A healthier lifestyle is just what the doctor ordered

Patients who could benefit from more physical activity are getting the push they need with help from their GP and Sport Waikato.

Former dance teacher Vicki and her previously-sporty husband Jeff were young grandparents struggling to maintain healthy habits with a busy work life. 

"We started grabbing lunch on the run, a takeaway every so often because it was easier at the end of a busy day.  We were tired and had no time for a walk or any exercise.  It all stated to take its toll," says Vicki.

"With gestational diabetes diagnosed many years ago, a gain in weight and an inactive lifestyle, my GP introduced Jeff, who has type 2 diabetes, and I to Green Prescription back in February last year. That's how we met Barb Gaylor, our active and well coordinator from Sport Waikato."

Sport Waikato is funded by the Ministry of Health to provide free support to patients over a three to four month period as part of the general Green Prescription programme.  Midlands Health Network funds an additional 200 enhanced Green Prescriptions, more in-depth support over at least six months for high-needs patients such as Vicki and Jeff.     

"We talked with Barb about our current lifestyle, health issues, eating habits, our long term goals and the types of exercise we might enjoy.  We then agreed on a plan forward. Barb's nursing background, nutritional guidance, brochures and her supportive phone calls and visits started us on our weight loss mission.  She kept us honest and focussed.  Barb's visits have now finished, but her advice was always solid, non-judgmental, and it made a lasting impression."

Jeff has lost 16 kilos and dropped two waist sizes in trousers.  He can now stop taking some of his medication on his GP's advice, and he had a wonderful report from his cardiologist. He is walking every day and always has an achievable goal ahead; the next half marathon or 'round the lake' relay. He feels so much better with far more energy; he has a real bounce in his step.

I have lost nine kilos and dropped two dress sizes.  I am walking too and have found this to be a therapeutic form of exercise. My weight loss is slow and steady but I am happy with this, as I feel my real achievement is in evaluating nutritional value and portion control.

Barb says 20 Pinnacle medical centres across Waikato can refer patients to the Enhanced Green Prescription programme.

"It's great to have the Green Prescription programme available for GPs to refer patients to.  We often under-estimate the positive effect of physical activity on general health and well-being, so we need to consider the patient's lifestyle overall rather than just the health issue they've come to see their GP about," says Barb. 

Barb says the key to maintaining a healthy lifestyle is to make improvements to everyday habits rather than attempting drastic changes. 

"It's too hard if we bombard patients with a lot of demands. We need to be careful about what our expectations are.  If they start having breakfast every day and doing two-three lots of exercises a week, this is a major change, even though it may not sound impressive."

"Sometimes I'll run into people at the supermarket or at a class and they're making healthier decisions.  It's great to see patients acting on the information we've provided them when the time is right."

Photo:  Barb Gaylor (with red elastic band) and the team at Sport Waikato specialise in introducing new ways to stay healthy. 

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