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Oldham Community Leisure (OCL) has launched REACH, a new online exercise option, targeted specifically at members of the community who may have reduced mobility, underlying health conditions or are new to exercise.

The exercise on referral scheme, and new virtual chair-based workouts, are being hosted live on Oldham Community Leisure’s Facebook page, three times a week at 11am. They have already been successful with up to 1,000 viewers per class.

The chair-based workouts are targeted primarily at OCL’s REACH clients, who usually attended tailored exercise classes at one of OCL’s leisure centre. Many have health conditions such as heart or lung disease, which means they are currently shielding at home. The online classes are being offered as a way to help these members and anyone else in the same situation to remain active in a safe, structured way that is suitable for their fitness level.

Jason Bailey, Health and Wellbeing Officer at OCL, said: “We’ve always been a community-orientated leisure trust. We are a lifeline for the community during normal times—now, residents need us even more. Most REACH clients are over 60 and have underlying conditions.

“The internet is awash with online workouts but I haven’t seen any that are pitched at the right level, intensity and duration for people with health issues so we decided to create our own that anyone, even people with chronic medical conditions, can safely follow.”

Once participants ‘like’ OCL’s Facebook page, they are automatically notified when a class starts. Classes run for 30 minutes and are a mix of cardiovascular and resistance training with lots of balance, mobility and flexibility exercises. Participants can do the exercises stood up, seated or a combination of both depending on their medical condition and current level of fitness.

Physically it is important, but socially it is vital. Bailey said: “Lots of our participants would come to classes just to see a friendly face during their week—that’s been taken away from them. We’ve noticed that having a session to log onto at a set time gives people some purpose—many REACH clients are bereaved so they’re stuck at home on their own.

“By providing an online version of our classes we can check in, ensure they’re ok and signpost them towards some additional help if they’re not.”

The classes are on offer, free of charge, to anyone wishing to give them a try.

Sharon was referred to REACH in 2019 after being diagnosed with Chronic Obstetric Pulmonary Disorder and, after her initial 16-week course, found her strength, stamina and sociability all increased. She said: “I have to shield due to my chronic condition so was thrilled to learn that I’d be able to do my exercise classes during lockdown.

“The live classes have enabled me to continue with my fitness programme and have also helped my mental health as I’ve been able to keep in contact with other people from the scheme.

“I was grateful to Jason for delivering me a resistance band free of charge to help me with the exercises we do in the live classes.”

Find all OCL’s online workouts on the Oldham Community Leisure website or Facebook page.

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