Being physically active can help people with long term health conditions through reducing stress levels, improving strength and cardiovascular fitness and helping to maintain a healthy weight; making everyday life more enjoyable and achievable. Exercise also reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers, and can help individuals with health issues to manage the symptoms of their illnesses.

The BeneFit From Activity website shows how people with a mental or physical health condition can benefit from being more active and how different types of exercise can help people with different conditions. The Love Activity. Hate Exercise? campaign has some great advice, practical tips and ideas on how to manage longterm conditions and be physically active and how to overcome everyday barriers like fear of injury, fatigue, lack of time and motivation.

We Are Undefeatable is a national campaign to support the 15 million people who live with one or more long-term health conditions in England. Launched in August 2019, it aims to help those with conditions such as diabetes, cancer, arthritis and Parkinson’s to build physical activity into their lives. The campaign is led by a collaboration of 15 leading health and social care charities and benefits from our expertise and insight, along with National Lottery funding.

There are a number of bespoke programmes in Bristol including:

  • Physical Activity Referral Scheme: 12 week exercise referral scheme for people with low to medium risk health conditions operating through most of the leisure centres
  • Bristol Active Life Project for people who have experienced or are living with a moderate to severe long-term mental illness
  • Cardiac Rehab Phase 4 Healthy Hearts for people who have, or have had angina, cardiac surgery, a stent fitted or coronary heart disease (CHD), are clinically stable, and have no contraindications to exercise.
  • Better Breathing for people with breathing difficulty, most commonly COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and have completed a pulmonary rehabilitation course
  • Life Balance: Exercise Referral Programme for people with MS or Parkinson’s.
  • Energise (Cancer) Referral Programme for people who have cancer whilst pre-treatment, during or post-treatment.
  • Parkinson’s/ Stroke Referral Programme for people with Parkinson’s or who have suffered a stroke.
  • Dementia Friendly Swimming: swimming sessions for people with dementia.
  • Staying Steady
  • PD Warrior a new programme which uses high intensity interval training for people with Parkinson’s

More information can be found here: BCC Physical Activity Referral Programmes page

Case Study

Hear from some of the participants of Bristol’s physical activity referral schemes in their own words:

Lindsey attended the Exercise Referral Scheme

Reasons for joining the scheme

My GP recommended the scheme as I had a previous knee injury and a few orthopaedic operations on my left foot. The GP suggested  exercise would be very beneficial for both my physical strength and wellbeing.

My experience of the scheme

I was extremely anxious on my first visit to the sports centre but soon felt relaxed after meeting Yana, my future Sports Trainer who fully explained the scheme. Yana asked many questions and a rapport was soon established and a specific exercise plan was designed to suit my personal needs.

What did I enjoy the most

Exercise wise, I throughly enjoyed all Pilates sessions but more than anything I enjoyed feeling  I was being fully supported by professional staff.

How have I benefited from the scheme

There are been many benefits from being a part of this scheme: More energy, Flexibility, Sleeping improved, Confidence in sporting activities, Controlled weight loss and a sense of achievement.

The sports centre I use is

Horfield  Sports Centre.

The activities I have started to enjoy and participate in since being introduced to the scheme are

Pilates, cardio / weights exercise and non-class swimming but looking forward to trying other activities.

I would without doubt recommended the scheme which ticks all the boxes if you are seeking to become happier and healthier.

Since starting the scheme I have completely changed my attitude to exercise, rather than avoid it I actually look forward to it.

Nicola attended the Exercise Referral Scheme



What was your experience of the scheme/class?

Very good. I felt motivated and encouraged by Jana at our regular meetings

What did you enjoy most?

Feeling fitter, noticing my improvements and realising I could do things i didn’t think I could.

How do you feel you have benefited from the scheme/class?

I have benefited hugely by being more active. I feel so much better and have lost 1 stone in weight. I now see exercise as a normal part of my routine. Unfortunately my blood pressure didn’t decrease but I intend to keep the exercise programme going.

Were you worried/ unsure about starting?

A little unsure but I was soon put at ease by Jana

What activities do you do now?

Gym once a week and 3 or 4 classes a week

Where did you do the scheme/class?

Horfield leisure centre

Would you recommend it to anyone?



If you are an activity provider who offers activities for people with health conditions please get in touch by emailing


Walking Sports

Find Active Ageing Bristol's 2018 Walking Sports Programme here

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