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Today (Friday 29 September) is World Heart Day, an opportunity to raise awareness about heart disease and the preventive measures in managing cardiovascular diseases.

In this blog, Mytime Active’s Active Lifestyles Programme Manager, Diane Friday, discusses HeartSmart, an exercise referral programme delivered within fitness and leisure facilities, that is designed to improve the health and wellbeing of those diagnosed or living with a heart condition.

“I just wanted to say a massive thank you for putting me back on track after the heart attack. Your classes are so important and should be compulsory, as the people who say ‘no’ don’t understand the positive impact your classes have, especially mentally, so you know you will recover fully. 

“Today is one year since the old ticker had a problem. I have been training for the Ride London 100 and have raised almost £900 for the British Heart Foundation so far. Please send my gratitude to the gang. Thank you again from all the thousands of people you have, and are, helping, we would be in a bad place without you.” Lew.

This young man has been attending the Phase 3 REES (Relaxation, Education and Exercise Sessions) programme by Mytime Active. The organisation has been involved with the Princess Royal University Hospital (part of the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust) for more than 20 years, partnering trained Exercise Specialists with the Trusts’ Cardiac Nurse Led team to deliver an eight-week exercise and education programme.

The team is able to deliver both this and the 12-week Cardiac Rehab programme, HeartSmart, which is currently commissioned by the South East London Integrated Care Board (SELICB), at Mytime Active leisure sites across the borough and is free of charge to participants. This enables people to be supported in the transition from the hospital back into the community for longer-term support, not just physically but emotionally after what can be both a scary, and often a traumatic, event. Peer support from other attendees, all there for similar reasons, is also a very important part of their recovery and it is all of these elements that are key in helping individuals get back on track after their cardiac event.

The HeartSmart programme receives over 250 referrals every year and around 70% of these go on to complete the entire programme. They receive an individual assessment and then join weekly sessions delivered by the team.  There is also the option for a gym session, where an individualised programme allows those who have been referred can exercise with some independence, but with the support of the centre instructors in a group or circuit-type session. This includes a group warm up and cool down and then two-minute stations with a variety of exercises to complete together.

These classes are made to be fun as well as focusing on rehabilitating participants back to their normal day-to-day lives, whatever that may be. Linking in with the NHS to provide this service to the community in a leisure centre setting, rather than a hospital, is a great way of making it accessible and less daunting.

After completing the HeartSmart course individuals are offered a choice of 12 different classes a week, run by Mytime Active’s exercise specialists within the health team, so support is always there for the long term, should they want it. Participants also have the option to go back into the mainstream programme of activities at this point, where they are offered an on-going concessionary Health Membership, as the programme recognises the importance of continued exercise for secondary prevention – with the goal to encourage people to remain more active, more often, for the longer term.

This pathway is truly remarkable and the HeartSmart team has had the privilege of being part of many journeys like Lew’s over the years.

To learn more about the HeartSmart programme, click here.

Mytime Active is a member of the ukactive Strategic Partner Group – find out more here.

Disclaimer: Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of ukactive.