During Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s COVID-19 response, its Be Active for Health programme continues to support residents who are keen to use physical activity to improve their health.

An early intervention initiative funded by the Council and the Southern and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts, its aim is to use physical activity along with ongoing support and encouragement to prevent certain health conditions from developing further. 

This is achieved by supporting and encouraging those who are primarily not active, who are at the early stages of developing low mood, and those who are identified as being at risk of developing diabetes. Referrals are made to the programme from the diabetes prevention programmes and multi-disciplinary teams from across the Southern and South Eastern Health and Social Care Trusts.

The Council has two coordinators working across the district who engage with referred clients by providing personal ongoing support, encouragement and bespoke physical activity opportunities to support their specific health need. Clients who are referred can enjoy physical activity sessions such as gentle circuits, walking and cycling groups. 

During this challenging time the Be Active for Health team is continuing to engage with referred clients to deliver live online physical activity sessions, weekly videos demonstrating exercise routines, weekly challenges, and encouragement and support to those who need it during the lockdown. 

Tara Morgan 36, from Castlewellan is one of the referred clients who is benefitting from the scheme.

Tara said, “I went to my doctor to see if he could help me with my depression and the doctor referred me to the Be Active for Health Programme. I decided I would give it a try. When I first went to Leanne’s circuit class on a Wednesday I was so paranoid and nervous that I wouldn't be able to do it and that the instructor would try to push us too much. 

“Man was I wrong. Leanne was amazing. She was so welcoming, she sat and had a quick chat before group with us individually on our first day to introduce herself and what to expect from the class. As the class went on she encouraged us all but also kept telling us that we work at our own speed which was nice. We weren’t made to feel that we needed to keep up the pace with everyone else. 

I also joined in with Leanne’s walking group, which was great because we actually got to talk and interact with different people. This all helped me health wise. I have a two-year-old and I was struggling to run about and play with him but from joining the classes I have found that I'm not as sore and that I can do 30 more minutes of play time with my boy.”

Tara said she was delighted to find out that the support wouldn’t end following the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.

“When the whole COVID-19 hit I was devastated because I was actually enjoying getting back out of the house and interacting with people, but Leanne assured me that she would keep me going,” she explained. “So, Tara started by sending a personalised text at least twice a week. She sent me out a letter of encouragement with some simple detailed exercises to help me keep my fitness up and with this she also sent us videos showing how each exercise worked. 

“Personally, I still found it difficult to get motivated to do the exercises on my own at home until Leanne actually did a virtual exercise class where we all linked in and could see and talk to each other. It makes you feel like you are not alone doing it and it motivates me to actually want to get involved and do the exercises. 

“I will tell anyone, and I already have, Leanne has been a fantastic support both physically and mentally to me over the time that I have been working with her. I think this programme should be rolled out across all towns as it is suitable for all abilities and is immensely beneficial.”

Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey said, “Congratulations to Tara and all those who have taken advantage of the Be Active for Health Programme.

“This is an excellent opportunity for anyone seeking a helping hand with their fitness to help prevent certain health conditions developing further. With the dedication of the Be Active for Health team, those taking part in the scheme are assured of personalised support and encouragement to achieve their goals.”

For further information on the Be Active for Health programme, please contact Leanne Oakes or Michael Dyer on 0330 137 4000. Alternatively email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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