22.03.16
Health & wellbeing

High-risk patients given access to fitness programmes on the NHS

Woman in yellow top measuring waist

Overweight individuals will be offered personal training sessions, exercise classes and nutritional advice in a new national programme to combat type 2 diabetes and obesity, which health officials label “one of the biggest health challenges of our time”. 

Under the plans, GPs will identify up to 100,000 high risk individuals who would benefit from the £320 course to help them lose weight and reduce the risk of serious illnesses. The programmes, which will be funded by the NHS, are set to launch in Spring with the aim to help 20,000 people by the end of this year in 27 areas around England. It is intended to rollout across the rest of the country over four years with up to 100,000 people enrolled in the plan until 2020 and from then an estimated 100,00 people will be offered places every year.  

Who will qualify?

Unsurprisingly, the news has sparked controversy for many people who currently pay for personal trainers, gym memberships and dietary advice. However, it’s not as simple as handing out free PT sessions for everyone who is overweight, and therefore GPs will be in charge of identifying high risk individuals who qualify for the support. 

Local GPs will identify individuals who are at the high risk of developing the disease and put them forward for a suitable intervention programme. For instance, people with high blood sugar levels could be offered at least 13 ‘education and exercise sessions’ of up to two hours, spread over nine months. People who are at an extreme risk of developing the diabetes in the immediate future will be offered access to guided support, such as personal training exercise programs and nutritional plans. 

Will it work?

As mentioned earlier, if it was as simple as telling people to more move and eat less then obesity and Type 2 diabetes wouldn’t be a national epidemic. However, as the programme focuses on high-risk individuals, rather than those who currently have the condition, the intervention may be enough to prevent the disease before it is too late. 

During a pilot, high risk individuals took part in two exercise classes a week which included high intensity and interval training, in addition to educational sessions regarding healthy diet and lifestyle choices. The pilot was successful with 100% of the participants losing weight and more than half reducing their risk of diabetes. 

Maintaining weight loss can reverse diabetes 

Green apples

A recent study by Newcastle university, published in the Journal Diabetes Care, suggests that people who were able to reverse diabetes, through a low calorie diet, could keep the condition at bay for the rest of their lives if they kept their weight down. 

In the study, 30 volunteers with Type 2 diabetes ate a diet of 600-700 calories a day, and on average they lost around two stone and did not regain the weight. Overall, 12 patients who had suffered with the condition for less than 10 years reversed the condition and remained diabetes free even six months later.  Despite the volunteers remaining overweight, it suggests that the weight loss was enough to remove fat from the pancreas and allow normal insulin productions, Lead researcher Professor Roy Taylor said. He believes that the study proves that if people with Type 2 diabetes lose enough weight they will be able to stay diabetes free, as long as they keep the weight off for good. 

The study is certainly great news for diabetics, but its methodology is concerning. Sticking to a 700 calorie a day diet is incredibly dangerous, especially if you are extremely overweight, and you could be putting yourself at greater risk by embarking on such an extreme diet. People should always consult a doctor first before drastically changing their diet in any way to protect their health. 

Is this necessary?

While the interventions are reserved for high risk cases, it is worrying that the message filtering down to the average Brit is that having an expensive gym membership or hiring a personal trainer is the only way to make their health a priority. 

In actual fact, extensive evidence proves that you can lose weight, improve your strength and master the core elements of fitness without a gym or a trainer. While personal trainers are great for guidance and support, there is no reason why you need to spend a fortune paying for a set number of sessions to achieve great results.  

Amaven’s software connects you with a remote PT and provides you with a personalised exercise plan based on actual measurements and data, so you can work on your strengths and weaknesses with the supervision of a PT for a low cost subscription. The software also provides evidence of progress, with an individual fitness record to track changes and measure results. Click here to find an Amaven personal trainer and start your fitness journey today.