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Cardiac and respiratory rehab classes
20 November 2017

Patient Alan Thrower, 67, being put through his paces during a class by pulmonary rehab physiotherapist Fenella Barnes.

Patients with respiratory and cardiac problems are receiving the help they need to manage their condition and improve their fitness thanks to a series of specialist rehabilitation classes taking place across Suffolk.

Staff providing NHS services within the community run two different sessions – one concentrating on pulmonary rehabilitation for patients with respiratory conditions, with a second focusing on cardiac rehab for those who have had a heart attack or heart surgery.

The classes are held at venues across the county, and begin with a circuit of targeted exercises such as heel raises, step ups and dumbbell curls, to help patients regain fitness. These are followed by educational sessions which teach people how to stay well, manage their condition effectively and avoid flare ups.

“Our pulmonary rehabilitation sessions are aimed at patients with conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), asthma and pulmonary fibrosis,” said Martin Sterry, senior physiotherapist. “When they start the course, we will assess their breathing and take any other conditions they may have into account before giving them a programme of tailored exercises to meet their needs.

“These sessions are really important and can have as big an impact on improving somebody’s quality of life as using an inhaler. They get people moving and out of the house, while also providing them with some really useful education about their condition and how to manage it so that they can avoid admission to hospital.

“Some of our patients have found the classes so helpful that they have set up their own follow up sessions to help members of their group to keep moving and stay well. That’s really good news as it shows we have empowered them to take responsibility for their own health and take positive steps to look after themselves.”

Teresa Smith, team lead for cardiac services, said the cardiac rehabilitation sessions have had a significant impact since their introduction, with local leisure centres seeing a 50% increase in the number of patients taking up exercise after first completing the NHS course.

“People can have a cardiac event at any age and we cater for patients aged from 18 upwards, which means some classes have people in their 30s and 90s exercising together,” said Teresa. “We tailor the exercises for each individual according to their needs and will refer them on to specially trained instructors at local leisure centres for additional support once they have finished our programme.

“We hold the sessions in community settings, such as village halls, as not only are they easier for our patients to access but are also a non-clinical environment. This helps people feel they are making a lifestyle change rather than receiving a medical intervention, which is really important as it encourages them to keep up with their positive new habits in the long term.”

Alan Thrower, 67, attends the pulmonary rehab classes for help with his COPD. He said: “I use the classes to try and get myself fitter, breathe easier and help my lungs. I come twice a week for two hours and work up a sweat and really enjoy it.

“We have a laugh and meet new friends, which is really good for us all.”

Our photograph shows Patient Alan Thrower, 67, being put through his paces during a class by pulmonary rehab physiotherapist Fenella Barnes.