Date: 24 January 2022 Author: Energise Me
The last 2 years of COVID-19 have disproportionately impacted those of us living with long term health conditions. Through our Investing in Communities project, we were able to support Breathe Easy Isle of Wight’s ‘Keep Active’ sessions for people with lung conditions.
The sessions have been vital to supporting participants health and wellbeing. We spoke to three participants who told us what a difference the sessions have made to them.
Breathe Easy Isle of Wight normally raises money from fundraising events and donations, which wasn’t possible through the whole of 2020 and into 2021. It is this fundraising work that enables the group to support the delivery of the Keep Active programme – Keep Active Move More (exercise classes) and Keep Active Relax More (breathing and relaxation exercise classes).
Attending weekly exercise classes led by a trained Level 4 Respiratory Exercise Specialist is of huge benefit to those living with chronic lung conditions. The physical activity element helps improve strength, aerobic capacity, balance and breathing and the social aspect of being with others with the same or similar conditions is so important for motivation, confidence and mental wellbeing.
Alongside the loss of fundraising income, the pandemic also forced several changes that increased Keep Active’s hall hire costs. Sessions moved from church halls to more modern community centre buildings that offered larger, better ventilated, safer spaces.
Some sessions used to be held in the hospital’s purpose-built gym, a venue provided free of charge, but Covid-19 related factors meant that the facility was no longer available. A replacement venue had to be found and paid for.
Due to the national lockdown and restrictions, all Breathe Easy Isle of Wight classes stopped running between March and August 2020. Classes resumed in September but were suspended again in November 2020 lockdown.
Before the pandemic, 80 to 90 people (out of 120 registered) attended classes each week. Around 65 returned to the classes in September 2020 but another 15-20 were hesitant to return, preferring to wait until a vaccine was available.
Under our’s Investing in Communities programme Breathe Easy Isle of Wight secured Sport England funding that enabled them to restart Keep Active sessions at three venues in May 2021, one in July, and run them for 24 weeks, giving the organisation time to reactivate its fundraising activities.
Everyone welcomed the return of the classes. We spoke to three participants who told us what a difference it has made to them.
I don’t think I would be walking if it wasn’t for Andy and the classes.
Carol - Breathe Easy, Keep Active Member
I moved to the Isle of Wight in 2012 and started the classes shortly after in 2013. In 2013 I was quite ill and ended up hospitalized. As a result, I had to go to physiotherapy. That’s where I learnt about the classes. Andy came in and did a talk, backed by the hospital and my physio.
His talk made me think “there’s something to this exercise malarkey. I joined the classes straight after and have been going ever since. It’s coming up to 8 years now.
We do standard exercises. Standing up, sitting down sort of thing. I go to two classes a week. It means I get to mix with two different groups of people. Everyone is really great and we all get on. We chat to each other and support one another. There is a communication side to the class, a comradery if you will.
We all enjoy the exercise side of the class just as much as the social though. I don’t think I would be walking if it wasn’t for Andy and the classes. I can see the impact on my abilities. Everyone can. One thing everyone has to overcome no matter what illness they’ve had is fear. If you’ve been through rehab, then you’ve worked through it but its vital to continue.
Since going to the classes I have done so much I don’t think I would have been able to without going to them. They keep you walking and enjoying life. I’ve been up the top of Saint Paul’s Cathedral and we went to Mont Saint-Michel. The classes have given me the confidence to do new things. Something I think people need even more after lockdown.
COVID had a massive impact as the classes had to stop. I got a case of can’t be bothered itus. I think a lot of people did. I started off well but as time went on it got harder and harder. It was relentless, no change to everyday.
Going back to classes has been brilliant. It was a step in the right direction to getting people’s confidence back. I had no nerves or worries, we were all just happy to see each other. In the first week back we exercised our jaws more than anything else!
You feel good because everybody is in the same position as you.
Ken - Breathe Easy, Keep Active Member
I have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), I’ve had it for quite a few years now and I was advised to go to the classes after I was in the hospital. They said it would probably do me good. It definitely has. I feel a lot fitter, as good as I can be considering.
When you’re in the classes it’s a psychological thing as well as physical. There’s a social side too, you feel good because everybody is in the same position as you.
I’ve been going for six or seven years now and I thoroughly enjoy it. The exercise definitely makes a difference to what I am able to do in everyday life. I’ll never be 100% again, I have 25% lung capacity but the classes help me be a little bit better.
In lockdown it was tough. Andy gave us things we could do at home but it’s hard to make yourself do it. You think you are going to do it but then you don’t do as much as you should. I did a few bits but then life gets in the way. When you have a set time to go out and do something its easier. It’s in your diary. It’s harder when you have to motivate yourself.
We were shielding during lockdown so it was particularly hard. At Christmas our family came round in the garden and we passed the presents through the window.
I am thoroughly enjoying being back at the sessions. It’s really good to be able to see everyone again. I didn’t have any nerves about returning. Andy makes everyone so welcome, it’s more like a social meeting. We have a good chat.
Unfortunately there have been less people in the sessions I go to since we returned. I think it’s because people’s routines have changed. A lot of people are going to a different timed session than they did before COVID.
The hardest thing is getting myself out the door, but once I am there I know I will feel better for doing it.
Velma - Breathe Easy, Keep Active Member
I’m 77 and I have COPD. My breathing isn’t very good at all. I heard about the Keep Active classes through a lady who used to come into the shop I worked in. She suggested I started going with her and I did. It was nice to have someone to go with to start with. She’s stopped going eventually but I don’t mind going on my own. Everyone in the class is very nice.
I like the classes because they are sociable. It’s like a family down there. The exercises are something I could do at home but I never have the motivation. It’s hard to make yourself do it at home. It’s easier to have somewhere to go out to and be active.
During lockdown I ended up doing no exercise. I brought an exercise bike to try and keep me moving. I used it for the first few weeks and haven’t touched it since. If there was someone here to do it with then maybe I would, but there isn’t.
I was a little worried going back to the classes after lockdown but it’s very safe. They are held in a big hall and all the doors are left open. We wipe everything down with antibacterial wipes.
The hardest thing is getting myself out the door, but once I am there I know I will feel better for doing it. I see benefits when I go and lots of people in the classes have improved a lot by going.