Covid-vulnerable people in Portsmouth return to 'vital' exercise class for first time since pandemic
‘IT’S AMAZING to be back’ - Covid vulnerable people from around the city resumed their ‘vital’ exercise class after more than a year of shielding.
Members of the British Lung Foundation (BLF) support group in Portsmouth were welcomed back to the Paulsgrove Community Centre for a morning of breathing and physical exercises as coronavirus restrictions eased.
The class, which is led by a BLF nurse, was forced to close at the start of the pandemic last year leaving many participants without physical activity or social interaction.
Chairman of the Portsmouth branch of BLF, Eric Compton, said: ‘Exercise is vital to these people because lung disease is progressive and exercise is needed to slow that progression.’
The 72-year-old from Cosham, who is living with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer, added: ‘I’ve noticed a difference in my own health as I’ve been attending classes the past 13 years.
‘As well as working on our breathing we target our muscles in our upper arms, thighs and chest, which all help.’
Some members kept up exercises at home over lockdown, with a few taking advantage of a Zoom class run by their nurse.
Paulsgrove resident Pauline Fowler, 82, said: ‘It was so nice of our nurse Jayne to put herself out and keep the class going online over the pandemic. It really helped a lot of us.
‘I’ve been coming to this class for 15 years and I’ve definitely noticed a huge difference in my breathing. It’s really amazing to be back today and see everyone.’
Group treasurer, Rosemary Saunders from Drayton, agreed. The 82-year-old said: ‘Shielding was horrible, it was depressing.
‘It’s really nice to see everyone today and start classes again.’
To comply with Covid rules the class has been split in half and members are socially distancing.
For asthma and COPD sufferer, Stephen Terrell, the class was a chance to regain some of his fitness lost during the pandemic.
The 68-year-old from Copnor said: ‘Shielding was easy at first but then it got harder and harder and I started putting on weight. I found it hard to do the exercises at home because I didn’t have the space.
‘Before the pandemic I could walk for five minutes fine, now I can hardly walk a few yards unassisted. I’m hoping after a few months back at classes I will see some improvements.’
Nurse Jayne Sansom-Causer said: ‘The most important thing we do is get their hearts racing a bit and get them slightly out of breath. And then we do exercises to manage their breathing, which they can then apply to day-to-day life.
‘Since I’ve been here about three years I have seen massive improvements in lots of members. I’ve been so looking forward to being back.’
Sadly four members of the group have died over the last year - one from coronavirus.
During the returning session members held a minute silence in their memory.
The class is run and paid for by the BLF.
To attend classes people first need a referral from their GP to rehabilitation, and then a referral to the group.