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Exeter Leisure’s exercise referral classes are helping to transform lives

Published: 16 March 2023

Exeter Leisure’s exercise referral classes are helping to transform lives Cllr Josie Parkhouse, Lead Councillor for Leisure Services and Physical Health

A pioneering programme that helps people with medical conditions improve their fitness and wellbeing through exercise has been praised by those taking part.

Exercise referral classes, held at leisure centres across the city, are for people who have suffered medical conditions and have been referred by their GP or health practitioner to aid their recovery through exercise.

Through the initiative Exeter Leisure’s Exercise Referral Instructors devise a personal programme to help people with a large range of conditions.

The instructors specialise in improving the quality of life of each participant, whether they are recovering from major episodes like a heart attack or cancer, or have mobility issues affecting their ability to perform everyday tasks.

Cllr Josie Parkhouse, Lead Councillor for Leisure Services and Physical Health, said: “I’m very proud of the health referral scheme and our team is very passionate about what they do. 

“Exercise has been proven to help with so many different medical conditions and that’s why this service is absolutely vital. Those taking part have got somebody with them every step of the way that completely understands their medical condition and medication.”

Graham Small, Fitness Manager at Exeter Leisure, said: “Since the Council took the running of the leisure centres back in house we have really been able to expand our exercise referral offering.

“We now work closer with the NHS who refer their patients to us and they have even relocated some of their classes to our centres which really helps to offer a smooth transition for the patient to attend their class then move on to ours.

“We are fortunate at Exeter Leisure to have specialist referral instructors qualified to deliver exercise to many different medical conditions, ranging from cancer, arthritis, osteoporosis, stroke, cardiac rehab, diabetes and pulmonary rehabilitation - the list is endless.”

John Elliot had to be revived in the street by passers-by after suffering a major heart attack. He has lost four stone since taking part in the exercise classes, and he praised the work of the instructors.

He said: “The obvious benefits are the physical ones but for mental health too, it really boosts your confidence and I would recommend it to anyone.

“I’ve now got the confidence to go out and do stuff on my own as I did before I had the cardiac arrest, and I’m sure that without the help of Graham, the instructors and cardiac nurses that wouldn’t be the case.”

Janet Tether, 81, said: “I have been doing two classes a week for around a year now and it has made such a difference, I don’t know what I would do without it.

“I used to suffer from light headiness, which has virtually gone, and aching joints, which I used to take medication for but haven’t needed for the last six months.

“It has been really beneficial and I would definitely recommend it – it’s been brilliant.”   

If anyone feels they would benefit from joining the scheme they should speak to their GP or healthcare practitioner about a referral. For more details of the programme email

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