community.

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