Scots with health conditions facing challenges to stay active

Ian baxter (2)

Ian Baxter, who is living with COPD

Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland has said those with long-term conditions face a range of barriers

10th September 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

Thousands of Scots with long-term health problems are struggling to live their lives to the full as they face huge challenges to stay active.

Charity Chest Heart and Stroke Scotland (CHSS) has said The National Household Survey, published by the Scottish Government, highlights the enormous challenges that people face to being physically active if they’re living with long-term health conditions.

The survey finds that their participation in physical activity is just 39%, compared with 87% of people who don’t have a long-term condition. Participation figures have barely moved compared with last year (40% for those with long-term conditions, compared with 89% for people who don’t have such conditions).

The charity is calling for urgent action from the Scottish Government, NHS and the voluntary sector to ensure that people feel able to keep physically active.

The charity is urging better access to NHS rehabilitation services such as pulmonary rehabilitation and better promotion of the community services, groups and courses that are already available as ways to begin tackling the challenges people are facing. 

Some of the common barriers that people living with long-term health conditions face are:

- A fear that exercise will be harmful to their health especially if they’re breathless of have a heart condition.
- They may have a lack of awareness of what is actually available to them in their local community.
- If they have a mobility issue they may feel isolated and unable to access services.
- In some areas in Scotland there is a lack of availability to NHS rehabilitation services which support people to stay active such as Pulmonary Rehab.

CHSS has a network of 140 peer support groups across Scotland for people living with their conditions. Half of the groups are focused particularly on physical activity and do a range of activities like New Age Kurling, Boccia, seated exercise, circuit training, yoga, walking and singing.

Lawrence Cowan, director of communications at CHSS, said:  “We know that physical activity is crucial to helping people live well and live longer with chest, heart and stroke conditions. And yet thousands of people in Scotland are missing out on the chance to live life to the full because they struggle to access opportunities to keep active.

“For example, in Scotland, around 60,000 people with chest conditions like COPD are missing out on Pulmonary Rehabilitation – an exercise programmes that can help people breathe better.  We also know that there are a number of other barriers to getting active like awareness of what help is out there.

“The Scottish Government’s Lung Plan needs to contain a significant commitment to growing Pulmonary Rehabilitation. Everyone also needs to work together to raise awareness and promote what’s already available to people.

Ian Baxter, from Forfar, is living with COPD. He runs the Forfar Airways, a peer support group, supported by CHSS. The group links closely with local NHS rehabilitation services to support people in managing their condition.

“The diagnosis and realisation of my illness really hit me hard,” Baxter said. “Would I still be around to see my grandchildren grow up? I felt very low and unable to cope.

“There is no doubt that pulmonary rehabilitation helped to turn my life around. It allowed me to be much more in control of my COPD and my life. I’m passionate about physical activity as I know it really helps my COPD. We have over 30 people attending the Forfar Airways each week taking part in physical activity and enjoying the social side. We have a great time together and support each other through good and bad times.”